By Mideno Bayagbon
ruly interesting days lie ahead in our journey to the 2023 General Elections. I look at the ecstatic, confident smiles of the supporters of the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, the cocksureness of the Atikulated group and the self assured belief of the BAT brigade, and as a veteran in these games, I can only shake my head and smile.
Don’t get me wrong. There are possibilities of a revolution afoot in Nigeria led by the youths. Politically gang-raped and neglected over time, they are up in arms. And then there is the seemingly innocuous court case which ousted the outgoing Osun State Governor, as the duly elected candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the last Osun gubernatorial elections, which he lost. The wider implication, if the Supreme Court concurs, might mean the APC cannot field any candidate in the 2023 elections. Neither here nor there yet, it is a trump card, someone up there is holding close to his chest as a simple road to Aso Rock. But that is a story for another day. There is also the hoopla, the divisions, the internal wrangling and schemings in both the APC and PDP threatening their campaigns. Chairmen of both parties are in the loop of political skirmishes and their heads may be sacrificed on the altar of Golgotha.
Last Wednesday, the noose on the neck of election campaigns was loosed and gladiators unleashed. As predicted last week, in this column, the media war game started immediately. The Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, muscled his way into most of the national newspapers front pages, wrapping them around with his message. This financial power show, which involved possibly hundreds of millions of Naira, like we earlier noted, is the preserve of only two of the candidates in the race to be president of the Federal Republic, on May 29th, 2023. This we know are the Wazirin Adamawa, Atiku Abubabar, and the Jagaban Borgu, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They both hold a war chest, possibly in billions of dollars. They are not afraid to unleash it on their campaigns to ensure success.
We all know that the Labour Party candidate, even though he is also well heeled financially, is the indisputable President of “we no dey give shishi” movement. So he will, like the candidate of NNPP, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, be outspent in the media by the duo of Tinubu and Atiku. But to what level or degree, the envisaged billions of Naira spent will impact on their success is still to be determined at the end of the campaigns.
For example, the major national newspapers used by the Atiku Abubakar campaign last Wednesday cannot boast of a combined 200,000 copy sales. Which means, it would have paid them more, if they truly desire to reach a wider audience, to have used TheNewsGuru.com, Premium Times, The Cable and the online versions of Vanguard, Punch, Guardian, Daily Trust, ThisDay. They would have reached no fewer than 80 million Nigerians as Internet subscription has reached over 84 million in the country alone. Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other social media platforms are a different kettle of fish altogether. I suspect this is the road the Obi-Datti team would tow were they to go on a media spree.
But the aspects of the campaigns which must have caught the attention of all Nigerians, including the campaign teams of the PDP and APC candidates, are two reinforcing events which happened in quick succession. Both are in favour of the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi. First, Bloomberg, the American based, media giant, came out with a poll result which clearly shows a seemingly unassailable lead of 75% for Peter Obi. Coming less than two weeks after the ANAP poll conducted by the Okonjo-Iweala affiliated NOI polling organisation, which also placed him ahead of both the PDP and APC candidates, it was a huge booster to the Obi team and an unquantifiable dampener to his rivals. Both poll showed that if the elections were to be conducted on the day of the polls, Obi would have coasted home, easily, as winner and President-Elect.
Of course, every attempt has been made to discredit the polls by the Abubakar and Tinubu teams. They have raised important questions including the scalability of the polls in terms of geographical spread, universe of study and methodology. These polls while buttressing educated guesses also put into question the recent ThisDay newspapers front-page analysis of the standing of the candidates across the nation. It also diluted my position that until the Obi and Datti Yusuf campaign penetrates the North East and North West, we cannot for certainty say that he will win the elections. The constitution requires the winning candidate to have 25 percent of the votes in at least two thirds of the states of Nigeria. That is in addition to having a majority of the votes.
My position, the poll notwithstanding, is that, if the poll is conducted today, Obi might just come out with a simple majority of votes but may fall short of the 2/3 requirement. On ground now, the old war horses: Abubakar and Tinubu buoyed by experience, more readiness to spend, superior strategy and better geographical spread will soon unleash their strategies designed to overwhelm and awe the Obi-Datti group. But the Obidient group is a phenomenon none of the old guard parties and politicians have seen before. It is self-propelling, self-funding and very determined to turn the tables. To their eternal regret, the PDP and APC have been shocked out of their cavalier attitude by the Obidient group. They now realise it poses a real threat and the youths propelling it may indeed use the ballot box to enthrone a new democratic order in the country.
That perhaps is why both camps of the PDP and APC are now very worried about the Obi phenomenon. They are forced now to take his candidacy more seriously. Both Abubakar and Tinubu, two old men, in the ring for their last dance, are suddenly realising the drumbeats are changing and their dance steps are falling out of tune. To their astonished consternation, over the last one month, they have seen that the talk about Obi not having the structure to win a presidential race is turning out to be a fallacy. They are particularly stung by the avalanche of self sponsoring million man marches which have been springing up all over the country. For instance, last Saturday, when President Buhari was having his finale Independent Day event in Abuja, huge canvas of the Obidient_Yusful supporters, in their millions were marching in Lekki, Ikeja, Amuwo Odofin; in Asaba, Warri; in Benin; in Owerri, Aba, Enugu; in Zaria and so on. There were also some foreign dimensions to the Obidient-Yusful movement as supporters took over Trafalgar Square in London while others also congregated in New York.
Of note, however, is the emergence of a video of a march in Lokoja, the day after the serial marches by the Obi group nationwide, by a group mostly of middle age and old women and men who marched, singing the praises of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Mobilised by a senatorial aspirant under the tutelage of the Director of Youth Mobilisation, of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state, the irony of the nature of participants did not fail to attract the attention of observers.
Also in Lagos state two days back, groups of women singing and dancing to the praise of the Asiwaju, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, were mobilised to the government house at Alausa, where the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, welcomed them with delightsome Buga dance steps. Though it fell short of the five different One Million Man marches which took place in about five different parts of Lagos state two days earlier, it is clear, the show of feet on the street to exact strength and popularity has begun in Lagos. The march by the women is BAT supporters’ response to the Obidients. It is to say Lagos still belongs to Bola Ahmed Tinubu and APC.
The foregoing clearly demonstrates that if the Obidient crew think they own the streets, they have opposition knocking at their door. It is clear now that each campaign group will devise their own means of mobilising people to the streets in a show of strength and as a way of countering the belief that all Nigerians are marching for the Peter Obi and Datti Yusuf ticket. The days ahead promise million man marches for APC, PDP candidates. The fear of Obidients-Yusful taking control of the streets, nationwide, will give birth to lucrative crowd contracting businesses. The smart alecs are already positioned.
TO BE CONTINUED…