In the first part of this series, we analyzed the chances of numerous presidential candidates in the PDP and APC in view of the primaries and made some valid predictions. As the campaign begins, we present to you the second part of the series; an overview of the two major contenders for the office of President with an interesting categorization, encompassing background, political philosophy, the prospect of winning, and obstacles.

This classification is based on a few factors, such as political party, political structure, national reach, support base, network, and popularity.

Atiku Abubakar

Atiku’s public career began in the Nigerian Customs Service, where he would eventually retired in 1989 and ventured into business and politics. His foray into politics can be traced to his days in the People’s Front (PF), a political organization created by the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua. This formed the background for his formidable political network of different supporters across the country, as the People’s Front was an organization of influential politicians.

A former Vice President from 1999–2007 and a sixth-time contestant, having been on the ballot in 2007 and 2019 and contested his party’s primaries in 1993, 2011, and 2015. Atiku would be giving his presidential bid all he got because, being his sixth attempt as a septuagenarian, it is likely his last shot at the top office of the land.

Prospects of winning

Atiku Abubakar was the People’s Democratic Party candidate in the 2019 Presidential election, where he garnered about 11 million votes (39%) against the 15 million votes (53%) of the winner, President Muhammadu Buhari. While the numbers he would poll this time around are uncertain, based on his previous performance, his chances are still bright because, for many Nigerians disaffected with the status quo and seeking a change, he’s a viable alternative to the ruling party’s being the presidential candidate of the major opposition party.

His party is also in control of 13 states: Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Bauchi, Sokoto, Delta, Edo, Oyo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Abia, Enugu, and Taraba. PDP’s control of these states is going to come in handy for a solid performance during the election. In other states where PDP is out of power, it’s the main opposition and therefore has a strong reach into the nooks and crannies of the grassroots, having been in existence for over 20 years.

Political Philosophy

Political restructuring

Atiku is a believer in political restructuring, which, to him, means devolving power to the states for more autonomy at the sub-national level and better fiscal federalism.

At a conference where he was represented by his doctor, Ifeanyi Okowa, Atiku said, “I advocate a proper federal structure that recognizes the federating units and the federal government as mutually coordinated and not subordinate one to the other, yet cooperative among themselves, distinct from the current structure where states exist as mere appendages of the center.”

This philosophy has gained him popularity amongst Nigerians with grievances against the country’s power structure and who perceive the problems bedeviling Nigeria as structural. Restructuring is a hot-button topic and hobby horse, especially in the south of Nigeria.

Neoliberalism

Atiku believes in neoliberalism; a political ideology that favours privatization, liberalization of different sectors of the economy, lean government, disfavors unionization, promotes financial deregulation, and frowns at subsidy.

In his abridged policy document, titled My Covenant with Nigerians, Atiku outlines three basic principles that guide his agenda: “greater private sector participation, discontinuation of government monopoly in infrastructure, including refineries, rail transportation, and power transmission; greater market leverage in price determination, and elimination of persistent price distortion due to interventionist exchange rate management policy.”

Atiku’s neoliberalist predilection came to full glare when he presided over Nigeria’s privatization program from 1999-2007 as Vice President.

Obstacles

The Internal crisis in PDP

His candidacy would be affected negatively by the rancor in the ranks of the People’s Democratic Party. Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the party, and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, are locked in a fundamental disagreement. The latter is bitter over his loss in the Presidential primaries and Governor Wike has stipulated some conditions for reconciliation, including but not limited to the resignation of the party chairman, Iyorcha Ayu, on the premise that Atiku and Ayu, both presidential candidates and party chairman, come from the North.

Ayus’ removal seems very unlikely, but should he be removed, the PDP constitution stipulates that a chairman should be replaced by a deputy chairman from his zone, which is far from being a solution to the bone of contention. There have been several meetings between the representatives of Governor Wike and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, but the inability to reconcile differences has lingered.

Recently, a concession was offered as Senator Walid Jibrin resigned as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP and Senator Adolfus Wabara took over. But it wasn’t enough as Governor Wike’s caucus within the party pulled out of Atiku’s Presidential Campaign, insisting that PDP Chairman, Iyorcha Ayu, must go.

There are fears that an inability to reconcile differences could see Governor Wike tacitly supporting the presidential candidate of another party in the 2023 election. Apart from being a political heavyweight in Rivers state and, by extension, his South-South region, Governor Wikes’ dissidence against his party is supported by four other governors, ex-ministers, and former members of the national assembly. An inability to get Wikes’ buy-in would affect the chances of Atiku in the 2023 election, as the bulk of his 11 million votes polled in 2019 came from the South.

Party’s record

The People’s Democratic Party was the ruling party for 16 years and Atiku was VP for 7 of those years, misgovernance of the PDP created conditions ripe for a merger of parties [APC] to emerge victorious in 2015. Many Nigerians don’t perceive the PDP as a valid alternative due to their previous record in government.

Old Order

A generational power shift has dominated political discussions for a while. The youth of the country have grown largely antagonistic to the old order, including presidential candidates viewed as representatives and vestiges of the past, for their culpability in the predicament of the country. The aversion to gerontocracy is strong and would be a factor in the election.

Affected by the Underdogs (Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso)

The underdogs (Obi and Kwankwaso) were former members of the PDP, and their candidature is likely to affect Atiku’s chances because their spheres of influence are traditional vote banks for the PDP:

  1. The South East has always overwhelmingly voted for the PDP since the return to democracy in 1999. Atiku’s candidature is poised to disrupt this pattern and affect Atiku.
  2. For the first time in 19 years, President Buhari wouldn’t be on the ballot, meaning that Northern votes are up for grabs. Kwankwaso is increasingly gaining ground amongst the masses in the North and Atiku would have him to contend with.

The underdogs serve as a plus to Atiku, but only if they cause a runoff because one or both of them would be inclined to ally with him given their previous membership of the same political party(PDP).

Bola Tinubu

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an accountant by profession, is the presidential candidate of the APC. In the past 3 decades, he’s been a whale in the ocean of Nigerian politics. His political stature can be traced to his prominent role in the pro-democracy struggle of the 90s under the umbrella of NADECO. Since then, he’s become a Senator, a former Governor of Lagos, an opposition leader, and the national leader of the ruling party.

This trajectory served as an avenue to amass a slew of loyalists in government that have ensured formidable influence despite being outside the office for the last fifteen years. Tinubu is a presidential candidate with decades of political dexterity up his sleeve and a front-runner for Aso Rock.

Prospect of winning

Party Strength

Tinubu’s party is the ruling party and it controls 22 states in the country. The constitutional requirement to become President stipulates that the winner must clinch at least 25% of the vote in 24 states, in addition to a majority of votes. Given his party’s control of nearly 2/3 of the states, fulfilling the constitutional requirement is less of a herculean task for him than it is for other candidates.

The 2023 Presidential elections are going to be won and lost on the alter of margins, and the winner’s victory would be premised on the ability to record a wide gap in his base and narrow the gaps where his merger-APC opponent prevails. Presently, Tinubu enjoys popular support in the South-West. He would aim to complement that with support across other parts of the country to realize a victory.

Opposition in disarray

To oust the ruling party in 2014, major opposition parties such as ACN, ANPP, CPC, and a faction of APGA formed a coalition. Their coalition was a major step towards ousting the PDP from power as it birthed a party with instantaneous national reach and members in elected offices. Fast forward to 2022 and the opposition is in disarray. The PDP cannot resolve the fallout from their presidential primary that has split the party’s ranks. While the underdogs are themselves ex-members of the major opposition party, it makes it even harder for the opposition to oust the ruling party. The disunity in the opposition favors Tinubu.

Political philosophy

Tinubu espouses progressive capitalism. In his book titled “Financialism: Water from an Empty Well; How the Financial System Drains the Economy”, he co-authored with the former Consul General of the United States of America to Nigeria, Mr. Brian Browne. Tinubu advocates a reform of the financial sector in a manner where money is used as a tool to develop the real sectors of the economy.

He believes the financial sector should serve as the lifeblood of industrialization while at the same time catering to the needs of the downtrodden through direct outreach to reduce inequality. Tinubu believes in a credit-based economy as a form of curbing corruption, affording more economic opportunities to people, and as an avenue for industrialists to borrow without fear of the excessive cost of borrowing consigning them to heavy debt

A focus on his term as Governor of Lagos reveals that Tinubu is a believer in restructuring in the form of devolution of powers. As Governor, he created local council development areas (LCDAs) to drive development at the grassroots and challenged the Federal Government in court over this decision. During his tenure as Governor, Lagos was governed like a country in terms of having an agency for every responsibility of government. From health, housing, transport, security, and waste management to education, Lagos state during his tenure had agencies with clearly defined mandates.

Obstacles

Same Faith Candidature

Tinubu’s same-faith ticket has emerged as the most controversial issue in the build-up to the elections. Apart from causing rancour in the APC, his same-faith ticket has generated immense backlash because not a few Nigerians perceive it as an affront to the diversity of the country. Many believe that in a country with stark fault lines like Nigeria and at a period where the unity of the country is fragile, the same faith ticket only exacerbates tension. It is expected that opposition to his ticket will be reflected in the voting pattern.

Performance of his party

The 2023 presidential election would be a referendum on the performance of the APC since it became the ruling party in 2015. In 2015, the party came to power with the mandate to fulfill its campaign promises centered on three major issues, which were “Diversify the Economy, Fight Corruption, and Tackle Insecurity”.

Difference between Atiku’s Neoliberalism and Tinubu’s Progressive Capitalism

In 2023, Nigerians would evaluate the party’s performance vis a vis their promises and make a decision. private sector-driven, private-sector-driven economy with minimal government intervention.

In the build-up to the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar made a controversial comment, vowing that he would privatize Nigeria’s oil giant, NNPC, if elected. His reason was that privatization would improve efficiency in operations and return to the federal government. Atiku’s intention has a firm root in neoliberalism.

On the other hand, progressive capitalism is premised on the objective of enhancing economic outcomes. While it’s capitalistic at its core, it’s underpinned by four progressive beliefs.

They include:

  • It recognizes the important role of public goods, public institutions, and public infrastructure in supporting businesses, including schools, healthcare, and education.
  • It recognizes the need for fairness in economic growth and incorporates social justice as a metric for a country’s economic performance.
  • It recognizes the role of businesses in providing competitive goods and services, creating jobs, fostering innovation, and enabling voluntary exchange.

For Progressive Capitalism, the state position in the economy should be neither the authoritative stance of socialism nor the minimalist role of neoliberalism. Rather, the state should play an enabling role.

During his tenure as Lagos State Governor, Tinubu’s progressive capitalism was evident in the numerous public-private partnership projects he initiated, such as the Lagos Light Rail, BRT, and state-owned but privately run Independent Power Plant (IPP).

Candidate Ratings In Geopolitical Zones

From our findings, Atiku Abubakar is at the moment doing 45 to 50% in the South-east; 55 to 60 % in the South-south; 20 to 30 % in the South-west; 30 to 40 % in the North-west; and 40 to 50 % in the North-east. He is doing 40 % at the moment in North-central.

Bola Tinubu is doing 50 to 65% in his stronghold, the South-west; 20 to 30% in the South-south; 10 % in the South-east; 30 to 40 % in the North-central; 50% in the North-west; and 50 % in the North-east.

These percentages aren’t static and would fluctuate during the campaign, but it would not affect the frontrunner status of the duo. 

Finally, it’s worthy of note that Nigeria has been presented with a dynamic range of candidates, all with extensive experience and accomplishments outside of politics and no military background. The major candidates emanate from strong geopolitical zones and represent competing interests, hopes, and aspirations.

The third part of the series will analyze the underdogs.