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What About The Other Presidential Candidates?

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What About The Other Presidential Candidates?

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

The much awaited campaigns have finally started. With the flagoff by the PDP in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, two weeks ago and the few others that followed suit. The fire cracking has begun. Although, the Labour Party candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, has decided to suspend their own campaigns last week, following the incident of flood that ravaged many states in Nigeria, with about 600 people reportedly dead and over 1.5 million people displaced. The humanitarian crisis is worrisome.

Few months ago, I started a series where I x-rayed the presidential candidates in the coming 2023 elections. In three weeks, I discussed Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling APC, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition PDP and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Since then, I have moved on to write about other issues week in week out. This must have riled some people who are the supporters of the other presidential candidates and their parties.

Actually, there are 18 of them. But, when most people think of who could win in the next election, only these three leading contenders come to mind. However, the loyalists of the others will disagree. This might have informed the messages I received from some people as regards this. I was even accused of being biased and having prejudice against others. Well, I can understand their feelings. Like the Yorubas would say; “gbogbo oya lo n pe ra re l’odu”.

Everyone or every party is entitled to claim to be the best, irrespective of reality on ground. This is why I decided to write this as a brief overview of the other candidates. Sincerely, I do not think each of them, individually, has the depth it required to cover a whole article for me. I am no person’s PR consultant. So, it will be difficult for me to be writing just about anything about a candidate to make such person look relevant, even if they are not completely true. There are 15 other candidates vying for the presidential slot. I will run through them briefly.

Alhaji Dr. Engr. Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso. “Odu ni, ki se aimo f’oloko”. Kwakwanso is another household name in Nigerian politics. It actually shocked many of my friends who are “Kwakwansiyas”, the red-cap movement formed by him while he was the governor of Kano state, that I did not consider him worthy of my time and did not give him a chance. This is because, I lived in Kano for many years, all through his time as the governor of the state during his second term in office.

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They felt I know enough about him and could have written about his strides and achievements at the time, which they felt qualified him to be the president of Nigeria. To be fair, they have many valid points. Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso is a very great politician. He has been a governor, minster and senator. As the governor of Kano, he could be said to be the “architect of modernised Kano” as well. This is no exaggeration. Before the antagonists will begin attacking me, similar to when Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is called the “architect of modern Lagos”.

I lived in Kano before the second term of Kwakwanso. It was not a “spectacular” city despite it being the commercial nerve centre of the northern Nigeria. It seemed maintaining its ancient outlooks was more important than transformational developments. When Kwakwanso was elected in 2011, for a second term, as he previously had his first term between 1999 and 2003, he seemed determined to make a huge difference, as we began to see a completely different Kano.

Moreover, the governors were alternating between different parties, so, he must have tried to outshine his predecessor. Kwakwanso was in PDP in 1999. Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who took over from him in 2003 was in ANPP. Kwakwanso came back on the platform of PDP in his second term in 2011 but later defected to APC at the tail end of that administration, following the APC and Buhari tsunami into the national politics. So, Kwakwanso decided to transform Kano into a modern city.

He built new schools and rehabilitated the existing ones. He offered scholarships to many indigenous students to study home and abroad. He renovated hospitals and improved access to better healthcare. He started a new, modern Kwakwansiya City in the outskirt of the town. He began building new roads, reconstructing and expanding old ones. He built many gigantic flyovers and underpass tunnels, which were well illuminated, fancifully painted and decorated in his symbolic “white and red Kwakwansiya” colours. All these were so new to many Kano indigenes and residents.

Many of these projects became tourists centres where people, especially the youths and children, go to visit for sightseeing, taking pictures and shooting video clips, posted on social media. The roads were lightened with functional street lights. The beauty was more at night. Flying into Kano at night was a delight as the whole city looks so fascinating, with massive illumination and the street lights made into some magnificent artistic formation from the sky. I saw all these myself.

Many things that we, who came from Lagos, have seen in Lagos, started being replicated in Kano. The state began to mirror Lagos. Kano state Road Traffic Agency (KAROTA) was formed to do similar jobs of LASTMA in Lagos. Street sweeping and waste management were contracted to private sector like PSP Operators in Lagos. Remodelling of infrastructures and the likes, made us felt like we were living in the extension of Lagos (lol). The similarities were so much I had to investigate what was going on.

I later learnt that Governor Kwakwanso is a friend of Governor Babatunde Fashola, of Lagos State then, despite being in different parties at the time. And that he actually went and understudied how Lagos was transformed to the emerging modern city. So, he simply did “copy and paste” with little modifications here and there. Kano people were better for it and happy. We were all proud to live in Kano.

So, when capacity and competence are factors considered for the presidency, Kwakwanso is not lacking in them. But, does he have the temperament, cosmopolitan nature and maturity to lead a multicultural and multireligious country like Nigeria? That, I can question to some extent, based on some of his antecedents when it comes to issues between northerners and southerners. Kano is a cosmopolitan city, similar to Lagos but with overriding religious influence, despite that. So, even when he managed the plurality of the people reasonably well, one can say it was made easier because non-indigenes were more circumspect in their ways and knew their boundaries. This is unlike a Nigeria with over 250 ethnic groups and multireligious, with each asserting themselves. I doubt Kwakwanso has that patient to understand where others are coming from, when they disagree with him.

Also, his platform, NNPP, is relatively new and not well-known like the other three leading parties. Many see it as a party that exists majorly in Kano and few states where Kwakwansiya movement is pronounced. It is made popular with him becoming their presidential candidate. Ironically and impressively, the party is fielding candidates in all contested positions across the country at the state and national levels. This is impressive and showed the political sagacity of the promoters of the party. A roll call of its chieftains will actually show some highly influential and powerful political heavyweights in Nigeria, especially from the north.

This has made some people to even claim that Kwakwanso is likely to beat Peter Obi in that election. Having the wherewithal to field candidates in all posts all over Nigeria is part of the structure needed to deliver votes on election days, something that “Obidients” have discountenanced as being less important. After the release of the official list of candidates, Labour Party is absent in many senatorial districts, house of representatives and state assemblies, in many critical states, even in Lagos! How can a party get votes when it could not present candidates in as many as 30 senatorial districts across the country?

So, Senator Kwakwanso, who is a veteran, will do well in some states in the north. But his chance of winning a presidential election is very slim. It is also not the turn of the north.

Another person with “larger than life” image is Comrade Omoyele Sowore of AAC. He was a presidential candidate in 2019 as well, where he came sixth with 33,953 votes. So, he is also not new to the terrain. He has also sustained his visibility since then, unlike many seasonal contestants who show up at every election year. His seriousness became pronounced when he championed the #RevolutionNow Movement in 2019, few months after President Buhari was sworn-in for his second term.

Having contested and lost in that same election, calling for any revolution was seen as looking for power through the back door. He was not taken seriously and considered saboteur. He was arrested, detained and tried for many months, for creating unrest with his mass protests against the government. His case is still in court and he is only on bail. I wrote an article at the time where I stated that though, his cause and agitation were genuine, but they were wrongly timed.

When one listens to him, his outbursts are “revolutionary”, and sometimes “strange” to many. These ideas are utopian. Many of them lack practicality or are almost impossible to actualise and implement by a democratically elected government, with all the encumbrance and bureaucratic bottlenecks of a democratic system. They are more fashionable in a military regime or autocratic government as seen in some countries like China, Singapore, North Korea, Rwanda and even Russia. They will be frustrated in Nigeria.

His party is also unknown. Many Nigerians don’t even know it or can readily recall its name. How can such party win a presidential election in Nigeria with 36 states and 774 local government areas and 176,846 polling units across the country? Candidates like Sowore should have tried to start from the lower level at their states as local government chairmen or state lawmakers, before moving to the national. He is going nowhere near Aso Rock. I’m sorry!

Another popular party, “in name”, but fielding unpopular candidate, is the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Unfortunately the SDP of today is not the same as the SDP of the legendary late MKO Abiola in 1993. That was the party that won the freest and fairest presidential election in Nigeria. The soul of the old party has left it as all the political giants that made up the party are now scattered in others, especially the two leading parties APC and PDP. The two leading presidential candidates, Tinubu and Atiku, were in SDP. Majority of chieftains of APC and many of PDP were in SDP of the past.

The SDP candidate today is Mr. Adebayo Adewole. We are actually not related (lol). He is a fine gentleman who I have watched on television few times as he was interviewed. He is full of brilliant ideas and displayed great potentials. Sadly, that’s how far it is. Eloquence and brilliance alone don’t win elections in Nigeria. Not even at the lowest level as a councilor. He, like Sowore and many others, is a good material to start from state level. Nigeria presidency is “atari ajanaku, ki s’eru omode” (an elephant’s head that a child dare not carry alone).

A very interesting candidate to me is Mr. or is he Alhaji Lateef Kolawole Abiola. This one has the first two names that I bear too. “E be like say me too suppose dey for this presidential ballot ooo”. Laughs. This person is no other than the first son of the legendary late MKO Abiola. He is the presidential candidate of People Redemption Party (PRP). Ordinarily, I would have thought he would contest on the platform of SDP, even if just for the interesting coincidence it would have provided for entertainment.

I say this because Kola Abiola, as he is popularly called, can’t lace the shoe of his late father if they are to be juxtaposed in Nigerian history and politics. I am very sure many Nigerians don’t even know him, or that he is a contestant, not to talk of knowing his party. That is the more visibility that SDP would have given him. While his father was someone who gave visibility to any platform he found himself, isn’t it an irony that with Kola, his son, it is the other way round. This is instructive. It speaks volume of Kola’s personality. Many of his siblings and family members are not even with him on this journey. It is an effort in futility. A journey to nowhere.

In 2019, there were some other candidates who livened up that contest, even if it was just for the sake of it. People like Professor Kingsley Moghalu, Mr. Tope Fasua, motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye and a host of other brilliant, youthful candidates who complemented Sowore, in the “revolutionary ideas”. Sadly, they all “luled” this time around. Some lost at the party primaries, like the case of Kingsley Moghalu. He lost to a relatively unknown Kachikwu Dumebi, on the platform of African Democratic Congress (ADC).

This only showed the character of our political parties. Professor Moghalu has remained consistent since he entered into politics towards 2019 elections. He has sustained his advocacy for good governance, especially on social media, in the past four years. How could such a brilliant and well-loved person be edged out in a party that wants to make impact in Nigeria’s political space? All his followers, like Sowore’s own too, have become “Obidients”.

Only in Nigeria will a character like Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (Rtd.), would want to rule Nigeria as president. Taking cognisance of his right as “innocent until proven guilty” and having been freed by the court in 2013, it may be unfair to subject him to another “trial” or even condemn him without trial. However, in communication, perception is everything. The image he carves in peoples’ minds is not that of someone they will want to lead them, even with the best of his intentions. The victims of the brutality of the dictatorship regime of late General Sani Abacha he served, where he was considered his henchman, who may still be alive today, and the families of those who died, will never wish him well, rightly or otherwise.

The people of South-West region, which was the theatre of war all through Abacha reign, cannot and will never forget all that happened, as many of their illustrious sons and daughters were alleged to have been killed in cold blood on their soil by that regime. Kudirat Abiola, Suliat Adedeji, Alfred Rewane, and many others. The Ogoni nine who were killed. Hounding of the Civil Society Organisations, Human Rights Activists and the press. And too many other atrocities. Even Abiola himself was arrested and incarcerated for four years by the same Abacha, which led to his death. Al-Mustapha was the most prominent and most-feared officer in that regime, despite being very junior in rank- a Major.

It will amount to unnecessary stress discussing every other candidate contesting for the presidential election in 2023. We all know, including them too, that they can’t win the election. But, I once heard that having being a contestant or candidate for any political office, even when it seemed unreasonable, has become a bragging thing. It is added to the CV and dropped by such persons at every available opportunity. Whatever that for, it could be a consolation.

In all, the campaigns have started. Many of these candidates don’t even have campaign offices, campaign councils, not to talk of actually going out to do the hard work of campaigning. Nigerians are at liberty to support and vote for whoever they want. What is fundamental is that, 2023 is another defining moment. It is not a popularity contest or a game of showmanship as we have seen few engaged in. We need a very competent leader.

Who has the vision and capable of conceptualising one for Nigeria, communicate it vividly, get others’ buy-in with his power of persuasion, team building and team work, who can see such vision crystallised and deliver it with his formidable team? Who has that gut, the negotiation skills, the temperament and the doggedness to actualise a Nigerian dream, among the array of contestants, based on verifiable pedigree and past performances, and not some futuristic assumptions? That is the man who should be supported to turn around the fortune of Nigeria. May God help Nigerians to make the best choice.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: lateefadewole23@gmail.com
Whatsapp: +2348179512401

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