March 22, 2023

If Nigeria’s presidential election was scheduled for subsequent 12 months, Peter Obi, candidate of the commerce union-backed Labor Occasion (LP), would doubtless win outright. However Nigerians are going to the polls this Saturday, and regardless of being the candidate with the best momentum, it’s not in any respect sure that Obi would be the one declaring victory.

Whether or not he ultimately wins or not, nonetheless, Obi’s present place as a number one contender for Nigeria’s highest workplace, after only a few months of campaigning with a comparatively minor opposition social gathering and restricted funds, is a outstanding achievement.

One 12 months in the past, the election had all of the markings of a contest between two previous warhorses: Atiku Abubakar of the principle opposition Folks’s Democratic Occasion (PDP) and Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Tinubu has been eyeing the presidency without end, strategically working his option to the entrance of the queue over greater than twenty years. Atiku, in the meantime, has been shifting for years from social gathering to social gathering searching for a presidential ticket, saying and doing no matter is important to place himself as a worthy contender for the best workplace within the nation.

A longtime democracy campaigner who confronted navy rule within the Nineties, Tinubu’s two-term Lagos governorship and subsequent position in constructing the political merger that enthroned the Muhammadu Buhari presidency have served to place him because the candidate to beat on this election.

In a super world, the place all candidates are precisely who they declare to be on the marketing campaign path, Obi’s present momentum would have maybe been Tinubu’s. However we’re not dwelling in a super world and a protracted listing of purple flags is critically hindering the ruling social gathering candidate’s possibilities of securing a victory on Saturday.

Though he has by no means been convicted of any crime, allegations of cash laundering and drug dealing have been looming over the 70-year-old candidate for the reason that Nineties. And even after a political profession spanning many many years, the supply of Tinubu’s immense wealth nonetheless stays a thriller. In 2016, he claimed that he turned an “prompt millionaire” whereas working for auditing giants Deloitte and Touche. In 2022, he modified his story utterly to recommend that he “inherited nice actual property [and] turned the values ​​round”. Within the interview the place he made the latter declare, he additionally instructed these questioning the supply of his fortunes could also be “enemies of wealth”.

Tinubu’s age, ancestry and schooling historical past additionally stay doubtful. Whereas contesting the governorship in 1999, he claimed to have attended major and secondary colleges in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria. 4 years later, whereas operating for a second time period, he unceremoniously withdrew these claims. Forward of the present election, he stunningly claimed his tutorial certificates had been “stolen by unknown individuals”,

His deteriorating well being, evidenced by his unsteady gait, shaky arms and repeated gaffes on the marketing campaign trailmeanwhile, raises considerations that if elected president, Tinubu could wrestle to do justice to the demanding job and will require frequent visits overseas for medical causes, identical to the present president.

In some ways, regardless of his seemingly spectacular political resume, Tinubu embodies in himself every part that’s unsuitable with Nigeria’s political tradition and offers Nigerians, particularly younger voters hungry for change, little purpose to help his candidacy.

The principle opposition candidate, former Vice President Atiku, additionally seems to offer extra of the identical.

Atiku blew his greatest likelihood at changing into president in 2003 by conceding the PDP’s candidacy to his boss, regardless of being a favorite, and he has been desperately making an attempt to make up for this error since. At 76, and a few three many years after his first try at changing into president, many contemplate Atiku’s greatest years to be behind him. His social gathering can also be now not the all-conquering pressure it as soon as was.

Furthermore, identical to Tinubu, Atiku has a protracted path of corruption allegations in his previous. In 2010, for instance, an investigative subcommittee of america Senate detailed in a considerable report how Atiku used offshore corporations to siphon thousands and thousands of {dollars} into the US financial institution accounts of his former spouse, Jennifer Douglas.

Similar to Tinubu, Atiku has neither the popularity nor the youthful stamina essential to do justice to the presidency and meet the expectations of Nigerians desirous to see basic modifications in the way in which their nation is ruled. In different phrases, he’s an “opposition” candidate solely in identify and a shock victory by him on Saturday would obtain nothing aside from retaining the present political association absolutely intact.

And that is precisely why the Labor Occasion’s Peter Obi, or “PO”, stands an opportunity of inflicting an upset on Saturday. At this time Obi boasts a big military of younger supporters who say “a brand new Nigeria is feasible”. In contrast to the opposite two main candidates, he has by no means confronted corruption allegations – a rarity amongst Nigeria’s political class.

Calm, measured and respectful in his methods, Obi presents a welcome different to the hyperbolic performances of different main candidates. As soon as Nasir el-Rufai, the irascible governor of the Kaduna State, branded Obi a “Nollywood actor” to drive his argument that the presidential contest is solely between Atiku and Tinubu. Obi refused to hit again with insults of his personal and as an alternative urged all of Nollywood to vote for him since he has been proclaimed to be one in all them.

Obi insists he’s within the race for the folks and never for himself, and his message seems to be hitting the suitable notes with younger voters, lots of whom are disillusioned with widespread poverty and distress of their nation.

Obi’s rise as a contender has despatched shockwaves by means of the political panorama and really rattled his opponents. Regardless of the much-criticised lack of construction throughout the Labor Occasion, he managed to organically construct a big help base and share his message with the lots, convincing many who he could in any case be what Nigeria wants at this second.

However Obi’s marketing campaign can also be dealing with a number of important and maybe unsurmountable issues – issues which are largely of his personal making.

obi remained in Atiku’s PDP till Might 25, 2022, till it turned clear that Atiku would win the social gathering’s presidential major three days later. Ditching the PDP so late and positioning himself as the brand new order’s poster boy simply 9 months earlier than the election has left him with a mountain to climb, significantly as he can be operating towards two grand masters of Nigerian politics.

His late entry into the race additionally triggered him some sensible issues, because the deadline for voter registration in Nigeria ended on August 31, 2022, only a few months after he started campaigning because the Labor Occasion candidate. This implies, all of Obi’s latter-day supporters, together with latest converts because of the long-drawn-out insecurity, gas shortage and naira disaster, can not vote to elect him if they didn’t register for a voter card a whopping six months in the past. In essence, the actual worth of Obi’s help is restricted to the pre-September voting inhabitants.

Voters with out social gathering affiliations see this Saturday’s election as a possibility for the emergence of a brand new Nigeria – one the place residents haven’t got to purchase their very own foreign money on the black marketqueue for gas regardless of their nation being blessed with crude oil reserves, feed off the crumbs from politicians’ tables, know a “huge man” to face any likelihood of securing a authorities job, or watch helplessly as their collective wealth will get stolen.

Many imagine Peter Obi is the person who can, as president, make all this occur. However whereas the recognition and competence of candidates can have some affect over the results of Saturday’s election, it’s apparent to many Nigerians that in the long run, it’ll as soon as once more be political capital, faith, ethnicity, and most significantly, wealth that determines who would be the nation’s subsequent president.

So, underneath these situations, is a brand new Nigeria actually “Potential”?

We are going to all discover out quickly sufficient when Nigerians make their determination.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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