Nigeria’s longest election cycle kicks off

Tinubu, Osinbajo in fight to the finish

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is gearing up for its longest election cycle as the presidential candidates of major parties are girding up for the 2023 general elections.

Contrary to popular predictions and political permutations that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would decide its presidential candidate through consensus arrangement, the party adopted the voting method at its primary election on Tuesday which lasted into the early hours of Wednesday.

The reason for the change in the plan was the refusal of majority of the contenders to adopt the consensus option, as they insisted that they should be allowed to test their might before the delegates.

Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Ogun State; Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti State; Ajayi Borofice, deputy Senate leader; and Dimeji Bankole, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, all from the South-West, stepped down for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State.

Mohammed Abubakar-Badaru, governor of Jigawa State; Godswill Akpabio, the immediate past minister of Niger Delta Affairs; and Uju Ohanenye, the only lady in the race, also withdrew their ambitions and supported Tinubu, brightening the chances of the party’s national leader.

A presidential aspirant, Nicholas Felix, stepped down for Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, saying the party could not have a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Rotimi Amaechi, former minister of transportation; Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi State; and Ahmad Lawan, president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, did not step down.

The emergence of the presidential candidate of the APC at the party’s presidential primary is expected to set the stage for the real battle ahead of the February 2023 elections.

The flag-bearers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); the New Nigeria People’s Party, the Labour Party and some other parties have since emerged from their various primaries.

With the revised timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the primaries are to end on June 9, 2022. Between that date and is the date of commencement of the elections is about nine months. This would be the longest election circle since the return of Nigeria to civil rule in 1999.

Read also: Bleeding economy looms large as presidential candidates emerge

In 1999, the then leading parties at the time ended their primaries on February 14 and the presidential election was held on February 27, which was 13 days after.

The primaries in 2003 ended February 5 and the presidential election took place in April, an interval of three months.

In 2007, primaries were held in January, whereas the presidential election held in April 21, an interval of three months.

The presidential election was held in April 2011 after the primaries ended in December 2010, which was three months apart.

In 2015, primaries ended early in December 2014, while election commenced in March 2015, a clear three months and 17 days.

In the 2019 general election, primaries were held in September 2018, while the election took place in February 2019; clearly five months apart.

This time around, the nine-month interval would enable the parties and their candidates to sell their manifestos to the electorate in such a way that it would sink deep into them.

Analysts also said that the long period would afford the would-be voters the opportunity to know the candidates better and also to make up their mind.

Speaking to BusinessDay on what the long period between the primaries and the general elections means for parties, the candidates and even the electorate, Anthony Anozie, a leader of a support group of one of those that contested the APC presidential ticket, said it was both positive and negative.

“I am not an advocate of such a wide gulf between the conclusion of primaries and election proper. I would prefer a situation where there would be no interregnum; the momentum should be sustained so that Nigerians would put it behind them and move on. The INEC should have closed the gap by leaving everything to say September or even October, November, so that campaign can last only three months or thereabout,” Anozie said.

He however, added: “If the reason for the long period is to enable the candidates sell their manifestos to the electorate, that does not matter much. There is nothing new under the sun. Nigerians know all the candidates and what they are capable of doing; by the way, did the current president not promise to make Nigeria beautiful in every sense of the word; but, where are we now? A bad president will be a bad president, even if you give him 100 years to do his campaign.”

Looking at the implication for governance, Loretta Balogun, a former banker and women empowerment advocate, said the gap could impact negatively on governance at all levels of government.

Balogun said: “Now that the candidates are known, the distraction will be too much. The parties will be engaging in long hours of meetings and consultations. Those in government will abandon their jobs and relocate to their constituencies to help mobilise votes for their parties.

“Look at what has been going on in the APC before the primaries. The President was distracted; the state governors were distracted, and some other categories of political office holders were distracted. They abandoned their primary duties in their states and relocated to Abuja. It is going to get worse now as the parties are desperate to win the coming election.

“We already have issues that agitate our minds that government should do everything to tackle, but a situation where they are going to be occupied by politicking for over eight months will worsen the state of affairs in the country.”

Amos Ajayi, a printer, whose office is located in Mainland area of Lagos, said the space would “put money in people’s pockets.”

“The way I see it, it is good for business. The N100 million and N40 million that were paid for forms in the APC and PDP would be deployed towards winning the election.

“I envisage a situation where money would be pumped into the system in various ways, and it would benefit the poor. The two contenders from the two major parties have a lot of money on their own to sponsor themselves. It promises to be great and I am eagerly looking forward to it.”

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