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2023 : As the Presidential candidates stand in Kaduna State
By: Cletus Sunday Ilobanafor
Sun, 19 Feb 2023   ||   Nigeria,

With 93, 469, 008 registered voters and a political fervour never seen before, the February 25 election is set to be a watershed in the annals of the country’s democracy.
Kaduna State takes centre stage as one of the key States regarded in political circles as determinants of presidential elections.
Faced with daunting challenges, including worsening economic woes and unabated insecurity, Nigerians are aware of the imperative of electing the best candidate. This awareness has catalysed an unprecedented mobilisation of the electorate and further raises the stakes for the 18 presidential candidates jostling to pilot the affairs of Nigeria for the next four years.
However, only four of the candidates have demonstrated the seriousness required to win the poll, as they move round states across the six geo-political regions to canvass for votes that would hand them victory in the election.
The big four include Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Malam Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP.
For the first time since 1999, the country’s presidential election is a four-horse race in which each of the gladiators has odds that favour their emergence as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
CEOAFRICA examines perspectives and permutations of the presidential election in Kaduna, a battleground state that holds the key to Aso Rock.
Mr Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, has stolen the hearts of youths, women, the working class and the downtrodden and all who are yearning for a genuine change in the political system from “a government of the elite and the few” to an all-inclusive, responsive government capable of lifting the country out of its present nadir and offer the ordinary citizen a sense of belonging in the running of the country.
Youths in their thousands in most parts of Kaduna State have shown unflinching support for Peter Obi, 61, and his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, who is an indigene of the state.
From massive support on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms to overwhelming physical presence at the presidential rallies, supporters of the Labour Party candidate, popularly known as Obidients, have demonstrated an uncommon fervour that leaves no one in doubt that Kaduna State is a stronghold of the party in the North.
Peter Obi’s eloquence― his ability to communicate explicitly his plans on how to tackle the country’s present challenges, notably insecurity, economy and youth unemployment, stands him out as the man that represents the new order. The grim security situation in Kaduna State further served to bolster citizens’ conviction that the Labour Party presidential candidate is the man who can turn things around and bring about the change they desire.
Labour Party is well grounded in Kaduna State with a gubernatorial and senatorial candidates, as well as House of Assembly candidates in parts of the state campaigning seriously for the success of the party. The party has high hopes of getting 25 percent of votes cast in Kaduna State which will go a long way in propelling Peter Obi to Aso Rock.
High optimism, however, has to be tempered with reality. The most obvious of Peter Obi’s weaknesses is to be found in a bloc of voters who do not see him as a northerner and a Muslim, two qualities that are sacrosanct to them in electing who becomes the President of Nigeria. These may significantly affect Obi’s chances of getting massive votes from places where these sentiments run high. Also, his support base appears to be in cosmopolitan urban centres, leaving far-flung areas which can contribute significant votes ill-explored and poorly exploited.
An old political war horse who has been in politics for donkey years, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 76, is a force to be reckoned with in Nigeria’s politics. He has contested the presidency for a record five times in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. This year’s general election is his sixth attempt and likely last chance of contesting the presidency.
Atiku, an old and experienced politician with a vast network across the country, and in Kaduna State in particular, is seen as a serious contender in the election.
The formidable structure of the PDP― with presence in all the 776 LGA and 8, 813 wards, is the biggest strength of Atiku Abubakar who was discrete enough to pick a Christian running mate from the South, adding another ace to his cards to gain upper hand in the presidential contest. In parts of Kaduna where religious balance is important to the electorate, this may win him a significant number of votes.
Some elements in the North where the presidential candidate comes from are still insisting on another four years of presidency. This may be a plus to Atiku, whose chances have been buoyed by resurging support for PDP in the last few weeks before the election.
Citizens who narrowed their options to just two parties may consider Atiku a better candidate in comparison to his APC counterpart, and this may swing the polls in his favour given that PDP has the strength to fight off a Labour Party threat in keenly contested areas.
With Kaduna as one of the northern strongholds of the PDP, Atiku stands a good chance in a fair poll.
On the flip side, Atiku Abubakar’s dream of emerging victorious in the Feb. 25 polls may not be as easy as many are anticipating. There is the Fulani factor that may count against him. The notion that he, a Fulani, is seeking to replace another Fulani is not agreeable to many voters, including some supporters of his party who believe in the principle of equity and fairness.
On a sentimental note, too, voters in communities that have suffered incessantly from alleged Fulani attacks may not be enthusiastic to vote for the PDP flagbearer as the next president of Nigeria. However, other priorities may prevail.
The presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, is generally regarded as one of the most astute political strategists in the country. Like Atiku, he is an old political warhorse whose vast experience is matched by influence with a network of politicians and political groups across states and regions. Tinubu, 71, is also a deal-maker who can break any political impasse with concessions that deliver last-minute wins.
His insistence on the same-faith ticket by picking Kashim Shettima, a Muslim, as a running mate is seen by many as his Achilles heel, but there are counter-arguments that it is a smart political move aimed at winning Muslim votes in the North where he has a formidable opponent in PDP’s Atiku Abubakar.
In Kaduna State, however, analysts are sceptical of the same-faith ticket delivering mass votes.
It is doubtful, also, the APC has enough political goodwill in Kaduna State to defeat the PDP, especially in enclaves that for a long time have accused Governor Nasir el-Rufai of high-handedness, intolerance and political insensitivity.
The people of Southern Kaduna have been worst-hit with the sad experience of killings, kidnappings and threats to their farmlands under Buhari and Nasir el-Rufai of APC. They consider the January 25 poll an opportunity to vote for a party that can give them the desired change― and that will be any other party but APC. The APC albatross may be too costly for Tinubu.
Despite APC being the ruling party in Kaduna, the dynamics of politics in the state have changed since the presidential primary elections in 2022. Now, the Labour Party has mammoth followers and PDP’s vice-grip on the state has not declined.
On even ground, the chances of the APC juggernaut taking Kaduna are slim.
There is no doubt that Kwankwaso, 66, has some followers in the state, but truth be told, NNPP is not known in Southern Kaduna. In the Northern part of the state, where its governorship candidate hails from, the party is not pronounced.
Views are high that the presidential election in Kaduna State will be a battle of three- Labour Party, PDP and APC. Barring any last-minute upset, the odds favour the PDP to carry the day in the state.


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