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A two-horse race and millions of bookmakers  By Martins Onyeike

Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP) Presidential Candidate

In accordance with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC guidelines, campaigns for the 2023 Presidential elections would officially kickoff in a few days. How time flies. Seems just like yesterday that the ruling party mounted the saddle in 2015 with a flurry of bogus promises of doing better than its predecessor that held sway for 16 years. The rest is now history.

Unlike previous elections, 2023 comes with a twist in the tail that promises to make it a spectacle and the most unpredictable in recent times. To many observers, it is going to be a three-horse race between these candidates – Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alh. Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the surprise entrant and rave of the moment, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). This writer completely differs, and I’ll come to that.

For many a Nigerian, 2023 presents a moment of epiphany. It provides an opportunity to lock the stable door while the best horse is yet to bolt. Like they say, one day is like an eternity in politics. Between the period when party primaries were held and now, a whole lot has happened. For all the contestants, roles have quickly reversed – favourites are becoming underdogs, an outsider emerging a serious contender and vice versa.

Before now, the term “Third Force” had remained a lexicon that existed only in the realm of imaginations of Nigerians who have always craved an alternative to the ill-contrived binary party system that limits the options of eligible voters. However, the unheralded and soaring popularity of the Labour Party candidate; Mr. Peter Obi has thrown a spanner in the works of a hitherto well-oiled political machinery engineered by inheritors of the old order.

It is no longer business as usual- the alarm bells are threatening to blow up the eardrums of both the ruling party and the major opposition. Not even the most skilled futurist or political pundit could have seen this coming. The apple cart has been upset and the ultimate beneficiaries are Nigerian voters who have resultantly expressed a sprightly and reinvigorated belief in the entire electoral system.

The renewed conviction among the youthful population and previous onlookers in their abilities to make their votes count brings a refreshing feel. To the neutrals, these are truly interesting times. Not too long ago, owing to the draconian activities of the ruling party; the dreaded possibility of sliding into a one-party state stared the polity in the face. Howbeit, this sharp turn of events conveniently posits the polity on a tripod that leaves the ruling party in a disadvantageous position – the tables have turned.

One interesting factor about the 2023 Presidential polls is that the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria are represented on the ballot and all have equal changes of winning. I can’t remember the last time we witnessed such a scenario. On that premise, it is likely that ethnic and tribal sentiments would take preeminence like never before. Let’s brace ourselves for intriguing Presidential campaigns that will be characteristically laced with bile, diatribes, outright pettiness and other fireworks -not even the kitchen sink will be spared.

Back to the three horses. I am of the honest opinion that one has been incapacitated by many factors which include, but not limited to a same-faith ticket, visibly failing health, colossal failure of the incumbent, perception of being aggrandizing corrupt and a narcissistic entitlement mentality and desire for power. Considering the religious fragility of a nation that is gasping for oxygen, it is morbidly insensitive for any right-thinking individual to even contemplate this abominable move.

Primarily, leadership is about taking responsibility and hence, maybe Bola Ahmed Tinubu would have been cut some slack if he had gotten off his floundering high horse to take proportionate blame for the abysmal scorecard of a President and government he claims to have enthroned in the same manner he takes credit for building Lagos state. Just maybe. He failed that litmus test resoundingly.

His infamous rooftop roar that it is “MY TURN” gives the impression that Nigeria is a bounty that can either be allocated to the highest bidder, most entitled or next-in-line. I don’t even want to go into the antecedents of the ruling party’s Vice Presidential candidate – his ignoble role in the Chibok girls’ saga and complicity in the activities of Boko Haram during its fledgling days are well documented.

On the part of the PDP, the monumental failure of the APC has given the party a somewhat new lease of life. As witnessed in the recent Osun state gubernatorial election where the party wrestled power from the sitting APC government, its status as a viable opposition force cannot be questioned. Though the dynamics may be different this time around, it will be foolhardy to dismiss the chances of a candidate who polled over 10million votes in 2019, especially now that Buhari is not on the ballot.

Come 2023, Nigerians must ensure that failure is not reinforced under any guise. For me, it is a two-horse race between the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party. All eyes are on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to leverage on the new electoral reforms to deliver a free, fair and credible elections. The other onus lies on the millions of PVC-wielding Nigerians -the bookmakers.

May the best horse win.

martinsemenogu03@gmail.com

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