By Stanley Nkwocha
From years to months, months to weeks, and now in just a matter of days, the nation will head to the polls to elect the next president of Nigeria. Needless to state that President Muhammadu Buhari, with the constitution of his transition team headed by Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha – like the Americans would say- ‘knows what time it is’.
That the change in the naira denomination along with the cash swap policy of the Buhari administration, coupled with the attendant legal action before the Supreme Court, has distorted the mood about the 2023 general election, attempting to, in very clear terms, almost derail it, is to say the least in the mildest way.
While the federal government struggled to compete with electoral campaigns in terms of attention, it is now clear that come Saturday, the ballots would speak succintly – loud enough to make a definite and emphatic statement on the resolve of Nigerians to protect their democratic rights. Clearly, a new leadership for the country is in the offing!
I make bold to say that of the front runners in this election, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has pulled the most robust, technical, populist and indeed all-encompassing campaign. With a unique style of campaign, his lieutenants have left no stone unturned in marketing his vision and ideas as contained in his 80-page manifesto.
While critics of his age and the Muslim- Muslim ticket made lame issue about his eligibility at the initial stage, Asiwaju’s dexterity, vibrancy, energy and frankness made capacity, sacrifice, experience, vision and political will to top the discourse ahead of this election. Truth be told, Tinubu has indeed acquitted himself, especially in terms of capacity, straightforwardness and consistency of direction in the run up to the elections. He is undoubtedly not just the front runner but the favorite to win.
But beyond the rhetoric, permutations and political scheming about how this election would be won and lost is the content of the character of one man who has proven that he could as well bring class intelligence, unique political wizardry, experience and understanding of exceptional leadership qualities to the fore with the choice of his running mate. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as vice presidential candidate has paid off. The former Borno governor is the one puzzle that is set to undo Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party ( LP) in this presidential election.
To have a clear shot at the presidency, it is my opinion that every presidential candidate must secure his base. While it can be argued that Tinubu has his South West base in the kitty and Peter Obi, another strong candidate, has the South East as a stronghold, PDP’s Atiku Abubakar sadly cannot lay claim to his North East base where Kashim Shettima’s strong footing in the region has left him helpless in the shadow of his own goal post.
While the former vice president will struggle to win his home state of Adamawa, he cannot beat his chest and say he has edge in neighboring states of Taraba, Gombe and Bauchi States. Borno and Yobe States are completely out of the the question. The two states with huge voter turnouts are under Kashim Shettima’s political enclave.
Shettima’s political doggedness has seen him move into Gombe, Taraba and Bauchi States ‘quietly’ resolving and reconciling powerful political figures in the region. It can be safely be said that these moves have left a distraught Atiku with a bloody nose in the home front. The depletion of PDP’s support in its hitherto political bases in the South East and South South further leaves the PDP candidate in a fix; hence his desperation for votes as he scavenges in the North West which ordinarily would have been his pathway to electoral victory.
But as if punching it in the bags of the opposition presidential candidates is not enough, Shettima’s reach, hard work, eloquence, sophistry, vibrancy and highly cosmopolitan nature has continually ridiculed other vice presidential candidates, proving to be the last nail on the coffin of other presidential candidates.
Of the prominent vice presidential candidates in this election, only Yusuf Datti hails from North West. Sadly, in terms of prominence, the LP vice presidential candidate has become a mere shadow of him’s boisterous self, surrendering the region to the exploits, visits, nexus and seeming political genius of Shettima. This has prompted not a few pundits to assert that not even his ward would Datti win on election day, not to talk of his local government.
I dare to say that were the G5 governors’ crisis inherent in the APC, Shettima would have been the man to fix it. Sadly, PDP’s vice presidential candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, lost the capacity to contemplate a resolution of the crisis as he was a major dramatis personae in the unresolved issues that has rocked the PDP in this coming election.
When as governor of Borno State and chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum Shettima travelled to all the South East states reassuring the Igbos of their safety when the Northern Youths Forum led by Yerima Shettima gave Igbos in the North the infamous quit notice, he was demonstrating a leadership skill that sold him to Nigerians as a leader and bridge builder who is quite rare in this part of the globe.
Recently, just after the APC presidential campaign in Kano, while his principal headed to Edo State for the next phase of campaigns, Kashim Shettima stayed put in Kano for three days reconciling all factions and ensuring that all stakeholders at this crucial stage are all on the same page ahead of the polls. Needless to state that all issues in the state are today a thing of the past, with Kano ready to vote enmasse for the APC.
Juxtaposing this with Atiku’s VP candidate, Okowa, under whose nose intra party crisis has continued to unsettle its Delta, Edo, Abia, Rivers, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos States chapters ahead the poll, it may well be safe to conclude that Atiku would go green with envy over Asiwaju’s successes. Ditto for Obi and Kwankwaso when their vice presidential candidates’ efforts are also calibrated.
Of importance too is the identification and deployment of local and cultural politicking. Of all the vice presidential candidates none has transversed singly to all states in their domains like Shettima. Unlike Atiku’s Okowa who is rarely seen campaigning or embarking on critical visits in the South for local campaigns, or even Obi’s Datti up North, only Kashim Shettima boasts of visiting virtually every traditional ruler up North, paying respects and soliciting for their support. If every politics is local, then Shettima depicts a perfect understanding of this.
Shettima’s recent exclusive media adverts and mobilisations for his principal shows how far a vice presidential candidate could go in firming up support for his principal.
Alexander the Great’s statement, “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion”, might have been used over time in the depiction of strength in leadership and character. However, it will once more come into play on Saturday as the days wind down to hours, minutes and eventually to seconds.
One established fact remains that Shettima’s massive involvement and presence in the presidential elections has been a huge win for the presidential aspiration of Bola Tinubu. It can be said that in the choice of Kashim Shettima, the presidential candidate of the APC struck gold.
Nkwocha, a member of the Public Affairs Directorate of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, wrote in from Abuja.