The debate that the presidency moves to the south in 2023 is gaining momentum. Both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have strong candidates from the south. But these candidates have their respective baggage and the parties have internal squabbles that must be resolved.

The APC has its stronghold in the Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Northcentral – four of the nation’s six geo-political zones. The PDP has strong structures in the six zones with a stranglehold in the Southeast and Southsouth.

Come 2023, the APC has no reasons to retain power in the north, but there is strong politicking by some governors and other bigwigs in the north to retain power. This will mean the APC contravening the unwritten agreement between the north and the south on power rotation. In any case, the APC does not have a strong presidential candidate from the north, though there are some northern governors and bigwigs secretly nursing presidential ambitions.

If APC picks its presidential candidate from the south, especially southwest, the PDP may attempt to outwit this by looking to the north for its presidential candidate. This as well will put PDP in a catch-22 situation on how to explain this to the south, especially the Southeast and the Southsouth.

PDP has good candidates in their own ‘rights’ from the southeast and Southsouth. Peter Obi from Southeast and Governor Nyesom Wike from the Southsouth. Obi does not have friends in the north, and has never tried to pull an appeal from the north, directly or by proxy. His deportation of other Nigerians to their states when he was governor of Anambra State was used against him in the north during the 2019 electioneering, and it worked. For Wike, his words- ‘Rivers is a Christian state’ will be used against him in the north, like Governor El-Rufai’s Muslim-Muslim ticket in Kaduna can be used against El-Rufai. This is how local politics impacts a candidate’s wider political opportunities.

The Southeast has started a move to convince other Nigerians to support the region. Southeasteners like Governor David Umahi, Orji Uzor Kalu, Rochas Okorocha, Ike Nwachukwu and others have friends and are well-known across the Niger. However, the major hurdle on the path of the region is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Nnamdi Kanu. The current mirror-image of the Southeast in the mind of many Nigerians is IPOB and its leader.

In APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has the brightest chances to clinch the presidential ticket among all the presidential hopefuls, but he has a very difficult dilemma to solve. Tinubu, a Muslim from the Southwest, might have a free sail at home because of the complex nature of the socio-political settings of the region. But to appeal to other zones in the country, he will be in a quandary in respect of his choice of a running mate. If he picks a Christian from the north, the bulk of APC support in the north – the Muslim north, will look the other way; if he picks a Muslim from the north, the whole country will certainly be against a presidential Muslim-Muslim ticket. Tinubu is a good candidate, but has a big dilemma.

The 2023 battle will be very interesting – like this writer has always maintained. PDP will be on the offensive while the ruling APC will be on the defensive. The standard bearer of either parties will also have many political hurdles to cross. However, #ENDSARS has opened a big window of opportunity for politicians, whoever offers the youths the vice-presidential position may be able to contain the other obstacles effortlessly.

Zayyad I. Muhammad, Jimeta, Adamawa State