2023 Presidency: The Contenders and Pretenders

Eddy Odivwri

It is interesting seeing how politicians have been justling to position themselves in the struggle to become the nation’s president. Although there are about eighteen political parties in the country, the attention seems to be understandably focused on just two: the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with footnote attention on the African Democratic Congress (ADC), essentially for hosting a platoon of smooth speakers who have no political structures anywhere and may never win elections.

Within the two major parties, it is obvious some are serious, very serious, while some just want to use their buying of the expensive Nomination forms as a bargaining chip for a prized appointment after the election has been won by the more serious and committed contenders. Those who have shown appreciable commitment to the race, I classify as Contenders, while the political “wannabes”, otherwise called the also-rans, I classify as Pretenders. 

In the ruling APC, while about an unprecedented number of 28 persons had indicated an interest in running for the presidency, only about 20 may have submitted their nomination forms. Some of the ministers who had wanted to contest withdrew when they got an ultimatum to resign. But even among those who submitted their forms, some are anything but determined.

In the APC, just about three persons have demonstrated strength and commitment in the race. They include, in that order, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Yemi Osinbajo. The trio has nearly gone round the country wooing delegates and explaining their programmes, selling their candidacy.

 But the unsure story about the party seeking a consensus candidate may upset some of the permutations on the field.

Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, 

His track record of performances, as Speaker, governor, minister, Director General of the Buhari Campaign organization, etc., his young age, plus his adroit disposition to every assigned duty have helped to tick all the boxes of fitness for the job.  Being a peripheral Igbo man, from Rivers State, will also help push his argument for zonal consideration. He has reached out to almost all the state delegates, just as his legislative and executive experiences are likely to count for him. 

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Famously described as the National Leader of the APC, Tinubu comes with a truckload of governance experience. As a former Lagos State governor and former senator, he sure qualifies for the job. His added advantage is the mythical belief that he has a huge and inexhaustible financial war chest, an edge that sometimes is his problem as many people doubt his source of wealth, if not from the government. He has crisscrossed the length and breadth of the country to canvass votes to achieve his “lifelong” ambition. He is believed to have a well-serviced nationwide network of supporters. But many are wary about his age, educational background, and his health, but in the face of heavy quid rain, delegates may not mind any drawback—real or perceived.

Yemi Osinbajo

He is the sitting Vice President, a political scion of Bola Tinubu. His on-the-job experience should count for him but he is considered a political neophyte, having not been a known politician ere 2015. His erudition and evident intelligence, as a law professor, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and pastor are some of his Unique Selling Points. He has shown more than a passing commitment in the pursuit of his ambition, as he traversed nearly all nooks and cranny of the country in soliciting support from the delegates, many of whom do not know him (beyond his official tag) and vice versa. Even then, coming from the same geopolitical and hitherto political family as Tinubu will surely vitiate his victory at the primary. 

The pretenders in this party are the likes of Emeka Nwajiuba, Ogbonnaya Onu, Dave Umahi, Ken Nnamani, and Rochas Okorocha (now in EFCC net) all of whom are from the South East but have not shown seriousness in the pursuit of their presidential dream. Except for Umahi whose TV adverts on his being voted Man of the Year by a national newspaper, there is no evidence of his solicitation of support of delegates’ votes outside his Ebonyi State. It is not sure what they are banking on.

Other Pretenders from South West are Kayode Fayemi, Ibikunle Amosun, Tunde Bakare, Ajayi Boroffice, and Dimeji Bankole. Except for Fayemi who had made some measly efforts in consulting some delegates in a few states, while admitting that he is not a “money bag”, none of the other aspirants from the South West made any readable or visible effort in going for the crown. They may have just added to the banal demography of roadside aspirants.

Meanwhile, the likes of Ben Ayade, Godswill Akpabio, Yahaya Bello, Ahmad Lawan, Sani Yerima, etc., may have served as mere political outliers, who came to swell the vault of the APC with their N100 million nomination fee, as their carts are not ever likely to fly.

In the same vein, the PDP parades contenders and pretenders. While the contenders are the likes of (in that order) Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Nyesom Wike, the pretenders are Sam Ohabunwa, Ayo Fayose, Cosmas Ndukwe, Udom Emmanuel and Aminu Tambuwal. Others include Bala Mohammed,  Dele Momodu,  Chikwendu Kalu, Anyim Pius Anyim, and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen. Many of the pretenders have not even shown a whimpers effort to sell themselves.

Peter Obi— Somebody recently wrote on Facebook concerning Peter Obi: Win or lose, Peter Obi has made all the points. He appears the most prized aspirant of the PDP, not so much on the number of states he has covered, but in the quality and content of his presentations. He sure knows his onions. His sparkling records as Anambra governor, plus his ascetic simplicity and deep knowledge of the economy, and scandal-free records, make Obi a star in the pack. Not for him the politically correct dress codes of every region/state. He has remained consistent on his simple safari anytime, saying everything that makes sense convincingly. Sadly, however, Obi has not only been choked out of the party by the ‘rough riders’, he has pulled out of the race, but vowed to maintain his determination to rescue Nigeria “even if the route differs”.

Atiku Abubakar

He had contested so many times but had hardly won, saving the governorship of Adamawa State in 1999, a victory that shot him into the presidency as Vice President to then-President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has a controversial political profile but is believed to not only have wealth of governance experience, but also a deep pocket. He had striven most in contacting delegates across the board.

Bukola Saraki – Not many thought he was exactly serious with the plan to run. He comes with a legislative and executive experience in public governance, having been a state governor and a former Senate President. He is one of them who has shown commitment in the race, as he traveled to many states in a bid to win more delegates’ support. It is not certain how many inroads he made. Besides his controversial past, he is not believed to have a wide national network, beyond the firm grip he has on his home state, Kwara. Being young and well educated may however count in his favour if the race is not reduced to the contest of financial buccaneers.

Nyesom Wike

The sitting governor of Rivers State is among those who travelled most across the length and breadth of the country in furtherance of his presidential bid. Yes, he talks practical things, many fear he lacks the finesse and nicety of the great off-ice of a nation’s presidency. Considered garrulous, crude, brusque, and tempestuous, his political wizardry may not over-ride his publicly acknowledged deficits, even though he is believed to have a huge financial war chest, what with the recent declaration as a wanted person (by EFCC) of the Accountant General of his state, Fubara Siminayi alleged fraud to the tune of N435 billion. Curiously, he is the aspirant Gov Wike sponsored to succeed him. It tells a story.

Gov Sanwo-Olu and the Okada Ban

Eddy Odivwri

After months and years of dithering, Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State finally summoned the courage to do the long-awaited needful: ban the Okada riders from the streets of Lagos.  This was the penultimate Wednesday. It would take effect on June 1. But he stopped short of a comprehensive ban. It would appear he wanted to test the waters by effecting the ban in just six out of the twenty Local Government Areas of the state, “for now”. More than two-thirds of the state would still have to contend with the menace and plague called Okada riders until such a time the spirit would minister action to the governor again. Lagosians just hope it won’t be after the 2023 election. 

I had wondered deep why Gov Sanwa-Olu had paid deaf ears to the hue and cry of Lagosians all the while about the menace and undeserved defacement of the Centre of Excellence with the hordes and hordes of the Motorcycle riders in the state. It was everything but supportive of the status of a Centre of Excellence or Mega-City niche which the Lagos Government is keen on profiling the state with. How could a good-thinking governor live with the scourge and nuisance of the Okada riders all along? Was Gov Sanwo-Olu considering the political usefulness of the Okada riders during elections, as a reason for not coming hard on them? Well, the action of penultimate Wednesday has shown that he was not being held back by political considerations, after all, the elections are less than a year away.  

Sad as the needless death of David Sunday Imoh in the hands of Okada riders were, it seemed to have been what was needed to rouse up the action in Gov Sanwo-Olu. The said David Sunday Imoh, a sound engineer, was lynched to death and burnt by a team of Okada riders in the Lekki area of Lagos, on May 12, over a disagreement on the fare charged by the motorcyclists. 

So, Lagosians are happy with the ban, but cannot wait for the extension of the ban to the entire Lagos state, or at least the metro region. Even more gratifying is the fact that the feared ethnic interpretation is clearly out of it, as even the Arewa group in Lagos has issued a statement supporting the ban. Everybody is tired to the hilt of these ill-skilled, trouble vendors called Okada riders.

Indeed, the ubiquitous spread of motorcycles, everywhere you turn in the state, does not portray the state as decent and orderly as it ought.

In all my travels, perhaps the only place I have seen an army of motorcyclists like that is in

Ho Chi Minh city, in Vietnam. But even at that, they are more disciplined in riding it, as they observe the traffic rules and respect other road users. But inherent in their case, as in ours, is that the bikes are vehicles of crime and criminality.

The fact that many of the 37,000 riders of motorcycles in Lagos are largely illiterate and know nothing about traffic signs should make government worry about the effect of such riders. Not surprisingly, the number of road accidents caused by the Okada riders in Lagos is huge. So huge that an entire ward at the Igbobi Orthopaedic hospital is code-named Okada ward, as the ward is occupied mainly by victims of Okada accidents, as many of them have broken limbs, ligaments, and general fractures.  But the greater trouble is the security issue the Okada riders pose. Many of them go about with arms. They have daggers and other dangerous weapons tucked away in their foul sweat-scented clothes.

Because they are not educated, they have no idea about traffic rules. Thus, they could be running against traffic, they do not understand/obey traffic lights, and in their blind haste, they run into other motorists. Yet, even their victims will soon be swamped by dozens of their ilk, is vexatious class solidarity—the type that killed David. Many of the bike riders do nor have registered motorcycles, just as many of them are not even Nigerians. Many of them are from Niger, Chad, Mali, etc. That itself is a risk, as they cannot be traced when they commit crimes. How they got into the country remains an issue only the Immigration service can explain.  

The demography of the Okada riders put at 37,000 is worrisome. No doubt, many of them are youths from the northern part of the country, fleeing from the harsh terrorist acts in that part of the country. More than 90% are homeless. So, besides the security concern they cause, they also do not help matters in maintaining environmental sanity, as they defecate and mess up where ever they hibernate.

Those who argue that they assist in movements from one point to another in Lagos, speak as if we did not live peacefully in Lagos before the advent of Okada. Did we always use Okada in Lagos? It is comforting that there are today, minibusses (aka Korope) and even tricycles (aka Keke Marwa) on Lagos streets. We can do without the Okada riders. A little walk from the bus stops to our homes will not kill us. It is good exercise. Those who live in London, America, and many parts of Europe where Okada riders do not operate are living well and healthily.

Yes, many of the riders survive on the operations of those bikes. Government can create farms where they can work and earn a living. Some of them can be trained to drive the many buses the government has provided as substitutes for the Okada bikes. Former Governor Babatunde Fashola did ban them (from some roads) but all those laws have been subverted now. We surely cannot continue the way we have been going. 

There are many states in Nigeria (like Rivers, FCT, Delta, Edo, and Kano) where Okada riders are not allowed in the metro centres of such cities. We can do without Okada in Lagos. Yes, we can!

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