By Idris Yana
Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s declaration of interest to contest for Nigeria’s presidency in 2023 is a prologue to the array of drama that we are going to witness in the next couple of months.
The 2023 presidential election will defy many political and analytical rationales.
Tinubu’s candidacy poses a challenge to both Tinubu himself and the Nigerian political philosophy. Currently, the unsigned sacred pact is that Nigeria cannot afford a president and his vice who belong to the same faith. Thus, Tinubu, being a Muslim, cannot have a Muslim vice-presidential candidate. Another “gentleman agreement” is that the president and his vice cannot come from the same part of the country. Therefore, this means that Tinubu’s running mate must come from the North and be a Christian. Though we must define where is North, at some point.
This is the epitome of the complexity (you can call it confusion) of Nigeria’s democracy. I will tell you why shortly.
The Northern Nigeria I know and live in can hardly support Christian to become Tinubu’s running mate. This, whether we say it out loud or not, is the mentality of an average Northern Muslim: A fact we all pretend does not exist.
While I cannot foresee an enduring strategy that Tinubu can use to navigate through this maze, I believe two parties stand a chance to benefit from his quagmire. The first is the current vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo. Although the witty professor-cum-pastor did not come out yet to declare his intention to run for the number one office, his body language and some events that have unfolded have already shown that he is in the race.
Osinbajo, being a Christian from the South, is very much aware that Tinubu’s dilemma is to his advantage. Many people in the North will prefer to have him as the presidential candidate so that they can field a Muslim running mate for him.
The other party that stands a chance to benefit from this is PDP. Like Osinbajo, I am sure PDP monitors the unfolding of Tinubu’s candidature and waits for the right time to make their move. They have many options to explore. One of such options is appealing the sentiment of the North by fielding a Muslim candidate from the part, most likely Atiku, and a Christian running mate from either South-South or South-East with Nyesom Wike as the most likely candidate. They have the option of reversing this and trying their luck.
Whatever happens in 2023, Nigerians will have multiple lessons to learn from. For me, the most important lesson is the dire and urgent need for the country to move away from the political ideology that favours primordial sentiments over competence. Instead, Nigerians must learn to elect a leader that is capable of saving us from us.
Idris Yana writes from Exeter, United Kingdom. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.