Anyone who has been paying attention to happenings in Nigeria over the past months would have noticed that there has been a lot of talk about the 2023 presidential elections. Especially since the #EndSARS protests were attacked and hijacked. Nigerians seem to have awoken to the fact that electoral actions have consequences. And so, they appear more determined to make the right choices across the board in the next election cycle.
In mid-October 2020, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced the date for the 2023 elections. According to him, the country will be heading to the polls on the 18th of February, 2023. This means that in a little over 800 days, Nigerians will be getting a new president.
It does not take much for anyone to run for president. In Nigeria, all that is needed is to have a platform – no matter how obscure the name of the party may sound; a Twitter account- the candidate does not need to make a major announcement in the media; and an ambition-it could be a strong feeling to run for this top position or a claim to have been called by God to lead.
But if a person wanted to have a fighting chance of winning the elections, they would need to present himself under the banner of one of the two major political parties in Nigeria – the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In fact, a person does not need to be a seer to be able to predict that the next president of Nigeria would come from either of these two parties.
No doubt, in the next year some politicians will use social media to fly kites. They will use various platforms to check their popularity and see how people will react to their candidacy. We will also see more politicians cross from one political party to another to better position themselves as presidential or vice-presidential candidate in their parties. Every other day on social media, there are various tweets pairing the “best candidates” for presidency in each of the major political parties.
One name that seems to keep popping up organically either as one of the best choices, no matter under what political party he runs is Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. Even members of the opposition party in his state, the APC, acknowledge, albeit mockingly, that the head of the Oyo State Government is indeed “presidential material.” It is believed in some circles, that some of the attacks he is receiving from some sections of the political class is because they see him as a strong contender for any political positions and are afraid of his ever growing following.
Interestingly, despite all the furore over the forthcoming elections, Governor Makinde has not made any indications that he intends to remain in political office beyond his present position which terminates in 2023. Instead, he has stated on several occasions that unless he is able to deliver good governance as he promised the people of Oyo State, that is, to fulfill his campaign promises, he would not even be seeking a second term.
Perhaps, the fears of some political juggernauts are a tacit acknowledgement that he has indeed kept his word and is ready to move on to the next level. In truth, a look at his campaign promises as contained in his Road Map to Accelerated Development in Oyo State, 2019-2023, reveals that in just his first year he has fulfilled more than 50% of his electoral promises. This implies that he has a clear path to representing himself for second term in 2023 or seeking the higher position of running for President.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that because Governor Makinde has only served for less than two years, he has not “paid his dues” and therefore cannot run as president of Nigeria. He certainly has the credentials to serve in this capacity. Governor Seyi Makinde ticks the right boxes in the hearts and minds of lovers of democracy especially for his pragmatic approach to leadership.
He has demonstrated that governance is not rocket science but requires unselfishly putting the interests of the people first, while taking responsibility for taking the tough decisions and remaining on top of everything happening in one’s constituency. Governor Seyi Makinde has shown far more competence in governance than some who are even serving their second term in office.
However, that an open door exists does not automatically mean that a person should walk through it. There is more to running for presidency than possessing the necessary expertise and charisma. The candidate has to have a strong following all over the country and have the support of a strong party architecture. Contrary to what some have touted, the farmer in Damaturu does not necessarily have to know the name of the person running for the highest political office, but his political platform must have the presence in those areas to ensure that people recognize that name on the days leading up to the elections.
Oyo Affairs remains positive that should Governor Makinde decide to run for any political position in 2023, he will be doing so with all the necessary support and political infrastructure. Surely, in the next year it will become clearer what the next step of the man who has come to redefine the political landscape will take. We wait, as does every other political watcher, with bated breath.