Why Atiku may lose the 2019 presidential election” made very good reading. Quoting an obviously unhappy Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor who did not give his name, the article revealed troubling insights into the party’s chaotic run for the presidency.
The key issues highlighted in the story are lack of consultations by the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; the choices of Peter Obi as the vice presidential nominee and Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate president, as the director-general of the campaign council. Other grievances include the alleged marginalisation of party leaders, who stuck with the PDP during its lean years; the supposed faulty campaign structure and lack of proper messaging by the campaign.
These are indeed serious problems, especially the lack of consultation by the presidential candidate and feeling of neglect by the PDP old guard, who did not defect to the ruling party when it was the vogue to do so. This sense of alienation can lead to apathy of party leaders and their supporters and cost the PDP significant votes, particularly in its strongholds of the South-South and South-East. The issues raised by the faceless PDP governor, no doubt, are grim and can very well cost the party the presidential election.
However, none of these concerns are insurmountable. On Obi, the vice presidential nominee, there is little anyone can do about him now. He has been nominated and the time frame allowed for the substitution of candidates has elapsed. But then, he has pulled his weight by demonstrating that he could be an effective VP with his vast knowledge of the economy. By most neutral and objective analyses, he won the vice presidential debate, which also featured Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the current vice president of Nigeria, thereby giving the party a bounce.
It should be given that Atiku Abubakar would spend most of his time consulting party leaders across the country, doing deals and assuaging frayed nerves; in short, demonstrating that he is ready to win and lead! That’s what presidential candidates do. They do the grind, not run to Dubai every now and then to lap up luxury and cool-off.
That said, no challenge the Atiku campaign is going through compares with that being faced by President Muhamadu Buhari. The man has no record to run on and has put together a tattered coalition held together by the illusion of inheriting power in 2023.
In 2015, the momentum was definitely in favour of Candidate Buhari. It was clear as day that Nigerians were fed up with the Goodluck Jonathan government, giving his inability to rise up to the challenges of the time, mainly insecurity and corruption, coupled with what was generally regarded as an uninspiring and underwhelming leadership. His government was tagged ‘clueless’ as Nigerians dreamt of a change.
Buhari was well placed to take advantage of this widespread disaffection as the candidate of the biggest ever coalition put together by the opposition. Supported by a well-heeled communication team, the APC presidential candidate ran an effective campaign, promising to fix Nigeria and deliver a much better country than the one he sought to wrest from the PDP. His manifesto had the solution to all of our ills. On paper, that is. From corruption and good governance to insurgency and insecurity; health to agriculture, and issues in the Niger Delta to the economy, the Buhari policy document was comprehensive and had well thought out solutions to some of the challenges that had plagued our country for years.
The election is therefore Atiku’s to lose. No campaign is perfect. Donald Trump of the U.S. ran one of the most chaotic campaigns ever, yet won the election, mainly by feeding off the citizens’ disgruntlement with the status quo. Atiku can do the same, chirping off the so-called integrity of Buhari and reminding Nigerians how badly the man has done the job he was elected for.
A few examples will suffice. On corruption and good governance, Candidate Buhari promised to “show personal leadership in the war against corruption and hold all the people who work with me to count.” On insurgency and insecurity, he pledged to “give special attention to the welfare of our armed forces and their families, lost heroes and their families and the victims of insurgency”, as well as “Provide of the best and appropriate military and other materials the country needs to combat insurgency and religious violence, kidnapping and rural banditry.”
The document was that comprehensive and covered every sphere of our national life. And no doubt, went a long way in convincing many Nigerians that Buhari was the real deal and was prepared for the arduous task of leading Nigeria into a more stable and prosperous future. Nothing could presently be further from the truth. It has turned out that there is a huge gap between the candidate, Buhari and the man who took over the leadership of the country after the election. Sadly for Nigeria, Candidate Buhari was dressed in borrowed robes.
On being elected, the true Buhari emerged as he ran the most bigoted, nepotistic, exclusive and incompetent government, the like of which we have, perhaps, never seen in the history of our country. The man is provincial, lacks energy and has the penchant for surrounding himself with shady characters from his part of the country. Oby Ezekwesili, the former minister and now presidential candidate put it better when she described the president as lazy, one who enjoys the trappings of his job but not the hard work that comes with it.
The consequences have been dire for the country, which went into recession the first full year Buhari came to power. Since then it has been down the hill for the economy. Over 11 million jobs have been lost since the president took over and hundreds of businesses have shut down and left the country. Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world in 2018; that is, the country with the highest number of extremely poor people. The government has funded the last three budgets with loans and bonds, and consequently, our external debts have risen by over N11 trillion in the last three-and-a-half years. All the indices are bad and growing worse under Buhari.
Security, which arguably is one of the bases on which Buhari got elected, has deteriorated so much that at no other time in the history of Nigeria have we had more deaths as a result of killings by non-state actors. In Zamfara and much of the North-West region, unidentified marauders murder almost at will. The Boko Haram militants have resurged in the North-East and taken over several communities. Several local governments in Borno are no-go areas as the insurgents are fully in charge there. Our soldiers, just like before, now continuously complain about the lack of arms and ammunition to tackle the insurgents. With Buhari nothing has changed, except for worse. Like in the case of pillaging armed herdsmen, who have sacked community after community in the North-Central region and barely got any real pushback from the commander-in-chief.
As such, Buhari, knowing he does not have a record to run on, is relying heavily on his coalition-of-the-corrupt, the never-do-well, the-PDP-disgruntled-and-rejects, the-any-government-in-power (AGIPS), the-2023-hopeful, and in fact, anyone who can assure him of even 10 votes. The man is so desperate to get another chance at ruining, sorry running, Nigeria that he does not even pretend to having integrity or fighting corruption anymore. That’s why he could not move against the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, who was caught stuffing dollar bribes into his babariga recently. That’s why his new found friends are people like Senator Godswill Akpabio and Orji Uzor Kalu who have gigantic corruption cases on their neck. And that is why he is powerless to call his wife to order even when the woman has set up a parallel campaign council.
The election is, therefore, Atiku’s to lose. No campaign is perfect. Donald Trump of the U.S. ran one of the most chaotic campaigns ever, yet won the election, mainly by feeding off the citizens’ disgruntlement with the status quo. Atiku can do the same, chirping off the so-called integrity of Buhari and reminding Nigerians how badly the man has done the job he was elected for.