Primaries to nominate candidates for the 2019 General Elections have been concluded and baring parties that would substitute candidates within the timeframe stipulated in the Electoral Act, there are no surprises here. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) remains the candidate to beat. His closest challenger, a former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), to all intent is gathering steam at a rate that guarantees him to crash and burn like a galactic craft on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
The candidates of the other political parties consists largely of neophytes, show entertainers and attention grabbers, many of whom can swear that they are not going anywhere in their quest since they are in it to merely add the appellation of “former presidential candidate” to their names. Others are out to get that appellation as a component to boost their nuisance value so that they can scream to the world that the government is hounding the opposition should they ever be questioned over their outstanding misdeeds or the ones they will commit hereafter.
The award of nuisance however goes to the likes of former president, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, who as Atiku’s former immediate boss knows him better than the rest of us. He once famously declared that God will not forgive him if he supports Atiku, a statement he made at a time when he still held out hopes that the coffers would be thrown open for him using his shadow companies to resume looting Nigeria dry. Once it became apparent that President Buhari will never play ball PDP style, Obasanjo counted his teeth with his tongue can came to the logical conclusion that Atiku is one person that could grant him access to the commonwealth he is desirous of diverting to himself. After all, the share between them the experience of running the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) aground and creating a drama over it to divert the attention of Nigerians from the theft that was committed at the fund.
In addition to Obasanjo’s tainted endorsement, the backing of notable clergymen is further being touted as a plus for Atiku. A closer look tells a different story. A slump in remittances from stolen funds retired as tithe is enough to sour the mood of even a bishop especially when fuelling private jets becomes a challenge on account of the anti-corruption drive waking people up to the reality of living within their means. So the same man that called the curse of God upon Fulanis while questioning their “born to rule” attitude today found himself a willing prop in Atiku’s campaign photo shoot; interestingly, the choice of being attired to look like madrassa pupil on break depicts a haste to kowtow to a Fulani overlord. Sincere clergymen would by now be exacting assurances from Turaki that he can do away with worldliness in the event that he emerges the choice of Nigerians.
The support of a section of the compromised clergy or retired leaders notwithstanding, what will doom the Atiku candidacy is already irretrievably in motion. Even Atiku is aware that this is the case so he is doing what he knows how to do best: unleash intense propaganda so that there would be an impression of him being in the lead so that when he loses he would at least be in a position to cry wolf and keen about how he was rigged out. Even if he were to begin attempting to address the things that will doom him at the polls today it would amount to an exercise in futility.
One, Atiku’s strategists are carried away about tapping into the so called feeling of despondency and disaffection in the land. A measure of such disaffection is in the number and trend on the social media. True, a surf through the postings on the social media would give the impression that Nigeria as a country is history or that Atiku stands a good chance when in reality what’s trending on social media is the ventilation of a vocal minority that are angry at being separated from their easy sources of money. In real terms the larger number of Nigerians are working harder to legitimately earn income since the anti-corruption drive means there is no longer slush funds to throw around. They will not be ready to join the fray and exchange issues with the vocal minority but having tasted the liberating feel of legitimate earnings they are ready to turn out in their numbers to return President Buhari to power come 2019 so that they would have built enduring wealth before his tenure finally ends in 2023.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, a major contributor to the PDP’s 16 locust years put it correctly when he said “an Atiku Presidency will in many ways, be an extension of the (former president Olusegun) Obasanjo legacy,” Nigerians know this too and they will not be dumb enough to invite Obasanjo to again preside over the affairs of Nigeria. No one wants a return of a 1000 strong killer snipers, no one wants dictatorship garbed as democracy and definitely the darkness that is only now lifting is not something anyone would want visited on the country again. After all the average Nigerian sees Obasanjo as a greedy man who works for himself alone.
The geo-political configuration and the informal zoning and rotation arrangement is not a light matter in a country where everything is reduced to religion and ethnicity. President Buhari wins the 2019 election and the south waits another four years to take a shot at the presidency. Atiku wins and the wait time becomes eight years. No one should be deceived by any Atikulated lie that he would do only one tenure. Atiku that we all know has never been gentlemanly enough to stay in one political party but has rather serially decamped so long as he thinks his ambition would be served by selling shot those that around him. A man who cannot be consistent with his political affiliations cannot be trusted to be consistent with his political promises. His nomination of former Anambra state governor, Peter Obi, as his running mate is the first indication yet that he is not in a hurry to let go of a second term if Nigerians are dull enough to give him a first term. Peter Obi’s kinsmen would be constantly reminded that they occupy the number two position and should be content with that while Atiku has his open season with the treasury.
This choice of Peter Obi as running mate has been a boost for President Buhari. Atiku’s monetized emergence as PDP’s flag bearer was a source of much permutation on the part of his supporters who had thought he stood a good chance. The choice of Obi has however shown that the entire euphoria and the reasons that powered them were nothing but flash in the pan moment. Obi’s geo-political zone, the southeast, has always been antagonistic of the Buhari Presidency. The votes he got from there in 2015 were inconsequential so picking Obi is at best a form of double counting of whatever votes Atiku hopes to get there, which is assuming that Peter Obi’s many sins against his kinsmen would be overlooked on account of ethnic sentiments.
Furthermore, in the coming weeks, there would be fact based revelations on the ignoble roles played by those rooting for Atiku. The violence and terrorist activities in some parts of the country are not unconnected with their quest to present President Buhari as having failed to meet his electoral promises from 2015. They have continued to sponsor Boko Haram to continue creating a sense of insecurity, they unleashed separatists on the south east – some women IPOB members decided to confront the police in Imo state only after a particular politician visited the southeast, they had instigated militants to halt oil production through attacks on oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta.
All the foregoing are secondary to why the odds favour President Buhari in the election. The expectation is that his team will get their acts right and present to Nigerians the changes President Buhar has brought about in under four years to correct 16 years of PDP misrule. Those opposed to him, and they are very vocal even though few, want people to perceive failure when the reality is that there has been massive dislocation that have put Nigerians on a path to viable economic growth even though those that used to feed fat on slush funds are smarting from no longer having access to the nation’s tills.
At the close of the presidential election in 2019 it would be clear that Atiku and his team should be congratulated for providing entertainment and diversions that ensured that the contest is not between President Buhari and President Buhari as the sole candidate. If Atiku were not taking part in the 2019 election it would have been like the APC presidential primary where voters would only troop out to affirm another four years for their performing president. If Obasanjo, the business clergy and career kleptocrats have not gotten the memo someone should please copy them.
Kolawole is a University and wrote this piece from Keffi, Nasarawa State.