With Uche Nnadozie
The stage is set as all the parties have concluded their primaries. Substitution of candidates may still be effected till early November depending on what office is being contested. However, what is not an issue is the fact that primaries have been concluded. We now know who and who will fly what flag for which party. For all it is worth, there are only two political parties that are pragmatically vying for the office of president, they are the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The harsh reality is that the rest of the 89 political parties are just numbers to fulfill all righteousness. They will not even tilt the votes to anyone. They will just be there like passive participants. Perhaps, the only exception is the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. But their influence is in one state and a minor influence in another.
The main candidates are former vice president, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. Both candidates are not new to political contests. They are serial presidential aspirants.
While Atiku has a longer spell as aspirant for he has done so five times because he began in 1993, but have had only two shots as candidate of a party; Buhari began contesting in 2003. In all, he always ended up as candidate of the various parties. Both are in their 70s. Those could be where their similarities end. Atiku worked with the Customs and rose to the position of deputy director, which is today’s Deputy Comptroller General. After his service in 1989, which reports claim ended abruptly, he jumped fully into business where he made a fortune and shortly after joined politics. Atiku looks every inch a politician’s politician. His name rings a bell and seems to be flamboyant in a certain way.
Buhari on the other hand was a soldier. A military man who rose to become the head of state in December 1983. He was toppled in August 1995. His regime was known for standing up against indiscipline. Buhari is also known to abhor corruption. He has severally said if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.
Because of his stand against corruption, he is loathed by the elite. He only found a way around the last election when he obviously stood down some of his strong arm opposition to corruption and indiscipline.
Since he won the 2015 election, there is no doubt about the fact that the usually steely general has mellowed. Age and democracy combined effectively to purge some of his single mindedness. Yet, Buhari retains some of his luster. Politicians still fear him and no one can put a finger to where he personally went against his vows against corruption and indiscipline.
We now look forward to commencement of campaigns in November and election in February. As things stand today, the election is likely to be Buhari’s to lose. However, the coming of Atiku has energised what could have been a bland contest. His wealth, former office held and defections into PDP from the ruling party have helped to push Atiku into the race as a serious contender. If the APC and President Buhari do not take his challenge as formidable, then shock awaits them. Some of the factors pushing against Buhari are the economy, herdsmen killings and slow action on alleged corruption by some of the
president’s aides. Also, people point to selective obedience to court orders as one of the factors that may work against the incumbent during the campaigns and eventually at the poll. It is left to be seen how the PDP can harness these factors and turn them into a message that majority of the people can identify with and get angry enough to want to do something about them. Apart from the economy that has not done particularly well, the rest of the issues are elitist. So PDP will do well if it can disaggregate these factors into sellable issues to the hoi polloi in the months ahead.
For Buhari, what is going for him and his party is the fact that it is the party in power. Power of incumbency is formidable in this part of the world, but like was proven in 2015; this power is not enough to get anyone over the finish line. Fair enough, Buhari is still popular in his base. The parts of the country that he gets majority of his votes are still largely intact. In fact, while the election of Atiku by PDP resonates in certain parts of the country, in Buhari’s base, it solidifies the president’s grip. Other factors that may tilt the election towards APC and Buhari are that in southern Nigeria where Atiku appears to be more popular, the leaders fear that the election of the former vice president may jeopardise their own turn at producing a president in 2023, therefore are likely to work for Buahri at the last minute contrary to the euphoria of Atiku’s supporters in the last few days. Buhari retains the support of the North West which is supposedly the largest voting block in the country by far. Atiku is not the man that can break Buhari’s grip in that region. Even in the North East where Atiku hails from, Buhari will score more votes in 2019 based on some factors.
The north central is a toss up zone, with a slight advantage for the PDP. The South East on paper is wholly a PDP zone, but the same cannot be said of all the states in the South South, although this zone tilts towards the PDP. The South West will vote APC not necessarily because they like Buhari but for the same reasons that the South East will vote for Atiku…the running mate. APC also has better oiled machinery in the zone than PDP. No doubt, PDP will get a considerable number of votes in the region.
…to be continued