The tempo of political activities has heightened. More political parties have joined the fray. More intrigues have come to play. More importantly, sundry presidential aspirants have emerged. It is all in preparation for the 2019 general election.
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President Muhammadu Buhari is one of the aspirants. He belongs to the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Being the incumbent President, he will likely not have any challenger.
One thing he has going for him is the power of incumbency. Many politicians will want to identify with him mainly for self-preservation. Currently, there are hundreds of groups that champion his bid for re-election.
The security agencies are also at his beck and call. As the commander-in-chief, he can decide where and how to deploy them. If he decides to rig election, these security agencies will come handy. But we pray it does not get to that level.
Also going for Buhari is his cult followership in the North, especially North-West. Kano and Katsina are his strongholds. And these are the states that turn in massive votes in any election, it does not matter whether some of the votes are genuine or not.
Buhari will also garner many votes in the South-West, which is largely controlled by the APC. But that does not mean that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a pushover in the region. The main opposition party may pull some surprises in the zone, all things being equal.
However, it will not be easy for the President in the other parts of the country. Many people in North-Central states such as Benue and Plateau are not happy with the ruling party. They have suffered and continue to suffer untold hardship from killings by herdsmen.
In the South-East, the APC is flying the 2023 kite to woo the Igbo. The permutation is that only Buhari’s second term will guarantee a President of Igbo extraction in 2023. Though the party has won some converts because of this, it has a Herculean task winning in the South-East. Many Igbo believe Buhari hates them.
Many others are disillusioned. Under Buhari, the level of hardship in the country has risen. Many people have lost their jobs. Currently, Nigeria occupies the unenviable position as the nation harbouring the poorest people in the world. Corruption has also worsened as attested to by Transparency International. The spate of insecurity and division in the country is worrisome. The future appears bleak and uncertain.
These notwithstanding, Buhari may still win. But that will be with a lot of struggle. It will also depend on who the main opposition party, PDP, fields as its candidate in a few weeks’ time.
Top on the list of the PDP contenders is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. The man has been mobilising and seeking support across the country. He is a successful businessman with a lot of investments in Nigeria. He is de-tribalised and cosmopolitan and has the ability to give Buhari a great challenge in the election.
His opponents say he is old. But at 72, the man is still physically and mentally alert.
Besides, leadership is not about how old or strong or educated one is. It is competence that counts. After all, the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, ruled from a wheelchair. His presidency spanned most of World War II and the Great Depression. And he was the only US President to run four terms in office.
But one strange stigma against Atiku is corruption. Incidentally, the man has never been a governor or a President. He even fell out with his boss, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has not forgiven him up until today.
The questions are: Who is a saint among Nigerian politicians? And how competent are those saints? The ones we thought were saints have disappointed us. So, this country needs more than sainthood to move forward.
As a tested businessman who understands the intricacies of wealth creation, Atiku appears well equipped to transform this country, if given the opportunity. He has even promised to do one term, thereby dousing the fear of the Igbo that the emergence of another President outside the incumbent would delay their quest for the presidency in 2023.
One major individual Atiku will contend with in the PDP is Senate President Bukola Saraki. He is an astute politician who can be described as a cat with nine lives. The ruling party never wanted him to be Senate President. But he outwitted them. Recently, security agents blocked his residential gate apparently to prevent the gale of defections that hit the ruling party from members of the National Assembly. Again, he outfoxed them and supervised the defection of some of his colleagues to the PDP.
The powers that be have also tarred him with a corruption brush. And I ask again, who is a saint among Nigerian politicians? Saraki has been two-term governor of Kwara State. So, he has enough experience to be the President of Nigeria.
However, Saraki’s major influence is in Kwara State. To beat a candidate like Buhari in the North will not be easy for him. He needs to work seriously on this.
Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, is another candidate to watch. I am not too sure of what he has been able to do in his state. But give him one thing – he knows how to manage politicians. As a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, he was able to galvanise and keep the House in order. When the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, accused him recently of dumping the ruling party for the PDP because he was denied automatic ticket, Tambuwal boasted that he had the wherewithal to beat Buhari. Well, he needs to scale the PDP hurdle first. He reportedly enjoys the backing of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike. But how that will help his ambition remains to be seen.
Former Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, is another heavyweight who may pull some surprises. Last Wednesday, when he declared to run for the presidency, the powers that be denied him the use of the Eagle Square in Abuja, which he paid for. But he mobilised his supporters to another venue and the turnout was massive.
However, Kwankwaso has Buhari to contend with, if he wins the PDP ticket. Though he is still popular in Kano, he will need to climb some mountains with the current Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje. To soften the ground for him, he reportedly asked the PDP to zone the presidency to the North-West. His reason is that the rival APC’s candidate is also from the North-West. This, however, may not fly for the PDP.
Sule Lamido is also in the race. As the former governor of Jigawa State, he may garner some votes from the state and from Kano. But I suspect that it is the much he can get. His worldview revolves around the North. Nearly every high point of his life has been in Kano or Jigawa. The PDP needs a strong candidate who can beat Buhari. I don’t see Lamido doing that.
I don’t also see Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, doing that. No doubt, he is a great candidate. As an incumbent governor, he can mobilise resources to battle his opponents. But ruling Nigeria is not governing Gombe State. He still has some years ahead of him. So, he should consider going to the Senate instead.
Former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, has a bright chance. He was once the caretaker chairman of the PDP and could pull some strings within the party to beat his opponents. He made reference to this recently when he boasted that he did not need money to defeat Atiku and other aspirants in the PDP. Well, the primary is a few weeks away. Let’s see what happens.
Let us also see how it goes with Kabiru Turaki and Attahiru Bafarawa. Turaki is a former Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs. Some media reports indicate that former President Ibrahim Babangida is backing him. But winning the PDP ticket goes beyond that. He is a good candidate, no doubt, but he doesn’t have the structure to beat Buhari in the North.
Neither does Bafarawa nor Jonah Jang. These are also-rans. Someone joked the other day that when Jang declared his intention last week, even his supporters were not that cheerful and ecstatic. Instead of hailing the man and making some ululation in his support, some of his supporters looked unconcerned.
There are many other also-rans especially outside the PDP. Rev. Chris Okotie is one of them. He has become a perennial presidential aspirant. Some others are former Central Bank of Nigeria deputy governor, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu; motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye; and some women, among whom are Prof. Oluremi Sonaiya and Prof. Olufumilayo Adesanya-Davies.
These are great candidates any day. But I don’t see them going far. It would have been better if Durotoye, for instance, started with his state as a governor. Many United States ex-Presidents such as Bill Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt started like that.
In all, what Nigeria needs now is a leader with capacity. Age has nothing to do with it. Academic intelligence has nothing to do with it. Physical strength has nothing to do with it.
To pull Nigeria out of the woods, its President must have the mental ability of a Lee Kuan Yew and the business acumen of a Dangote.
The highly anticipated 2019 will soon be here. The arena is becoming more exciting. Who will you vote for?
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, September 3, 2018.