By Casmir Igbokwe
Witches and Wizards Association predicted victory for Atiku Abubakar. Nigerian prostitutes also made him their preferred choice. The prostitutes capped it with a declaration of free sex in support of their candidate. Some retired generals and herdsmen, on their part, endorsed Muhammadu Buhari. These queer groups spiced up the gale of endorsements for the two major candidates in the much-awaited Nigerian presidential election, which is five days away.
No doubt, the race is between President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Every other contender is a pretender and can rightly be described as an also-ran.
Oby Ezekwesili is a typical example. A very good candidate, no doubt, but Mrs. Ezekwesili was in the ‘wrong’ party and from the ‘wrong’ zone. The majority of Nigerians will not even remember the name of her party on election day. The dominant parties, as far as current Nigerian politics is concerned, are the APC and the PDP.
Besides, from Nigeria’s unwritten zonal arrangement, the presidency cannot go to the South-East for now. The North will have to complete its two terms. Ezekwesili has since withdrawn from the race as her party has professed support for Buhari.
There are other good candidates like Kingsley Moghalu and Fela Durotoye. But the reality in Nigeria today is that they will not win. They do not even have any solid structure to beat an incumbent like Buhari. Such people could win tomorrow, if we change our political orientation; if we stop placing ethnicity and money first in our political calculations. Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has started the move by expressing support for Moghalu. Let us hope his revolution catches on fast. For now, Ezekwesili, Moghalu and Durotoye should first try out the governorship contest in their states. That will give them enough experience to launch onto the national stage.
On Saturday, February 16, 2019, Nigerians have to make a choice between two candidates. These two individuals with the support of their parties have been traversing the length and breadth of Nigeria canvassing for votes. The campaigns have been intensive, interesting and sometimes dramatic.
President Buhari, for instance, has stumbled and fumbled in some instances. He almost fell down in Kogi but was quickly rescued by aides. In Delta State, he introduced the APC governorship candidate as the presidential, senatorial and governorship candidate at the same time. In Cross River State, he first raised the hand of Ndoma Egba as the governorship candidate before he was corrected to raise the hand of the right candidate. In Ekiti State, he said he came to power in 2005.
What these and many other gaffes show is that age is dealing with the President. Officially, he is said to be 76 years. He could very well be up to 80 years. Whatever the age, the point is that he is no more alert mentally and physically. He needs to go home and rest. But those who are benefitting from him do not want him to do so.
They have presented him as a saint. Thank God for these past four years. He has shown his capacity and how ‘saintly’ he is. Under his watch, Nigeria’s fight against corruption has at best been tepid and selective. As election nears, the cabal controlling affairs at the Villa tried to give the impression that they are serious about fighting corruption. They claimed to have pressed charges against the former director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, for fraud. On the day of arraignment, Ayo was nowhere to be found. He was reported to have left the country with his wife.
The question is, how did he escape from the country without detection by security agents? Or have they forgiven his sins like many other rogues in APC. Recall that the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, said at a rally recently that whoever joined the APC would have his sins forgiven.
In the area of security, Buhari has also failed. Boko Haram has become more daring to the extent of killing and chasing away soldiers from their barracks. Herdsmen also increased the tempo of their murderous tendencies. Surprisingly, their killings appear to have subsided now that we are in the election period. Who knows what will happen after the elections. In Zamfara, Taraba and many other parts of the country, there are killings of different hues.
Buhari’s presidency has also failed Nigerians economically. There is astronomical rise in the rate of unemployment. Many companies have been forced to shut down. Depression and suicide rates have increased. And to cap it all, Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world. The worst is that you don’t see any serious efforts to remedy the situation. All the noises about Tradermoni and school feeding programme are nothing but a loud fart. Giving N10,000 to traders will not solve any problem.
On his part, Buhari’s main challenger, Atiku, also has some baggage surrounding him. Like the President, age is not also on his side. At 72, he too should have been thinking of retirement.
But unlike Buhari, he is still alert mentally and physically. When you compare his performance and that of Buhari at the recently held TV show tagged, “The Candidates,” you would conclude that he would do better than the incumbent. While Buhari was forgetful, dull and inarticulate, Atiku showed good presence of mind and was witty and articulate.
One major blot against the former vice-president’s ambition is corruption. He reportedly enriched himself while in government. The United States Government allegedly barred him from entering the country on account of this perceived corruption. The story changed when he recently visited the US. His opponents have been fishing for different reasons to downplay the visit. Some government agents announced that they would arrest and prosecute him on his return. So far, that has not happened.
The truth is that Atiku is a successful businessman and a better presidential candidate than Buhari. He has the capacity to rescue this country. He is cosmopolitan and has friends across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. He has also shown, in his dealings with Nigerians, that he will not be a sectional president who will favour only people of his ethnic stock in major security and political appointments. Such is the man Nigeria needs at this critical time to unite her various ethnic groups.
It is not surprising that the main umbrella bodies of major ethnic groups in the country have endorsed him. From Ohanaeze Ndigbo to Afenifere, from Middle Belt Forum to Northern Elders Forum, the verdict is the same. They want Atiku.
The Economist of London has predicted his victory. Williams and Associates, the US-based polling firm that predicted Buhari’s victory in 2015, has also predicted that Atiku will win. In 2015, Buhari contested against a southerner seen to be weak and ineffective. He garnered the majority votes in the North. Today, the situation has changed. He is contesting against a fellow Fulani and he has lost much of the goodwill he had in 2015.
His major strength is in the North-West, especially Kano and Katsina. But even in these two states, anything can happen. If citizens of Niger Republic do not infiltrate our borders to vote, Buhari may not have it easy. Remember that a former governor of Kano, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, is now in the PDP. He has his own die-hard followers and can pull significant number of voters to the side of the PDP.
The North-East is where Atiku comes from. He will share votes in this zone with Buhari. It could be 50-50. North-Central may go for the PDP, going by the trauma the zone has gone through in the hands of herdsmen.
South-East and South-South are traditional PDP zones and will likely vote massively for Atiku. The emergence of Mr. Peter Obi as the PDP vice-presidential candidate is also a factor that will pull the votes for the PDP. Obi is another successful businessman and has shown that he has the capacity to join hands with the President to turn things around for the better.
The South-West is largely for APC because of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Bola Tinubu factor. This does not mean that Atiku will not garner a significant number of votes from this zone. In fact, the PDP may spring surprises in this zone, judging from what happened in the governorship election in Osun State last year. The PDP led in that election, until the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the election inconclusive and called for a rerun in some wards. That rerun was allegedly manipulated in favour of the ruling party.
Already, the APC has started showing some desperation in this general election. Or why the hasty and illegal suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by President Buhari for alleged false declaration of assets? Could it be true that they are afraid the man may not do their bidding when it comes to adjudicating election petitions? And why is Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State threatening foreigners with death if they intervene in Nigeria’s election?
Be that as it may, it is going to be an interesting contest. We have seen what Buhari can do. Now, we need to see what Atiku can do. If at the end of the day he also fails, Nigerians will not hesitate to show him the exit door.
- First published in The Sun of Monday, February 11, 2019.