The 2019 presidential election is going to be the most keenly contested in the history of Nigeria, not because there are many contestants, but due to the rise in power struggle and the personality of the top candidates. 73 persons are running, but the election is a two horse race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Other leading contestants are Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC); Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) and Kinsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP).
Sowore, Durotoye and Moghalu are ‘young’ vibrant newcomers, but their political structures are too weak to win a presidential election in a plural nation like Nigeria. Power greed made coalition efforts that would have made them a formidable third force fail. Teaming up to support a fellow candidate shouldn’t cause disaffection, if their main desire is to rescue Nigeria from the old order.
The alike background of the two main candidates, Atiku and Buhari, renders ethno-religious based predictions impotent. Unlike 2015 when a Christian southerner contested against a Muslim northerner, the two leading presidential candidates in 2019 are both Northerners, Fulanis, Muslims and septuagenarians. Both candidates are veteran contestants and have crisscrossed parties. This election is Atiku’s fourth attempt. Buhari won on his fourth attempt in 2015 and wants another term.
Buhari’s Performance and Obstacle
Buhari, like every other incumbent, is contesting against two things: his performance and his opponents. His main opponent, Atiku, has far-reaching networks and has been campaigning vigorously. Unlike candidates who are running for the fame, Atiku’s rigorous campaign is a testimonial that he is running to win. He is leaving no stone unturned, knowing this opportunity may not present itself again as he is aging and power is expected to return to the south, if Buhari wins. Atiku has been working on the electorates psyche, reconciling with foes, getting endorsements, and turning his major liabilities into assets. His recent visit to the Unites States (US) is a political masterstroke that revived his diminishing electoral value tainted by corruption.
Nigerians are sharply divided on Buhari’s performance. In all sincerity, both the praise singers and condemners of Buhari’s performance are right. The praise singers are rating Buhari based on the achievements of his predecessors, many of whom score low on the provision of basic amenities, security and socioeconomic development. Buhari has performed satisfactorily when compared with his predecessors. He is reviving the railway, constructing the Second Niger Bridge, building a number of roads, and combating Boko Haram. Buhari has also paid the defunct Nigerian Airways pensioners and introduced social incentives such as school feeding, N-power and Trader Moni – which the opposition has criticized as voter inducement. The presidential election is partly a referendum on Buhari’s performance. He would earn the votes of people who think he has performed, while those who think otherwise and mindful that the second term of governments are often not better than their first would vote other candidates.
The condemners of Buhari’s performance are rating him based on the un-fulfillment of his 2015 campaign promises. They are berating him for performing below expectations after raising Nigerians hope. Buhari promised restructuring, but backtracked. His appointments are lopsided northwards. Insecurity is rife as bandits, insurgents and herdsmen are carrying out genocidal bloodletting at will. The fight against corruption has been incredibly selective, making Transparency International rank Nigeria the 144 least corrupt nation out of 175. Buhari has serially flouted court orders; persecuted activists and journalists; tolerated the massacre of unarmed IPOB and Shiite members; harassed the legislature and judiciary; ruled in a dictatorial manner; and hounded critics. Basic amenities are either dysfunctional or unavailable, the exchange rate is high, consumables are costly and unemployment is at an alarming rate. Buhari’s performance is unsatisfactory if he’s assessed by the oversweet promises he doled out in 2015. His misrule and incompetence is winning hearts for Atiku.
Buhari has reiterated his resolve to further tackle corruption, insecurity and revive the economy, while Atiku boast of capacity to provide jobs, eradicate poverty and resuscitate the economy. One major minus for Atiku is the comment of his former boss, ex-President Olusegun Obabsanjo when their relationship was uncordial. In his book titled My Watch, Obasanjo said “what I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time, a propensity for poor judgment, his belief and reliance on marabouts , his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest”. Though Obasanjo has reconciled and endorsed Atiku, many Nigerians are still using the statements in ‘My Watch’ to discredit Atiku.
Endorsement still influences voters, even though political parties belittle its effect when they are unable to secure it. People living in the rural areas and traditional societies where the recommendation of leaders are highly revered largely vote based on endorsements. Candidates also use endorsements to convince dissenting voices and undecided voters. Atiku has gotten influential endorsements than Buhari. Leaders and elders of notable regional sociocultural groups, including the Middle Belt Forum (North-Central), Ohanaeze Ndigbo (South-East), PAN Niger Delta Forum (South-South); and the prominent faction of Afenifere (South-West) have all endorsed Atiku. The most shocking endorsement Atiku got is that of the Northern Elders Forum, which has a significant influence on the conservative Muslim Northerners who are largely supporters of Buhari. The Arewa Consultative Forum however gave a counter endorsement in favor of Buhari.
Ruling parties are always the most favored on endorsements. The opposition PDP’s numerous endorsement is a pointer that the regional leaders distrust APC, or the party simply choose to connect the people directly through the distribution of business aid such as Trader Moni. The latter may not earn Buhari votes. The beneficiaries of Trader Moni are largely sympathizers of their various sociocultural groups which have endorsed Atiku. An Igbo trader who’s aware that Ohaneze Ndigbo endorsed Atiku to end the marginalization of his ethnic group under Buhari would most likely vote Atiku, despite receiving Trader Moni. Sociocultural groups have a way of awakening the ethnic sentiments that’ll make people vote their endorsed candidates. The culture is gradually changing as people are increasingly voting based on personal convictions.
The Generals Influence
When getting less, the APC discredit endorsements, but applaud same when persons or groups back Buhari. 71 retired Military Generals endorsed Buhari for second term. This is a coming against some of the prominent Generals and former Head of State’s opposition to Buhari’s reelection. Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Theophilus Danjuma are against Buhari, General Yakubu Gowon has been apolitical, while General Abdulsalami Abubakar is the head of the National Peace Committee. Buhari’s rejection by his powerful and influential contemporaries may hinder his win as the Generals, especially Obasanjo, have always determined who becomes President.
The Generals have vast political structures as they were the ones who nurtured almost all the leading political actors in Nigeria presently. Obasanjo is one of the ruling APC’s major nightmares as he is determined to end Buhari’s reign and install PDP’s Atiku. His choice candidates have always emerged, including Buhari in 2015. Obasanjo is well-respected by the international community. His global weight and networks can ruin Buhari, if he’s declared winner based on electoral fraud and post-election conflict arises. Obasanjo is doing his best to ensure Buhari doesn’t win as such will diminished his relevance and retire him from politics.
The Aso Rock Cabal
Aisha Buhari’s statement that her husband’s government has been hijacked by a cabal would make Buhari lose votes. Aisha disclosed at the National Women Leadership Summit that two powerful individuals have been commandeering her husband and preventing him from performing. Buhari denied the allegation, but many Nigerians believe his wife’s statement is a revelation of the goings-on in Aso Rock. The President’s failure to regain public confidence by rejigging his cabinet would make many people vote against him to end the cabal’s reign.
Buhari’s deteriorating health and failing memory would also diminish his votes. Many Nigerians believe Buhari would spend most of his tenure receiving treatment abroad, if he wins. His inability to remember basic things and serial gaffes such as forgetting the year he was sworn-in, referring to the APC gubernatorial candidate in Delta State as senatorial and presidential candidate, as well as lifting the hand of the wrong candidate in Cross River State makes many Nigerians see him has mentally unfit to continue ruling. Atiku has shown more mental alertness, but his pledge to enrich friends is making him lose public trust. Nigerians may decide to return a sick, dictatorial and incompetent Buhari to power because of Atiku’s corruption tendencies and embracement of crony capitalism – enriching friends through privatization.
The APC intraparty crisis across states and the exit of influential persons from the party may deny Buhari a win. APC was formidable in 2015 than it is now. The party immensely profited from the mass exit of political heavyweights from the then ruling PDP. This largely helped President Buhari defeat then President Jonathan. Most of the heavyweights are back in the PDP and are determined to unseat Buhari. Some of them includes the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governors Samuel Ortom and Aminu Tambuwal of Benue and Sokoto States; House of Representative Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; and ex-Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State. The exit of these bigwigs from the APC would certainly not make victory easy for Buhari. The ruling APC tried to make up for this by winning over ex-Governors Godswill Akpabio and Emmanuel Uduaghan of Akwa-Ibom and Delta States. These former governors cannot garner many votes for Buhari. Their influence is limited to their states which are PDP strongholds and majority of the people in the Niger-Delta region are anti Buhari.
The array of political elites that Buhari have been persecuting and prosecuting would also unleash their arsenal to ensure he never gets reelected. Those affected by Buhari’s unfavorable economic policies and others not profiting from his government would likewise do all possible to make him lose.
The International Community
Atiku’s entry into the US and the foreign condemnation of Buhari’s anti-democratic actions are crucial pointers that the international community would prefer an Atiku Presidency. Buhari’s imperfection must not make one take the international community’s preference as best for the country. Buhari is not getting their support, not because of his underperformance, but because he has resisted dependency and neocolonialism; hindering them from exploiting the nation. The western nations are only friends with governments that allow them have their way and they are renowned for going the extra mile to remove uncontrollable leaders. Kwame Nkruma, Patrice Lumumba and Julius Nyerere are credible lessons. Buhari’s shortcoming is creating an avenue for the West to have their way through Atiku. The PDP campaign to ‘get Nigeria working again’ is coming at a time when the majority is complaining that virtually nothing is working.
INEC and Security
An excellent professional conduct should not be expected from the security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The secret midnight meetings allegedly being held by the INEC leadership and Buhari’s henchmen may lead to intentional misconduct by the electoral umpire. The security chiefs would try to appear neutral, but their partisanship would manifest if the election is a tight race and Buhari needs some misconduct to pave way for a rerun or make him win. The heads of the security agencies, especially the police commissioners in many states would most likely turn a blind eye on wrongs done to aid Buhari’s win.
There are 84,004,084 registered voters in Nigeria. By population ranking, the number of registered voters and persons who have collected their permanent voters card (PVC) across the six geopolitical zones are as follows:
North West: 20,158,100 registered voters, 18,882,854 PVCs collected.
South West: 16,292,212 registered voters, 12,444,594 PVCs collected.
North Central: 13,366,070 registered voters, 11,849,027 PVCs collected.
South South: 12,841,279 registered voters, 11,574,944 PVCs collected.
North East: 11,289,293 registered voters, 10,402,734 PVCs collected.
South East: 10,057,130 registered voters, 9,071,939 PVCs collected.
The above data shows that out of the 84,004,084 persons who registered to vote, only 74,199,092 can vote having collected their PVCs. 9,804,992 are yet to collect theirs. APC’s Buhari comes from the Northwest, while PDP’s Atiku is from the North-East. Both candidates would garner huge votes in each other’s zone, but Buhari would come top. This is largely due to the cult followership Buhari enjoys in the North. Majority of the northern voting population supports Buhari blindly; they believe PDP’s 16 years of misrule is responsible for Buhari’s failings.
Another plus for Buhari is that his party, the APC, controls the largely populated states – Lagos and Kano. Out of the 36 states of the federation, APC is the incumbent government in 23 states, while PDP is the incumbent government in 13. APC is also the incumbent government in majority of the Northern states and the entire 6 states in the Southwest. Atiku would likely defeat Buhari in the North-Central. He would defeat Buhari in the South-South and South-East. Atiku would earn substantial votes in the Southwest, but Buhari would earn more.
Agents of the two prominent candidates will induce voters with money. People thinking Buhari’s anti-corruption stance would make his team desist from inducing voters would be disappointed. As it is before now, the party stalwarts would utter untruths that the money being shared is not from the Presidency, but from supporters who are passionate about the continuity of Buhari’s government. There would be several I-love-you-more-than-God behaviors during the election. People will voluntarily commit electoral fraud, threaten supporters of rival parties, cause mayhem, and kill to ensure their favorite candidate wins.
The APC and PDP supporters boasting their candidates would win by landslide are just being over emotional. Both candidates have major flaws that can’t make that happen. Atiku is widely considered corrupt, while Buhari is broadly seen as nepotistic and unfit. These negatives limit their chances of winning by landslide. Such win is often earned by candidates with minor flaws.
The Pundit’s Verdict
Buhari’s shortcomings will affect, but can’t hinder his win. The three main determinants of electoral victory in Nigeria are the votes cast, the conducts of the electoral umpire (INEC), and the security agencies, especially the police. Buhari apparently has INEC and the security agencies on his side and would get many votes as a popular candidate, but may need a push. His henchmen will not hesitate to do anything, licit or illicit, to retain power when the chips are down.
Notables like Dele Momodu and prominent institutions such as Williams and Associates, and the Economist Intelligence Unit predicting Buhari would lose did not consider something crucial – recent happenings and Buhari’s arbitrariness. Up to the minute actions of Buhari are pointers that his government would stop at nothing to retain power. The intimidation of voters and staggering electoral fraud that was allegedly perpetrated during the Osun governorship and rerun elections; the reported secret meeting with INEC heads; the alleged political removal of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen; the untoward display of force by the military across states; and the politically motivated transfer of police commissioners and other top officers are not for nothing. An incumbent government that is obsessed with power cannot put all these strategies in place in an undeveloped democracy and lose.
Nigerians are worried that a partial conduct by INEC and the security agencies may lead to a rerun, the Venezuela situation or foist the Odinga-Kenyetta model on Nigeria. Except God touches the mind of those occupying Aso Rock, relinquishing power to the opposition doesn’t look like what the ruling cabal is willing to do, except Atiku wins by a landslide, which is almost impossible.
Source: Sahara Reporters NG