Atiku versus Buhari
Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and his party the PDP have already achieved something that would have been considered highly improbable just a few weeks ago-transformed the 2019 presidential elections into a real competitive context with the incumbent President Muhamadu Buhari. From the beginning of 2018, my analysis and scenario building ascribed a probability of 65 per cent to Buhari retaining the presidency-not an eventuality I considered desirable by any means whatsoever, but one that seemed inevitable for most of this year! I have since revised my calculations, and I now think the 2019 battle is a 50:50 affair between Atiku and Buhari!
The fact that Buhari even stands any chance of victory is not a good commentary on Nigeria and our political system. Indeed the fact that he could be elected in 2015 in spite of a record unambiguously comprised of tendencies towards dictatorship, (of a draconian type); incompetence in policy, economy and administration; abandonment, if not complete dereliction of duty, in favour of subordinates; acute nepotism and provincialism as well as ethnic, religious and sectarian parochialism of an extreme variety demonstrates the shallowness of our public and civic consciousness as a people and the utter cynicism and self-centredness of our political elite.
If the historical error of 2015 was either permissible or understandable due to the naivety, weakness and poor strategic faculties of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, countenancing the re-election of Buhari in 2019 is sheer irresponsibility amounting to a near sentence of death on the concept of a prosperous, united, federal, free and democratic Nigerian nation state. The “best” (actually a cynical and naive rationalisation, rather than plausible) argument anyone has offered for re-electing Buhari has been the plea that we should allow Buhari spend a second term of four years in order that presidency may “return” to the South or South-west.
That argument discountenances the incompetence in economic policy and management that has accentuated poverty and unemployment, and banished real economic growth in the country. It discounts the utter misery in which millions of our people are condemned and virtually assures the destruction of our economic fortunes after a possible eight years of policy statis and retrogression. It disregards the state-condoned (or worse!) murders in the middle belt, of Shiites and Biafrans anytime they protest; and the resurgence of daily killings by the “technically-defeated” Boko Haram while the government keeps mute. It ignores the lack of hope that drives our young people into exile-across the Sahara for the poor; and into another brain drain into, Europe, Canada, Asia and the United States for the more fortunate. It rationalises the shocking hypocrisy over a now completely discredited anti-corruption war in which the APC’s broom has become like the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that washes away all sins and sanctifies even current rogues who loot the NNPC, funds for internally-displaced persons or commit other crimes of gross corruption.
Those whose family and relations have been killed by roving killers in Benue, Plateau, Nasarrawa, Kaduna and other places will not lightly wish for four more years of such wickedness, based on cynical elite power calculations, and neither will unemployed youths whose chances of securing jobs are undermined by weak policy, or by selective employment of privileged children of the new political elite. Unfortunately there are large segments of the Nigerian population for whom “progress” is not defined in terms of education, prosperity or development but based on ethnic, sectarian, religious or other identification while on the other hand, many define “progress” on strictly personal grounds-what office do I hold? How many contracts have I received?? What are my prospects of getting an appointment or a contract?
The prospects of an Atiku presidency are not without their own complications. Atiku’s brand has been badly tarnished by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. Most Nigerians associate his reputed immense wealth with corruption; his peripatetic movements from PDP to ACN, then APC and back to PDP have strengthened the image of a typical (meaning unprincipled) Nigerian politician. In other circumstances, many Nigerians would not want to vote in a President Atiku Abubakar, but faced with the alternative of four more years of Buharian recession or low growth; a rapid slide towards despotism; a mockery of an anti-corruption war; and growing poverty and misery, the Atiku option has become seemingly unavoidable!
If one could discount the perverse role of incumbency in Nigerian presidential elections, I would in fact upgrade Atiku’s chances beyond 50% and predict his victory (several global media and financial institutions including the Economist, Financial Times and HSBC Bank are already anticipating Buhari’s defeat and I suspect Western leaders seeing increased migration out of Nigeria are reaching similar conclusions), but the reality of a potentially despotic ex-military dictator; who sought power unrelentingly from 2003 until he got it in 2015; who has centralised military, security and intelligence in a narrow circle of Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri Muslims; who has appointed his relatives into INEC and conducted less than credible elections in Kogi, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States; and who has no qualms about the killing of Shiites, Biafrans and other protesters, cautions that anyone who hopes to see the end of Buhari’s incompetent and dysfunctional government should focus as much on electoral campaigns as on global diplomacy, citizen mobilisation and ensuring and protecting the process of free and fair elections!
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