2019 Presidential Election And The Battle Ahead

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Politicians should ensure that the mould of politics which leaves individuals and the country polarised is broken

After two days of horse-trading, intrigues and voting in the Garden City of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, former Vice -President Atiku Abubakar emerged as the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). A day earlier, the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) had overwhelming nominated, through affirmation, President Muhammadu Buhari to run for four more years. The stage is thus set for a clearly fierce and competitive election in February next year.

Meanwhile, there are others who have also been cleared and nominated by some of the 91 political parties to challenge Buhari for the plum job. Among them is Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, an activist, former vice-president for Africa at the World Bank, and a two-time minister. In the same league are Dr. Kingsley Moghalu, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) deputy governor, and former Cross River State Governor, Mr Donald Duke. There are yet many others in a crowded field that includes many first time office seekers.

However, as illustrious as the credentials of some of these contenders may be, it is obvious that the match-up contest is between the main political divides – the APC and PDP. For the second time in the history of the nation, the ruling party will be challenged by a robust opposition party, in reverse order of what happened four years ago. And like in 2015, the prediction is that the election could go either way. What makes the contest even more interesting is that the two leading contenders are northerners by geo-politics, Muslim by religion and Fulani by ethnicity. So, neither holds any primordial advantage over the other.

At 71, Atiku is a dogged political war-horse and a veteran in electoral politics. He has contested for the presidency three times – 2007, 2011 and 2015- without success. But he is not the type to let go. His chances at the poll was buoyed last week by the endorsement of his former boss for eight years, President Olusegun Obasanjo, and for picking as a running mate, Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, who symbolises prudence and accountability. The PDP sees in Atiku a man who could garner votes through his understanding of the economy and liberal stance on restructuring of the federation which will spur competition among the states.

Notwithstanding, Atiku certainly has an uphill task. This is so because President Buhari, in the last three and half years, has provided leadership and has a followership that is unwavering. Buhari came on board with a reputation as a stern and uncompromising man ready to wrestle corruption, the country’s major malaise, to the ground. He has succeeded to an extent even when many are outraged that the fight is one-sided, directed more at the opposition. He has also succeeded to an extent in securing the Northeast from the vicious hands of the Boko Haram insurgents, though the farmers-herdsmen clashes and the general banditry across the country have dented the campaign.

According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable, the presidential campaigns should begin November 18, a clear month and some days from now. But the political parties, particularly the APC and PDP, are already throwing muds at each other. Yet, at a time like this, we cannot afford the unguarded utterances and violence of the past which had deepened the fissures in the country. We must set out this time around to break the mould of politics which leaves individuals and indeed the country, polarised.

We are well aware that in a democracy, the virtues and flaws of those who seek the presidency, including experience, integrity, compassion and stability do come into play in the course of electioneering campaigns but so are other more pressing issues that impinge on the lives and livelihoods of citizens. Unfortunately, what we have witnessed so far are name-calling and rehash of what some people had said in the past about certain candidates. The campaign that Nigerians yearn for is one that will not only position the strengths of each candidate against the opponent’s weaknesses but also what each brings to the table to redress the challenge of poverty and underdevelopment.

We therefore call for clean campaigns and healthy debates in the weeks ahead.

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The campaign that Nigerians yearn for is one that will not only position the strengths of each candidate against the opponent’s weaknesses but also what each brings to the table to redress the challenge of poverty and underdevelopment