Narrowing Options Between Buhari and Abubakar

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Udora Orizu writes that a combination of factors may have upset the calculations of many analysts, forcing a more planned approach to the presidential election

From all indications, the 2019 presidential election, which is largely believed to be a two-horse race between the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has thrown up so many factors that has completely upset the computations of many pundits.

Though a critical population of voters have openly said they want neither the PDP nor the APC, the strength of the alternative presidential candidates like Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim of Peoples Trust, Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party, Ahmed Buhari of Sustainable Nigeria Party, Tope Fasua of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party. Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria and Omoyele Sowore of Africa Action Alliance would have been in their ability to come together to challenge the two leading political parties in the country. Their failure to work together has undoubtedly left the field open to the APC and the PDP. However, it is instructive that these parties and a few others have opted to finish the race, refusing to join the conference of political parties that have adopted either Buhari or Abubakar. It will be interesting to see which of these parties will come close to the APC and the PDP, in terms of the numbers of votes recorded for them.

The usual calculations based on ethnicity and religion in the 2019 presidential have been completely watered and relegated to an inconsequential level, such that the character, experience and background of the candidates. Incidentally, both Buhari and Abubakar are Muslims. The two men are northerners and of the Fulani extraction. Unlike 2015, when Buhari was able to rally the entire north behind him as a monolithic bloc of voters who were obliged to support their kinsman against a southern Christian minority, the choice has been narrowed because similar emotional attachment surround the candidacy of Buhari and Abubakar when it comes to certain primordial considerations. In this election, Buhari cannot claim to be more Muslim or Fulani than Abubakar.

At the beginning of the week, Abubakar sent a strong message to the Buhari camp with the intimidating crowd that heard him espouse his message to ‘Get Nigeria Working Again’. As THISDAY reported, the Abubakar presidential rally in Kano clearly showed that the PDP had made huge gains in some northern states previously considered a safe berth for the APC and Buhari. The ruling party at the centre can no longer hope to record a ‘Buhari hurricane’ of victory in the northern states like it did in 2015. The tide of that hurricane has been stemmed with the seaming non-performance of the APC government in the last four years. Things have changed so dramatically for the worse that the common cry everywhere is the clamour to ‘change the change’.

Many of the leading northerners who helped to swing the votes in favour of Buhari in 2015 have since parted ways with him. Among his most stringent critics who was hitherto a dependable ally is Buba Galadima who first a fatal arrow at the soft underbelly of the APC when he created a splinter called the Reformed APC. The departure of the likes of likes of Rabiu Kwakwanso, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara have in no small way dealt a damaging blow on the reputation of the APC and its candidate, Buhari.

Previously seen as pristine leader with an unblemished record, the campaign for re-election by Buhari has not been smooth sailing because, in many instances, some of what used to be his strong points have been exposed as weaknesses. For instance, while the President has not been personally linked to any case of corruption, his seeming protection of persons who have been alleged of corrupt enrichment makes nonsense of fight against corruption, which is a principal programme of his administration.

It may be argued that the President has fulfilled the federal character quota where it is absolutely necessary, but beyond that he has not tried to hide his preference to fill other sensitive national designations with his kinsmen. It may be his prerogative, but this is one of the key demonstrations of clannish mentality that opponents have accused him of.