By Ayantunji Benjamin Gbenro (PhD)
2019 election is barely two months away, the umpire has declared the campaigns open and the gladiators are already on the field across the country. There are currently over 20 candidates jostling for the highest job in the land. These candidates can be categorized into contenders, pretenders and “I also run”. The contest is seeing by majority as a direct fight between the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling APC and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku of the major opposition party, PDP. The pretenders are Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, Mr. Donald Duke and Prof. Kingsley Moghalu. Despite the effort by the pretenders, the fact that the candidates’ names are more popular than their platforms speak volume. The lack of financial resources and political structure across the country is a serious impediment to the genuine and laudable aspiration of these patriots to chat a different political course for the country. These candidates could have probably been better if they aspire to go to the National Assembly on the platform of any of the two major political parties and commence the gradual ideological change the country so much needs from inside. The other candidates are the “I also run”, in my opinion. It’s difficult to understand the motivation for most of these candidates to run for Presidents when their names hardly heard even in their wards.
I will try to justify the above prediction on the outcome of 2019 presidential election by considering the chances of the incumbent president with his major challenger, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The prediction will be done by examining factors such as: the strength and cohesion of APC and PDP, the character and political reach of each candidate, the performance of the incumbent and the electoral value of the running mate to each candidate.
Both APC and PDP experienced crisis after the primary elections. The APC experienced mass exodus before the presidential primary when it was obvious that Buhari was propped to be the only candidate. However, the presidential primary itself didn’t lead to any issue and the affirmation of Buhari as APC’s candidate was a smooth sail. APC also experienced crisis during the legislative and governorship primaries in many states, with Imo, Ogun and Zamfara been the most affected States because the sitting governors couldn’t have their ways in installing their preferred candidates. These states have experienced mass exodus from APC by the supporters of the sitting governors. One thing that is instructive however is that, even in States where aggrieved APC members moved out of the party, the decamping didn’t translate to either withdrawal of support for Buhari or support for Atiku by hitherto. They have largely remained committed to working for the success of Buhari in the presidential election. Contrary to APC’s experience, PDP’s Presidential primary was a battle royale. Among the contenders at the PDP presidential primaries, only Senator Bukola Saraki can today be said to be totally committed to Atiku’s campaign. Other contestants have gone under the radar. Even when some of them appear in the public once in a while, the body language cannot be said to be encouraging. Also, the commitment of the likes of governor Wike of Rivers State, whose State financial and electoral strength appears non-comital. The fact that new decampees into PDP appear to be calling the shot is not sitting well with Majority that stayed to build the party after 2015 defeat. The SE PDP governors and legislators also appear to have developed cold feet on Atiku’s candidacy as a fall out of the choice of running mate. If the structures that Atiku’s campaign will rely on are non-comital to his candidacy two months to the election then there is cause for alarm. The PDP may want to garnish its outing at the recent NW (seven States) zonal campaign, which was the commencement of it campaign but when measured by the turnout of both supporters and party leaders, the outing was a monumental failure and probably a pointer to what to come. Judging from the perspective of party’s cohesion and commitment to candidacy, Buhari appears to be miles ahead of Atiku. PDP can still put its house in order but time is running out.
President Mohammadu Buhari is a man of impeccable character and integrity, even his fiercest detractors will agree with this summation in their closets. He has over the year proved his integrity and this has given him a cult like following among the masses, especially in the north. The person of Buhari alone guarantees, at least, 12 million votes without any campaign in a free and fair election. This cannot be said of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Either real or imaginary, he has been projected as a symbol of everything wrong with our society over the years. This has caused a lot of loathing for him among the masses especially from the north, even in his Adamawa State. Atiku as a candidate cannot withstand Buhari in any northern State even if PDP controls the States’ instruments of coercion talk less of a situation where the State apparatuses are out of their hands. PDP has also done little or nothing to reduce Buhari’s political influence in the past three and half years it has been out of power. If anything, the age, religion and ethnicity that PDP employed over the past three and half years to de-market Buhari in some part of NC, SE and SS has further enhanced his standing in his traditional support base and alienated Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The story of Jibrin from Sudan, which is obviously been promoted by PDP and Atiku’s camp has further dent their claim that Buhari has no strength to withstand the rigor of office while the inability of Atiku to visit USA despite recent desperate efforts further confirm the assertion made about his person by many but majorly amplified by his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. While PDP has not been able to make any significant inroad into Buhari’s support base, APC and Buhari have made significant inroad into SE and SS where they are hitherto considered an anathema.
On performance, though opinions may differ depending on the yardstick employed on whether Buhari has done excellently well or not, one thing that cannot be disputed is that he has done more when compared to PDP’s performance in 16yrs vis a vis the available resources. The various infrastructural developments across the nation will be a testimonial Buhari will flaunt to the electorates in seeking for re-election. I don’t know how PDP and Atiku will want to deny such verifiable evidences knowing fully well what was done by them in 16yrs. The security across the country has greatly improved under Buhari when compared to PDP’s era. Boko Haram have been pushed to the brinks of lake Chad compare to when it threatens to overrun the whole of Northern Nigeria and Abuja. The herdsmen crisis and kidnapping which a section of the media tried to amplified beyond reasoning has been largely curtailed in recent time. The economy appears to be on the rise compare to the free fall state Buhari inherited. Pensioners owed over years are been paid. This and many more are things Buhari will point to and it will be compared with the 16yrs of PDP. The Buhari’s anticorruption crusade is yielding results when high profile convictions, forfeitures and fear to engage in corrupt practices under the current administration is compared with 16yrs of PDP when corruption became synonymous to Nigeria.
Another area the Buhari Administration will score big is its Social Intervention Programs. This has been thoughted as the most ambitious Social Intervention program, ever, in Africa. The over three hundred engaged in Npower with thirty thousand monthly stipends have relatives and PVC and will make a statement at the right time. I am sure that they will speak for Buhari at the poll comes 16th of February 2019. The three hundred thousand captured in the conditional cash transfer also posses PVC and relative. They will speak at the right time for Buhari. The over nine million children enjoying the school feeding and almost ninety thousand food vendors also have PVC and relatives. The two million that would have benefitted from Trader money also have PVCs and relatives. Market money, Anchor borrowers etc beneficiaries will also speak when it is time. These people are the neglected of the society by the successive government who are prioritized by Buhari’s administration. They will all make their opinion known at the poll.
The choice of running mate is usually to compliment the candidate in any election. The choice of Osibajo in 2014 was to balance the religious card and to bring the Southern voters on board. The choice worked perfectly well. The choice of Peter Obi is doing the opposite to Atiku’s candidacy. First, the choice has caused a lot of disaffection among the political elites in the SE. If SE, which is considered the major support base of PDP and Atiku singing a discordant tune, then, an obvious threat to his success is brewing. In addition to this, some actions of Obi as Anambra State governor which was viewed as anti-Muslim and anti-north is now been brought back to remembrance. This will further alienate Atiku from northern voters. Osibajo on the other hand has gone beyond just a compliment to Buhari, to what many analysts refer to as Political “Star Boy”. His connection to the ordinary man on the street has extended the cult like followership of Buhari among the masses beyond the north to other regions of the country. His loyalty during Buhari’s sickness has proven his Christianity beyond rhetoric and endears him to people of other religion. His competency has been applauded by all and the synergy between him and his principal is what the nation has never witnessed at that level of governance. The more PDP try to throw mud at him the more they make him popular a leader without stain. When compare to each other, Buhari’s running mate is million of light years ahead of Atiku’s in terms of what he brings to the political table.
When the factors discussed in this article are married with other factors such as voting population by States and the standing of each candidate in each State vis a vis the standing of his party in the States, I will make bold prediction that Buhari will not only win the 2019 presidential election but he will do so with a margin that exceeds that winning margin of 2015 presidential election. Except something catastrophic happens, Buhari is coasting to a landslide victory in the 2019 presidential election.
OPINION EXPRESSED IN THIS PIOECE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND NOT NECESSARILY THOS OF THE EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS OF PROCYON NEWS