By Seye Akanmu-Bode
February 16 2019 is another important date in the history of Nigeria as the country goes to elect the next President that will spearhead the affairs of the nation for the next four years starting from May 29. The battle is between the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and the business mogul ,Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. The odds favours the president being the incumbent ,but the PDP candidate is very backed to go against the odds. For the President,his supporters point to his war against corruption,his trader moni initiatives and the modest infrastructure he has been able to achieve like the just launched Abeokuta-Lagos train service. His critics have however pointed out that his much trumpeted anti-corruption fight is just one sided as it is merely a with hunt against the opposition. His respect for the rule of law and the democratic process is also nothing to write home about. Just a few weeks ago,he unilaterally suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria over incomplete declaration of assets,when the constitution does not give him powers to do so without the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and the Senate. Alhaji Abubakar comes in as a consummate business man and political figure. A man that is at home in every part of the country. However, he has allowed the perception of corruption to tarnish his image for so long. The architect of this perception is no one but his now chief promoter, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo. Why he remained indifferent for this long is known to no one but himself. I guess he surrounded himself with poor image makers led by Garba Shehu,who is now with the President. However,he has succeeded in a way to clear this perception at least, to some degree with the recent rapprochement with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his visit to the USA which erased any talk of impending arrest whenever he sets foot on the US soil. His message for this election is to provide jobs for the teeming Nigerian citizens as encaptured in his THE ATIKU PLAN.
Just like in a football match when a team that won a tournament the previous year enters the final again,such a team is regarded as the favorite to win based on experience and the mind set of a champion. In politics, the incumbent enjoys such favorite tag only that experience is not the reason why he is regarded as such. The reason is the power of incumbency. The power of incumbency is used even in advanced democracies.The only difference is that it is used illegally and indiscriminately in Africa. So,being the the incumbent, PMB is highly favoured to win. He has the carrot and the sticks. In a country where poverty is so high,many are ready to get the carrot and those who feel they are too much to accept the carrot, the stick is hanging on their head like the sword of Damocles,provided they had not committed any infractions before. Ask Justice Onnoghen. Even without any prior infractions, the government can manufacture one. Ask the activist,Deji Adeyanju who has been detained since last November on trumped up charges of murder and conspiracy to murder. Such is the use of the power of incumbency by African presidents, Nigerian Presidents inclusive.Beside the power of incumbency, the President is extremely popular in the North West and upper part of the North East. He is acclaimed to have a locked down Vote of 12 million. This combined with the merger with the south west ACN pushed his vote to 15 million to defeat GEJ in 2015. However, he failed to achieve the 12 million threshold against his only northern contender ,late Umaru Yar’adua in 2007. PMB in fact,lost his polling booth to Yar’adua but won the North West by 52% to Yar’adua’s 48%. So,pundits are of the opinion that against a fellow Fulani and northern figure like Atiku, he is not going to get his famed 12 million vote.
For the North West, Buhari still holds the ace but expect Atiku to have a strong showing as the Kwakwansiya factor in Kano and the Tambuwal factor in Sokoto should give him a very strong showing. In the North East, beside Yobe and Borno,two states that have been anti PDP since 1999, Buhari is expected to win here. This is where the Buhari factor stops as far as the North East is concerned. Taraba, Gombe and Adamawa are states that Atiku should win. Anything other than this is the end of the road for the PDP candidate. In Taraba, besides having the Governor to his side, General T.Y Danjuma( rtd) is against the reelection of Buhari,Mama Taraba,Aisha Al-hassan is the political daughter of the Waziri,thus the trio will work to give him an impressive outing. Gombe is also a PDP state, so we expect the PDP candidate to win here. Adamawa is the home state of Atiku. In fact, he is the Wazirin Adamawa. If he is not supported by his people with huge votes, how can he win the election? Though, Obasanjo lost in Ogun State in 1999 but still emerge victorious, but this election is keenly contested that any loss or poor outing in your area of presumed dominance is likely to have a negative outcome in the end. The North Central is poised for Atiku. Beside Bauchi that Buhari has always won,all other states are expected to go the way of the PDP. Down the south. The south east and south south are expectedly locked down regions for Atiku. Though the president will show a better outing than 2015, but not to the extent of threatening the PDP candidate. The south west is the swing state for this election. The performance of the PDP in osun makes the state looking good for an Atiku Victory. The recent development in Ogun state makes the state looking good for the PDP also. Lagos might spring a big surprise against the APC as a result of the Ambode issue.Many hitherto loyalists of APC are disenchanted with the way the governor was and is being treated. They are likely to vote against the party as witnessed in the Dapo Sarumi and Femi Agbalajobi imbroglio in 1992 under the then SDP. And of course Lagos is hugely populated by non indigenes. Ekiti should go the Buhari way because Fayose has not managed the party well in the state. Ondo and Oyo can go either way.
Thus,we expect a very keenly contested presidential election ever in the history of the country. However,to prevent a backlash, the government must ensure a credible and transparent election devoid of manipulations. The security agencies must adhere to rules of engagement.The international community is watching us closely.We can’t afford to fail after the success of the 2015 polls. The threats of ” body bags” would not save the government from the international community if the election goes against international benchmark.