By Charles Kumolu
If the outcome of last Saturday’s election into the National Assembly is anything to go by, today’s presidential election is clearly a straight fight among President Goodluck Jonathan (PDP), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (CPC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (ACN); and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP).
The ruling party is already boasting even before the first ballot is cast today that its candidate will beat his opponents hands down gang up or no gang up, in reference to talks between the ACN and CPC to present a common front in the election.
Here are the strength and weaknesses of the major candidates.
Nigeria’s first non elected executive President, clearly has a lot factors going for him. He represents the generation that is claiming leadership across the world. Many believe that the President represents that generation. If age is a boost for the PDP candidate, his academic qualification is a plus for him, and the PDP platform greatest asset to his ambition.
The proper understanding of incumbency factor in leadership emergence in the country, underscores this. Therefore, saying that federal might is an advantage to Jonathan, is as good as saying the obvious.
He would also be helped by his credential in leadership. His advent to power has helped to check shortages in the supply of fuel supply across the country. His administration has also increased the national minimum wage and helped in boosting the welfare of civil servants.
For a country where who becomes what, is usually shaped by ethnicity and religion the President appears to be confronted with the challenge of ethnicity and perhaps religion. Given the level of ethno/religious acrimony that characterized the campaign, it would not be out of place to see people voting on these sentiments.
Another threat to Jonathan’s bid is the hangover of the dispute over zoning in the PDP as championed by prominent Arewa leaders. It is, however, reassuring for Jonathan that the last minute plot for an alliance between the northern ACN and CPC presidential candidates failed.
Long after he has ceased to be the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the mere mention of his name, unsettles many, especially public office holders. His emergence as the candidate of the ACN remains a puzzle to many, who can’t stop asking the rationale behind his choice among other tested big wigs in ACN.
The undisputed strength of the retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, is his membership of the ACN which is widely seen as the most vibrant opposition party in Nigeria. Interestingly, his platform has demonstrated how best to be an opposition party in a quasi one party state like Nigeria. Ribadu, shares a sound academic and civil service profile with his PDP counterpart.
He is the youngest of the major candidates.
Nonetheless, ethnic sympathy might also sway to the side of the ACN candidate, as some northerners might vote along ethnic lines today and should stand to benefit from votes from the ACN’s stronghold in the Southwest if the zonal leaders are able to push him through.
Ribadu also has the advantage of being the most internationally exposed candidate of the lot.
Unfortunately for him, his party is hardly a force outside of the South West.
Though, not a few were at home with his style of leadership as military Head of State in the early 80s, Gen Buhari, has remained an issue in this election. Even his harshest critics maintain that he is more of an asset in this exercise. Buhari, who is flying the flag of the CPC, is undoubtedly, a serious contender.
While it could be possible to dismiss the CPC candidate as a political neophyte, ignoring Buhari would be at the expense of any candidate’s chances.
In addition, Buhari, who sacked Nigeria’s first executive President, President Aliyu Shehu Shagari, has a wealth of experience. His periods at Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Military Governor of Northeastern State, Head of State and Chairman of Petroleum Task Fund, PTF, recorded high profile achievements Buhari’s puritan tastes ironically has contributed to shadow him in the image of a zealot.
However, recent revelations of his personal life including his domestic staff have helped to puncture his alleged hatred of non-Muslims.
The combination of Buhari’s human rights record as head of state and his age, tend to rob him of support. At 69 he is said to be of the older generation that is out of sync with the trend of generational shift across the world.
He is also said in some quarters to be “too principled.”
Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, a former teacher entered into the political terrain shortly before the 2003 election. He was elected on the wave of popular euphoria that followed Buhari’s presidential bid of that year.
Governor Shekarau is unarguably the best speaker and possibly motivator of the lot. He was largely unknown outside Kano and the immediate environment and was notably brought to national reckoning during the NN24 presidential debate.
A trained teacher who moved from the classroom to the top echelon of the Kano civil service, he carries with him the advantages of a puritan, persuasive oratory and experience in government.
He also has the advantage of having a network of friends across the country having served as a past President of the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, ANCOPSS a forum through which he built a network of friends across the country. Shekarau has also sought to paint himself in the image of a puritan claiming in the course of the campaign that he has maintained only one bank account since his days as a teacher, that he has no foreign bank account and indeed no building of his own anywhere in Nigeria.
Shekarau has, however, come under persistent criticism of chasing shadows in his presidential quest. It is remarkable that the political consensus that was built around him after he came to power as Governor in Kano State is now said to have become a castle in the air. His party was almost totally vanquished during last week’s National Assembly elections.
Shekarau is also said believed not to have a total nationwide structure that would ordinarily protect his interest at the different polling booths across the country.