By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Features Editor

Whether you are a supporter of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, or All Progressives Congress, APC, or not, you must deal with the reality that either of their candidates will be your next President.

APC’s President Muhammadu Buhari may not be your dream candidate, just like PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, but they are the frontrunners.

The odds are in their favour, thereby giving them all the aces.

That the contest is literally about two people out of over 70 presidential candidates, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone conversant with how conventions, laws and anomalies combine to make a President in Nigeria.

Atiku and Buhari

Ethno political alliances

In Nigeria, the presidency had never been for political upstarts or candidates with excellent credentials but with no resources.

Sunday Vanguard believes it is not just for known heavyweights but those influential enough to build ethno-political alliances that do not necessarily influence voters yet produce winners of presidential polls.

The same indicators are poised to make either Atiku or Buhari Nigeria’s next president.

That is why this contest is not different from others that produced Tafawa Balewa, Shehu Shagari, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari.

President Buhari and Atiku didn’t emerge likely winners for only partisan reasons as their pedigree largely accounted for that.

Integrity, scorecard

President Buhari, who rode on integrity to the presidency in 2015, still relies on it and his scorecard. His supporters are quick to point at the two factors as the major reasons the President should be re-elected.

What the President’s admirers and handlers consider as reasons for his re-election is better encapsulated in a piece by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.

Excerpts of the article read: “His age is no longer an issue in this campaign because by the will of God, not by any design, his main challenger is equally in the same age bracket. There are many reasons   President Buhari deserves to be re-elected. I shall speak to a dozen of them here:

“He is the best ever President we got so far and here are my reasons: In his character, President Buhari is a well-behaved man….globally recognised as an honest leader, working very hard to cure a wounded nation by righting past wrongs.”

His handlers tout his patience as a virtue but critics says it’s really a sign of cluelessness

“On the many occasions I have reflected on how hard my job is, I try to think of the President. One needs to put oneself into his shoes, carrying the responsibility of more than 200 million people on his shoulders, yet he is a man who maintains a steady, level headed approach towards solving problems; he remains calm and focused on his goals.

“With Muhammadu Buhari as President, Nigeria is in very safe hands; he knows what is good for the country and its people. When he won in 2015, one of his main pledges was fighting terrorism, criminality and banditry. He met the tragic situation of perpetual fighting between farmers and herders in the Middle-Belt, spreading southwards, up to the coastal states. He sought the help of state governors for a solution but they offered very little, if any. They were and are still divided over the issue. He pushed the police, the army and other security agencies very hard for the solution. Today, and notwithstanding the visible hands of politicians in it, he has brought the entire situation in the Middle Belt under control. He has ended the fighting which would have brought Nigeria to destruction.”

Critics are quick to explain that the herder/farmer crisis, under the Buhari administration, was allowed to fester, leading to needless loss of lives as a result of what some have described as the condonation of killings by herdsmen.

“A further reason for the President’s re-election is the success he has recorded fighting terrorism. If numbers count, bombings and killings have drastically been reduced under the Buhari administration.”   Successes may have indeed been recorded; but there is a sudden resurgence of insurgency not only in the North East region now, but it has spread to the North West states of Katsina, Zamfara and Kebbi.

President has done nothing

Notwithstanding, critiques believe the President has done nothing to deserve re-election.

That   Buhari has not totally lost his cult followership in Northern Nigeria, makes little or no meaning to them given their conviction that the harsh realities of these times, also bite in the north.

In their opinion, which is shared by many outside government, Buhari lacks what is required to govern a 21 century Nigeria.

Relying particularly on the growing insecurity and poverty   in the country, they maintain that the President could hardly win in a free and fair contest across the 119,973 polling units in the country.

To them, should Buhari be re-elected, none of the reasons touted as his strengths could be responsible other than the incumbency factor, especially control over state institutions.

Rigged with federal might

For instance, at different times when Sunday Vanguard formally and informally sampled opinion of prospective voters, majority expressed fears that the exercise could be rigged with federal might.

In those instances, what could pass as absence of confidence in the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, manifested, despite assurances that the will of the people would prevail.

“Much as it is obvious that Buhari failed in many areas, I don’t see him losing easily. The party has bought votes through the Trader Moni scheme ahead of the election.   We complained but nothing happened. As things stand, we are hoping for a free and fair contest which does not give the President chances,” Dr. Gilbert Oforkansi, President of Lagos-based Committee for Accountable Democracy, told Sunday Vanguard.

Understanding of the job

Unlike the President, who could emerge based on the reasons championed by his followers and handlers, the Atiku camp believes the former Vice President’s preparedness and understanding of the job are assets to his prospects.

Without malice, Sunday Vanguard asserts that Atiku , despite unsubstantiated allegations of corrupt practices against him, is the most prepared of all the presidential candidates.

Having been consistent in his ambition which dates back to the ill-fated Third Republic in the 90s, in addition to experience garnered as Vice President, the PDP candidate may not find the job new.

Being electable this time

But does being a serial presidential candidate translate into being electable this time?

Only the outcome of next Saturday’s exercise would respond to that.

Nevertheless, the acceptance of the Atiku candidacy across different divides unlike in the past, in addition to the arguments against Buhari, suggest that victory could go his way.

Atiku, who favours a free market economy is regarded more as a unifying figure in an ethnically and politically diverse polity.

To quote Publisher of Ovation Magazine, who supported Buhari in 2015, “Atiku looked more energetic, mentally alert, eloquent, knowledgeable, presentable, exposed, cosmopolitan and   business-like notwithstanding the fact that he s only a few years younger than the President.”

His supporters are expectant of victory but the optimism is also challenged by fears that the exercise could be rigged.



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