By Dirisu Yakubu
With exactly a week to the Presidential elections, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is upbeat of his chances at the polls. For him and members of the National Working Committee, NWC, of his party, the coast is finally clear to march steadily to Aso Rock, the nation’s seat of power.
Across the land, Atiku’s message, anchored on his campaign blueprint of Getting Nigeria Working Again, tackles the central theme of job creation, opportunity for all, national cohesion and security. He dances his way to podiums mounted in various capitals to receive him alongside members of his campaign entourage with a single demand: vote PDP from top to bottom and from bottom to top to birth a new Nigeria where pain, anguish and gnashing of teeth will be a thing of the past.
And after what appeared a semblance of crisis in the South-East geo-political zone; Atiku has in the past few weeks gained widespread acceptance, enough to make him smell the possibility of victory. So what are the factors working in favour of the former Vice President with elections only a week away?
Endorsement by NEF, Ohaneze, PANDEF, others
Last week endorsement of Atiku by five socio-political cum cultural groups couldn’t have come at a better time for the Wazirin Adamawa. With the influential Northern Elders Forum, NEF, leading the pack, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Middle-Belt Forum, MBF and a faction of Afenifere all pledging their support for Atiku in what the PDP has since dubbed a pan Nigerian mandate, the chances of the candidate clinching the top job are indeed brighter compared to when he contested the exalted office on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in 2007.
No one expects the former Vice President to make a clean sweep of the votes in the North but unlike in 2015 when the elections pitched President Buhari against a Southerner, this election is between a Northerner and a fellow Northerner, Muslim against a fellow Muslim, a Fulani against another Fulani, thus rendering the North-West, North-East and North-Central zones a fertile ground for vote hunting.
No doubt, the South-East parades eminent sons in the government of President Buhari such as Science and Technology Minister, Ognonnaya Onu and his Labour and Productivity counterpart, Chris Ngige, not to mention the Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha; the PDP is expected to make a big outing at the polls.
Same can be said of the Middle Belt and the South-South, though President Buhari boasts of impressive followership in the regions too.
PPCO’s sustained campaign
Much of Atiku’s in-road in to the hearts of Nigerians is down to the sustained campaign by the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, PPCO. Since its formation a few months ago PPCO through its Director General, Senator Bukola Saraki has turned every outing out of Atiku into a carnival of sort. Even on days when the former Vice President appear tired to charge the usually mammoth crowd, the trio of Saraki, national chairman of the PDP, Secondus and Tanimu Turaki a co-chairman of the PPCO ensure the people are fed with a dose of Atiku’s blueprint which he hopes to implement if elected into office.
So far, the campaign council has worked tirelessly to make Atiku the central theme in the consciousness of Nigerians who are eagerly waiting for February 16 to cast their ballot.
Atiku’s US trip
While it lasted, the ruling party mocked Atiku’s decade long inability to visit the United States of America, USA, as an effective campaign strategy against his candidacy. But not anymore! While making moves to secure a visa to enable him travel to God’s own country, supporters of Mr. President thronged into the US embassy, warning against the issuance. Not left out was the government itself which through the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed issued a press statement cautioning America not to issue Atiku a visa as doing so would amount to endorsing a particular candidate.
In the end, Atiku visited the country alongside a retinue of aides almost with ease. And with government failing to match actions with the threat that he would be invited for questioning over his alleged role in the bankruptcy of the defunct Bank PHB; Atiku’s presumed innocence has endeared more to the electorate more than his alleged complicity.
Bonds with the youths
It is not clear if the promise of job creation is the singular most potent reason for the adoption of the PDP candidate by millions of Nigerian youths. At the Atiku Presidential Campaign Headquarters, Abuja; thespians, musical artists and bloggers have turned regular faces, all adorning one souvenir or the other bearing either the photograph or name of Atiku. Atikulated Nigerians as they fondly refer to themselves; they sing the praises of the former Vice President, drumming into the ears of anyone who cares to know that Atiku is the solution to the numerous challenges facing the country today.
Keeping all Presidential aspirants happy
Not a few thought the outcome of the Port-Harcourt convention would rip PDP apart. From the aspirants themselves to the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike whose preference for Aminu Tambuwal was an open secret; some analysts predicted a post convention doom for the once dominant party. But as it were, eleven aspirants who lost to Atiku kept their word by rallying round him to take the message of Getting Nigeria Working Again, across the country. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Ahmed Makarfi, Tanimu Turaki, Attahiru Bafarawa, Aminu Tambuwal, David Mark, Bukola Saraki, Jonah Jang, Sule Lamido and Datti Baba-Ahmed Ahmed not only stayed put in the party but buried the disappointment of failing to clinch the ticket in the overall interest of the party. This is a big boost to Atiku’s quest for the plum office of President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Atiku’s Townhall meeting outing
Some of his supporters registered their displeasure with some of the questions thrown at him by ace journalist, Kadaria Ahmed when he appeared at “The Candidates,” a Presidential interactive session, hosted by Daria Media with support from Mc Arthur Foundation, but Atiku had no problem as he provided answers to the best of his ability. His control of impulse, emotional stability and some sharp answers left the audience cheering.
He may not have supplied all the answers correctly not one actually expected him to do so. By and large, he won more friends and supporter than enemies on the night.
Elections are an arm’s length away and difficult as it is to hazard a guess on who would coast home to victory between President Buhari and Candidate Atiku, the least Nigerians deserve are credible, free, fair, transparent and violent-free elections. Like President stated only recently, the eyes of the world are on Nigeria. We can’t afford to take a back seat while least endowed nations in Africa are already making sustained effort at democratic consolidation.