By Emeka Alex Duru
With the February 16 presidential election a matter of weeks ahead, the tone of political activities in the country, is understandably high. Though 79 political parties have indicated intentions at fielding candidates for the exercise, it is basically a straight battle between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Both have the personnel and resources to weather the challenges of the contest. While President Muhammadu Buhari seeks re-election on the platform of his APC, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, leads the assault from the PDP. They have different strategies in approaching the exercise.
While Buhari is running on the mantra of continuity, Atiku is offering Nigerians a window of change; a credible alternative of sort. In 2015 when Buhari was campaigning for the presidency, he had told the voters that he was going to rid the country of corruption, insecurity and unemployment, among other promises. Coming at a time that many Nigerians were not excited at the performance profile of the then ruling PDP, Buhari’s appeal was received in many parts of the country. When therefore, he dislodged the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the election of the year, it did not come to many as a surprise.
But four years later, the jury is still out on how faithfully he has kept to these pledges. The President and his supporters claim that he has delivered on target. It is based on this conviction that he is seeking another term. On November 18, 2018, while he unfolded his re-election punch line – Next Level, Buhari, painted an enticing picture of Nigeria in the next four years, if given another chance through the ballot.
“We have worked hard to fulfil our promises – and while the road may have been difficult, over the last three and a half years, we have laid the foundations for a strong, stable and prosperous country for the majority of our people” he had stated in his presentation. This has formed the kernel of his delivery in all the cities his campaign train has visited.
But hard as Buhari tries to flaunt the achievements of his administration, it does not take much to detect attempts at exaggeration and obvious cover-ups in areas it has failed woefully. For instance, though the administration appeared to have recorded initial gains in tackling insecurity, particularly in reclaiming some parts of the North East previously annexed by the Boko Haram insurgents, that victory is increasingly appearing short-lived, given the resurgence of actions by the terrorist organisation. In a particular instance, last year, an attack by the group in Metele, Borno state, left scores of Soldiers dead and many injured. That was just an incident. Aside the Boko Haram menace, there have also been various incidences of criminality in many parts of the country. The murderous engagements of the Cattle Fulani in the North Central and some parts of the South, are also putting the nation on the edge. The President has not incidentally offered a convincing blue print on how to tackle these obvious challenges, if elected.
The economy has also not fared better under his watch. It has, rather, according to experts, slipped further, with unemployment figure assuming more frightening dimensions. Recent data, had put the country’s unemployment rate as increasing steadily since Q2 of 2016 when it stood at 13.30 percent to 18.80 in Q3 of 2017, when Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics released the last job figures. Nigeria under the present administration, has also earned the odious status of the poverty capital of the World.
To some extent, the fight against corruption has recorded gains. But the selective nature of the exercise, seen mostly as being targeted at the opposition and perceived opponents of the President and his party, casts huge cloud of doubts on the actual direction of the agenda.
The President has also exhibited overt disregard to key pillars of democracy in areas of walking roughshod on the legislature and disobedience to Court Orders. But perhaps, where even his ardent admirers get crossed with him is his provincial proclivity especially in tailoring key appointments to his Fulani kinsmen. What also irks in the exercise, is his haughty disposition in going about it. This is aside the manifest entitlement tendencies in most of his actions.
These are issues Atiku has pledged to tackle. Since his bold entry into the nation’s politics at the 1993 Jos, Plateau State convention of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) during the ill-fated General Ibrahim Babangida political transition programme, in which he came a surprising third to late MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, Atiku has not hidden his desire for the topmost job. And he seems prepared for the challenges of the office.
On Monday, November 19, 2018 when he launched his 2019 presidential campaign, he unveiled a policy document that contained what he described as his vision to get Nigeria working again. The document tagged the “The Atiku’s Plan” encapsulated his agenda for a better Nigeria if voted into office. In it, he pledged to lift Nigerians from their current level of despair and reposition the country on a path of development.
Aside a recall on the piteous state of the economy and the poor policy thrust of the current APC government that appears to have divided Nigerians further on many grounds, he remarked; “The most important question in this election is: are you better off than you were four years ago, are you richer or poorer? That is why our primary focus is to get Nigeria working again.”
Pairing with former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, is seen in some quarters, as a good measure by the Wazirin Adamawa in tackling the huge challenges of governance confronting the nation.
Atiku and Obi, had, incidentally, before now, recorded successes in private enterprise and public service. Atiku, as Vice President, had for instance, led the economic team of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration that liquidated the country’s debts to creditor nations.
On his own, Obi had made great name in his unprecedented human and material resource engineering of Anambra State, where he served as governor. Six years after his glorious exit from Awka Government House, the story of his prudent management of the State’s resources leading to his bequeathing huge sums in local and foreign currencies to his successor, still resonates. The efforts of his administration in laying solid foundation for the state in education and other sectors, continues to manifest in Anambra leading in public examinations in the country and abroad. Nigerians, thus, have a choice – either to remain with the pervading rot in the name of continuity or go for a change for the better.
That choice, according to Sunny Igboanugo, in his Whirlwind online publication, is clear. According to him, “By February 16, Nigerians would be going to the polls to elect a President – a fit and proper President whose job would include, taking care of domestic affairs in his country; a President for whom the entire Nigeria would be his constituency; who would stem this manifest dangerous glide towards the edge of the precipice, worsened not only by matchless hunger, starvation and penury, but the worst form of nepotism, clannishness and provincial governance ever recorded in its history that has practically thrown the country to the dogs”.
These are issues supporters of the Atiku/Obi ticket expect to be addressed with the team coming on board on May 29. They also account for the clamour for a change that will pull the country out of its current piteous situation.