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BY DELE MOMODU

Fellow Nigerians, please permit me to continue with my Presidential race series today. It has become obvious that nothing else, but the lack of competent, visionary, detribalised, selfless, accomplished, exposed, urbane, capable, cerebral, determined and ambitious leadership, has been the root cause of our intractable problems and incredible backwardness especially where national development is concerned.

Even the things we used to excel at, like quality education, agriculture and exportable cash crops and more importantly, morality, decency and humaneness have long since eluded us and taken wings into far flung places. Our type of politics, of snatch, grab and grab, can never lead to any substantial progress and development unless we change how we’ve been doing things. All men and women of good conscience in Nigeria are in agreement that our country is in a big mess and that changing the baton of foolishness, recklessness and incompetence every four years, in a relay race of raw cash, brigandage, ethnicity and religion does not augur well for our dear nation. This cannot continue unchecked.

This is not about liking or disliking one President. It is about loving our dear beloved country, Nigeria, more. Our nation has become not only a serious embarrassment to itself but a source of considerable disquiet and discomfort to the African continent. True, however, that this calamity did not befall us under this government. It started when the first military putsch terminated the First Republic. Thereafter, we witnessed successive coup d’etats. Each coup maker advertised himself as coming to salvage and change Nigeria for the better but things got worse in many instances. The Civilian population also played an infamous role in this area by dancing for joy whenever the soon to become familiar refrain of the National Anthem followed by the haunting words “Fellow Nigerians” were announced on the airwaves.. We expected our military rulers to perform many miracles since they wielded the power of life and death but we were not so lucky.

The Republic of Ghana was perhaps luckier, by having a no-nonsense leader Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings (aka Junior Jesus or Judas, depending on which side you belonged). He came, cleaned the Augean stable, erected a superstructure, improved the infrastructure, instilled discipline, reduced a culture of waste and inculcated a new ethos of doing things with less greed and avarice. Many Ghanaians disagree with this effusive description of Ghana under Rawlings but to onlookers, Ghana came out of that revolution better and stronger than most African States. I know many Nigerians who wistfully longed for some version of JJ Rawlings here but ours were too selfish, egocentric and clannish.

Nigeria has tried many leaders, from sinners to saints, but there is no doubt that none of them has taking us to Eldorado. It has been a tale of “all sound and fury…” but no performance. Two of our former military rulers came back from retirement to become civilian Presidents. General Olusegun Obasanjo, who served from 1976 and retired as Head of State in 1979, bounced back 20 years after, in 1999, and served a total of eight years as civilian President, making him the longest reigning leader in Nigeria’s chequered history, with a combined total of eleven years. I will not bore you with the melodrama of that era. His Vice President from 1999 to 2007 was Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who started nursing his own Presidential since 1993 when he was eventually out-manoeuvred by the enigmatic and redoubtable Baba Gana Kingibe. The relationship between the Obasanjo and Atiku was that of cat and mouse because the Vice President subsequently wanted to contest himself in 2003.

Around that same 2003, another retired military ruler, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, decided it was his own turn to collect the baton and return to power as civilian President. He had been the Head of State from 1984 to 1985 when he was unceremoniously sacked by Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. His fall attracted unprecedented relief and wild jubilations because of his draconian style and what many saw as the hypocritical and nepotistic disposition of his government. His 2003 attempt was like testing the waters. He was popular in the North but not in the South and the Northern Regions alone could never make him President without substantial votes and electoral spread from some parts of the Southern Regions. He contested and lost to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In 2007, Buhari contested against his kinsman from Katsina State, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and lost again to him. He complained bitterly that the race was skewed against him and litigation followed in a jiffy but hit the rocks, ultimately. In 2011, Buhari became a serial contestant, throwing his hat into the ring for a third time. However, it was not third time lucky as the results claimed he lost ignominiously to Dr Goodluck Jonathan. He was so disappointed, frustrated and bitter, that he vowed never to contest again. But man proposes and God disposes, the ruling PDP was on a reckless binge of surfeit and megalomania and had to be stopped by all means. Buhari was approached to become the rallying force, in 2015, for all those who wanted PDP out, by fire and by force. Miraculously, he won as the whirlwind of “Change” swept away the rampaging PDP. The expectations of the people in respect of the Buhari Presidency were thus extremely high. The rest is now history.

Nearly three years have passed since Buhari’s triumphant comeback and the next election is already knocking. The general consensus is that the Buhari government has underperformed, even if his hard-core loyalists disagree very vehemently. They point to several salutary achievements in the area of security (particularly with regard to the Boko Haram menace), increased reserves, improved Foreign Direct Investment and an ongoing relatively successful fight against corruption. The Opposition and the generality of the people want more. They say that things have simply not changed. Instead they have become worse because, there is great fear and tension in the land. The disunity is there for all to see and corruption and nepotism seems to be the order of the day within government circles. The seething anger is palpable and it is like the country is a tinderbox, a nation sitting on a primed keg of gunpowder waiting for the fireworks of social disorder and violence to erupt. We continue to pray against such folly, but the government is simply not helping by the macabre dance, with ethnicity and religious jingoism, it seems to be engaged in.

By 2019, Buhari would be 76 years old. He has suffered health challenges. His style of governance has also been rated as too crude and sluggish. Some say he is not a President for 21st Century Nigeria because he lacks the physical and mental resources needed to crossover from the analog era of the 20th century into the digital age of the 21st century. Many of those who wished to support him to the end have become irritated and impatient. They simply cannot understand how the “People’s Messiah” frittered away such humongous goodwill and lost the chance to leave a glittering legacy for our people. His avuncular supporter, former President Obasanjo, has since jumped ship after releasing a most blistering attack in a very scathing open letter made public globally.

I have gone through this long preamble to remind us of why it has become imperative for Nigerians to pay more attention to who leads us henceforth. On my part, I have decided to speak to as many potential Presidents, Vice Presidents, Governors, Senators, House members, State Assembly members, etc, as possible. Four years is a long time to waste on frivolities, in the life of a nation. Never again must we elect people based on primordial sentiments.

If President Buhari presents himself again, as it is his Constitutional right to do, he must be subjected to the most rigorous of tests. We must find out why he failed to become the change agent that we desperately wished for. He must know, that it is not sufficient to blame the unbridled corruption that characterised the previous government. That was enough to deal with lack of progress for one year, possibly even eighteen months, but for two years and counting, Haba! Regardless however, he still has a bit of time to demonstrate what a second term under him will look like, but if truth be told, he is fast running out of that time. His challengers must even face tougher tests. For them we look for physical fitness and mental alertness, freshness, transparency, accountability but above all, vision, innovation, technological savviness and adeptness, leadership and progressive action. We should never base our choice and decision on empty promises but practical roadmaps and blueprints.

There is no doubt that Nigeria is long overdue for a major overhaul, but it is not going to happen overnight. It may not happen in the next four-year sequence, but we must begin the journey in 2019. While the experiment being attempted by the COALITION FOR NIGERIA is desirable, every care must be taken to ensure that this does not make our situation worse. I wish to warn again, and do so repeatedly, that there are presently no saints to form a new Party or, indeed, force. APC would not have materialised if those PDP Governors and big moneybags did not throw their weight behind Buhari. It is gratifying to note that for now, the Coalition is making the right noises and saying that it is a pressure group. Given the fact that the period between now and the next elections is short and is almost upon us. What it seems would be most desirable to see, is members of the Coalition going back to the two main parties and taking over from them. Surely, the generality of the Nigerian public would back such a move by those seen to be a bit more principled than the rogues gallery that has held sway over our political lives for more than 40 years. However, this may not be feasible for now, since money continues to play a big part in politics and the ignorance and impoverishment of our people continues to be an impediment for such a civilian coup at the present moment.

Therefore, the best way to go, for now, is to have a coalition of forces and make them form a government of national unity that would draw its personnel and operatives from the different political Parties, including some of the fringe Parties. Indeed, it was my sincere hope that the configuration of the APC following the merger of the opposition Parties before the 2015 elections would have led to such government. It is sad that from the very beginning the Party embarked on fratricidal, internecine and suicidal warfare from which it has not since emerged.

In reality, I predict two options. The PDP may implode and dissolve into the old PDP and a new Party, or the coalition may form a third party and draw extensively from APC and PDP. The problem is that not much would have changed. Only the name, and nomenclature, perhaps, would have changed. The same characters would migrate into this potential third Party from both Parties and no one would reject them. It may be, that this is one of the failings of democracy as all views should be accommodated within the respective Parties. The inherent danger is it may help APC remain infallible, despite the fact that it would have been greatly weakened by the exodus of a few good men. The truth is that both principal Parties need to be shaken up. The Coalition for Nigeria may well offer an avenue for this to happen but we must be vigilant. We must not enter “One Chance” again! The Coalition must not become like the Trojan Horse, primed to lull us into a false sense of security, when the real motive is to spew its rotten guts into our polity and thus damage us even further. My concern stems largely from those who appear to be the conveners. I am not overly confident of their credentials to do the task that Nigerians expect of them. We pray and wait with trepidation.

Meanwhile, I plead with the conveners of the Coalition, again, to think through this risky adventure and not set us back several decades.
God bless Nigeria!

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COLUMNISTS

SOUTH WEST VERDICT ON BUHARI THE TRIBALIST

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I didn’t know you are this politically savvy. I just read your submission that sounded more like a statement issued by Ologbodiyan, the Publicity Secretary of PDP full of inaccuracies and more of wishful thinking than a dispassionate analysis. Your post arrogates to Atiku structures he doesn’t possess. Titi is his first wife but has never been able to deliver Ijesha not to talk of Osun state to him in any of the elections he has been involved in. Buhari has always beaten him in Adamawa his home state in all the elections they both have been involved with. Go and check your data. Who is the power broker in the north that can beat the cult followership Buhari enjoys there?

Except for Saraki in Kwara, Atiku has no advantage anywhere else in the northcentral and I can assure you, this time, Saraki will be given a run for his money. Mark it Bukola will struggle to return to the National Assembly. I concede the entire southeast to Atiku and that is being magnanimous. However APGA might embarrass him there. The entire south south is free for all but the game changer is an Akpabio. Nobody can take Edo from Buhari, Delta is an open fight. Wike must keep an eye open when sleeping otherwise he is a goner; ditto Akwa Ibom and perhaps Cross River too.

There is absolutely nothing for Atiku in the southwest. Forget about Afenifere. Baba Adebanjo cannot deliver his Iperu or something like that to Atiku. They are just grandstanding. They took Jonathan’s money in 2015 yet the poor guy was thoroughly embarrassed in the southwest. The only vulnerable state here is Ondo and there is nobody of substance to deliver Ondo to them.

Yes,Buhari is nepotic, tribalistic, who is not? Jonathan’s DSS- Ekpeyong from the south south, his chief of Army Staff – Ihejirika from the southeast and General Minima from the south south. The entire Financial architecture were Ibos from the Finance Minister to the CBN Governor, to AMCON MD to the Sovereign Wealth MD. Mention it, they were either from the southeast or South South. The only position of substance the southwest got under Jonathan was the Minister of Agriculture, all other Yoruba people were either town criers like Doyin Okupe or Shola Omole.

Don’t be deceived, Atiku will not do any better. Buhari’s government is the best the southwest has ever got in the history of the Federal government of Nigeria. Shine your eyes, Atiku’s government will only turn Yoruba people to Tea boys and Messangers in Abuja. Wike has already shown us in clear terms what to expect when he said we don’t deserve the position of the chairman of the party.

Yes, the economy is still limping, the fact is, only a miracle worker can turn the Nigerian economy which was destroyed over 16 years around in 3 years. No democratic government has the nerve to take the kind of decisions that can turn the economy around in 8 years. But we can arrest the hemorrhaging of the National treasury by these looters.

Other than working in custom where has Atiku worked that he made the difference and we all know what goes on in Custom even with a man of integrity as the CG, we all know how the Custom service is. His other experience is in Aso Rock as VP where he and his Oga in 8 years couldn’t add a megawatt of electricity to the National grid, ran all the refineries aground that today Nigeria is importing 90% of its fuel consumption. Even ordinary Lagos – Ibadan Express road they could not reconstruct in 8 years.

Rather than adding value to that government Atiku was busy amassing wealth in the most despicable way that his Oga has no kind words for him. This is apart from undermining the same government he was the second in hierarchy. A perfidious character. No wonder, his Oga gave him a Testimonial that cannot be presented anywhere in the world.

Yes, age is not on his side, he is not technologically savvy and ancient in his ideas, however, within a year of assuming power Buhari completed the Kaduna – Abuja rail line. He had the choice of abandoning this project to start a new one like Ambode did in Lagos, he is completing a brand new Lagos-Ibadan Standard gauge railway in just about one year period. He is building the biggest Deep Seaport in Africa in Lekki, a 3050 Megawatt Mambilla Power station in Taraba which has been on the drawing board for over 50years is under construction, the second Niger Bridge that his predecessors have been budgeting for year in year out in the last 16years with no bridge in sight and budgeted money disappeared is advancing under his administration. The biggest Refinery in Africa will come on stream in Lekki in about 18 months and at least 6 Modular Refineries are under construction with 2 operational now. Another one will be operational before the end of the year. All these in less than 4years. Haba e e beru Olorun. Give credit where it is deserved.

I am surprised that even people who otherwise are very intelligent allow these scoundrels to scam them for the umpteenth time. Atiku has nothing to offer this country. He is only coming for another heist and a fulfillment of a personal life ambition which is at variance to the people’s interest.

If in less than 10 years Nigeria has lost over N10 trillion to corruption you will agree with me that Nigeria’s Public Enemy number one is corruption. Atiku is the “wrongest” person to fight this war, rather he will only compound our misery. Buhari is not a Saint and he is everything but not avaricious. Of all the contestants with the best chance of winning the election, Buhari is the most disposed to fighting corruption.

All the PDP aspirants including Atiku are just another A’love of our youth in Ondo, out to scam the poor folks of the little they have.

© Coalition of a better Nigeria from the South-West.

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COLUMNISTS

Pendulum: Can Atiku Abubakar Defeat Muhammadu Buhari in 2019? By Dele Momodu

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, interesting times are here again. And the ways of God are mysterious indeed. This time last week, no one was sure who would ultimately emerge as the quintessential leader of opposition for the general elections in our dear beloved country which comes up in February next year. There were about 12 assorted gladiators lined up and seeking the Presidential ticket of PDP, which truly needs to redeem itself urgently from the vestiges of near death. For the most part, its national convention in Port Harcourt went smoothly.

Even its worst critics attest to the fact that it was effectively well organised and set the right tone for the regeneration of the democratic credentials of the Party. What was more remarkable, a candidate emerged without rancour or the usual bickering that attends such highly contentious contests. Virtually all the other aspirants immediately aligned with their chosen candidate, former Vice President of Nigeria, the Wazirin Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Since then, both traditional and social media have ignited with blazing fire with both positive and negative comments about the outcome. Atiku himself wasted no time in seeking the support of everyone, whether members of his Party or not. He’s smart and knowledgeable to know that he will need more than votes of the Party faithful alone to win the stiff electoral battle ahead.

As he emphasised in my two previous interviews with him in the last couple of months, he has redeemed his pledge to pick a Vice Presidential candidate from the South East of Nigeria, a move many Nigerians have applauded, and embraced, as a masterstroke. The choice of former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State is seen by some analysts as the first step towards the restructuring Atiku and company have been mouthing from the rooftops in recent times. Apart from this, Peter Obi is seen by many as a seasoned technocrat and astute businessman with credible and capable government experience and service. The Igbos have rightly complained that they have had neither the Presidential or Vice-Presidential slot since 1983, some 35 years ago, when Dr Alex Ekwueme, of blessed memory, was President Shehu Shagari’s deputy. Buhari has an equally formidable person, who also boasts intimidating credentials and capabilities, as his Vice-President in Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Obi comes with an array of impressive academic, business and political credentials and achievements. He is a Philosophy graduate from the University of Nsukka. He has improved and enhanced himself with academic and practical studies at Harvard Business School, London School of Economics, Kellogg School of Management, University of Columbia, Said Business School, Oxford University, George Business School, Cambridge University and Lagos Business School. These have sharpened his entrepreneurial, management and leadership skills which he clearly utilised in the 8 years that he was Governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014.

Peter Obi is a recipient of many national and international awards notably the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation Award for which his State won US$1 million for its immunisation programme. He created an enabling environment for industrial development in Anambra State which saw the likes of SABMiller, the 2nd largest brewery in the world establishing their first Greenfield facility in Anambra State. Similarly, Innoson Motors established their internationally acclaimed plant where they manufacture their made in Nigeria vehicles. Obi adds unquantifiable value to the Atiku candidacy in much the same way as Vice President Osinbajo has done for President Buhari. The battle of the Vice-Presidential candidates may well be the tipping point of these forthcoming elections. We will revisit the contest between this highly esteemed and acclaimed gentlemen soon.

The battle for the control of Nigeria’s jugular in 2019 is all set and looks like a straight fight between Buhari/Osinbajo and Abubakar/Obi, except a miracle, or some magic, erupts and one of the fringe candidates pulls a monumental surprise by defeating both teams in what must be close to a volcanic eruption in Nigeria. I personally do not see that happening.

The battle will be tough because old rivalries will also come into play. Buhari needs to prove and revalidate his seeming invincibility which seems to be waning if my reading of the pulse of public opinion is accurate. As the incumbent, Buhari controls the appurtenances of power. His ego is at stake. Like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Buhari came back to power as a retired army General and former military Head of State. Obasanjo was able to complete two terms and Buhari would definitely wish to equal that feat even if he can’t surpass it because of constitutional limitations. Buhari is not known to be a self-acclaimed democrat. The aspect of his brand that has brought him this far is his no-nonsense posturing. A man who would destroy and obliterate all looters and oppressors, by any means possible, if allowed to have his way. This has endeared him to a multitude of totally loyal die-hard supporters. His disciples swear by his name and they are willing to fly to heaven and back to prove their ardent fervour and love for him.

Buhari comes into the boxing ring with a daunting personality and attributes. He is tall and gangling, even if seemingly frail, but his punches are capable of deadly effect. Unlike Obasanjo or Atiku, many have said this President is not going to bow to any public opinion and go away without a whimper. Fingers are being pointed at the recent over-militarisation of the democratic process and suspected manipulation of the electoral body, INEC. Whether imaginary or not, or imagination just running riot, no one can easily dismiss certain unseemly electoral practices and possibilities in next year’s elections. We hope that the desperation to remain in power will not go as far as besmirching the view of how far our democracy has been deepened by the fact of President Goodluck Jonathan, accepting the will of the people, and handing over power to President Buhari without any fuss.

The Buhari government won’t accept the tag of incompetence many have affixed to it. They have already compiled a long list of their projects and accomplishments. They have argued that government is a continuum and they are fixing incomplete projects abandoned by its predecessors. Good point. They are correcting the rot of nearly two decades. While they may appear slow, and sluggish, to those of us on the outside, they are insisting they have had to be methodical and painstaking in their work. Perhaps, they are right, we are not sure.

FromAtiku’s side, he comes with an effervescent, ever smiling easy going demeanour and personality. He is renowned for his great flexibility and negotiation skills, a shrewd manager of men and women and resources. However, when required he is known to possess a steely resolve necessary to head a country like Nigeria. Atiku comes with a controversial and colourful past though, not least because of the unrelenting assault and pummelling about his character that he had been subjected to by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. This is veritable easy meat and fodder for APC to deploy in rubbishing his candidacy and demonstrating his unfitness to be President of this great nation.

We should expect Atiku and his campaign team to go all out on the offensive and try to debunk all the criticisms, arguments and jibes that APC will propel at him. The harsh disparaging and denigrating diatribe as well as the strident blame game the Buhari government has perfected will have to be met head on by Atiku and his forces. It will not be easy as so much damage has been done to Atiku in the past by the perception of him as an unreliable corrupt politician. On his part Atiku can point to the fact that notwithstanding all the many allegations made against him, nobody has yet been made to make any stick. He has consistently maintained his innocence and dared anyone to prove otherwise.

Nobody has called his bluff, if bluff it is! Indeed, he has pointedly referred to the claimed American albatross hanging over his head like a sword of Damocles, that it is but a mere figment of imagination of his inept traducers. As Atiku says, he has never been charged or indicted for any offence either in Nigeria or elsewhere. the American Government has never declared him wanted. He has applied for an American visa on a few occasions, but this has not been granted. If indeed he was wanted in America, surely his visa would have been granted to enable him visit and be arrested. The American Government has never denied either of these claims. On the contrary, that Government has also stated that Atiku is not wanted. In my view, that should put an end to the matter.

The Buhari Presidency is not without its shortcomings and negatives. I expect the Atiku campaign to focus heavily on those areas where the Nigerian public have been most critical of the Buhari administration. They will undoubtedly point at the precarious economic condition of Nigerians and Nigeria and blame Buhari for creating panic in the system. On this aspect, Buhari obviously relies on the fact that oil prices dipped violently when he assumed power, but nonetheless his Government has grown foreign reserves to US$44 million and maintained the Naira at a steady level in the past year. Critics of this position point to the fact that oil prices have now increased to a level not contemplated by the Government, which has increased borrowing to an unprecedented level and appears to have heavily mortgaged Nigeria to the Chinese through the exceptionally and dangerously ominous high level of borrowing from that country.

The Government has also revived and revitalised transportation through its resuscitation of the road and rail networks. The opposition PDP has always claimed that Government is a continuum, and it was PDP that conceived, started and almost completed these projects, none of which this administration could claim to have commenced itself. Atiku and his team will also enjoy castigating the Buhari government as being overly dependent on taxing business and ordinary Nigerians to death. Atiku will also naturally present, and sell, himself as a successful businessman and try to portray Buhari as a novice who lacks business acumen and therefore is not business friendly. Atiku will contend that Buhari has never had a head, or acumen, for business which accounts for why Nigeria is on the verge of an economic precipice even as the dark shadows that loomed globally at the beginning of his tenure have lifted considerably and there should have been prosperity in the land. Atiku says he has a well-structured economic blueprint, whilst the government is presently adopting and applying a slapdash and inimical approach to the economy.

Furthermore, the Atiku camp will exploit the heightened insecurity in the country especially by the infamous herdsmen which the government appears to be treating glibly. They will also point to the apparent resurgence of the Boko Haram insurgency despite what the Buhari administration will claim are the valiant efforts of our security forces. The agitation by IPOB and its followers continues relentlessly. The manner in which the Government has handled the situation is something that the opposition Party is expected to capitalise upon.

WhileBuhari would tout his anti-corruption pedigree, Atiku would lampoon it as nothing but grandstanding and at the very best a witch-hunt of the opposition Party. Atiku will contend that most of those who have defected to the ruling Party have had grave allegations of corruption levelled against them in the past, but these have mysteriously disappeared as soon as they jumped shipped and landed with the ruling Party. In addition, I can foresee the opposition claiming that almost all of the so-called achievements of the Buhari Government in relation to corruption originated from the Jonathan administration and that within the highest level of government corruption is rife and thriving and being studiously overlooked by the President because they concern his friends and cronies. The ding-dong claims and counter-claims will dovetail into other areas and continue unabated until well after the general elections.

The most critical area would be how to get the numbers together to win. Buhari will come in with anything between 10 million to 12 million guaranteed votes, as always. Most of those votes would come from North West and North East. For whatever reason, I believe that more people will be stated to have voted in this election than in 2015. In my estimation the victor will need to garner at least 18 million votes for success. What is not certain is if North East would abandon its own son now that it has the brightest chance since Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi became Prime Minister in the First republic. PDP will play its traditional joker from the South East and South South axis. Buhari and Atiku require humongous votes from about four out of six regions. Buhari would target North East, North West, North Central and South West while Atiku will target North East (as his home base), North Central (as an endangered zone supposedly mismanaged by the APC Government), South East, South South and enough of a chunk from South West. Let no one rule Atiku out of those five zones, in the present mood across the country. If Atiku gallops away, continuously, as it seems at the moment, he might obliterate Buhari in a devastating defeat.

As tough as it may seem, after running for a record 25 years, perhaps this may be Atiku’s date with destiny and his final battle.

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ATIKU VS BUHARI: THE BATTLE TO RECLAIM NIGERIA HAS BEGUN

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By: Mike Ozekhome San

 

INTRODUCTION

For over three weeks, Nigerians waited with bated breath (Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”), suspended animation and cryogenics, as to who would be the presidential candidate of the PDP. The APC’s presidential candidate, sitting president, Muhammadu Buhari, had been known for over six months.
I had predicated long ago, even before he indicated interest, that no one in the APC would dare contest against him. It was simply inconceivable that mere mortals would dare contest against their sacred deity, nay, their “sinless” and “stainless” god, at whose altar they worship and offer sacrifices, atonement and oblation. His cult-like followership conceives him as the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of Nigeria. they argue that he is imbued with a redemptive messianism. Buhari’s party, the APC as presently constituted, is a fierce, ruthless amalgam of strange bed fellows, ensconced in a cabalistic coven that broods no opposition, dissent, or plurality of opinions. Any perceived disagreement by a member is treated as high treason against the bacchanalian gods and patriarchs of the party that must be ruthlessly squashed and vanquished.

TURNING AMBODE TO NOBODY

When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State took the unusual detour of challenging his godfather and benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it was simply the hubris and swagger of a man stupidly wrestling with his personal Chi. I knew what the outcome would be, and I said so loudly. I knew that the Jagaban would reduce Ambode from “somebody” to “nobody”. Tinubu had been bitten twice; in Ondo (Akeredolu’s emergence against his will and his preference for Olusegun Abraham); and in Lagos (Fashola’s three-ministeries-in-one cache, just to humiliate him). He knew that no tested General loads the gun, cocks and lowers it without shooting, just because of genuflections and pleas by interested parties. Such a general would have displayed his archiles heel, and his opponents would pierce it with éclat and flourish.

So, Tinubu detonated the “Ogbunigwe” bomb against Ambode. In an election in which Ambode stood no chance at all (never mind his later “gra-gra”, swash buckling, and chivalrous grandstanding). Notwithstanding his name calling of Jide Sanwo-Olu as a fake dollar fraudster and psychiatric patient who went through rehabilitation), little known Sanwo-Olu scored 970,851 humongous votes to silence Ambode’s miserly 72,901.

The very APC NWC panel which had been sent from Abuja to supervise the election, cried blue murder. Former Cross River state Governor, Clement Ebri (a gentleman per excellence), who headed the castrated panel, sulked and literally wept. He cried foul, arguing that the very ballot papers and membership slips which were to be used for the election had not even been distributed. But, the APC Lagos state chairman, Tunde Balogun, demurred.

He urged Lagosians to go and vote with only APC membership ID Cards, a step Ambode had kicked against, as he argued it would disenfranchise his teeming supporters. In politics, anything goes. Fair is foul and foul is fair (witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth), Act 1, scene 1). Ebri had nonetheless gone ahead and invalidated the primaries, as he posited the NWC never authorised the exercise. He said it violated laid down modalities, including the turning in of the list of officials that would supervise the election.

What gentleman Ebri did not reckon with was that the fight was well beyond him. It was dirty “roforofo” fight for the soul, heart, pulse and more importantly, purse, of Lagos state, the richest state in Nigeria; a state whose monthly IGR alone is enough to cater for the entire annual budget of some other states. It was a fight for power, influence, and more significantly, relevance in 2019. So, Ebri was crippled enough to eat his words, bite the humble pie, and later cajoled to personally declare Sanwo-Olu the winner of the controversial election.

The APC leadership had made it clear to him he was sent to Lagos to merely “supervise” and not to “organize” the governorship elections. Such is Nigerian politics, sorry politricks. Such is the intoxicating effect of power, a stimulant and aphrodisiac (Henry Kissinger). With power, you can access cheep money, fame, wealth and more power.

X – RAYING THE APC AND PDP PRIMARIES
Rewind to Atiku and Buhari. Let’s first inquire into the mode of emergence of Buhari and Atiku as presidential candidates of the APC and PDP, respectfully. The former’s primaries was vulgar, outrageous, ugly. It insulted the sensibilities and self-esteem of Nigerians. Buhari, the sole candidate, against whom no serious person dared contest, allegedly polled 14.8M votes to emerge the candidate.

Even Aisha, his wife, has since pooh-poohed the APC primaries, describing them in very strong words as “unfair and lacking in integrity”.
Asiha, who is 2016, had cried out about a powerful cabal holding her husband hostage, and in 2017, described the abysmal lack of health facilities in the Aso Villa Clinic, wondered how “such impunity could take place under his (APC chairman’s) watch”. She immediately dissociated herself from “such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless”. Aisha should know better, even if PMB merely regards her as the woman “in za oza (in the other) room”.

This is not all. A coalition of five other APC presidential Aspirants have also decried Buhari’s victory. Nigerians have been gasping for breath to decipher how Buhari could have singly-handedly harvested a bumper 14,842,072 votes at an only APC primaries, which was merely affirmed by only 7000 delegates at Eagle square, Abuja. Nigerians are wondering how Buhari polled a colossal 2,931,235 votes from only 484 wards of the 44 LGAs of Kano State alone. Governor Ganduje of Kano state had told a bewildered nation that Kano state which had posted only 1.9 million votes for Buhari just barely 3 years ago), now, suddenly has 3,720,000 registered voters, out of which Buhari alone garnered a galactic 2,931,235 votes in an uncontested primary! Nigerians wonder how one million voters could have emerged suddenly in only three years. Nigerians are scratching their heads because in 2015, the entire votes Buhari scored in the nationwide election were 15,424,921 (53.95%). And 3 years later, he is getting from only his party, humongous votes which are a mere 582,849 less than his 2015 national haul? Many Nigerians are contending that the rigging of 2019 election has actually commenced and is being fast-tracked.

Let us now go to the main bowl of the Adokie Amiesimaka stadium, Port Harcourt. At a keenly contested election, whose transparency, integrity, freeness and fairness have been widely applauded, even by PDP critics, Atiku garnered 1,532 votes to dust his challengers – Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state (693); Senate President, Bukola Saraki (317); former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwakwanso (158); former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido (96).

The former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Kabiru Turaki, SAN, polled 65 votes, Ahmed Makarfi, former caretaker of PDP (74 votes); former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa (48 votes), former Senate President, David Mark (35 votes); former Plateau state Governor, Jonah Jang (19 votes); and Dr Datti Ahmed (5 votes). The primaries were intense, engaging, and had all the trappings of a major election.

All aspirants had criss-crossed the length and breadth of Nigeria, pleading for votes. It is generally believed that the winner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, is the best candidate to challenge Buhari’s three years of lack luster performance, unfulfilled promises, economic stagnation, good will mismanagement, enthronement of more insecurity and fear (Boko Harm and the daily orgy by Herdsmen across Nigeria); and the geometrical escalation of corruption (2nd most corrupt country in West Africa and 148th least corrupt country in the world, courtesy 2017 Transparency International corruption perception Index).

Nigerians thus yearn for a candidate that would boldly and courageously interrogate Buhari’s opague credentials, as to why, under his very watch, Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s poverty capital (Brookings Institution report), when in actual fact, he met a Nigeria that was the biggest economy in Africa (over $500billion, rebased economy, having overtaken South Africa).

Today, Nigeria, with a population of barely 200 million people has beaten India, with a staggering population of 1.324 billion people, as a the poverty capital of the world, with the highest number of extremely poor people. The number of poor people increases by six people per minute. Nigerians appear tired of the worn out, sing-song mantra about so called integrity, alleged fight against corruption and a simulated false defeat of still very potent Boko Haram. They have since realised that these are mere propaganda stunts, having heard it over and over again, for over 3 years, like a stuck record. They behold their lives going down the drains of wretchedness, in strangulating and asphyxiating economic quagmire.

WHY ATIKU?
The national euphoria about Atiku is not without foundation. In 2015, Nigerians had queued up behind Buhari, expecting a momentous and apocalyptic rebirth, economic resurgimento and earth shaking standard of living, with their welfare and security firmly protected more than ever before. They argued then, upon Buhari’s alleged lack of academic qualification (mere WAEC certificate) being questioned, that they were ready and willing to vote for Buhari, even with an Agege bread paper or NEPA bill.

Such was the national inebriation and political insobriety that when he won the presidential election, a Nigerian trekked all the way from Lagos to Abuja in celebration; while another rode a bicycle from Kaduna to Abuja. But, they have all since been greatly disappointed. Buhari has since displayed unbelievable cluelessness and total lack of capacity to govern and navigate the myriads of problems besetting Nigeria. He has even increased them, leading to mass hopelessness, haplessness, melancholy, dejection, destitution, insecurity, more corruption (now wholly privatized), abject penury and gnashing of teeth.

Never before, since the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates to found the contraption called Nigeria, has there been so much divisiveness, hatred, nepotism, clannishness, ethnocentricism, cronyism, fascism, favouritism and mediocrity in government. It is therefore clear that Nigerians yearn for a change –a genuine change to change the change.

Those who had sworn that the PDP aspirants will come out tearing the umbrella apart, were shocked at the spirit of camaraderie, conviviality and concession of defeat by losers. Atiku strolled in, thrown up by destiny. He would, like Buhari, be having his 4th shot at the Nigerian presidency. But, can he win? Can he defeat Buhari, with the power of incumbency? Yes, Atiku can. And he will. Very easily. Here is why. Next week: How Atiku can beat Buhari.

THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK
”Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” (Robin S. Sharma)

“Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.” (Pope Francis)

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