Nigeria At A Crossroad Between Atiku And Buhari
In saner and advanced democracies, elections into political offices are majorly determined by candidates’ credibility and track records, but these are unlikely to surface at the forthcoming 2019 elections in Nigeria with the choice of President Muhammadu Buhari and erstwhile Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; largely viewed as the major contenders of the country’s crucial general elections.
For many Nigerians, the recent emergence of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar as major contenders of the 2019 presidential elections is a development that raises more concern than optimism.
Buhari will be the Presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) while Atiku will be the flag-bearer of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the 2019 elections.
Both leaders emerged winners of their respective party’s presidential primaries held over the weekend. Buhari reportedly racked up a total of 14, 842,072votes to win APC’s ticket in what was a more of a ceremonial exercise, due to its uncompetitive nature. Governor-Elect of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi who served as returning officer, announced this early Sunday morning during the National Convention of the party held at Eagle Square, Abuja. The Figures credited to the President’s victory have been generating heated controversies, with many alleging inflation in the released results.
On the other hand, Atiku emerged PDP’s flagbearer at the next year’s elections after defeating other 11 Presidential candidates jostling for the party’s ticket, with a total of 1,532 votes. His closest rival, Aminu Tambuwal, scored 693 votes while Senate President Bukola Saraki came third with 317 votes.
Having two wild opposition parties contesting a general election in Nigeria since its return to democratic rule in 1999 is something noteworthy, analysts argue. Beyond this, however, the credibility of the candidates vying for the presidency, critics observe, leaves much to be desired; something that should worry concerned citizens of the country.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
The emergence of Atiku as PDP’s Presidential candidate has continued to elicit mixed feelings from Nigerians. Some of his loyalists are rooting for his victory over President Buhari at the coming polls not majorly because of the ex-vice President’s credibility but because they considered him the candidate with political sagacity, huge fanbase, and experience to challenge the incumbent President.
Atiku’s political antecedents, commentators note, may dwarf his chances of victory at the polls. The former vice-president has been indicted of several corrupt practices.
In 2003, Atiku was accused of involvement in corrupt practices for which the Senate investigated him after falling out with then President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Senate in 2006 carried out an investigation through an ad hoc committee of the Senate headed by Victor Ndoma-Egba, and in its report released in 2007, found Atiku guilty of helping himself with funds belonging to the Petroleum Training Development Fund (PTDF).
Mr. Abubakar consistently denied the allegations, accusing Obasanjo and the Senate of political persecution and attempting to stop his ambition of becoming president.
The former vice-president was also alleged to have siphoned public funds to the United States of America, making the list of Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) banned from entering the US by then-President George Bush. In 2004, President Bush issued Presidential Proclamation 7750 denying U.S. visas to foreign officials involved with corruption, and Congress later enacted supporting legislation.
A report by the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Carl Levin, had detailed how Atiku Abubakar while still the vice president of Nigeria between 2000 and 2008, used offshore companies to siphon millions of dollars to his fourth wife in the United States, Jennifer Douglas. Specifically, the report said Jennifer Douglas, an American citizen, helped her husband bring over $40 million in suspect funds into the United States through wire transfers sent by offshore corporations to U.S. bank accounts.
The former vice-president, however, had continually denied being barred from the US, promising his inability to access the US on visa issues. “I’m not running away from America. I applied, but wasn’t issued a visa,” he had been quoted by The Boss Newspaper owned by Dele Momodu.
He also had during a second visit to Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose over his presidential election quashed the swelling corruption allegations against him, challenging those accusing him of corruption to come forth with tangible evidence if they are in possession of any. “I have always said that if they have any evidence of corruption against Atiku, please come forward. But nobody has been able to come forward,” Atiku had said.
While Atiku has succeeded in putting his critics to sword whenever they revisit his alleged corrupt profile in times past, it remains unlikely he would be able to surmount criticisms from the ruling APC ahead of the polls, over such allegations.
APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomole had during the party’s recently concluded National Convention hinted of what was to come when he quipped: “The other party (referring to the PDP) is choosing its candidate in Port-Harcourt, we will look at the records of the opponent, we will look at his pedigree, we will challenge them on their track records. We are ready for the 2019 elections.”
On the other hand, the re-election bid President Buhari critics argue is unhealthy for the country’s development. The President, to a large extent, has performed below the expectations of many Nigerians who voted him in droves during the 2015 elections.
The President rode to power on a groundswell of his campaign strengths majorly targeted at fighting corruption, revamping the economy and arresting the insecurity holding sway in the country. However, his government, christened ‘clueless’ by many have provided very little, if any viable solution, in tackling the country’s numerous challenges.
The president’s anti-corruption campaign, critics argue, has been nothing but a tool to witch-hunt those in the opposition. For instance, critics cited among many others, the recent defection of former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio from PDP to APC. The former governor, before his defection, was under heavy investigation from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) for alleged corrupt practices but he looks untroubled since he joined the ruling party.
The country has also been struck with strings of killings under his government arising from unchecked herders-farmers clashes and existing Boko Haram insurgents in the Northern parts of the country. A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) stated that violence in Nigeria between semi-nomadic cattle herders and settled farmers have killed around six times more people than deaths related to the Boko Haram insurgency in the first half of 2018 and pose a major threat to the country’s stability.
Passing the integrity test
Pundits have expressed concerns over the choice of Buhari and Atiku as the major candidates for the forthcoming elections. Their choice, many believed, undermines the country’s much-vaunted possession of credible leaders and generally signals a bleak future for the West African nation’s development. Next year will make it the fourth time Atiku, 71, would be contesting for the presidency. He would be 72 during the 2019 elections, meaning this could be his last shot at the presidency, after seeing his efforts in 1992, 2007 and 2011 proved unsuccessful. President Buhari, on the other hand, is presently 75, implying he could stay in office till 79 years, should he win the 2019 elections.
This, undoubtedly, sign posts negativity to Nigeria, going by his health records. Many have advised the President against seeking re-election in 2019, but Buhari had turned deaf hears, largely due to his quest to hang on to power, at all cost. Since the inception of the current leadership on May 29th, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has spent approximately 170 executive days on medical trips to London. In 2017 alone, the president was away on health grounds for 154 of his 230 days in power. The dangers of having a sick president for another four years on the country’s socio-economic development, unarguably, are catastrophic. Aside the huge sums splashed on these trips, without considering revamping the country’s deteriorating health sector, there is a danger of leaving the country’s affairs at the mercy of cabals whenever he jets out of Nigeria for medical treatment. The ruling government’s non-disclosure stance on the President’s ailment and the amount spent over his foreign trips call for concern in a country that claims to be practicing democracy. Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo and State House headquarters gulped about N1.05bn.
In a country where there are ballooning calls for youthful, vibrant and innovative leadership, why Nigeria keeps recycling these corrupt, old, incompetent and clueless warlords, who could barely pass integrity check should still be piloting the affairs of the country remains a major concern for observers. The recent trend of votes buying in the country, to a large extent, are clear-cut indications that these present crops of leaders have no interest of Nigerians at heart. At the recent PDP’s national convention held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in the Southern part of the country, claims of vote buying were rife. Presidential aspirants, according to local media sources, shared amounts ranging from $5,000, $4,000, $3,000, $2,500to influence votes of delegates at the convention, an allegation later debunked by the opposition party.
It is even more worrying that change of power in the country is no longer based on time-tested parameters of performance, credibility and perceived managerial-cum-leadership acumen of the candidates vying for elective positions. In 2015, President Buhari was largely elected because of rising apathy among Nigerians for the PDP-led government who until then had been in power for 16 years. Similar scenario is likely to define the 2019 elections. Nigerian politics is gradually toeing ‘try-your-luck’ syndrome, with no visible ‘saint’ among the major contenders for the 2019 elections, and a third force unlikely to grind out any results in the next year’s elections.
“But I’m afraid it’s going to go on like this,” says a Njoku Israel, a public commentator based in the country in a chat with CARACAL REPORTS.
“It (referring to the future of Nigeria’s democracy) is very bleak I must say. This is almost the same scenario that played out in the previous election (referring to 2015 elections). We conveniently forgot about Buhari’s failings and concluded that his honesty makes him the lesser evil between him and Jonathan. Now we are using the terms ‘unifier’ and ‘efficient administrator’ to prove that Atiku is the lesser evil, even when we know his hands are not clean. You do not want a corrupt person, someone that cannot even enter the US at the helm of affairs, not at this stage.
“But I’m afraid it’s going to go on like this.
“In Nigeria, money and political clout win elections. Kingsley Moghalu is considered by many to be the best candidate, but he has little of the above. Since the Nigerian electorate is not mature enough to choose efficiency and capability over clout and money, the logic goes that a vote for Kingsley, or Duke, or Fela would be a wasted vote because they have no chance of winning. Indeed, since Buharis following is a dedicated one, votes for those other guys (known as the third force) will simply fragment southern votes, which is where PDP would be seriously banking on.
“The solution to these problems lies with the electorate and the supposed third force. Can the voters get sophisticated enough? Can Kingsley and his ilk manage to build the kind of political structure APC and PDP have? The answers to these questions to me will determine our future. But for now, we will continue to be stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
Also speaking in a chat with CARACAL REPORTS, Sunday Elom a public affairs analyst said:
“First, talking about Atiku’s emergence as PDP presidential flag bear, he didn’t emerge a winner because of his credibility. PDP just considered that he appears to have higher political influence and muscle to give Buhari a hot chase in 2019 election. If it is based on credibility, somebody like Kwankwaso would have been considered more than Atiku or Saraki. Remember, Atiku is a former Vice President of this country. In fact, PDP’s focus is not on the credibility of its candidate but reclaiming its lost position as the ruling party.
“In terms of the possible effect of Atiku’s emergence on democracy of the country, the story will not be different from what we have been experiencing and what we still experiencing. We are still far from the true democracy Nigerians desire. Remember, if Atiku eventually wins the presidency, it means we merely changed from one former military man to another. Like I said earlier, the PDP’s is not actually interested in the transformation and revival of the epileptic and fragile democracy we run now but reclaiming its lost position as the ruling party. Their decision to give Atiku the ticket was more of party-interest oriented than public-interest. So, we will not be surprised if nothing eventually change should Atiku win the presidency in 2019 election. The true democracy Nigerians desire can only be achieved by a credible candidate. And I have not seen that candidate in this 2019 presidential race.”