Between Buhari and Atiku, who do we trust more to deliver on his promises? As political historians will tell us, ‘trust is not having to guess what a candidate means.
It is in the nature of politics that the nomination process of candidates for different elective offices is often characterised by a frenzied and febrile atmosphere. In the past few days, many of the 91 registered political parties have gone through that process that ended midnight on Sunday, according to the requirement of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Maximum attention in minimum time and organizational dynamics are just two of the ways to avoid implosion of an immediate sort. Some parties came out worse off than others.
The much-awaited Presidential convention of the two dominant parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC), and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – took place at the weekend, in Abuja and Port Harcourt, Rivers state, respectively. While that of the APC was a mere formality, a coronation and affirmation of the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari for a second term, the event at Adokie Amasiemeka stadium in Port Harcourt, riveted national attention. It was a star-studded contest among twelve aspirants. In the end, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar was elected to be the presidential standard bearer of the party, with 1,532 delegate votes. It was a landslide. I doubt if anybody predicted the outcome and the margin of Atiku’s victory, not even the ruling APC. That’s why politics is described as “hardball”, sometimes, with unpredictable results. The immediate message from the well organized PDP convention is: Buhari beware!
With no disrespect to other presidential candidates in next year’s election, and no false sense of overconfidence, it is not unkind to say at this point that the presidential contest will be a straight battle between two Titans, President Buhari and Atiku. With the clock ticking 130 days to February, 2019, there are critical moments of truth we must begin to consider ahead of the general elections. The first truth is that President Buhari and former Vice President Atiku, offer different real choices and contrasting styles about real issues and solutions to problems that confront our country today. Between the two, the choice is clear for the average voter. And that, for good measure, raises the stakes much higher than the election of 2015, and perhaps more than at anytime in the present democratic dispensation. I think one of the key questions voters should ask is: Who, between Buhari and Atiku, has a better vision for Nigeria? In other words, between them, who can define the goals, the vision and the purposes of his presidency in a way that gives coherence to his administration and who can initiate concrete policies that will solve the challenges that we face today, unemployment, insecurity, poverty, division among different ethnic groups, and so on. Today, Nigeria is sicker and more divided than we were four years ago. Who between the two do we share his political philosophy and feel more comfortable with?
Between Buhari and Atiku, who do we trust more to deliver on his promises? As political historians will tell us, ‘trust is not having to guess what a candidate means. Trust is leveling with the people before the election about what you are going to do after the election’. As former American President Gerald Ford, noted in his memoir, …”trust is not being all things to all people but being the same thing to all people. Trust is not cleverly shading words so that each separate audience can hear what it wants to hear but saying plainly and simply what you mean and meaning what you say”. Simply put, it’s not enough for any candidate to say, ‘Trust me.’
Therefore, seeking a fresh mandate from the electorate, President Buhari will be put to task to tell Nigerians if his ‘Change’ agenda has brought positive results to the citizens, and indeed, the country. Has the APC record in three and a half years brought more progress than problems? There is no denying the fact that the APC administration under President Buhari inherited enormous challenges of immediate sort, but that was why the party was elected in 2015 to fix the problems. Therefore, the continuous living in denial and blaming the party it succeeded, have become inexcusable. The plain truth is that a widening divide has emerged across the country. A climate of disillusionment and fear has descended on the country. Anger is eating deep in the hearts of most Nigerians like acid. For the first time in decades, many Nigerians feel they no longer live in one country. And, you begin to ask: what has happened to the transformative ‘Change’ that APC promised, and the President’s assurance in his inaugural speech that he ‘belongs to all.’
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To say this is not to suggest that the President is ill-suited for the office, or doesn’t deserve to seek reelection. It simply means that at a time like this, the incumbent President needs reminding of the promises he made and will be held to account for promises not fulfilled. The fact that any President must not run away from is that, every leader’s authority comes mainly from the public’s belief in his right and ability to govern, and the willingness of the people to withhold their support for him if they feel strongly that he has underperformed.
It is high time Nigerians began to remind everyone seeking the exalted office of the presidency that the office is not a prize to be won, it is a duty to perform. It takes the right leadership to know that it’s a 24/7 work that requires eye on the ball, ability to make prompt decisions, trusting your gut, quick in recognising danger and confronting them rather wishing them away until they become monsters. One would have thought that after labelling former President Jonathan as “clueless”, APC would have been more foresighted in appraising our problems and tackling them head-on. Rather, Nigeria in less than four years is like a first division football club threatened by relegation. It needs a good ‘striker’ to get her out of the bottom log.
Can Atiku get the better of Buhari in the Presidential election, the way Buhari did against the then incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2015? The facts on ground speak volumes that history could repeat itself, that Atiku could spring a surprise. Contrary to expectation, PDP has had a peaceful, crisis-free presidential convention, came out a united force. APC didn’t get a disruptive situation it had hoped for from the PDP convention. Also,Adams Oshiomhole,the APC national chairman who takes pleasure in ridiculing real and perceived enemies of the party didn’t get his wish. He had thought PDP would settle for a serving governor as its presidential candidate. Instead, Atiku got the ticket.
As the election day approaches, APC beware. Ignore Atiku at your own peril. This man(Atiku) had proved many times in the past the kind of consummate politician, a strong mobiliser, an operations man that he is. Despite what his former principal did to demonize him and make him ‘unelectable’, Atiku has remained firm and dogged. Be sure APC will pressure the anti-graft agency to dig up scandals against Atiku, it may not stick. If scandals are indeed disqualifiers, no Nigerian politician should stand for any elective office.
I want to believe the two main presidential contenders will debate each other on a live television. This is not an election that anyone will dodge a debate as Buhari did in 2015. Presidential debate has become such a critical process of participatory democracy. It will afford Nigerians the opportunity to evaluate the policies, preparedness and demeanour of those who aspire to govern us, though the best debater may not be the best presidential material. Nevertheless, Nigerians must get involved in who the next president will be. And every presidential candidate must realise that the opportunity their respective political parties have given them is a matter of luck and courtesy, not by any divine right. Therefore, each should think of his or her place in history.