2019: Atiku vs Buhari. By Reuben Abati

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Godfather of Lagos State politics, has every reason to give Buhari “an Ambode treatment.” The Atiku Challenge is real and bankable. The only option available to the incumbent is rigging!

There has been some clarity about Nigeria’s 2019 Presidential election, with the end of the October 7 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the conduct of party primaries at all levels. On Saturday, the ruling All Progressives Congress at its convention held in Abuja, ratified the choice of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari as its flagbearer, with a curious vote tally of 14.8 million. President Buhari and his supporters have continuously left no one in doubt that they intend to have a second shot at power and office. The number of party members across Nigeria who endorsed the Buhari candidacy has however raised eyebrows. 14. 8 million! In the 2015 elections, that was a little less than the same number of total votes that the incumbent got in a nationwide general vote. What is the actual number of persons on the party’s membership register – 15.6 million? Concerned observers have argued that this is an indication of the determination of the ruling party to rig the 2019 Presidential elections, in favour of a 75-year old candidate to whom they insist, there is no alternative. The No-Alternative talk is of course the height of sycophancy and the extent of its idiocy has now been exposed.

Just as the APC held its convention over the weekend, other political parties participating in the 2019 general elections were also busy choosing their own candidates, and now we have on the field, the following Presidential candidates: Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party), Donald Duke (Social Democratic Party), Olusegun Mimiko (Zenith Labour Party), Omoyele Sowore (African Action Congress), Kingsley Moghalu (Young Progressives Party), Fela Durotoye (Alliance for New Nigeria), Tope Fasua (Abundance Nigeria Renewal Party), Eunice Atuejide (National Interest Party), Adesina Fagbenro-Byron (Kowa Party), Eniola Olajuni (Alliance for Democracy), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim (Alliance for People’s Trust), Obadaiah Mailafia (African Democratic Congress), Alistair Soyode (Yes Electorates Solidarity), Hamza A-Mustapha (People’s Party of Nigeria), Chike Ukaegbu (Advanced Allied Party), Ahmed Buhari (Sustainable National Party), Usman Ibrahim Alhaji (National Rescue Movement), John Ogbor (All Progressives Grand Alliance), Yabagi Sani (Action Democratic Party), Moses Shipi (All Blending Party), Peter Nwangwu (We the People of Nigeria), Edozie Madu (Independent Democrats) and Obiageli Ezekwesili (Allied Congress Party of Nigeria). Twenty-six presidential candidates so far, except any one has been overlooked in our list.

What we know is that this is probably the most demographically diverse Presidential contest line-up in Nigerian history – an indication of the people’s determination to participate in the country’s political process at the highest level. From a 35-year old Ukaegbu to Buhari who is officially 75, the refrains in Nigeria’s emerging democratic process, deducible from the names of the political parties are “action”, “progressive”, “new”, “renewal”, “alliance”, “sustainable”, “rescue”, “people”, “democracy”, “democratic”, “blending”. This is in keeping with the mood of the opposition in the country. The people, as reflected in the political parties’ nomenclature, want a new Nigeria, change and progress. It is an obvious comment on the performance of the incumbent administration.

The point has been made, and it is a useful one, that whereas there has been increased interest in the Presidential race, particularly given the number of young candidates inspired by the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law that was passed in May 2018, in reality, the 2019 Presidential race in Nigeria is bound to end up as a two-horse race.

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