President Muhammadu Buhari is set to square off against former vice president Atiku Abubakar in a race to determine the next Nigeria’s president. Here are the factors that will determine who wins the election
As expected, the road to the 16 February 2019 presidential election has been paved with high drama and tension as the two major candidates, President Muhammadu Buhari of ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, who is seeking a second term and his main challenger, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and their supporters engaged in last minute battle to sell their candidacy to Nigerians. It was a battle in which the two main candidates and their supporters are keeping close watch on each other; waiting to exploit the slips, actions and inactions of each other for possible electoral gain.
For one, supporters of the two candidates had in the past few weeks engaged in what can be described as ‘crowd flaunting’ from their various campaign stops on various social media platforms in an obvious move to show that they are having the most support from Nigerians ahead of the election. Atiku and his party were, some weeks ago, accused of ‘weaponising’ the death of Nigerian soldiers for electoral gain. The accusation followed what many described as their unrestrained criticisms of the manner the Buhari administration and the military after the troops suffered a string of reversals in the battle against Boko Haram in North-east Nigeria.
Lately, the opposition party had seized on the 25 Friday January suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria to further justify its argument that the Buhari administration should not remain in office beyond 29 May, 2019. While arguments over the propriety or otherwise of the suspension of the CJN has continued among politicians, lawyers and other interested groups have continued in and outside the courts, Atiku latched into controversies to impugn the integrity of his main opponent in the 2019 president election in a letter he wrote to the Ambassadors of the European Union, United States, European Union and the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Nigeria on Tuesday, 29 January titled: Constitutional Breaches Under Buhari’s Watch, catalogued what he described as instances of President Buhari serial “breaching the provisions of our constitution and undermining organs and institutions of State in order to advance his personal interest.”
The suspension of Onnoghen topped the list of the compilation sent to the representatives of the foreign mission in Nigeria by the PDP presidential candidate who said his action was intended to goad the international community to pile pressure on the Buhari government “to desist from these violations and ensure a level playing field for the general elections that are only a couple of weeks away.” Even then, Atiku’s entreaties in the letter that “The choices facing all of us is either to stand aside and watch Nigerians reelect a president who has been in constant violation of the laws of the land without remorse; or to show him the way out and elect a true democrat,” barely disguised his appeal for support from the foreign envoys in his battle against Buhari.
The APC as well as its national chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, had replied Atiku emphasizing that removal of judges indicted for corruption was a worldwide affair while also affirming that as a sovereign nation; Nigeria will not take order from other countries.
Buhari, Atiku, the leading contenders in a field of 72
Such spat between Atiku and Buhari will continue between the incumbent president and his major challenger as both men deploy all available means to them to get the support of Nigerians ahead of the presidential election. While the two have continued to grab headlines, Nigerians will have a choice of 72 candidates to choose from when they go to the polls on 16 February, according to a list released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC early this month.
Some of the other presidential candidates in the large field include Dr. Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Peoples Movement of Nigeria (APMN); Mr. Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC); Mr. Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party (YPP); Mr. Sina Fagbenro-Byron of the KOWA Party; and Mr. Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) Mr. Obadaiah Mailafia of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Tope Fasua of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party ( ANRP).
Going by their profiles, most of the other candidates are younger, more educated and knowledgeable about contemporary social economic development globally than the two now regarded as the main contenders in the election. Some of the candidates like Moghalu, Ezekwesili, Sowore, Fasua have also proffered solutions considered to be refreshing to some of the critical challenges confronting the country.
Still, many Nigerians believe that it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eyes of a needle than for any of the candidates to upstage the apple cart to emerge as Nigeria’s president in 2019. This is because many of the parties are not only new, they lacked structure and resources to deploy for campaign across Nigeria.
The lack of visibility of most of the candidates on posters, radio and television advertisements and on campaign rallies about two weeks to the election attest to this fact. Efforts by the aspirants to come up with a consensus candidate that will square up against the two main contenders were unsuccessful before the end of submission of names of presidential candidates to INEC by the political parties. Talks about the possibility of the presidential candidates forming a coalition that will result in only one candidate squaring up against the two main contenders were revived following the withdrawal of Ezewesili from the presidential race.
Analysts, however, said such coalition is belated and will not have any effect on permutations that the 2019 election will mostly be a two-horse race between the candidate of PDP and APC. Indeed, there were talks of a ‘Third Force’ presidential candidate by some activists led by Lagos based lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba, just before the kick- off of nominations of candidates for the 2019 general elections. The Third Force coalition arose out of concern that the ruling APC and the opposition PDP which governed Nigeria from 1999 to 2015 are out of their depths in terms of proffering solutions to the problems confronting the country. But the brains behind the movement were also realistic enough to know that the two established parties can only be displaced if the over 90 other political parties registered in Nigeria work together.
Reports recently suggested that the coalition had adopted Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim as its presidential candidate to challenge Buhari and Atiku. Olawepo-Hashim who, running on the platform of the People’s Trust (PT), won the party’s presidential ticket following a fusion of over 10 political parties, including Agbakoba-led National Intervention Movement.
But most of the parties in the coalition that adopted Olawepo-Hashim are mere briefcase organisations that are currently not in control of even a ward in any of the local governments in Nigeria, thus may not offer any significant advantage to the PT candidate in the battle against the two main contenders.
But then, Profossor Wole Soyinka, at a programme organised by Citizen Forum in Lagos on Thursday 31 January, insisted that Nigerians should not be intimidated by the enormity of forming a Third Force coalition. ‘‘It is not whether you succeed or not in presenting an alternative in the current situation. That is not the issue; the important thing is to at least plant a seed,’‘ he said.
Atiku, Buhari: Road To 2019 Electoral Contest
Atiku , who emerged the presidential candidate of Nigeria’s main opposition party following his victory at the presidential primary of the party held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in October 2018 can be described as a man with undying quest to rule Nigeria. The 72-year old who has morphed from a retired Customs officer to one of the most successful, richest Nigerian businessmen has been in politics since 1991 when he unsuccessfully contested for the governornorship seat of the defunct Gongola State which is now Adamawa and Taraba States.
While he also failed in his bid to get the presidential ticket of the defunct Social Democratic Party in 1993, Atiku contested for and was elected the governor of his home state of Adamawa in 1998 on the platform of PDP following Nigeria’s return to democracy.
He, however, did not assume office as governor as he was later chosen as the running mate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the PDP candidate in 1999 presidential election. He went on to win and was sworn in alongside his boss, a Nigeria’s vice president and president respectively on 29 May, 1999. However, both men fell apart before the end of their first tenure in office, though the crack in relationship became visible at the beginning of their second tenure.
Atiku attributed the twist in their relationship to his refusal to support a constitutional amendment that would have enabled his boss to go for a third term of office. But Obasanjo had alleged that his problem with the vice president has to do with corrupt practices he involved himself in while in office. The former vice president was subsequently forced out of the ruling party by Obasanjo and his cronies. Not one that will be deterred from whatever he set his eyes on, Atiku towards the 2007 presidential election joined the then opposition Action Congress, AC, and got the presidential ticket of the party.
INEC, which was then led by Maurice Iwu, obviously working at the behest of the presidency had, based on a report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, refused to put Atiku on the presidential ballot until it was compelled by a judgment of Supreme Court few days to the election. Atiku came third behind Buhari in the election won by the late Umaru Yar’Adua of PDP which was described as the most brazenly rigged in the history of the country by local and international observers. Yar’Adua got 24 million votes while Buhari and Atiku polled six million and 2.4 million votes respectively in the election. Atiku returned to the PDP soon after the death of Yar’Adua and also unsuccessfully tried to run for the presidency under the platform of the party in the 2011 general election.
Sensing that with the then incumbent President Jonathan’s strong leash on PDP, there was no way for him to contest the 2015 presidency on the platform of the party, Atiku had moved over to APC when the mega coalition was formed ahead of the general election. In the second contest involving him and Buhari, Atiku lost the presidential ticket to the retired General at the APC presidential primary held in Lagos late 2014.
Though the party was victorious in the presidential election, Atiku had become estranged with the party and its presidential candidate few months into office and soon returned to the PDP where he was able to get the presidential ticket which has now pitched him against Buhari. “I have been in politics for some time and I have never hidden my ambition to be president. My motivation is simple: I believe I have the experience and ideas to help Nigeria move in the right direction and achieve its potential,” Atiku said of his quest to govern Nigeria.
President Buhari, the presidential candidate of APC, ended his serial ‘contest and fail’ for the presidency with his victory over former President Goodluck Jonathan in 14 February 2015 presidential election.
It was believed that Buhari’s victory was aided by the fact that he contested on a party that was made a truly national platform through mergers and defection of some PDP governors. Buhari scored 15, 416,221 votes to defeat the then incumbent who got 12, 853, 162 votes in the election. The retired General who was also Nigeria’s military Head of State between 1983 and 1984 began his attempt to return to power as an elected president in 2003 when contested the presidency on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples’ Party, ANPP.
He also contested on the platform of the party in 2007 on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, 2011. CPC merged with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, which had as its stronghold the South-west part of the country, the ANPP with North-east and North- west as its strongholds and a part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA ahead of the 2015 general election.
Buhari also served as the Military administrator of the defunct North-Eastern State, petroleum minister, member of the Supreme Military Council. He was also Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund, among others.
‘Next Level’ versus ‘Get Nigeria Working Again’
Atiku launched his bid to take over power from President Buhari in November, 2018 through direct address to Nigerians using Facebook and other social media platforms. In the address, the PDP presidential candidate had decried the high unemployment rate among the youths as well as rising incidents of poverty and insecurity across the country. “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,” Atiku said.
In his180-page policy document to ‘Get Nigeria Working Again’, the former vice president said his target is to grow the economy to a gross domestic product of $900bn by 2025 and lift at least 50 million people out of extreme poverty within the same period. In a recent article published on the website of an international television station, the former vice president had elucidated on his plans to tackle problems of extreme poverty, Boko Haram insurgency, out of school children among others in Nigeria. “Fundamental to addressing all these issues is restoring Nigeria’s economic growth. Without a growing economy, firms cannot employ our people. Without jobs, poverty and hunger grow. As poverty and hunger grow, so do the conditions that lead to insecurity,” Atiku said.
He listed examples of policies he will implement immediately if he is elected to ensure the growth of the economy to include establishing of a stable macroeconomic environment which will be brought about through monetary and fiscal policies targeted at ensuring low inflation, stable exchange rate which will be achieved through floating of the naira, low corporate income tax rate and a raft of incentives to encourage the manufacturing sector.
However, the PDP presidential candidate’s revelations that he will liberalise the economy and privatise state enterprises, especially the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and the four refineries have raised red flag among Nigerians. This is in spite of his claim that the proceeds from the sale of the assets will be ploughed into a special fund for the development of education and health.
When he was queried about the potential beneficiaries of his privatization plans at a business summit he had with players in the private sector in Lagos recently, Atiku said, “I am also not going to enrich members of my family, but my friends. Are my friends not entitled to be enriched? As long as there is no element of corruption there. And there was none during our time, when we privatized the banks, when we privatized institutions of the private sector.”
As Nigeria’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, Atiku was the head of the Economic Council as well as chairman of the National Council on Privatisation. The former VP and his boss were accused of selling Nigeria’s assets to their friends and family members during the period.
A document in possession of this magazine analyzed the business relationship between Atiku and a host of businessmen and companies with business interest in Nigeria and across the world. Some of the businessmen whose business link are well established in the document include Gabriel Volpi, Daniel Sigaud, Gian Angelo Pericci, Edwin Wiederfield while the companies include LetsGo Ltd. Inc. Integrated Logistics Services Inc. Sima Holding and Ltd. The individuals and companies were identified in the findings of the U.S Senate Committee on Homeland Security with the title: Keeping Foreign Corruption Out of the United States: Four Case Histories.
The PDP presidential candidate is featured in the report as a case study of “Using offshore companies to bring suspect funds to the United States.”
The Senate Committee had noted that: “From 2000 to 2008, Jennifer Douglas, a U.S citizen and fourth wife of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and former candidate for President in Nigeria helped her 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 had always denied wrongdoing, claiming he was not indicted in the U.S report. Segun Sowumi, one of the spokespersons for the Atiku presidential campaign, claimed the fund transfer to the US was investigated and it was discovered to be part of the fund which the presidential candidate used to establish his university in Adamawa State: “It was investigated and it was clearly shown to be of no crime. We must be careful to show that we do not take small queries to mean grand larceny or grand indictment .”
Nevertheless, the fact was that Atiku was unable to visit the United States until early this month for more than 10 years allegedly over his indictment in the US Senate report. And when he did visit, it was all mired in controversy.
Defending the privatisation plan of Atiku, Kassim Afegbua, one of the spokesperson for the PDP presidential campaign said some businesses are better left in the hands of the private sector. He cited the example of Transcorp Hilton which was built by former military President Ibrahim Babangida and privatized under the Obasanjo/Atiku government. “Today, you can Google it – Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, is the highest profit making hotel in all the Hilton family all over the world. It has maintained that record for three years because it was handed over to private individuals and now they have transformed it. He added that the country will derive a lot of benefit from a government that is able to do the right privatization: “If you feel that particular asset is not giving the desired productivity, why not sell? The question is who are they selling to? Are they Nigerians? They are going to be Nigerians. Transcorp was sold to Nigerians.”
Also, former President Olusegun who, before now had been shouting on rooftops that Atiku is corrupt has “forgiven” his former second in command, claiming now that the former VP is the kind of leader Nigeria needs now. How far that endorsement can carry Atiku will be determined on 16 February.
On the other hand, President Buhari encapsulated his plan to tackle the various problems confronting the country if he is elected for a second term in his ‘Next Level’ document. On the problems of unemployment, the President revealed his plans to scale up the N-Power scheme to engage one million graduates in a skill acquisition scheme for up 10 million youths under a voucher system in partnership with private sector and schemes designed to create massive jobs in the agriculture, ICT and creative industry and creation of Regional Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones among others.
Also listed in the plan are plans to scale up infrastructure development through massive investments in roads, rail and power. The President’s plan also included innovations to facilitate business and entrepreneurship, human capital enhancement and development and inclusion of more youths and females in government.
He also promised to step up the fight against corruption if he gets a fresh mandate from Nigerians. “Corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria. Despite the gains we made in closing the gaps, we know that there is still much ground to cover to stop the systemic corruption. We are committed to deepening the work we started this first term,” Buhari said.
The Integrity Question
When Atiku said in his letter to the foreign embassies, “If Nigerians opted not to elect me as president, the incumbent must go into the polls on his own record of lack of respect for the rule of law and not on the spurious perception of his “Integrity.” In his letter to the foreign embassies, he attacked a virtue which many of Buhari’s supporters say is a major distinguishing factor between the President and the PDP candidate.
They further argue that the APC presidential candidate is an honest and disciplined individual needed by the country at this time to rescue it from the corruption it was mired in during the 16 years that PDP was in power. But the PDP has argued that Buhari has in the over three years he has been in power revealed that he is not only incompetent to govern the country, but narrow minded, parochial.
In contrast, PDP supporters describe Atiku as urbane, pro –business, having been a very successful and wealthy businessman himself, a nationalist with friends across the country.
They also argue that even if the President is not corrupt, he is surrounded by corrupt individuals and has serially abetted corruption in his government by failing to act against his appointees indicted for graft.
Speaking at a presidential campaign rally at Abakaliki Township Stadium, Ebonyi State, the President affirmed that he is not a corrupt person: “I can assure you that I, as the President today, have never been in a position of abusing trust. As a governor of the whole six North Eastern states, as Minister of Petroleum for over three years and as a former Head of State. I was arrested, detained, investigated but they never found anything against me.” He also claimed that he has fulfilled the promises he made before his election into office and therefore deserves re-election for another four years.
Can Atiku Beat Buhari?
According to INEC, 84, 004, 084 million Nigerians registered to vote in the 2019 general election. The distribution of the registered voters across the geographical zones, according to the electoral commission is as follows: 12,841, 279 (South-South); 16, 292, 212 (South-West); 10, 057, 130 (South-East); 13,366,070 (North-Central); 20,158,100 (North-West); and 11, 289, 293 (North-East).
With Atiku and Buhari sharing the same attributes in terms of ethnicity, region of origin, two main factors of influence on voters’ decision in Nigeria, it is expected that consideration of issues such as canvassed above should help to determine the ultimate winner of the presidential election.
Both candidates have been canvassing votes across the country, speaking and making promises on issues unique to each area. Members of both parties have also been emphatic on their chances of winning the election. “Our chances are very, very bright. In fact, we are the party to beat in this election. Our chances are very bright in the sense that Nigerians have come to realise that APC is a distributor of poverty, hunger, deprivations and a promoter in very ingenious manner of nepotism, cronyism, selective amnesia and hypocrisy of the highest order,” Afegbua said when asked to analyse the chances of the PDP presidential candidate defeating Buhari based.
Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the Director General of Buhari Campaign Organisation also believed that Buhari will win the election. I know we will win in most parts of the country. I hate to say it because I’m not God, what is the alternative to Buhari?
Analysts say for any of the two main candidates to win the presidential election, they must do well in the South-west and Northern part of the country where 61,105,675 out of the 84,004,084 eligible voters reside. Going by traditional voting pattern, the candidate of APC has since his foray into politics in 2003 always performed well in the North-east part of the country made up of Bauchi, Adamawa, Yobe, Borno and Gombe with Taraba being the only exception.
However, with the infighting between APC members in Bauchi which has led to defection of some key members of the party, Buhari may find it difficult repeating his feat of garnering 931, 598 votes to the opposition’s 86,085 in 2015. It is also expected that the choice of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, as the PDP governorship and the return of Yakubu Dogara to the opposition party will help to ensure that the odds are not so heavily tilted in favour of Buhari this time around.
However, the defections of ex-Governor Isa Yuguda and the immediate past Deputy National Chairman (North) of PDP, Sen. Garba Babayo Gamawa and a Board of Trustees member, Alhaji Kaulaha Aliyu, analysts say, will ensure that the state remains in the kitty of Buhari in 2019.
President Buhari is not expected to have any problem winning in Borno where he is well adored in spite of the recent resurgence of Boko Haram insurgency as the people generally believe that the President is committed to end Boko Haram terrorism.
Also, the President is expected to gather the majority of the votes in Yobe. However, the PDP presidential candidate is expected to win in Taraba State where the governor, Ishaku Darius is popular and security problems of farmers herdsmen clashes have turned the majority of the people against APC. However, the situation in Gombe, with a sitting PDP Governor and Adamawa which is the hometown of Atiku is considered dicey as both states can go to any of the two main contenders.
The President is also expected to generally win in North-west, the zone with the highest number of voters in Nigeria. The President has always had his highest votes in the zone made up of Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Jigawa States since he entered the presidential race in 2003.
But with a fellow Fulani man on the ticket, analysts say, the President’s vote haul from the zone may be lower as he will certainly share the spoils with the PDP candidate. Also, there are fears that APC may not do well in Kaduna as a result of the security problem in parts of the state which many of the inhabitants believe the government has not done enough to tackle.
“We always believe that the entire North-west are going to vote for us and we are going to have a good outing in the North-east, in spite of Atiku, we are going to have a good outing in Adamawa, a presidential source told this magazine last week. However, Afegbua argued that it will not be possible for the President to get his traditional 12 million votes from the region this time around.
He also noted that unlike 2015, Buhari is now contesting against a fellow Northerner, a Fulani, a Northern Muslim . “All these worked against Jonathan in 2015. But this time around, a Muslim is contesting against him, a Northerner is contesting against him, a Fulani man – a titled one for that matter – Waziri of Adamawa is contesting against him. It is going to be fight to finish.”
In the North Central zone, analysts say Niger is the only state that can be said the APC candidate will win with certainty. Other states in the zone: Benue, Plateau, Kwara, Kogi and Nasarawa State are considered too close to call. “In North Central, we used to be apprehensive of Benue and Plateau States, but in Plateau, we are very hopeful now, if you look at the turn out at our last campaign rally there. We will spring a surprise in Benue. Sometimes, it is the elite that are making the noise,” official of the presidency said while assessing the chance of the APC candidate in the region based on a reent poll.
Also, the presidential candidate of APC is expected to win in the six states of the South –west where the party is in absolute control of the states while the PDP candidate is expected to be victorious in the South–south and South-east states. The recent endorsement of the President by a faction of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-political group, the infrastructural projects in the zones, especially the Lagos –Ibadan standard gauge railway, as well as the fact that the Vice President hails from the region are factors expected to work in favour of Buhari in the South-west. Voters in the South-east are also expected to vote for Atiku over his promise that the presidency will shift to the region at the end of his first term in office as well as the choice of Peter Obi as his running mate.
However, a source close to Buhari Campaign Organisation told this magazine that with the ongoing construction of some major infrastructure projects in the South-east and the personal relationship between the President and some of the governors, Buhari’s outing may not be as woeful as it was in 2015. According to him, the yet to abate crises generated by the emergence of Atiku as the presidential candidate of PDP and subsequent choice of Peter Obi as his running mate between the governors of the region and the party will work in favour of APC.
He noted that the governors of the region and other stakeholders have also been meeting with the President to pledge their support and put their demands across to him. He also noted that the APC governorship candidates in the five states of the region are also politicians with strong support base. “Between the governors and our own candidates they will fight for Buhari to at least have 25 per cent in each of the South eastern states. In 2015, we have less than 200,000 votes in the entire Southeast, but it is not going to be like that this time around,” he said.
The APC official conceded that Rivers is a lost case for the party because of the Court ruling barring INEC from putting the party on the ballot for election there.
He, however, said the party will work to ensure that the presidential election in the state is not “massively rigged” with the aim of stopping the state from “parading those outrageous figures they usually parade at elections,” to limit the gains of the PDP presidential candidate there. He added that the party will similarly police elections in Bayelsa.
But he noted that intra party crises in the Delta State chapter of the party may affect performance of Buhari in Delta, though he expressed hope that the feuding party members may come together to ensure that the party gets at least 25 per cent of the votes in the state.
In addition, he added that APC is expected to do well in Akwa Ibom State, especially with former Governor Godswill Akpabio now in the party. “Atiku made a mistake when he went for Peter Obi. If I were Atiku, I would have picked somebody from the South-west to be my running mate. Let him contend with Osinbajo in South-west.
But the moment Atiku picked a South-east person, you don’t even need to campaign in South-west any longer, they now say ‘what is in it for us, they said ‘SGF’. The VP didn’t fall from the sky too, he has a base. That has solidified the South-west for APC,” said the source.
On the contrary, Senate President Bukola Saraki who is the Director General of the Atiku Campaign Organisation said in a recent television interview that there is no pathway for Buhari to win the 2019 presidential election. He noted that the turnout of people at the campaign rallies of the PDP had already indicated this. “If you look at the turnout in 2015 for APC, and the turnout for PDP now, you will see that a lot of people are turning to the PDP. A lot of people are clearly disappointed in the North-west and the North-east and they are turning to the PDP,” the Senate President said. “Our candidate will win because he has the solutions. The major challenge of today is creating jobs for our youth and fixing the economy.”
As it usually happens when elections are approaching, the opposition would accuse the incumbent of wanting to use the electoral umpire to rig election (that also came from Obasanjo). However, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, said that the commission was not under pressure to rig in nfavour of any candidate.
Yakubu made the clarification at a meeting with the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and other senior police officers in Abuja.
In the words of Yakubu: “This is to be expected in an election year when people make all sorts of insinuations. I want to tell you that we as a commission have never been under any pressure to do what is wrong. We will never compromise our integrity to do what the law says that we shouldn’t and for the 2019 general elections, I want to assure and reassure Nigerians that votes and nothing but votes will count. With this level of cooperation from the security agencies, I want to assure you that Nigerians will have a pleasant voting experience in 2019,” he said.
He said that the nation was looking forward to INEC and the Nigeria Police Force to conduct credible elections. Yakubu said that the media would be provided unimpeded access to the commission during the elections. He called for a close working relationship between the commission and the police at all levels.
“The more we collaborate with the police, the easier the prosecution of election offenders. We are going to consult the security agencies for the deployment of personnel for the elections. We must work in partnership to give Nigerians a pleasant election in the upcoming elections, our responsibility is to serve the Nigerian people,” he said.
Given all the measurables and barring any unforseen circumstances, the question still remains: Can Atiku defeat Buhari?
Nigeria As “Election 2019” Draws Near
It should be agreed that there are different ways of apprehending and describing the situation in Nigeria as the country draws near “Election 2019”, the general elections beginning on February 16, 2019. But I have chosen, naturally and unsurprisingly, an angle and a perspective informed by the burning interests of the working, toiling and poor masses of the country. This angle and this perspective, I believe, coincide with and describe the general position of the Nigerian Left. By “general position”, I mean an ideological – political position to which every tendency of the movement which considers itself both Left and Nigerian ought to subscribe. And, finally, and for the avoidance of doubt, readers are reminded that by the Nigerian Left I mean, in this historical period, the aggregate of Nigerian Marxists, socialists and radical democrats—where “radical” carries its original meaning, “from the roots”.
The Nigerian situation as we approach “Elections 2019” can be sketched around five issues. Three of these are “problems of Nigeria” as summarized in my last published piece, Nigeria 2019: Hoping for another reprieve? (January 3, 2019). The fourth issue may be called the “power of incumbency”. The fifth is the problem of the Nigerian Left.
The problem of the Nigerian Left forces itself into this exercise on account of its critical importance. This importance can be expressed as a proposition: Both the survival of Nigeria as a united country, de facto and de jure, and the concrete positive transformation of quality of life in it depend, in the immediate future, on what the Nigerian Left does—within and outside electoral politics. The Nigerian Left? Yes, the Nigerian Left—its current fractiousness and factionalism notwithstanding. There is simply no other historically–determined sociopolitical force to perform this task.
In the article cited above, I summarized the “three problems of Nigeria” as: “Massive class exploitation and state robbery resulting in grinding mass poverty and misery; elitist understanding and practice of “democracy”, moral degeneracy and bankrupt governance ideas on the part of Nigeria’s ruling class; and the national question whose enormity and complexity not only the ruling class but also many progressives and liberals—and even Leftists—do not appreciate”. These three problems will, below, be taken up and briefly expanded. This will be followed by brief statements on the other two issues.
All segments and factions of Nigeria’s ruling class—directly and through their ideologues—acknowledge the existence of “grinding mass poverty and misery”. It is simply impossible to ignore: they see it and breathe it on their way to and from their “paradise on earth”. But beyond corruption they blame the situation on the incompetence, mismanagement, insensitivity, neglect, selfishness and shortsightedness of rival political groups. They completely ignore class exploitation and reduce “state robbery” to only corruption. But class exploitation is rooted in a political economy—capitalism—whose most effective lubricant is corruption. And state robbery goes beyond “high-profile stealing” by state functionaries, which is punishable by the “law of the state” to what can be described as “armed robbery by the state,” itself.
Armed robbery by the state? Yes, armed robbery by the state. For when the state goes beyond its development plans, beyond its budgets, beyond its propaganda and starts manipulating “discretionary powers” to seize what belongs to the working and toiling masses and goes beyond lies, blackmail and bribery, and begins to threaten protests with “law and order” measures—of which it has legal monopoly—what do you call this?
Nigeria’s ruling class, as a class, cares little about democracy or its history. The doctrine to which it subscribes says that “democracy” only came to Nigeria 20 years ago, in 1999, that the first period of its young life, (1999-2015), was administered by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), that PDP was succeeded in 2015 by the All Progressives Congress (APC). The legacy of that first period is a dominant subject of the present campaign. The manner of the 2015 transfer of power, though an important subject, seems to have been stepped down by mutual consent, as a subject, by all factions of the ruling class. Pursuing it will hurt all factions. Their theory and history of party organization start and end with PDP, APC, other ruling class parties of the Fourth Republic and the inspirations they claim they derive from ruling class parties of America and Western Europe.
Nigeria’s ruling class, as a class, does not see the coming elections simply as a struggle between APC, PDP and other participating parties. Rather, it sees the contest as a battle involving the ruling class’ two power blocs and a number of political forces. These blocs and forces are seen as essentially ethnic, regional and religious. Put differently, Nigeria’s ruling class does not see APC, PDP and other ruling class parties as the highest political expressions of their class. Rather, it considers the power blocs and political forces as higher political expressions. If you cannot easily apprehend my use of “power blocs and political forces”, look at the formations described by the Nigerian media as “sociocultural” or “sociopolitical”: Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle-Belt Forum, etc.
To examine my proposition, it is sufficient, for a start, to check out the current debate within the ruling class, through leading party and government functionaries and spokespersons of the sociocultural and sociopolitical groups on the movement of Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. You will see that from time to time these functionaries and spokespersons are compelled—for the avoidance of doubt—to come out openly on the ethnic, regional—and even and religious—dimensions of the struggle which the fractions and factions of their class are currently waging.
In response to this debate and the reality informing it, the task of the Nigerian Left is two-fold: One: To resist closing its eyes to reality (what Nigeria is today) and seeing only its hopes for the future. Two: To come out clearly with its own position – and not to “moderate” the debate or support one side or another, or dismiss the debate as irrelevant or, worst of all, pretend not to hear the debate. It is in respect of this second task that I remind readers of the political proposition I have been offering for at least 25 years and which has currently assumed the name, Popular-democratic restructuring or Restructuring under popular-democracy.
Some Leftist parties are participating in the coming elections. Some others are not participating because they are still consolidating. Yet others are not participating either because they were refused registration or have not applied for registration. And then, there are formations of the Nigerian Left that ideologically and politically reject registration as a condition for participating in political struggle. Although the result of all these is the current relatively small specific weight of the Nigerian Left in electoral politics, the situation we now have is a step forward beyond 2015. The next qualitative step is not the formation of new parties or groups, or renewed attempts to register those already in existence, but the establishment of a centre for coordination, ideological education, research, documentation and publicity.
In general, the control of state power during elections by a group or groups participating in the contest or partisanly interested in who wins, is a factor in that contest. This is what is popularly called “power of incumbency”. But the relative weight of this factor varies from place to place, period to period and system to system. Even within the same space, the same system and the same period, the weight varies from regime to regime. What is obvious now is that the “power of incumbency” in “Election 2019” is very much stronger than it was in “Election 2015”, and perhaps strongest since “Election 1999”.
—Madunagu, mathematician and journalist, writes from Calabar, Cross River State.