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Contrasting major presidential contenders in tomorrow’s poll

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor)
22 February 2019   |   3:52 am
Without doubt the two major presidential contenders in tomorrow’s election are the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the main challenger on Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) platform.  Against this background, therefore, and unless for reason of unexpected voter revolt that could throw up a dark…

APC Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari

APC Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari

Without doubt the two major presidential contenders in tomorrow’s election are the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the main challenger on Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) platform. 

Against this background, therefore, and unless for reason of unexpected voter revolt that could throw up a dark horse, one of the above two would emerge from tomorrow’s election as Nigeria’s president for the next four years beginning from May 29, 2019.
It is still a subject of intense disputations and discourse whether the country’s electorate has matured to the sophisticated level of bypassing candidates of the two strong political parties to settle for relatively moderate platforms like Peoples Trust (PT), with Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hassim as its candidate, and Young Progressives Party (YPP), with Prof. Kingsley Moghalu as its candidate.

Although there is no concrete evidence to support the claim in some quarters that the two biggest parties could end up as vagabond political forces that would cancel out each other, the possibility of a close tie, which might necessitate a runoff, seems high. 

Be that as it may, the main focus in tomorrow’s presidential poll would be trained on Buhari and Atiku, just as Olawepo-Hashim and Moghalu remain in the shadows of the big two.

What follows is a psycho-social and political background distillation of APC and PDP gladiators:

HE is a former military head of state. Taciturn, mostly paranoid and insular, he is also given to combative oral delivery that tends towards belligerence.

Perhaps, flowing from his military background, the incumbent understands the language of bellicosity more than diplomacy.
Two out of his three action plans if re-elected revolve more around force than form and formality.

The president maintains that if elected for a second term he would continue his three-point agenda – fight against corruption, insecurity and economic diversification. 

Limited to a large extent by his disputed academic accomplishments, the APC candidate is innocent of original ideas and constrained by accurate communication of noble strategies to attain his targets.
He made repeated attempts for the presidency before the 2015 poll victory and cut the public image as a no-nonsense reformer with untainted integrity.

After nearly four years on the saddle, the president’s high points have been greatly punctured, revealing deficit statesmanship and political uprightness.
The incumbent has manifested disdain for fair competition and merit-based reward system as he continues to indulge recalcitrant allies and non-performing appointees.

Claiming to be a born-again democrat, the APC standard bearer tends to abhor openness and transparency. 

He was accused of constricting the democratic space during the (s)election of his party’s national chairman as well as the secretary, but denying some governors similar gesture.

As a result of his ambivalent tendency and unassertive leadership style, his party suffers from undulating policies and tactics.
President Buhari’s anti-democratic disposition remains glaring.

Failure to engage with the National Assembly on budgeting processes, refusal to endorse the Electoral Act amendment bill, subjection of rule of law to a nebulous national interest and preference for summary prosecution to legal process are some of uncivil excesses that define his stint as a president in a democracy.     
The incumbent failed to chart clear-cut and concrete strategies to deliver on his set goals, thereby suggesting a lack of originality in political thinking. He is also encumbered by narrow worldview and passion for knowledge-based analysis of global trends and tendencies. 

He endears himself to the wretched of the earth through affected stoicism and public disdain for opulence, even as he wallows in private enjoyment of patrician taste and primitive accumulation.

The president has an uncanny way of cleaning his tracks, such that not many have heard about his failed investment attempts, particularly in the rested PANALPINA.
To a large extent candidate Buhari’s four years in office as president has helped to demystify him, especially his famed integrity and poverty. Of special note is his failure to make his assets declaration public and double standards over persons accused of corruption.
That the president ignored the implications of having a man of property as Chief of Army Staff, who displayed questionable patriotism by owning property outside the country, does not attest to his noised intolerance to corruption.

HE was vice president in the Fourth Republic and could be described as a democrat. He is also given to consensus building and teamwork.

Despite modest academic work, the former vice president continued to retool himself, thereby becoming conversant with modern dynamics of political economy and statecraft.
Atiku’s journey through political tutelage after retiring from the Department of Customs and Excise could be seen in the way he has helped to deepen the country’s democratic experience. During the transition to civil rule programme organised by the military, the PDP presidential candidate contested the presidential ticket of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and eventually stepped down to facilitate the ultimate emergence of late Chief MKO Abiola as standard bearer.
Perhaps on account of his stint in the customs, Atiku developed smart investment sense by taking to estate development. Wealth creation became his pastime, such that with time and cooperation with established businessmen, he was able to navigate his way as an entrepreneur. Having made money and friends across the country, Atiku became one of the active players upon Nigeria’s return to the path of democratic governance, when he contested and won the gubernatorial election of Adamawa State ahead of 1999 general election.
Although Atiku prepared for a journey to Adamawa Government House, the political journey took him to the presidency instead, where he served as vice president. He demonstrated his famed consensus building approach by mobilizing state governors for effective role-play in the nascent democracy.

Based on his creative mind and listening ears, the administration was able to pull through some laudable initiatives, particularly building of necessary institutions for good governance and nation building.   
But following the loss of camaraderie between him and his principal, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, towards the tail end of their tenure, Atiku took constant recourse to the judiciary to determine constitutional issues involved.

It was discovered that even when a presidential candidate selects his running mate before an election, after they have been elected and sworn into office, the principal cannot sack his deputy on mere whims.
From his major journeys through the courts and other political parties, Atiku gathered enormous experience which has enriched his politics and conciliatory approach needed in every democracy. 

The former vice president is not disconnected from reality and contemporary issues troubling Nigeria as a country. He has demonstrated such insight in his belief that restructuring holds the key to socio-economic renaissance of multi-ethnic Nigeria.
Atiku’s team building abilities contributed to the rancour-free post convention re-engineering of PDP as a competitive opposition platform for the 2019 election. He has his original ideas on how to build the party and run an inclusive administration.

Atiku has the capacity to relate with 360 Nigerians on first name basis across the six geopolitical zones as well as being able to call them on the telephone.

He does seem to possess a tunnel vision and does not shy away from debates and discussions on sundry social, economic, political and developmental topics.

Two alternatives
UNDER the shadows of the two big presidential frontrunners are two other alternatives contending for what has come to be referred to as the third force: Olawepo-Hashim is the presidential candidate of PT, while Moghalu is the candidate of YPP.
As a former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Moghalu was until he announced his interest to contest the presidential election, the preferred potential running mate to Atiku. 

Moghalu insists that the 2019 election offers Nigerians a golden opportunity to discard recycled politicians that he said are responsible for the stunted growth and development of the country.

He declared that the country’s leadership problem is located mainly in its venal politics, stressing that great leadership must be transformational.

According to the YPP candidate, “Leadership for Nigeria requires a worldview that can build a real nation-state out of the hodge-podge of ethnic nationalities lumped together by Britain as colonial power. For this to happen, a Nigerian leader must be able to rally his or her countrymen and women around a common goal and destiny that is higher than what divides us.”
Moghalu, who prides in his lofty educational background, had his chances brightened when Literature Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, endorsed his presidential ambition, in addition to a similar endorsement by the Middle Belt Union.

He does not subscribe to zoning of elective positions, saying it panders to mediocrity and destruction of merit, just as he claims that the young people of Nigeria possess the demographic advantage to reorder the leadership selection process in Nigeria.
Olawepo-Hashim, who also dismisses zoning, said candidates like Moghalu became prominent merely by virtue of being appointed into one position or another, stressing that as a member of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that fought for democracy in the country, he rightly occupies the position of third force candidate to displace APC and PDP candidates.
In an online poll, a team of panelists commissioned by Alliance for Defence of Democracy (ADD), a newly launched advocacy coalition of third force stakeholders, Olawepo-Hashim was said to have polled 5,735 out of a total of 7,539,000 respondents that participated in the poll.
Like Moghalu, the PT candidate believes that young adults and professionals aged between 18 and 45, who desire political ideological paradigm shift in the politics and governance of Nigeria, would determine the outcome of tomorrow’s presidential election.
In the next 48 hours, barring any mishap, it would be seen which tendency Nigerians approve of through their ballot. Nevertheless, the election is one likely to be determined by competence, capacity and vision for a better Nigeria.