Since the return of democracy in 1999, the 2019 presidential polls may be the easiest to call the outcome. From all indications and without prejudice to the controversial circumstance surrounding the polls, the winner is apparent and the result obvious. No other election in the past 20 years of democratic practice has been so hopelessly predetermined and the likely reactions so historically predictable.
For any objective observer, not even the 2007 polls could rival this one in its predictability. Umaru Yar’ Adua could have still won the election as PDP was on ascendency then and Buhari stood no chance given his previous infamy as military ruler, but the outcome was not as certain as this; still the PDP did not takes chances and had to rig the election, which even the Supreme Court affirmed but still upheld the result.
But this one is different. This election may be rigged but not as blatantly as the 2007 polls; and the reason is simple: The potential winner is reasonably sure of victory and will not play into the hand of his opponent by manipulating the result and risk a hostile judicial review and rejection by critical observers. The election has been won not that the supposed winner deserves the victory but because the outcome had been settled through pre-election actions and strategies that have emasculated the opponent and bolstered his chances.
Between President Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, there is so much difference in terms of the quality of candidate, government policy, leadership capacity, vision for Nigeria, democratic credential and acceptability. Atiku towers over Buhari on all these; and the allegations of being corrupt cannot justify not electing him in preference to the much vaunted integrity and anti corruption fight of the president, which has actually become a smoke screen.
So the choice is potentially pretty obvious, unlike in 2015 when Jonathan had no chance facing the combined forces of elite conspiracy, media onslaught and President Obama’s treachery, although being an incumbent posed credible threat.
The choice between a thoroughly savaged, demonized and unjustly vilified Jonathan and a burnished and polished Buhari was more difficult than this present one. As Prof. Soyinka said then in pitching tent with Buhari; it was an inconvenient choice that raised a moral question.
Not so in this election. Here we are faced with the simple choice of capacity and competence, an objective and practical assessment rather the previous lynch-mob subjectivity of Jonathan’s corruptibility. The Next Level, Buhari’s manifesto for the election is a 38 page document of incoherent mumble-jumble lacking depth and broad vision of the future; unlike Getting Nigeria Working Again, a 187 blueprint of an Atiku presidency for the transformation of the country.
Well, it can be argued that our problem is not in producing fine document but in seeing them through; that may be true. But as Achimedes once said, Give me a place to stand and I will move the world; a good document may represent a first step to its actualisation. Similarly, giving us the document shows that you understand the issues and we can discuss and hold him accountable on them. The Atiku document is explicit on the issues, with clear vision, and comprehensive in details. It is a development plan for now and the future.
There are so many things working against this government that makes its electability arduous and challenging. It has not lived up to the promised change they made in 2015 and has become increasingly controversial and unpopular in its decisions and conduct. The president’s health and public profile has plummeted so badly that you wonder if it was the same person that won in 2015. Virtually all those leaders who were part of the conspiracy against Jonathan, including Obasanjo, IBB, Danjuma, and Soyinka, etc had abandoned him.
His Party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, is a house of commotion going into the election with several governors promoting candidates against the party in their states. Nigeria is becoming more fractious, insecure and hostile for business. Under this regime, Nigeria not only went into recession but became the poverty capital of the world, with the naira decimated, debt burden mounting and unemployment exploding. Even the corruption fight is raising more questions than answers. This regime recalls the dark period of the Abacha regime.
Yet and unfortunately, this government will return by next Monday. It will return not that the government has done well – it has not; and not that Nigerians support it – most don’t. But it will return all the same for two main reasons: The election may not be very credible and the main opposition has run an appalling and shambolic campaign devoid of creativity, strategic thrust and clear focus.
Buhari and APC have done everything to lose the election and yet he will win, because of a lack of strong and positive alternative which the PDP and Atiku owe Nigerians. Some say it is money; maybe. But ultimately, it is Atiku’s election to win; but the winner is Buhari.