The Atiku versus Buhari battle running into the 2019 general elections will be very interesting. Since, 1999, this is the first time that the two main contestants are from same geo-political zone and also share same tongue and faith. Both Buhari and Atiku are Muslim Hausa-Fulani, who are in their 70s. These similarities have eased, as well as complicated some thorny political issues for Buhari.
The emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will alter All Progressives Congress’s (APC) political permutation. As the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari has to redesign his strategies. To candidate Buhari, candidate Atiku is a hard nut as well as a walkover, depending on the tactic Buhari applies. Nevertheless, Atiku will be on the offensive, while Buhari will be on the defensive. 2019 is Atiku’s best moment in his 26 year-quest to be president of Nigeria. Despite the PDP being an opposition platform; it is Atiku’s biggest so far.
Candidate Buhari is lucky and unlucky as well. In recent times, the APC has made some inroads into its weak base- the south south and southeast, thanks to some APC big catch, like Godswill Akpabio, Uzor Kalu and the Buhari appointees from the regions. On the other hand, Buhari is unlucky- the pockets of displeasure at his stronghold- the north, courtesy of some of his appointees and close-confidantes from the region- they are still living in ‘2015’. They have not connected with their people. Atiku may try to cash-in on that; however Buhari still has ample time to make amends.
Buhari should, as a matter of urgency, form a team of political experts to give him frank analysis of the political situation in each of the 36 states of the federation. Buhari should personally see all the critical stakeholders of each state- they should be ‘talked to’ as a whole not as individual, this will allow for sincere and unbiased dialogue.
Politics is about patronage- Atiku will try to win many groups and individuals via ‘promises’ where Buhari has failed. Buhari has not done well in the area of political patronage especially, of some of his ardent supporters notably in the north, they feel left behind, Buhari needs to retrospect, he is fortunate that his core supporters who were left ‘stranded’ after 2015 election, have not left to other parties nor pitch tent with other presidential hopefuls.
Apart from promise of political patronage and cashing-in on pockets of public displeasure, Atiku will also bank on deployment of massive resources. Buhari should and must this time around be flexible. He needs to act like a typical Nigerian politician. He has to talk to some people one-on-one and also put in his mind that resources must be deployed in some instances. Buhari should do a kind of China’s Great Leap Forward approach- a massive fast-track housing program targeted at delivering at least 10,000 housing units nationwide within one or two months. This will bring the masses quick productive resources.
One cannot satisfy all human, but in politics a ‘near-all satisfaction’ is possible – Buhari has to critically look at some of his support base and tackle their complaints- the youths in the north are actually silently grumbling – Atiku is trying to cash-in on that. That is why Atiku keeps on promising 40% of all his appointment will go to youths. The biggest of Buhari’s headache is how to ease out groups or individuals within his caucus that attracted negative public perception. Buhari should take action on this, in politics, interests is first. Naturally, humans enjoy being refreshed, Buhari should refresh his government – new faces and re-launch his programmes; this will bring renewed flare to the government.
Party politics should also be of concern to candidate Buhari. APC national headquarters should not be operating in Wuse while its national chairman operates from his Aso drive office- taking some vital decisions based on his instinct and that of his friends. Carrying many people along will smoothen APC’s road to re-election.
Atiku has a robust and well-funded media team, which Atiku will heavily utilize. Buhari should reload his media outfit to confront Atiku’s. Buhari’s campaign should only not focus of Atiku’s media hype, but also issue-based campaign – flaunting Buhari’s achievement in office so far. One of Buhari’s costly mistakes is not doing spot visits to ongoing vital infrastructure projects. Buhari visiting sites of ongoing strategic projects will be a huge public relations advantage to his government. This is because majority of Nigerians that voted APC did it for Buhari, so they easily belief Buhari than any other persons.
With Atiku/Obi ticket, Buhari/Osinbajo have upper hand, because, the tripod-foundation of the Nigerian politics – The Western, Northern and Eastern regions and some tricky politics will come to play. APC’s acceptability in the south east and south south has improved – thus the party will get more votes in those regions against what the party got in 2015.
On the other hand, the PDP will also increase its campaign performance in the north, more than what it did in 2015- no sensible person will say Atiku will not get votes in the north- his openhandedness and network of friends will help him, however, Atiku will not do well in northwest and northeast. The northwest is Buhari and Buhari is northwest. Buhari’s degrading of Boko Haram and Atiku’s near absence in the cause of rehabilitating the northeast will hunt him. Buhari should re-strategize in the middlebelt, if he wants to get good number of votes from that region. Atiku will do well in south-east and south-south, pick some states in the middlebelt and one or two states in the northeast. However, the Southwest, Northwest and Northeast with the highest number of voters will decide who wins the 2019 election- they are Buhari’s joker.
Zayyad I. Muhammad, Jimeta , Adamawa state