Get this straight: Atiku Abubakar will lose the presidential election on February 16. I’m not Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka or one of the tongue-in-cheek seers whose predictions you’ll be struggling to figure out after dropping your offering in the bag at midnight of December 31. I’ll say it the way it is, walking where angels fear to tread.
You’re free to believe who you want or what you choose, but here’s why Atiku will lose. The two main candidates will split the north, the country’s largest vote bank, with 38.9million or over 50 percent of the 72.8million registered voters as at January. But President Muhammadu Buhari’s fanatical hold over the north west, which has over 18.5million registered voters – the highest in the country – will still give him an edge over Atiku.
The deciding vote is not in the hands of the northern elite, who loathe Buhari and have loathed him for over 30 years. It’s in the hands of the mass of the rural and urban poor who will die for Buhari before they know why. His fabled 12 million votes may have become distant memory, but his name remains a talisman unmatched by Atiku.
Wouldn’t the farmer-herdsman crisis in the middle belt in the last three or four years and Buhari’s sluggish response favour Atiku in that area, and possibly redeem some of the votes he would lose in the core north?
I doubt it. There’s a significant and growing Hausa-Muslim population in the north central today who identify more with Buhari than they do with Atiku. If there was still any doubt about their loyalty, Miyetti Allah, an important segment of this group, settled it by endorsing Buhari recently. Indigenes who are indifferent or those who belong to a different faith still believe they have to be in the good books of the well-connected Hausa-Fulani to climb up the social ladder.
With the south west, the second largest voting bloc, still firmly in APC’s control; one flank of the south south riven by the epic fight between Governor Udom Emmanuel and his estranged godfather, Godswill Akpabio; and the other flank stranded over Governor Nyesom Wike’s reluctance to lead the Atiku campaign, the picture for PDP in the south south is grim.
Add that to the situation in three south east states – Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi – whose governors are working almost flat out for Buhari’s second term, and you will be hard pressed to find the advantage that Peter Obi is supposed to bring to the Atiku ticket.
Will the record of the last four years not count? It will count for next to nothing. The mixed bag of the fight against corruption, the yo-yoing war on Boko Haram, the fragile economy and unflattering unemployment figures ought to put Buhari in a tight spot; but the indescribable fear of who the real Atiku in power could be – that unknowable quantity – makes it a bit easier to forgive Buhari’s shortcomings.
Yet, Atiku will not simply roll over. He’s a fighter, and the coalition of angry generals in his corner – from former President Olusegun Obasanjo to former military President Ibrahim Babangida, and General Aliyu Gusau – have a dog in the fight. Expect to hear more from these generals – and even a few highly placed anti-Buhari traditional rulers shortly before the election. The home stretch promises to be nasty.
But that won’t change much. The die is cast, and the race is won and lost.
The calls for restructuring will ring ever so resonantly in 2019. Rogues and authentic politicians will lend their voices and the government may be forced to exhume past reports on the matter in what may turn out to be motion without movement.
Yet, the demand, stoked by the acrimonious fallout of the 2019 election, will not abate as more separatist groups and their enablers will return to the trenches.
It would be a busy year for lawyers as they flit, in their numbers, from one election tribunal to another carrying clients’ brief in one hand, and CVs to fill vacancies in the new government in the other.
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