On why I believe Atiku will defeat Buhari in Nigeria’s elections

Sunday February 10 2019



Harold Acemah

Harold Acemah  

By Harold Acemah

On Saturday, February 16, about 84 million voters in Africa’s most populous country (198 million) go to the polls to elect a president, 360 members of parliament and 109 senators. Unlike in Uganda, the term of office of the Nigerian president and MPs is four years and the forthcoming election will be the sixth since the end of military rule in 1999.
There are 59 presidential candidates contesting the elections, but the two leading candidates are incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In a country which is deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines, both frontrunners are Muslims and come from northern Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka whom I met in New York in 1984 cynically dismissed Buhari and Atiku. “I find both of them worthy of absolute rejection. My position is that it is time for a totally new direction,” he said.
On a light note, I overheard some unemployed young graduates recently at a local joint in Arua Town cracking jokes about migrating to Nigeria in search of greener pastures if PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar wins the election. They talked about Atiku being a lost cousin from West Nile. Atiku is a common Lugbara name which means, “I cannot bear children.”

Does Buhari deserve another term?
Gen Buhari, a former Nigerian military head of state during the 1980s, was elected president on March 28, 2015. In a rare occurrence in African politics Buhari defeated a sitting president, Goodluck Jonathan, who to his credit, agreed to step down and hand over power peacefully to his successor who was sworn in as president of Nigeria on May 29, 2015. It was the first time since Nigeria achieved independence on October 1, 1960, that an incumbent lost an election and gracefully accepted defeat.

I wonder how many African presidents would humbly and peacefully do likewise!
Buhari’s 2015 victory was possible primarily because as a general in the Federal Nigerian Army and a Muslim from northern Nigeria voters believed a campaign promise he made to rid Nigeria, once and for all, of the Boko Haram terrorist menace. Remember the 270 Chibok girls abducted by the evil Boko Haram terrorists in 2014.

Poor Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria with absolutely no military background and who, like me, has never handled a gun in his lifetime was no match for Gen Buhari.
Four years later, Boko Haram is still active in Nigeria, especially in northern Nigeria. Despite support from neighbouring countries, the UK and USA, president Buhari has failed to wipe out Boko Haram from Nigeria. The terrorists continue to intimidate, harass and kill Nigerians with impunity! Buhari owes Nigerians a public apology.

In addition, president Buhari spent almost half of his four-year term undergoing treatment in a London hospital, at public expense, for an undisclosed illness which provided fodder for the rumour mills and fake news agents of Nigeria. There was one particularly incredible fake news item which went viral on social media; that Buhari is dead and the man who currently resides at State House is an impostor, a Buhari look-alike who comes from South Sudan.
Against this background, Buhari who is 76 years old, should, in my opinion, not have sought re-election. APC should have picked a dynamic young man to challenge PDP’s Atiku (72) who will most likely defeat Gen Buhari hands down.

If Atiku wins, as I predict he will, don’t be surprised to witness spontaneous celebrations in Arua and elsewhere in the West Nile sub-region where wananchi believe he is a lost cousin. My good friend, Mr Bernard Atiku, MP of Ayivu, is well advised to make arrangements to lead a delegation from West Nile to attend his namesake Atiku’s inauguration at Abuja.
I wish the fraternal and gallant people of Nigeria free, fair, credible and peaceful elections. May the will of the people be respected by the Nigerian Electoral Commission!

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.
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