In all his entire political career Atiku Abubakar has hungered for affection in northern Nigeria. But that has paid him little dividends in electoral victories. In order to endear himself to the masses, he bagged elitist chieftaincy titles in his State of Origin. He was formerly the Turakin of Adamawa. Atiku was promoted last year by the Lamido of Adamawa (king) as the Wazirin of Adamawa.
According to William F. S. Miles in his book “Scars of Partition: Postcolonial Legacies in French and British Borderlands.” He quoted Vaughan 1991, “Throughout Nigeria’s political history, chieftaincy has consistently been reconstructed to reinforce the power and status of dominant classes.”
On Saturday, February 23rd, 2019 about more than 70 million registered Nigerian voters went to the polls to cast their votes in the presidential election. The figure was small considering the fact that Nigeria has a staggering population of 190 million people. There was a growing disenchantment and voters’ apathy in the country among the working class and unemployed youths that Nigeria government doesn’t work, there is no solution, and politicians have not addressed all of these problems.
The presidential election was a straight fight between President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Of course, a presidential candidate like Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress AAC), energized Nigerian voters with his issues-oriented campaign. (For full disclosure Sowore is my good friend).
However, this presidential election was between Buhari and Atiku who were both considered to be the front runners. Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has yet to formally announce the winner of the presidential election as they are still collating the results. But I will make one bold prediction that President Muhammadu Buhari would defeat Alhaji Atiku Abubakar convincingly, and as a result, won re-election. And so far, based on the election results released so far, Buhari is on that trajectory.
As I told some friends and family members weeks before the presidential election in a WhatsApp message. It is a very tough challenge for any presidential candidates running in this election cycle to defeat Buhari in the core north. I wrote the following messages: “Buhari is going to win re-election comfortably. Forget about rigging or no rigging talks. The Math is not in Atiku’s favor. He has a tough map. Atiku has no path to victory in the presidential election without winning the majority of the votes that will be cast in North West and South West. Both regions are in Buhari’s column. And they have the highest numbers of registered voters in the country. (Kano and Lagos, the two most populous States in Nigeria are in these regions). Similarly, Buhari is also very strong in the entire North East region especially in Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi States. Even Atiku home State of Adamawa is a battleground State. And in North Central, Niger State is in Buhari’s column. Yes, Atiku will sweep the South East and the South-South States. And he would win in Plateau, Benue and Taraba States. But they are not enough. In conclusion, this election is not going to be close. Buhari would win re-election with wide margins.”
The reason Buhari won re-election is that he is perceived as a man of impeccable integrity and that has served him well in all his political and military career. Buhari is a phenomenon in the core north, he has a dominant personality of Ahmadu Bello, and he has ardent Talakawas poor masses followers like Mallam Aminu Kano. It will take a long time to see another politician of northern Nigeria background that northern masses trusted like Sardauna and beloved like Aminu Kano. In Buhari, they found one. That is why it was tough to defeat Buhari in the north despite Nigeria’s faltering economy and high unemployment rate due to a sharp decline in crude oil prices and years of misrule by the previous government and Buhari’s government inadequate steps. On the other hand, Atiku became the symbol of corruption during his tenure as Vice-President in Obasanjo’s government. And he was passed over for promotion as the head of Nigeria Customs by Babangida military junta in the 1980s as a result of corruption allegation.
Finally, in this presidential election, Atiku communicated that he is an experienced and dynamic politician. And his supporters have pointed out that he has energy, and competence to run an inclusive government better than President Buhari. But in northern Nigeria, Atiku is an aloof politician that does not connect well with the masses. he spends more time in Dubai traveling in his private jets than spending time listening to the challenges facing the Wodaabe or Fulani Bororo about their lifestyles as nomadic cattle herders. But it is also fair to say that Atiku has failed in other areas of leadership qualities especially in the areas of honesty and integrity. Even the die-hard Atiku’s backer in this presidential election former President Olusegun Obasanjo cannot boast that Atiku is an honest politician and a man of integrity.
One biggest mistake of Atiku in this presidential election was the appointment of Senate President Bukola Saraki a man enmeshed in his own corruption allegation and fighting for his own political survival as his campaign manager. It was a political suicide from the get-go. Another problem of Atiku in this election was his lack of blueprint on how to salvage Nigeria’s economy. His Vice-Presidential Candidate Peter Obi wasted time and missed an opportunity to show a contrast between himself and current Vice-President Osinbajo during the Vice-Presidential debate. Obi recited China statistics while Osinbajo talked about what Buhari government was doing in the areas of infrastructures among others.
And the last straw that breaks the camel’s back for Atiku in this presidential election was his insistence that he will privatize Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). That essentially doomed his presidential aspiration.
Let us use Jigawa and Yobe States as a microcosm of the north in this election. Atiku was not able to persuade the traders in Gujungu market in Yallema village in Kaugama local government that he is fighting for their interest than Buhari. And Atiku failed to win the hearts and soul of farmers, butchers, peasants and local women selling Fura Da Nunu in Hadejia and Dutse in Jigawa State that he is a better alternative or choice than Buhari. What about that everyman in Potiskum in Yobe State? Atiku does not share his value and they do not have things in common. Atiku’s campaign was like a funeral song in the north.
Ademola Bello has taught Mass Communication at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. He is an alumnus of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.