Last week’s declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari, that he would seek a second term in office came as a surprise to no one. Opposition and critics of the administration feigned shock and surprise by their utterances, as it is an open secret that no Nigerian President or leader has ever jettisoned the idea of running for second term in office, at the expiration of his initial term.
Buhari came to power in 2015 with so much goodwill and promise. Three years down the line, his actions, inaction, utterances, and style of governance have frittered away a lot of that goodwill. Buhari’s sins are numerous. Nepotism, lack of communication with the citizenry, lethargic response to critical issues in the polity, selective prosecution of the anti-graft war, rising wave of insecurity, and non-adherence to the rule of law e.g in the cases of Sheikh El-Zakzakky, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. However, he does have a few pluses.
One, he succeeded in lifting Nigeria out of economic recession which began under the previous administration in 2014, though biting poverty is still ubiquitous and endemic among the populace. His release of two bail out funds and Paris Club Refunds (totalling over a trillion naira) to states is commendable as it was pivotal in lifting the economy out of recession.
Two, no matter what people think or say, his selective prosecution of the anti-graft war has only affected the guilty and not the innocents. Those among the guilty who are currently being shielded from prosecution by the powers that be, will have their day in court someday when a Pharaoh arises that does not know Joseph.
PMB is going into 2019 with a lot of baggage unlike in 2015.
One, the incessant killings by herdsmen coupled with his lackadaisical attitude and lackluster response to the issue, has eroded a lot of support for him especially among those who have borne the brunt of these attacks. It has also fuelled conspiracy theories of the Hausa/Fulani agenda to take over Nigeria and rule as overlords over the rest of the country.
Two, the anti-graft war has negatively impacted a lot of looters who are major donors to Nigeria’s influential Pastors and Churches. Recent revelations have shown that a lot of monies looted from our collective patrimony during the past administration, found it’s way into the churches. For example, a major witness in the trial of Major General Emmanuel Atewe (rtd), one of the Army Generals accused of looting billions of naira meant for the purchase of arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency during the past administration, confessed in an open court that the General instructed him to pay the sum of N35 million naira into a bank account belonging to Winners Chapel, one of Nigeria’s numerous prosperity-gospel churches. It must be said that most of these looters were the ones responsible for the anti-buhari sentiments held by most Christians pre-2015, using the agency of the church through the Pastors. The stoppage of the free flow of corrupt money into the church as a result of the anti-graft war, has resulted in the deliberate poisoning of the minds of a lot of Christians by their Pastors that the President is anti-christian and has an Islamic agenda. Based on this, a lot of Christians are prejudiced and may likely not vote for the President come 2019.
Three, some of Buhari’s actions, inaction, statements, appointments, and non-adherence to the rule of law, has deepened our national fault lines and made him lose a lot of support among Nigerians, many of whom now view him as a sectional leader with a natural predisposition towards clannishness.
But all these challenges will not stop Buhari from victory in 2019. Certain factors will work in the President’s favour.
Like his American counterpart, President Donald Trump, no matter what the Buhari does or says, it has no effect on his political base in the North. PMB still has cult following and rock star popularity in the North. This fact was recently attested to by none other than Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, a man reputed for speaking truth to power regardless of whose ox is gored.Indeed, no politician in Nigeria today has the kind of following that he has in a region that is expected to deliver over 50% of the votes.
It is pertinent to state that in Nigeria elections are not won on social media or based on media popularity alone. Majority of those who criticize the President in the media, especially the youths, are either not registered to vote or would not come out to vote on election day.
Unlike what happened in the PDP pre-2015, there is no major rebellion or defection from the APC to any opposition party despite the chasm and friction within the party. The PDP itself has been hijacked by a cabal, and going by the recent utterances of some of those who lost out in the race for the National Chairmanship of the party last year, it contains a lot of disgruntled elements who would not hesitate to work against the interest of the party at the slightest opportunity.
Social Democratic Party (SDP), the acclaimed Third Force, which most disaffected politicians in the APC and the PDP have signaled their intention to decamp into, lacks a national spread, a formidable political structure, a calculated strategy, and political big wigs who can enable them wrest power from ruling party, ten months to an election that they are hopeful of winning, unlike the APC which had all these and more about a year to the 2015 elections.
Fringe candidates like the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, Professor Kingsley Moughalu, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, stand no chance of winning the Presidential elections in 2019. They lack the money, the political structure, and do not possess the character defects that will enable them make compromises in order to run on a larger political platform which would avail them of the money, the structure, and boost their prospects of winning significantly. There are over 8,000 electoral wards in Nigeria and you need to have foot soldiers (party agents and supporters) in every ward for you to stand a realistic chance of winning the Presidency.
Furthermore, PMB’s rapprochement with the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would guarantee him bloc votes from the South West, with the possible exception of Ekiti, and also avail the APC Presidential Campaign of the political skills and strategies of one of Nigeria’s most respected and most successful political juggernauts.
Most importantly, the voting demographics as released by INEC still favours Buhari. INEC voter registration as at January 2018 is as follows. North Central=10,586,965, North East=9,929,015, North West=18,505,984, South East=8,293,093, South South=11,101,093, South West=14,626,800. From the figures, it is clear that there are more registered voters in the North (Buhari’s stronghold) than in the South South and South East which is the stronghold of the opposition. Also, 90% of the political elite in the South West are in support of the President. So it is fair game to say that the President will carry the day in the region come 2019.
In conclusion, I am not God and my prediction of the outcome of the election is based on empirical data available to me, and the use of logic. However, barring the intervention of the divine, it is safe to conclude that Buhari will remain as President till 2023.