Full Version: More Options Would Be Available To Nigerians In 2019 Than 2015 – Patrick Etim
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This year is a pre-election year in Nigeria and as usual, the tempo of politicking will be moving higher as we approach 2019. Individuals and parties are already making subtle and not so subtle moves towards meeting their targets for the 2019 General Elections.

As usual, many politicians, both career and non-carrier, have been indicating interests to contest for one office or the other. Given the powers that our present system gives to the President, it is little wonder that attention is always on who becomes the President.

With the announcement by the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, that he will re-contest in 2019, there is going to be a narrowing of the field in the ruling All Progressive Congress. With strong contenders like the former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, the former Governor of Kano State, Dr. Rabiu Kwakwanso and the rumoured ambitions of the present Governors of Sokoto, Bornu and Kaduna State, it appears the APC maybe heading the way of the PDP in 2015. These men are likely to move to where they can realise their ambitions, if the incumbent insists on re-contesting. However, I think Shettima and El-Rufai will not leave the APC. They will work with the party, no matter what happens.

I do not think the President will re-contest, despite the announcement to the effect. Several factors will work against him re-contesting. His age is one. He has on several occasions alluded to the fact that age is not in his favour and expressed regrets that he was not younger when he eventually won the elections. By 2019, he would be 76 years old. In Africa, he may not be considered old, given that many older than him are still in charge of their countries. However, when you add health issues and the fact that recent elections of younger Presidents in Europe has opened the eyes of many Nigerian youths that it is time for a younger President, you will begin to see why it is not going to be easy for him in 2019.Indeed, the number of young Nigerians who have already indicated interest in the Presidency shows that the wind that is blowing through some parts of Europe is gradually heading towards Africa.

That the President chose to make the announcement privately to his party caucus and not publicly also indicates a man who is not really sure he wants to take the plunge. Some may argue that he just wanted to show respect to the party but I think it was more of an attempt to nip in the board the various dissenting voices that were coming out of the party. That he made the announcement just as he was about to travel out of the country was also strategic. Nigerians have come to view the frequent travels of the President to the UK with suspicion. Despite the fact that he is billed to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, the fact that he is going a few days earlier was bound to raise the same debate or gossip about his state of health, even though it is apparent that he is looking much healthier since his last visit to the UK.

By making the announcement that he intends to re-contest, he sends a message to all those openly and secretly working to unseat him in the party that they will have him to contend with. He also gives the impression that he feels strong enough to go for another four years and his health is no more an issue. The fact that Nigerians have been discussing the announcement instead of his health shows the strategy is working. Will he contest? I don’t think so. His close associates (or what many call “The Cabal”), will use him to fend off strong opponents until the last minute, ensure absolute commitment to the party by all and then ensure the emergence of their preferred candidate as the party flag bearer. By then it would have been too late for other contenders to secure platforms from other parties.

Despite the outward appearance of calmness, those trying to push the President to go for 2nd term are aware that the odds do not favour him, unlike 2015. While almost all those who did not vote for him in 2015, will still not vote for him in 2019, he is certain to lose the votes many who voted for him in 2015. Many of his prominent backers in 2015 have been sending direct and subtle messages to him that he will not get their support. Gen. Obasanjo, a former Nigerian President has openly shown that he is going to work against the President, if he decides to re-contest. Gen. Danjuma, another retired General, rich and highly influential Northerner, recently accused the military and by extension, the President, of supporting and assisting suspected Fulani herdsmen to attack his people. He then called on his people to defend themselves. Many have interpreted this as a vote of no confidence on the President. Gen Danjumais one of the most influential Northerners alive today.

Another retired General and former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, has recently been calling for the younger people to take over power. For those who know the General and his diplomatic way of sending his messages, it is very clear that may have just told his supporters that he would not be supporting the incumbent.

Even Pastor Tunde Bakare, a known supporter of the President, seems to be looking beyond his friend. He was quoted as saying “…The reason things are going haywire in Nigeria today is because God is preparing the tender plant from the side of the North…” Many have interpreted this to mean a young person from the North. However, a closer look at the statement and other statements he has been making recentlylooks more like a vote of no confidence on an administration that he helped to put in place.

The ruling Party is also aware that unlike 2015, the President may not likely get significant votes in Kaduna, Kwara, Taraba, Kano, Benue and GombeState. The South East and South South are no go areas for him, even if the party itself may not do badly in other elections. He will get fewer votes in the South West in 2019 than he did in 2015. In summary, the party will have to present a candidate that will have the backing of the President if they intend to remain in power in 2019. It would be difficult for the party to sell the candidacy of the incumbent using the same things. Security, economy and corruption were the main pillars of his campaign. Unlike 2015, when Nigerians believed and trusted him to deliver these things, there would be strong debates with regards to how far he has succeeded and if he can be trusted to deliver them.

In 2015, many Nigerians took whatever he said or promised without question but in 2019, they will question everything he says or promise and there lies the real problem for his candidacy in 2019. Like every other politician, you can never too sure until the last day. He may surprise many with the things he would do between now and the elections, which may just sway the voters to give him second chance.

Many politicians and aspiring politicians are aware of the above; hence they have started announcing their intentions. New “kids” on the block like FelaDurotoye, a business consultant and motivational speaker; Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, a former Deputy Governor of Central Bank; Hamza Al Mustapha, former CSO to Gen. Abacha; Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, A. M. Archibong, a US based Nigerian Attorney, Ahmed Buhari, a Geologist with a Masters Degree in International Trade and Marketing; Adamu Garba II, an Electrical Engineer and IT guru and a lot of others, are serious to mount a strong challenge.

The line-up of the experienced politicians is equally intimidating with Donald Duke looking like a serious contender. Unfortunately, with the zoning system in place, the permutations don’t seem to favour him.

Recently, a senior friend of mine from Kano drew my attention to a candidate he said I should watch out for. I decided to do a little background check on the candidate and what I discovered was a quiet but very efficient preparation of a young and successful politician for the highest office in the land. His name is Senator Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed. He is 48, a former member of the House of Reps and a former Senator. An Economics graduate of the University ofWestminster, United Kingdom. Holder of two different Master Degrees and a PH.D. He established Baze University, Abuja in 2011. He is well-spoken and appears to meet the description of a young, highly educated and detribalised Nigerian. I intend to write more about this “tender plant” from the North.

It is apparent from what I am seeing so far that Nigerians will have more options to choose from in 2019, unlike 2015, where they were restricted to only 2 major candidates. The months ahead would be very interesting, indeed.

Patrick Etim is a Legal Practitioner and Social Crusader.