Although there are 18 candidates registered as aspirants on INEC’s portal, it is generally agreed across the land that only three candidates stand any real chance of mounting the saddle to be vacated by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, come May this year.
Of the three front liners, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP is an interesting study. No doubt, there have been intra-party conspiracies and storms, as well as grand opposition efforts to de-market the Atiku candidacy. Nevertheless, for two or three reasons, which are worth examining, he remains the one, whose aspiration should really be interrogated dispassionately in the context of the major issues surrounding this particular race.
The anti-Atiku camp would readily denounce his candidacy by pointing out that he is a Northerner and Fulani, wanting to succeed another Northerner and Fulani, who is about to end an eight-year tenure. The strongest argument advanced to push this viewpoint is that it runs against the concept of Zoning. The next president, the argument goes, should come from the South.
However, looking at the field of aspirants today, nobody, not even the zoning advocates, can fault the fact that the other two frontline contestants who are Southerners cannot match Atiku Abubakar’s credentials and experience in national politics because these two, in spite of their equally loaded CVs, have little or no experience at national politics, not to talk of governance at the centre, especially the nitty-gritty of administration and political dynamics that shape the Nigerian presidency. It is no gainsaying that the greatest prop on which the candidacies of the other frontline contestants rest is zoning and zoning alone. Theirs is mainly and solely about it is the turn of our part as the country to produce the next president. It is not about preparedness and aptitude. Nor is it about a quest that is borne out of being convinced that they can, without the props of ethnicity, tribalism and parochialism, stand up and market themselves, their agenda, vision and convictions to Nigerians of diverse persuasions.
This is where Atiku Abubakar has proved to be somewhat different.
From 2007 to date, and that counts for 5 election cycles, Atiku has faced Nigerians, either at party primaries or main elections and espoused his vision as well as put his unique selling propositions out courageously and in minute details. In all his attempts and campaigns, he has come across as a man, who is all about Nigeria and for Nigeria. And he has always been very brilliant at dissecting issues and placing his ideas of solutions in the public domain.
The Nigerian woes today are multifarious and multi-dimensional. The national frustration and anger at the progressively worsening performance of government at the centre have fuelled a high level of enlightened probing of the aspirants by citizens, who are tired of having square pegs in round holes in the name of zoning and concessional candidacy.
And one of the most prominent dynamics of the current race has been media-organised town halls and independent professional fora for assessing candidates. Sadly, while one of the frontline candidates has bullishly evaded almost all citizen-led efforts to subject him, his vision and agenda to clean scrutiny, Atiku Abubakar has used such events to engage robust engagement and dissection of his political agenda, his economic blueprint, his past experience and the relevance of his vision to the Nigerian quest for practical and practicable solutions to the myriads of problems plaguing the country.
At this time in our national life, any serious candidate that is truthfully up to the task of offering real solutions to Nigeria’s national woes must have more than it is our turn or it is my turn to trumpet. The situation is too dire to reduce the race for the presidency of the country to just ethnic, tribal or any other mundane argument. It has to be about competence, experience, aptitude, knowledge, temperament and ability to navigate sub-continental, continental and global political networks and alignments. It is definitely not a job for sweet-talking neophytes or activist-minded politicians who do not really have the requisite close-quarter experience of how it works in there!
Atiku Abubakar was once quoted as saying, “The 2023 election is neither about me nor any of the other candidates we are contesting with– or their agents but about the pathway that our dear country, Nigeria, must chart into a brighter and more prosperous future”, nothing could be truer.
Atiku Abubakar cuts the picture of a man who brilliantly understands Nigeria’s crying need for a hands-on leader in this most challenging period of our national politics and what such leadership entails.
His practical and detailed plans for correcting many of our most damaging national ills show there is no one among his co-contestants that is better prepared or qualified than him.
What is most comforting and compelling about Atiku’s candidacy is the fact that his ideas for Nigeria’s revamping are not made in vague terms or loaded with esoteric theories and adapted manifestoes of other climes or past eras. While other contestants are either vague in their idea explanation or busy repeating failed past promises, Atiku’s policy document and his explanation of the contents in various citizen engagement fora have revealed a man who really knows what he is pitching to Nigerians and whose mind and soul are truly etched in the document.
Clearly, his approach portends a major shift in the country’s political campaign template; his candidacy and the way he has gone about selling his ideas to all Nigerians openly while elucidating his propositions and answering citizens’ questions on the core issues, truly offers hope that an Atiku presidency will help Nigeria end the worrying culture of policy inconsistencies and leadership miasma that have negatively impacted our national life, especially in the last one decade.
More assuring is the fact that with Atiku’s rigorous and detailed policy document which has clearly proved to be his original thoughts and action plan, Nigerians will not have, in him, a president that will make decisions based on sentiments or waste valuable time before really getting down to work. Having Atiku as president will be having a man that knows the problem and has the right plans to address it. His experience, level-headedness, maturity, unmatched preparedness and knowledge of the workings of government put him ahead of other aspirants in the presidential race and make him the best man for the task of helping Nigeria surmount her current travails
*** Samuel Akesah wrote from Lagos.*