BY MARTINS ITUA

The battle-lines have been drawn between President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar as they fight for the soul of Nigeria in the forthcoming 2019 Elections. In many ways, this election is hugely significant because it will be the first time in Nigeria’s chequered history that a former ruling party will try to wrestle power back.

President Muhammadu Buhari came to power after defeating former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 and he came with so much hope, expectations and goodwill. Nigerians had expected that Buhari, the so-called anti-corruption champ would perform a miracle and turn things around. But three and half years down the line, Nigerians are far more despondent than they were during the years when PDP was in power.

First, President Buhari categorically denied all his election promises and made the most lacklustre Presidential Speech ever where he said that ‘he was for everybody and for nobody’. Then it took him six months or more to appoint ministers in his government and when he finally did, it was the same old tired brigade with many of them having forged and dubious certificates. And then, he midwifed a recession after refusing to take responsibility for anything apart from blaming past governments. The value of the Nation’s currency was cut by over half as the Naira went to as high as N500 to one USD. According to the nation’s Bureau of Statistics, over 10 million people have lost their jobs in the last 3 and half years and Nigeria is officially the poverty capital of the world overtaking India.

So the announcement of Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the PDP has come with great excitement as people are eager and in a hurry to send Buhari back to his Cattle farm in Daura. There’s a renewed hope that Nigeria can be delivered from the manacles and stranglehold of the APC Government and the disappointing Buhari administration. But the ruling party is quick to point out Atiku Abubakar as a corrupt politician and that he cannot be trusted with the Nation’s treasury. Unbeknownst to them, Nigerians are wiser and know that until about a year ago, the same Atiku Abubakar was a part of the APC and that they are only trying to paint him black because they know he’s going to give President Buhari a run for his money in the quest to occupy Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

The truth about Nigerian politics is that there are no clean politicians in the Country. Former President Obasanjo is the main person responsible for calling Atiku Abubakar a thief but it is open knowledge that Obasanjo himself has dipped his hands in the public till. Obasanjo was the first President in our democratic experience who introduced ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags as he was reputed for bribing his way through the National Assembly each time he wanted to change or influence policy or effect a change in NASS leadership. In fact, many Nigerians believe that the singular reason why Obasanjo has vehemently tried to rubbish Atiku Abubakar’s reputation is because he stood against his third term ambition and that was after Obasanjo had bribed all the members of the National Assembly.

Atiku Abubakar has excelled in his private life and successfully run private businesses unlike the incumbent President who only had 150 cows in his farm for many years. Nigerians consider Atiku Abubakar as capable, competent, cosmopolitan and fully detribalised.

It is clear that given the opportunity to be the President of Nigeria, he will do a far better job than the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari who many people consider as being grossly incompetent, nepotistic in blatant disregard and violation of the Nation’s Constitution. Even his wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is speaking from the ‘other room’ complaining about the incompetence of the President and the ruling party.

The real battle-ground for the 2019 Presidential elections in Nigeria will not be the cliche that Atiku Abubakar is corrupt or that President Muhammadu Buhari isn’t corrupt but it will be fought based on the track records of performance and understanding of how the economy works.

Fact is that Nigerians have been fooled before by fake promises from the APC Government and are unlikely to fall for their promises again. It is clear that Nigerians are willing to give Atiku Abubakar a trial having shown that he understands business and economics. Nigerians also believe that he will be unlikely to divide the Country along the fault lines of Religion and Ethnicity.