In October7, 2018, the 2019 presidential race took on a new outlook with the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Despite having other candidates like Kingsley Moghalu (YPP), Fela Durotoye (ANN), Omoyele Sowore (AAC), Donald Duke (SDP) and Obiageli Ezewesili (ACPN) many political analyst and stakeholders see his emergence as the much awaited force capable of constituting a formidable opposition against the incumbent Mohammadu Buhari and presidential flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in his bid for a re-election.
The former Customs boss is one of more than thirty (30) other aspirants running in the race to the highest political office in the land in the 2019 Nigeria presidential election. Atiku came into political limelight in 1999 when he won the gubernatorial election for Adamawa State. However, as a governor-elect, he was picked by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to be his presidential running mate, both making the Obasanjo-Atiku PDP ticket. They won the election that year.
After his retirement as the Deputy Director of the Nigeria Custom Service, Atiku got involved in politics and has since 1998 been an active member of a number of political parties including the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Action Congress (AC), All Progressive Congress (APC) and of course the PDP.
Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar having served as the second democratically elected Vice President of Nigeria boasts of having adequate and relevant experience for the job. He was Chairman of the National Economic Council during his eight year-term tenure spanning 1999 to 2007 as vice to President Olusegun Obasanjo. The relationship between him and his prime suffered many a setback in their second tenure and Atiku who was making moves to succeed President Obasanjo was denied support. He contested the 2007 election under the Action Congress (AC) but lost the election to Umaru Musa Yar’Adua coming a distant third behind Yar’Adua and Buhari. Since then, it seems Atiku has been desperately gunning for the presidency for this is his fourth attempt at it, cross-carpeting between parties to reach this life-long ambition.

STRENGTHS

A Businessman…
The 72 year old has his 2019 presidential ambition favoured by many because he is perceived to have a strong economic competence, a skill that the current Buhari-led Federal Government is terribly lacking. The want for economic management skill had in early 2016, plunged the Nation’s economy into recession, with the BBC reporting that the economy contracted 2.06% between April and June that year; making it the worst and longest recession since 1987. While apart from Kingsley Moghalu who is a former CBN Deputy Governor, none of the other candidates can boast of the economic management experience Atiku possesses.
While Buhari joined the army as a teen and since then had not been managed any serious business, Atiku, being a seasoned businessman, has built a business empire in real estate, agriculture, Oil and gas, FMCG and logistics, co-founding INTELS, a Nigerian logistics company. Atiku, described as a developmental economist, is also the founder of American University of Nigeria (AUN), the first American-style university in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is flourishing well enough since establishment in 2005. It is currently being debated that he is the largest employer of labour in Nigeria through his large conglomerate of various enterprises including Intels, Prodeco, Atiku Abubakar Farm and ABTI Schools which is claimed to provide employment for over 50,000 citizens.

A Developmental Economist …
As Vice President and Chairman of the National Economic Council, Atiku assembled an economic team that has continued to be a magnet for the praises. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala first served under the Obasanjo-Atiku regime before the Jonathan led administration hired her. There were many cases of mammoth loots that were attached with these administrations but the economy was somehow being managed and was growing progressively. The exchange rate being about N150/USD at as 2007is now 365/USD this 2019.The former Chairman of the National Council on Privatization, that oversaw the sales of “loss-making and poorly managed public enterprises,” while speaking last December in Aba criticized Buhari’s economic team, saying it lacked “requisite knowledge.”

A Reputable Vice President …
Yet another strong point for which the supporters of Atiku presidency have found is the choice of his Vice president in the former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi. Obi is seen as a disciplined and cultured leader. His radical stance of cutting cost of governance has not been paralleled by any other. He is probably the past governor in Anambra and Nigeria with the best history of maintaining a robust saving of public funds and remitting the same to his successor though he was impeached by the State Assembly for that. Seeing that the high cost of running governance is ruining the nation, who would not want a man like Obi as the Chairman of the National Economic Team?
Apart from being a vice presidential candidate who has demonstrated his competence, Obi is from the Igbo nation in the southeastern Nigeria, an ethnic group that has been clamoring for a place in government in a long time.

An Accommodating Atiku …
Moreover, Atiku, unlike the incumbent President Buhari is perceived as more liberal, and less ethnocentric. The appointments of President Buhari, a Fulani from Kastina, have been lopsided involving majorly northerners. It also goes to say that the Southern Nigeria and the middle belt have since the emergence of President Buhari, suffered terribly from the menace of armed Fulani herdsmen attacking farmers and villagers and killing thousands with the Federal Government displaying a “body movement” that has seemed to take sides the attacking kinsmen of President Buhari. Atiku, though being a Fulani too, seen as more open-minded is hoped to make amendments to this and restore the traditional federal character in the government. This is a character Atiku shares with most of the other candidates.

Rich Atiku …
Atiku’s wealth is a major strength he possesses as a presidential candidate. In 2015, while a member of the APC, he lost to Buhari in the presidential primaries. APC acknowledges that the campaign of Buhari was heavily sponsored by billions donated by Atiku then. Also in the PDP presidential primaries that Atiku won in 2018, it is reported that delegates were offered $5,000 dollars each to vote Atiku. The fact that the wealth of a Atiku is a vital advantage in his winning the election cannot be over emphasized.

WEAKNESSES

Hopelessly Corrupt …
As a former Deputy Director of the Nigeria Customs Service, a public institute known for the massive corruption and bribery her staff is known for, Atiku might not be fully committed to the anticorruption fight.
Obasanjo, in his autobiography, My Watch, Volume 2, had spoken of Atiku “…his propensity to corruption, tendency to disloyalty, inability to say and stick with the truth all the time… lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out of all issues and readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest.” In a more recent release, Obasanjo said through a tweet on his handle said that God will not forgive him if he supports Atiku’s ambition. All these, however were before the emergence of Atiku in the PDP primaries; since his emergence, the two have settled and Atiku now has his support as they join forces against Buhari.
Many other people has alleged that Atiku is “hopelessly corrupt,” especially the opposition parties though at no time has he yet been arraigned for corruption charges. Atiku had once challenged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Buhari to bring corruption charges against him.
However, the foremost of all these allegations is the US Senate report on Atiku. The report detailed how he was subjected to probe 10 years ago by the US Senate and was found to have used offshore companies to siphon millions of dollars to his fourth wife in the US, Jenifer Douglas during his vice presidency. The case is said to involve over $40 million and in 2004 then US president Bush barred Atiku from being issued visa into the US. These allegations have been denied by Atiku and the PDP.
Many Nigerians upon getting this report have dared on Atiku to visit the US to prove it wrong. He has not made the trip since. The US Consulate in Lagos has reacted and said the stance of the US on Atiku’s visa is confidential. Rumors have it that Atiku many have been issued a visa.

Privatizations…
The businessman in Atiku may be a major shortcoming in the Atiku presidency. As Chairman of the privatization council during his term as vice president, many of the public enterprises that were sold off were alleged to have been sold to businessmen friends of Atiku. While it is held that Atiku as a supervisory government official in the process influenced the auction to enrich his allies. It is feared that he may sell off more public properties if elected. This fear has been fueled by Atiku’s statement that he would sell off the NNPC if elected. Many think that this will further enrich and empower him and his rich caucus if they gain control over the nation’s oil business.

Age: Atiku is 72 …
Currently, Atiku is 72 and by November 25, 2019 he will be 73. This happens to be a time where Nigerians are clamoring for longer people to be in government. This is one of the reasons many have wanted Buhari (74) to be voted out. Even though this year’s election will see more young people contesting with the likes of Fela Durotoye (47), Omoyele Sowore (47), Donald Duke (57) and others, it still doesn’t make a youth presidency look possible at this time because none of them can match the older contestants in terms of popularity, money and party strength. With his beyond-retirement age, Atiku is likely to lose the votes of agitators for youth presidency. While also considering that septuagenarians in the presidency like the incumbent Buhari have suffered from health imbalances which could be related to the rigorous nature of the office

A Northerner…
Nigeria being a multi-nation State has held a long tradition of ensuring a fair distribution of resources, opportunities and positions. Right from the days of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu’s 1966 coup, to the zoning polices of the PDP, a distortion of this zoning tradition has not always gone down well with a notable portion the Nigerian society. After Obasanjo (South West) ended his 8 year term in 2007, he handed over to Yar’Adua (North West) who died in office for Jonathan (South South) to take over. Buhari (North West) succeeded Jonathan in 2015. Atiku being from Adamawa, a Northeastern State winning the election will result in a unbroken rule of the North for 8 years which is likely to extend to 12 if Atiku gets a second term. Bishop David Oyedepo, a respected Nigerian cleric, is one of those who think this way. Earlier in the present administration, in his church while on live television he enquired: “Must the North continue to rule!”
It may therefore require that Atiku does a lot of work to win the regions like the South West, and the South East which not been in power for many decades.

OPPORTUNITY

Change gone sour! …
With the torrent of promises that the APC poured out during their 2015 “Change” campaign, one would think that by now, Nigeria should be competing favorably with the UAE in all areas. But alas, the country has instead of advancing, taking a number of giant limps backward. Failed promises and blame game has been the major trademark of the APC government. Nepotism have further divided the country and caused so much hurt in the heart of Nigerians. This therefore might be a good time for Atiku to offer an alternative to the Nigerian populace. Just as with Buhari in 2015, there are few who are interested in the candidacy of Atiku, rather the desire to simple retire Buhari offers no option than to line up behind Atiku. Atiku must recognize the opportunity and exploit it properly if he is to win. To do this, his campaign must make the people focus on the failure of the APC and must convince the masses that they will not fail in their own promises by pointing out past fulfilled promises from former positions held which other candidates do not have.

Economic and nationality woes …
The Nigerian economy was in a better shape before 2015 when the Buhari government took power. Right now, more than in recent times, Nigerians are feeling the painful bite of a poorly managed economy. As a savior, Atiku has offered relief if voted in and flaunts his performance as a Vice President that managed the economy better as the bait.
The Nation, Nigeria has seen herself sin deep into the deep waters of disunity mostly along tribal and religious lines fueled by the exhibition of traits of superiority of one over another. The northern Hausa-Fulani ethnic groups have been showing tendencies that suggest to other southern groups that they are “born to rule.” This has led to the agitations by the Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB), and the Oodua People’s Congress(OPC) calling for both secession and restructuring. These were what the PDP led government was able to curb in its 16 year rule. The Buhari government has not displayed true federal character in its dealings. A most recent case is the appointment of Amina Zakari (Jigawa) as the Chairman (now Head of collation) of INEC by Buhari (Kastina), both having come from the Northwest geopolitical zone, when it has been a tradition for the President to appoint an INEC chairman from outside his geopolitical zone like Obasanjo did with Maurice Iwo and Jonathan with Attahiru Jega. It is also being debated now that Buhari is a relative of Mrs Zakari being that there is intermarriage between their extended families. Atiku has always been liberal in religion and tribal matters on the other hand. Again, this opportunity must be maximized by emphasizing on it to highlight the hope in the people.

Northern Forces …
Sincethe2015 elections, it has become more clear the strength the north weilds in determining who wins elections in Nigeria. The State of Kano became popular for the over 2 million votes contributed to the election results, coming behind no other State. The APC went on to win the election with 15 million votes and 1.9 million votes coming from Kano alone. These forces of the North having earlier pledged allegiance to Buhari have now split their support with Atiku. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) amongst other powerful groups of the North have been split among both candidates. Atiku/Obi campaign group must focus on strengthening their hold and expanding it among the northern elites since it is known that the Northerners are die-hard loyalist to their leaders.

PDP South …
States in all of the SouthEast and South South States like Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and partly Edo have been known to be stronghold for the PDP in times past. At this time again these regions have showed their loyalty in massive turnouts during campaign rallies. Although the South West has been taken by the APC, Ekiti under Kayode Fayemi is still very unpredictable.

THREATS

PDP? Never again! …
16 years! Anyone that has given ear to the recent political talks in the nation should be familiar with this phrase. In debates and propaganda that has been flying in the political airspace since 2014, the effects of the 16 year rule of the PDP from 1999 to 2015, being perceived as ridden with corruption and unproductive has been fully highlighted. This will deter manypeople from wanting to have anything to do with the PDP. TheSouth South and the South East does not seem to have been reasoning alongwith this argument-they voted the PDP massively in 2015. The Atiku Presiencymay be threatened from coming to limelight in regions like the South West and North West.

Tinubu, the mad strategist …
The Atiku/Obi presidency is heavily threatened by the loss of Atiku’s long time political ally, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to the side of Buhari. Tinubu, known to be one of the Nation’s most influential and intelligent political icons has thrown his weight behind Buhari in 2015 after Atiku lost the APC primaries. Insider reports say that the city of Lagos has been infiltrated by over 5000 “foot soldiers” to preach the Buhari re-election gospel on individual grounds. Also the plot to give out soft loans in worth billions to traders in the marketplace across the nation by Vice President YemiOsibanjo, called “Trader Moni” at the eleventh hour before the election is a diplomatic way of vote buying. All of these strategies are not unconnected with the heavy intellectual might behind APC.

Power of Incumbency …
Without doubt the current administration has exploited her power of incumbency in the preparation for the forthcoming elections. An example is in the appointment of the INEC boss. Also the refusal of Buhari to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill by employing delay tactics has shown that a lot might be the pipeline against the forthcoming election. Sampling recent elections under the INEC like the Ekiti, and Osun gubernatorial elections where the APC won that was marred by cases of massive vote buying, violence and rigging, one could almost predict that the APC has a more for 2019.

The North …
It is known that Buhari, the APC candidate is very popular among the northern peasants. He is seen as a hero and role model. Once, a senator said that speaking ill of Buhari in the streets of the north might warrant a death sentence from a mob. The Atiku campaign might have nothing to do about the peasants but should rather focus on the elites who are more rational. From observations on Nairaland, Nigeria’s largest online forum, the sharing ration is likely to be thus skewed:
South West (Apart from Lagos): 45% APC, 30% PDP, 25% Others.

South East: 60% PDP, 30% APC, 10% Others.

South South: 55% PDP, 40% APC, 5% Others.

North West: 50% APC, 45% PDP, 5% Others.

North East: 51% APC, 40% APC, 5% Others.

North Central: 50% PDP, 49% APC, 1% Others

ELECTORATES
Eight (8) million PVCs are still with INEC, Unclaimed. Therefore, as an electorate, if you have registered as for the voters’ card and you have not got your PVC, log on to pvc.inecnigeria.org to locate your PVC. Go collect it and vote your candidate of choice.