The choice before Nigerians
In about a fortnight, Nigerians will have the opportunity to decide who becomes the president of the country from a supposed list of 18 candidates on the ballot. In reality, however, the contest is between three contestants – Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi.
There is almost unanimity among Nigerians that the current APC government has failed, and the things associated with it are deepening poverty, widespread insecurity, high inflation, record-breaking unemployment, especially among the youth, economic stagnation, extinguished hope, and above all, a government that is absolutely dissociated from the people and carries on as if the people are a conquered lot whose opinions and feelings do not matter.
However, the Candidate of the ruling party, Bola Tinubu, has framed his campaign in personal terms – as his turn to rule after helping Buhari to the presidency in 2015 and supporting him for the last eight years. Besides that, he has only repeated the vague and fantastic promises the party made the Nigerians eight years ago.
But the prospect of a Tinubu presidency evokes real fears among sensible and conscientious Nigerians because of his extremely shady past, his forged identity, age and education certificates, his criminal association with a drug trafficking ring, and the raft of corruption allegations, cronyism, clientelistic, and patrimonial practices that have trailed his unusually firm grip of Lagos state and some parts of the southwest.
This is besides his physical infirmities (videos of him suffering from incontinence and hand tremors) and the fact he may probably be too old and weak to function effectively as a president, giving rise to speculation of another ‘cabal presidency’.
There is almost unanimity among Nigerians that the current APC government has failed, and the things associated with it are deepening poverty, widespread insecurity, high inflation, record-breaking unemployment
Regardless, he has an amazing war chest to prosecute the election and buy-up votes if it comes to it. He showed his hands in the APC primaries where he virtually out-spent all his competitors by offering the most dollars to party delegates in Nigeria’s increasingly corrupt and monetized party primary elections.
Next is Atiku Abukar, a former two-term vice president and perennial presidential aspirant who appear desperate to be president. Besides his campaign promises to restructure the country, unbundle the inefficient state-oil company, and privatize non-functioning refineries, he also, like Bola Tinubu, appears to carry a lot of personal baggage that would not do a lot of damage to the image of the country.
Atiku has a corruption perception problem. His former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, has successfully painted him as a terribly corrupt individual and power monger who cannot be trusted to govern the country.
The two men sensationally fell apart during their second term in office as they both traded accusations of corruption against each other. While Atiku surreptitiously worked to scuttle Obasanjo’s third term ambition, Obasanjo in retaliation, thwarted Atiku’s presidential aspiration not just in 2007, but even subsequently.
In the run-up to the 2011 election when Atiku was selected as the Northern consensus candidate, Obasanjo’s retort when asked to comment on it was to mock his former vice president by laughing throughout before saying in pidgin English: “I dey laugh O!” Of course, Obasanjo had the last laugh as Atiku was defeated in the presidential primary election.
Obasanjo took it a step further by detailing Atiku’s alleged character flaws, vaunting ambitions, dalliances with marabouts and spiritualists, and above all, various corrupt dealings covering various sectors of the economy in his memoirs “My Watch”.
Although the two have met severally after leaving office, and despite a détente in 2019, it appears Atiku has been unable to convince his former boss to support his presidential aspiration.
Atiku’s considerable war chest also helped him to edge out contenders for the PDP ticket in a dollar rain. Recent audio tapes, purportedly of him admitting to massive corruption during his period as vice president, cast further doubts on his suitability for office and ability to pursue an anti-corruption agenda.
Finally, there is the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who, initially stood no chance within the highly monetized structures of the dominant parties.
His decision to leave for the Labour Party before the presidential primaries and embark on a massive grassroots campaign has surprisingly morphed into a movement that is now threatening the dominant political arrangements in the country.
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Obi, a successful businessman, was governor of Anambra state from 2006 to 2014. He made history by becoming the first Nigerian to successfully challenge his stolen gubernatorial mandate in court; he was also the first to successfully challenge his illegal impeachment as governor by a vicious cabal in Anambra state.
He proved highly successful in improving the living standards of the people of the state, improving on all developmental indices and especially on education, and making history as the only governor in the country, since 1999, that has not gone on a borrowing spree.
Rather, he invested excess state resources in businesses and left billions of naira in savings for his successor.
His candidacy is being helped by youth from across the country, who see him as the embodiment of their dreams and hopes for a new Nigeria.
They see his frugality, his prudence, and especially, his positive disposition to genuine accountability as a tool to begin taking back their country.
The choice before Nigerians cannot be clearer!