In a few days from now, Nigerians would go to the poll to elect their president. The 2019 presidential election has been eagerly anticipated, perhaps could be one of the most keenly contested presidential elections in Nigeria’s history.
Incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, who won a historic general election in 2015, after defeating Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is seeking re-election. However, unlike 2015, Buhari’s popularity has waned considerably; he faces a huge task to regain the confidence of Nigerians and win re-election.
It is generally believed among Nigerians that Buhari has performed below expectation.
According to the final names of candidates released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), about 72 presidential candidates and 72 vice presidential candidates are in the race for the nation’s top job.
With the youngest candidate, being 30 years-old- Johnson Omede, who is the vice-presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
Some of the major presidential candidates include incumbent Buhari of the APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Omoyele Sowore, African Action Congress (ACC), Sina Fagbenro Byron of the Kowa party and Obadia Mailafia of the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC).
Recently, the candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and former Minister of Education and Solid Minerals, Obiageli Ezekwesili, pulled out of the race and promised to form a coalition among the new crop of politicians to defeat the APC and PDP.
The battle for the presidential position is, however, between the candidates of the nation’s two biggest political parties, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who was a former vice president of the country under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and incumbent Buhari of the APC. Buhari, while launching his re-election bid last December, stated in his manifesto, that he had laid the foundation work to take the country to the ‘next level’, promising to focus on five key areas – job creation, infrastructure, business entrepreneurship development, human capital enhancement service and political inclusion.
He hoped to engage one million graduates, while two million jobs are to be created through agriculture, including having the Anchor Borrowers Programme to create 1. 5 million jobs
The president promised to complete the second Niger-Bridge, revitalisation of the nation’s rail network, which will connect major cities across regions in the country.
He promised that 35 per cent of appointments in his cabinet would go to females, among others.
However, this is contrary to the programmes of Atiku Abubakar, who have promised to partner the private sector to fix the ailing infrastructure and public institutions for optimal delivery.
Atiku would invest in education, restructure the country, diversify the economy and create jobs by creating enabling environment and giving soft loans for Small Scale Enterprises (SME) to grow across the country.
Atiku also hoped to improve power generation by ensuring full participation of the private sector, give licence to investors in the sector to enable them to invest in mini-grid to serve local communities.
In the last two months, the two candidates have been campaigning across the country, selling their programmes to Nigerians, seeking the support of groups, individuals and ethnic nationalities ahead of the election.
However, it appears there is sharp division among some Nigerians and groups on who among the two leading candidates they should support.
For instance, in Southwestern Nigeria, a faction of Afenifere, pan-Yoruba’s cultural group, has given its support to Buhari, while another faction is backing the candidacy of PDP.
This division, however, cut across large country.
But President Buhari may have weakened his chances in the election over his poor performance in an interview broadcast in the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), ‘Meet The Candidates’
Buhari was criticised by Nigerians over his inability to articulate his opinion and ideas about his administration programme and policies.
However, Olurunleke Michael, a pundit, who is a research fellow at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), predicted that the election may be close, but added that President Buhari may eventually lose largely due his poor mental and physical condition.
Olurunleke said that President Buhari’s re-election bid had further been dented by his poor performance in recent media chat in the runoff to the election.
According to him, “Whatever you say; he is the incumbent and has his stronghold, it would be a close presidential election; Buhari has a large support in some parts of northern Nigeria. But Nigerians should brace up for a shock of their lives, it would happen, what happened to Goodluck Jonathan may happen again.
“Buhari may lose, but I think it may be largely due to his mental and physical incompetence to the office, his weaknesses have also been exposed in the recent media chat. It is obvious that Buhari cannot continue in such office; electing him for the second term would mean sharing power with some people which is illegal.
“And it is sad those pushing him are only concerned about their interest; they are not concerned about Nigeria. In terms of mental and physical competence, Atiku is better than him; you can see his acceptance across the country, I see him winning the election.”
Also, a political Economist, Emmanuel Adebisi, from the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), noted that indices available to him indicate that the country has not fared better under the APC government, stressing that he expects a tight presidential election, but equally predicted that Atiku would eventually win because Nigerians want a change.
According to him, “If you look at all indices in the country, I think the country has not made much progress under this APC government; look at the naira, doing business, power, Nigerians should get something better than this.
For the election, Buhari has his stronghold and they have incumbency power, but you see, he is not the one in charge of this government, even his wife said it. Atiku is better and from my findings so far, he has a clear understanding of the economy and related issues, I see him winning the election”.