The D-day is finally here when members of the Africa’s largest opposition party, All Progressive Congress APC converge on Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre to choose the party’s flag bearer at the presidential election scheduled for the lovers’ day, February 12, 2015 across the federation.
The stake appears high as the five aspirants are battle ready to slug it out among themselves to determine who clinches the ticket at the end of today’s exercise. All the aspirants including their teeming supporters are already on ground in Lagos.
Like a boxing bout, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere Lagos will host what could best be described as the battle royale of sort that pitches former Head of State, Gen. Mohammadu Buhari,rtd, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, governors of Kano and Imo States, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso and Chief Rochas Okorocha, and the publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah against one another.
As members of the party are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the APC primary today, so also are members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, particularly, the kitchen cabinet of president Goodluck Jonathan who would be having a night vigil to monitor who carries the day at the end of the voting exercise, probably in the early hours of tomorrow. President Jonathan would definitely be praying for a weaker candidate to emerge so that the presidential election would be a walkover for him in February.
That’s the reason why APC delegates at today’s primary should jettison parochial sentiments and go all out for a candidate that would be acceptable to both members of the party and the electorate at large. Such a candidate should have a wide spread of support base across the length and breadth of the country. And he must not be one with a moral baggage tied around his waist.
He must be one with intellectual acumen required for solving the myriad of problems afflicting the nation today. The nation probably has never been faced with such magnitude of security challenges and economic quagmire. It’s not a hyperbole to say that birds barely sound like birds and scoundrels hardly sound like one any more in Nigeria.
The required candidate to turn around the situation should be detribalized; one who sees the entire country as his constituency if APC must provide an alternative platform for governance in the country. He should be one that will send jitters down the spine of the leadership of the ruling party. Without any doubt, democracy is fast developing in Nigeria, irrespective of a few shortcomings here and there. This is about the first time since 1999, when no one can stick out his neck in predicting who eventually wins a presidential primary election in a competitive atmosphere. The tradition has always been through the undemocratic consensus arrangement where the candidate is selected by a few powerful individuals within and outside the party.
Although, the battle is obviously between Buhari and Atiku, no one can conveniently rule out an upset in today’s exercise. But whatever upset that occurs will definitely put spanners in the way of the party’s quest to wrestle power from PDP. The mood of the nation would not support any candidate outside Atiku and Buhari as either of the duo appears to be better equipped to face the incumbent president at the polls.
Even, at that, many people would go for Atiku for his pedigree as a detribalized Nigerian leader who has a political structure spread across the country. Atiku enjoys a support base that cuts across the length and breadth of the country. An indigene of Adamawa, Atiku has many supporters in the South West, Northeast and Northwest as well as North central with sprinkles of supporters in the Southeast and South south. Not a few of his antagonists would however, be quick to note that he has never won any election in his state, Adamawa for his party outside PDP since he left government.
But his biggest shortcoming, to a large extent, stems from his tenure as Vice president under Olusegun Obasanjo. Atiku, we were made to believe by his boss, has an itching palm. He was accused of complicities in some transactions he supervised as Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation. Under his watch as chairman of the NCP, Bureau of Public Enterprises BPE sold AP Oil to the cronies of Atiku, using his bosom friend, Okocha as a front. The transaction was eventually reversed by Obasanjo who subsequently sold it to billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola…true to the meaning of his name (acrimonies transform to wealth). Unknown to many Nigerians, that was the beginning of the end of the political romance that hitherto existed between Obasanjo and Atiku. Nonetheless, Atiku is believed to be generous, even to a fault.
Buhari on the other hand is one of the few Nigerians that even their enemies would acknowledge their uprightness when it comes to lust for material things. A former Head of State, who does not have a private residence in Abuja. He is not known to be flamboyant. He’s a much disciplined individual with transparent fear of God. Many Nigerians would want him as president given the level of discipline he brought to bear in the system when he was head of state and his scarce tolerance for corruption.
It’s also believed that the alarming level of corruption in the country would hit the dust if Buhari is allowed to become president in 2015. Economy watchers are of the opinion that corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s development. It’s however, believed that once corruption is tackled and subdued, the problem of Nigeria is 75 per cent solved.
Until recently however, Buhari was alleged to be an Islamic fundamentalist. His utterances in some BBC Hausa interviews pointed towards giving a tacit approval to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents that have sent about 13,000 Nigerians into their early graves.
But of late he had been critical of the activities of the deadly sect which invariably precipitated an attempted attack on his life in Kawu area of Kaduna a few months back.
Given his intimidating profile, it was gathered that the Jonathan camp is fervently praying for Atiku to clinch the APC ticket. It was gathered that the presidency sees Buhari as a potent threat; the only candidate in APC that can give PDP leaders some sleepless night preparatory to the next year general elections.
It was even feared that the presidency might infiltrate the APC leadership to influence the choice of Atiku as the party’s flag bearer since it’s rightly or erroneously assumed that he would be easy to beat by Jonathan at the polls.
It was also learnt that many friends of the present administration with criminal records of corruption would like to do everything humanly possible to stop Buhari from becoming president.
However, Buhari enjoys wide acceptance in the Northern part of the country. He equally has millions of admirers in the Southwest while the changing political equations in the Southeast and South south could lead to an increased support base for him in those parts of the country.
Irrespective of whoever emerges as the party’s candidate, the ability of the party leadership to manage anticipated post-primary intra-party skirmishes would determine how far APC would go during the elections.
The wise counsel of the party to commit the aspirants to taking an oath of allegiance, analysts say, is as novel as preemptive.
To forestall acrimony that may arise after the primaries, the APC last week adopted an unusual measure. The party made the aspirants to sign a letter of commitment compelling them to remain in the party even after losing out in the exercise.
The statement by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, reads: ‘’I on behalf of myself and my primary campaign organization undertake to accept the outcome of the primaries and actively support whoever emerges as the winner and shall not defect to any other political party or in any way obstruct the smooth prosecution of the presidential campaigns
Atiku or Buhari, the dice is cast and in another 24 hours or thereabout, the party will announce the winner and the candidate that will face Jonathan at the Nigeria’s make or mar presidential election on February 12, 2015.