Pre­dict­ing the Out­come

Sunday Trust - - NIGERIAIN2019 - By Jib­rin Ibrahim Ibrahim is of the Cen­tre for Democ­racy and De­vel­op­ment, Abuja

Gov­er­nance in Nige­ria is very poor and the worst lev­els of poor gov­er­nance are found at the state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment lev­els. When­ever gen­eral elec­tions oc­cur how­ever, the at­ten­tion of Nige­ri­ans, and in­deed the world is fo­cused al­most en­tirely on the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which is in­vari­ably a two-horse race. It’s the same for the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions in which high hopes for a bet­ter “third force” was rife up un­til about six months ago. Since the party pri­maries how­ever, it has be­come clear that once again, the race is be­tween two can­di­dates, both in their sev­en­ties and both of north­ern Fu­lani stock. Nige­ria has so far been able to de­velop a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers so we are left with cur­rent Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar. Of course, there are dozens of other can­di­dates but no one seems to pay them much at­ten­tion.

Dur­ing the 2015 elec­tions, Buhari was the beacon of hope that gal­va­nized Nige­ri­ans to vote out an in­cum­bent pres­i­dent, Good­luck Jonathan. To­day, af­ter nearly four years, the hope has dimmed fol­low­ing his in­abil­ity to de­liver on his very clear cam­paign prom­ise of se­cu­rity, jobs and ef­fec­tively com­bat­ting cor­rup­tion. His ri­val, Atiku Abubakar, who has had pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions for the past 35 years might fi­nally have his chance. Clearly, this is his best chance so far.

In Oc­to­ber, the Economist Mag­a­zine ar­tic­u­lated the view that it might in­deed be his time given his pledge to cur­tail job­less­ness and re­vive the econ­omy which gives him an edge over Pres­i­dent Buhari with a few months to the elec­tions. The Atiku cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion jumped on the pre­dic­tion: “As the Economist rightly states, the is­sues in 2019 are pop­u­lar frus­tra­tion over the rise in job­less­ness and poverty (two of the big­gest voter con­cerns) on Mr. Buhari’s watch, as well as grow­ing in­se­cu­rity in cen­tral Nige­ria. No other can­di­date has the ca­pac­ity to ad­dress these chal­lenges, like Atiku.” Atiku is pre­sent­ing him­self as a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man poised to trans­late the sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess he has made in his pri­vate busi­ness em­pire to the pub­lic sec­tor.

In its lat­est edi­tion, the Economist Mag­a­zine changed its mind and be­lieves now that Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari would win next year’s elec­tion. They also came out with the view that the op­po­si­tion coali­tion may col­lapse be­fore the gen­eral elec­tion. Not sur­pris­ingly, the up­set PDP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Atiku Abubakar came out to say that this time round, the forecast of the Lon­don-based mag­a­zine failed to meet the at­tributes of ob­jec­tiv­ity, bal­ance and fair­ness.

For­eign pre­dic­tions about the 2019 elec­toral out­come has be­come a game with the Economist In­tel­li­gence Unit, the re­search unit of The Economist, and a multi­na­tional bank­ing and fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany, HSBC com­ing out with pro-Atiku pre­dic­tions. The Buhari side then had to re-read a re­port by the United States In­sti­tute of Peace, claim­ing they have pre­dicted a Buhari win. The In­sti­tute had to come out with a state­ment cap­tioned: “Cor­rect­ing a Me­dia Er­ror: USIP Makes No Pre­dic­tion on Nige­rian Elec­tion.” They ex­plained that “the In­sti­tute’s 20-page re­port on risk to a peace­ful elec­tion in Nige­ria, pre­dicted vic­tory for Buhari was false.” The prob­lem with all these pre­dic­tions and non­pre­dic­tions of elec­toral out­comes is that they tend to draw on so-called ob­jec­tive fac­tors of per­for­mance or non-per­for­mance. Elec­tions how­ever are not about ob­jec­tive fac­tors, they are of­ten about the sen­ti­ments of vot­ers.

Atiku’s choice of Peter Obi as his run­ning mate, for ex­am­ple, has cre­ated two cur­rents of sen­ti­ments that are af­fect­ing his cam­paign neg­a­tively. South-East Gover­nors have been fu­ri­ous that he went above their heads to se­lect his run­ning mate and are not putting their state party ma­chines in his sup­port. In much of the North, Peter Obi is seen as an eth­nic bigot with an anti-Hausa track record and that in it­self is work­ing in Buhari’s favour. At this time, it is very dif­fi­cult to pre­dict the out­come of the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The two can­di­dates have strengths and weak­ness that are be­ing played out in ways that could still swing the out­comes.

Pres­i­dent Buhari has a num­ber of weak­nesses that are af­fect­ing his cam­paign. His big­gest weak­ness is that he has lost his 2015 coali­tion with many key play­ers such as Atiku him­self, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Saraki, Speaker Dog­ara, Gover­nor Tam­buwal and so on de­fect­ing back to the PDP. Buhari has also lost a lot of his fi­nancers who as­sumed win­ning would pro­vide fi­nan­cial re­wards for them and that sim­ply did not hap­pen. Buhari has also lost the sup­port of much of the North­ern tech­no­cratic elite who are of the view that he has not shown suf­fi­cient com­pe­tence in gov­er­nance and has in ad­di­tion al­lowed his key min­is­ters – fi­nance, bud­get, power and works – to al­lo­cate more re­sources to the South-West than the North-East and North-West. His party, the APC has also been very con­cerned that Buhari has con­sis­tently re­fused to make po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ments in favour of his party and that too many of Jonathan’s ap­pointees have been re­tained over the four years. This has cre­ated a sig­nif­i­cant lack of en­thu­si­asm and com­mit­ment to the cam­paign among many of his sup­port­ers. This might re­duce his sup­port within his own base.

Pres­i­dent Buhari has a num­ber of strengths, how­ever, that work in his favour. His core sup­port in the North-West and North-East has re­mained with him and still con­sider him a good man, even if as many of them say, is sur­rounded with bad ad­vis­ers.

They there­fore dis­re­gard his al­leged non­per­for­mance, blam­ing it on oth­ers.

Atiku’s great­est weak­ness is that he is not well liked in his own base in the North-East and North-West. He does not have the type of love and charisma that Buhari en­joys in the zone. Atiku has also alien­ated the zone by ar­tic­u­lat­ing his cam­paign on re­struc­tur­ing the coun­try, which is pleas­ing to the South. Atiku is also con­sid­ered by too many peo­ple as hav­ing a long track record of cor­rup­tion. Even those who are com­plain­ing that Buhari has not per­formed as much as he could have on the anti-cor­rup­tion front are wor­ried that Atiku would be much worse.

Atiku’s strength is that he has built sig­nif­i­cant sup­port from the South and the Chris­tian com­mu­nity. He is the ben­e­fi­ciary of the ter­ri­ble farm­ers-herders con­flict that has turned much of the Mid­dle Belt against Pres­i­dent Buhari, who many in that zone be­lieve al­lowed mass killing to spread un­hin­dered. Atiku also has a vast net­work of friends and as­so­ciates sup­port­ing him all over the coun­try and has been able to keep his friends while Buhari has lost much of his own. The PDP ma­chine also has the ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate a lot of fi­nan­cial sup­port for the Atiku cam­paign and one of the great­est un­knowns of the elec­tions is whether the PDP money would flow, if it does, it would be a great boast to the Atiku cam­paign. The Atiku cam­paign has strong sup­port in the South-East, South-South and what is known as the cul­tural or Chris­tian Mid­dle Belt. He is how­ever an­other Fu­lani man so it’s not clear whether vot­ers there would come out en masse to elect an­other Fu­lani man.

The South-West would be the ar­biter of the elec­tions. Would they vote for Atiku who has promised them the re­struc­tur­ing they love or would they vote for Buhari who has given them the Vice Pres­i­dency and pow­er­ful min­is­ters? Clearly, the votes would be split but the mar­gins of dif­fer­ence could be de­ci­sive. The me­dia, so­cial me­dia and over­tures that would be made in the com­ing weeks would all play a ma­jor role. Pres­i­dent Buhari has a dif­fi­cult but fea­si­ble chance of win­ning the 2019 elec­tions. It would, how­ever re­quire that he is able to quickly mends fences with sup­port­ers he has hurt or ig­nored and is able to mo­bilise against ap­a­thy. Atiku Abubakar also has a dif­fi­cult but fea­si­ble chance of win­ning the 2019 elec­tions if his cam­paign struc­ture grows in co­her­ence and is well funded and is above all able to carry the South-West with the prom­ise of re­struc­tur­ing.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent, Atiku Abubakar

Prof. Mah­mood Yakubu, INEC Chair­man

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.