How Atiku Bests Buhari - By Odilim Enwegbara

President Buhari’s condition is very typical to one suffering from amnesia. Or the absolute fault of his handlers who forgot so quickly how he eventually got so lucky to becoming president in 2015. It’s unbelievable how quickly it has been forgotten that Buhari tried his luck in 2003, 2007, and 2011 and did so failing woefully.

What a short memory they have got, forgetting that he became president because of President Jonathan’s refusal to being an ally to the imminent bloodbath awaiting Nigerians as President Buhari had sworn: “If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, the dogs and the baboons will be soaked in blood.”

Maybe Buhari himself has forgotten that he actually got the presidency on a platter of gold. Or should he have become president of Nigeria in 2015 were northerners — including northern PDP — not have decided to humiliate President Jonathan for refusing to respect the agreement reached with northern political juggernauts in 2011 that he would not be contesting in 2015?

Buhari’s handlers may have forgotten that it was as a result of the whole north overwhelmingly voting for Buhari in 2015; of course, like northwest and northeast, southwest and northcentral (middle belt states) too, had to be solidly behind him, based on such an unverifiable assumption that here was a man with an impeccable “zero tolerance” for corruption.

Since there is no hiding place for the truth, is it possible for everyone to be fooled again into believing that Buhari is truly a no-nonsense anti-graft leader? What about our comatose economy? Are we still waiting for Buhari’s magic wand? These unknown truths about Buhari have finally been in the open for everyone to see to this president’s lack of understanding of the problems facing our economy, not to mention having any understanding how to fix it or at worst keep it how he met it.

Unbelievably, Nigerians cannot believe that the once-revered no-nonsense, anti-graft Buhari could be this worse than his predecessors. That political quick fixes could paralyze our senses cannot be more embarrassing. But more embarrassing is the fact that, rather than reducing corruption in Nigeria Buhari is sheltering corrupt politicians so long as they join the President’s ruling APC.

In fact, all you need to do to be set free from the EFCC dragnets is to simply go to the APC national secretariat to pick up their membership cards. In other words, for you not to find yourself in Kuje prison, simply pick up APC membership card and voila! You are free and stainless, guilt-free; a saint!

What has compounded the Buhari tragedy, tragedy caused by our misplaced judgment of who Buhari really is, fuelled by our increased nostalgia for Jonathan, is above all, because of the fact that Buhari has since becoming president, become such an unbelievable source of ethnoreligious separatisms as has never been seen in the history of this country. What used to be cold ethnic and religious war in Nigeria has today reached such a boiling point to becoming ethnic and religious ‘hot war.’

It is this endless embarrassment that led northern political juggernauts to come out in public to announce that the north is in search of a consensus candidate to present to Nigerians. Here, they are looking for such a good leader who will not be blamed for the country’s woes the way Buhari is being blamed today.

But while Nigerians in the southwest, southeast, south-south, and middle-belt could have forgiven Buhari’s lack of vision in the areas of the economy and corruption, what finally sealed his fate in these battleground geopolitical zones come 2019, have become the Fulani herdsmen menace and terror.

Thousands of Nigerian farmers have lost their farms to the Fulani herdsmen as well as innocent and powerless Nigerians have been killed by AK47 carrying herdsmen, who kill them for refusing their intrusion; making everyone to believe that their cows have become more priced than human lives in Nigeria.

Southwestern political juggernauts have decided to not only fight Buhari but also fight Senator Tinubu, who lured them into supporting Buhari in 2015. Their anger is that Tinubu’s political naiveté has no limits given that after all he did for Buhari, he was abandoned.

For some time now, it has become so unbearable that these political power brokers could hardly swallow the insults associated with Buhari’s kind of monarchical presidency, that seem to make him seem indisposed, including to their demand for restructuring.

But while they could have forgiven this his insensitivity, what they cannot forgive is President Buhari’s looking the other way while Fulani herdsmen go about on killing sprees, including in the southwest. That is why, if Senator Ahmed Tinubu hasn’t read the handwriting on the wall, taking the Yoruba nation for another ride is going to be resisted come 2019 presidential election when their PVCs will finally speak for them, assuming they wouldn’t be boycotting the presidential election.

No wonder, talking to some political power brokers in the southwest, all you hear from them is, “Yes, they have fooled us in 2015 but there’s no way they can expect to fool us again into believing in this government, including their kangaroo midnight restructuring. Their agreed fear is that lacking constitutional teeth, the so-called restructuring could be an easy candidate for repeal once he gets sworn in for the second term.” That is why it will come down to Buhari vs Atiku.

Being well-known for his pro-restructuring, no doubt, southwestern political power brokers will do everything possible to make sure that it is Atiku that is handed the region’s votes. Now, that it is between Buhari and Atiku, things like “he is also our son-in-law” have too gained recognition.

As important as being son-in-law, southeasterners too would have gone ahead to forgive President Buhari not only for his unfortunate pronouncement that those who gave him 97% and those who gave him 5% wouldn’t expect equal treatment in his administration. Not even his still going ahead to make political and security appointments that completely marginalized them.

That he has continued to look the other way while Fulani herdsmen go on a killing spree has become what southeasterners have decided they will never forgive Buhari for. Also, like southwesterners and south southerners, southeasterners want Nigeria to be returned to its pre-1966 federal system, where all the regions will not only be in full control of their resources but also allowed to develop at their own pace.

Now that there is no more Jonathan to be taught a political lesson, it is certain that the northern establishment has finally come to the realization that it’s a mistake having Buhari to preside over the affairs of this country at this point in time when the country urgently needs to transit from an oil-based economy to full-blown industrial economy. The shocking reality has since become how to recover the country from the devastating ‘Buhari Effect’ and his insensitivity to the plight of millions of Nigerians, the same people who joyfully and hopefully came out en-masse to vote for him in 2015. What are these political juggernauts responding to Nigerians who are today demanding, “Why is the economy this stupid?”

Just like the north decided to teach Jonathan his political lesson; come 2019, the south has decided that President Buhari should be taught his political lesson for being indifferent to the south to the extent of ignoring their plight in the hands of his Fulani herdsmen, not to mention their demand for the restructuring of the country. With this potential stand-off leading to the possible dissolution of Nigeria’s 1914 amalgamation, the northern political establishment can’t be more worried today.

But what seems to be really giving these northern juggernauts many sleepless nights is what his state of health will be immediately after the long presidential election campaigns. Wondering if within months of his second term he is unable to carry out his presidential duties, wouldn’t that amount to north’s prematurely handing over the presidency to the south?

These are some of the questions giving them sleepless nights. Another fear they are contending with is his now well-known discriminatory appointments and his pro-north economic policies. What happens if as a result of such precedence, the next southern president goes to overdo it? So they worry!

This growing disapproval of his cliquishness now comes from powerful ex-military rulers like Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, as well as from respected scholars like Noble Laureate Wole Soyinka and powerful clergymen like Father Ejike Mbaka. It has since compounded their fear that his government is causing such an irreparable damage to the north.

Understandably, this explains their increasing apprehension. Even though it would have been premature for them to publicly announce that they will not be supporting Buhari in 2019, to avoid any surprises for the south, including unexpected constitutional crisis that could come from Buhari emerging as a president-elect to lead to the possible announcement of southern president-elect, these northern political brokers are already looking beyond Buhari when they recently announced to be looking for a consensus candidate, someone they will support for president in 2019.

Having rightly read the current political temperature in the land has formed the basis of their undeclared tilting toward the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. As far as they are concerned, Atiku is not only a seasoned politician, a bridge-builder, someone who can easily unite the country, but above all, someone who can be easily sold to the south without having to convince southerners that his government will eventually restructure the country to every region’s satisfaction.

Fully aware of this, the efforts to stop Atiku from emerging as PDP presidential candidate have since started. Besides costing APC sleepless nights, it is also costing the ruling party billions of naira. In fact, if care is not taken, it is possible that the project to stop Atiku from emerging as PDP presidential candidate will cost APC far more money to execute than the presidential election campaign itself. But their success will only depend on how willing are PDP power brokers to collaborate with them especially as billions of naira is changing hands in an effort to block Atiku’s emergence.

But will neutralize Atiku end Buhari’s vulnerability in 2019? It seems that Buhari’s handlers are yet to come to terms with Rabiu Kwankwaso’s impending spoiler role in Kano come 2019. This spoiler game is why Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) is determined to make Kwankwaso their presidential candidate to ensure that he turns Kano into a serious battleground state in 2019. Should that happen and with Kwankwaso expectedly capturing as high as 50% of the state’s votes, it’s all over for Buhari.

That is why notwithstanding the recently rented crowd to receive him during his recent visit to Kano, Buhari is still vulnerable in Kano. It is why anyone who understands the dynamics of Kano politics shouldn’t rely on the state government’s recent boasting that his government will hand the president 5 million votes in Kano. Reasons, why Buhari should be wary of such premature bragging, are obvious.

First, Kwankwaso’s grassroots structures cannot just be destroyed by his successor governor overnight. Second, underage voting which was rampant in 2015 is going to be difficult, if not impossible especially because in 2019 the whole world’s eagle eyes will all be on Kano. Third, given the consensus among western powers not to allow Buhari win a reelection for fear of dragging the country into a civil war, the US and Europe are more than out to ensure that he never returns.

Fourth, if the governor of Kano is counting on rigging the election this time around, it is better he forgets that since he knows that Kwankwaso knows that game better than him. Fourth — and the most certain — unknown to Buhari’s handlers, there is bottled anger cross the north; and Kano people believing that being the state that gave him the highest votes, are so angry that there is little or nothing to show for that especially in their lives since May 29, 2015. And just like other Nigerians, they too have to contend with cash straps in the midst of high food prices, scarcity of and high prices of petroleum products, national insecurity, etc.

While we all cross our fingers and watch how this political drama plays out, one thing that is now clear is Atiku’s acceptability as the best presidential candidate. While this brings to a closure his decades-long dream of becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one thing that he has that none of his predecessors had is his second-to-none business wealth of experience, the shrewdness that allows exceptional business leaders to always pierce the very heart of complex problems with ingenious solutions ahead of competition.

But unlike Buhari’s policy flip-flops, Atiku’s pro-business and pro-investment and pro-growth policies, particularly his smart agricultural and solid mineral policies will for the first time uncover north’s hidden vast wealth, wealth that makes north more than thousand times far richer than south.

Right now, having understood the missing business strategy to be adopted, Atiku remains the only presidential candidate who has what it takes to turn the current herdsmen menace to a win-win policy solution. This is among the reasons why I am confident that to truly get the whole country out of our current economic and social mess, there wouldn’t be a better time to elect such a tested global business giant to help fix Nigeria.

Enwegbara, a development economist, and public analyst wrote from Abuja and can be reached via With The Cable