With the primaries of the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Parties, PDP, now over, the coast is now clear for real politicking. Understandably, all eyes are now on President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the flag bearers of the APC and PDP respectively in the 2019 presidential election. While it could be said that President Buhari had it easy securing his party’s ticket, being the sole candidate, Alhaji Atiku on the other hand had to slug it out with over 12 political titans that included Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Senate President, Senator David Mark, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and a host of others.
Now that the primaries are over, what are the chances of these two political gladiators in the battle for Aso Rock Villa? From the look of things, the battle is likely to be a lot tougher than it was in 2015, especially for President Buhari. This is because lots of events have overtaken most of the sentiments that effortlessly worked in his favour in 2015.
For one, the religion card that readily tilted in his favour in 2015, especially in the northern part of the country, might not wholly work for him this time around. This is for the obvious fact that Atiku Abubakar, his major contender, is also a Northern Muslim like the President. Thus, while it might have been too easy for some Northern Muslims to vote President Buhari ahead of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, same scenario might not automatically play out in 2019.
Also, unlike in 2015 when President Buhari smoothly secured majority of the votes in the north, he must be prepared for a tougher battle in 2019 in the region traditionally acknowledged as his political fortress. He would, no doubt, face a stiffer duel in the North East where Alhaji Atiku Abubakar hails from. For some time now, the zone has been clamouring to also have a fair shot at the presidency. If not well managed, major fallouts of the APC primaries from the North East, especially in Adamawa and Taraba States might further jeopardize the President’s performance in the region. So, unlike in 2015 when the President got block votes from the North East, he might need to work extra hard to make better inroad in 2019.
Also, in the North West, where the larger chunks of the President’s votes usually come from, the signs are not also too sure for him. For one, the squabble between Kano State Governor, Abdulahi Umar Ganduje, and his immediate predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso might play a significant role in reducing the number of votes the President usually gets from Kano. In 2015, out of a total valid votes of 2,128,821, President Buhari secured 1,903,999, representing about 90 % of total vote cast.
When it is considered that President Buhari won the 2015 presidential election against Dr. Goodluck Jonathan with a total of 2, 571, 759 votes, the import of the almost 2 million votes he got from Kano significantly becomes noticeable. So, without a doubt, Kano is President Buhari’s strongest electoral fortress. But then, with Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who in his own right is a popular Kano politician, now aligning with Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and the PDP, the President’s chances in Kano might not be as massive as it was in 2015.
Though, it might be argued that recent defection of former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau from the PDP to APC represents a good omen for the President’s prospect in Kano, but the refusal of Mallam Shekarau’s long-time political ally, Malam Salihu Sagir Takai, who is now PDP gubernatorial candidate in Kano State, to follow him to APC might further narrow the chances of the President in Kano.
Still on President Buhari’s prospect in the North West, Sokoto might also constitute a serious banana peel for the President, especially with the defection of the State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal to the PDP. It has equally been alleged that the President doesn’t really enjoy the best of relationship with the highly revered monarch of Sokoto, Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III. It will be recalled that in 2015 presidential election, APC scored 671,926 as against PDP’s 152,199. Tambuwal’s defection to the PDP as well as other political undercurrents in the state might likely alter things in 2019.
In the North Central, where the President for the first time had an appreciable standing in 2015, lots of issues might also work against his chances in 2019. Chief among such is the farmers and herdsmen clashes in states such as Benue, Plateau and Nassarawa. Also, the defection of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki to the PDP might really work against the President in Kwara State, and to a large extent in Kogi State. The well publicized antagonism of some powerful retired Generals of the North Central extraction to President Buhari’ second term bid might also be a huge factor, especially in Niger and Plateau States.
Now, going down South, President Buhari would need the best of strategy and more than a miracle to have a major breakthrough in the South-East and South –South. Since 1999, these two zones have always been an enclave of the PDP and that might not really change in 2019. However, the recent defection of Senator Godswill Akpabio and former Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan from the PDP to the APC, may translate into a substantial electoral success for the APC in the South-South, considering the political stature of these two men in the zone.
In the South-West, for many reasons, President Buhari is probably going to have an upper hand. First, his Deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who is perceived by many to be a leading light of the Buhari Administration, is from the zone. Second, the APC effectively controls five out of the six states in the region while Ekiti would soon join the fray as Dr. Kayode Fayemi is to take over from incumbent Governor Ayodele Fayose in a few days time. Thirdly, unlike what transpired during Dr Goodluck Jonathan presidency, President Buhari seems to favour the region in the choice of key ministerial appointments. However, from the closeness of recent gubernatorial elections in both Osun and Ekiti, it is quite clear that the PDP still has a fairly good foothold in the region.
From the look of things, the 2019 presidential election is likely to be a close one. Alhaji Abubakar Atiku is a shrewd politician with massive political networks across the country and he has been eyeing the presidency since God knows when. This might be his last possible attempt. No doubt, he will give it all it takes. President Buhari, on the other hand, has the power of incumbency and his well-known tough stance against corruption going well for him. It is hoped that the two leading candidates would run an issue based campaign that is devoid of mudslinging and undue rancour. At the end of the day, it is the interest of the country and his people that should be paramount. God bless Nigeria.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja