Soon after the results of the presidential primaries of the two major parties were announced on Sunday, a friend called me sounding despondent. He had voted for President Muhammadu Buhari since 2003, and was ecstatic when Buhari finally won at his fourth attempt in 2015.
Three years on, however, he is struggling to give Buhari a C, where C is less than average in security, the economy and the fight against corruption – three major areas where he promised change.
By Buhari’s record, trusting him with another four years would be a dangerous leap of faith. It’s not just about what he says or what he means by what he says. What he has done, so far, leaves very little confidence that he’s in charge or can be in charge. He is absent.
If the news from the Eagles Square in Abuja where the equivalent of nearly one quarter of the entire voter population in 2015 was said to have endorsed Buhari was cheerless, my friend was not amused by what happened at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
On Sunday night, roughly half the delegates were said to have voted for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in next year’s election. Atiku has emerged from third place in the last primaries of this former party and his frequent position as wannabe-in-chief, to flagbearer yet again.
There’s a desperate edge about his quest for compromise and power that hints at a darker, uncomfortable quality about the man. I don’t know what it is, but it’s there – just beneath that veneer of a strategic fighter and a generous heart.
Atiku is not a criminal, whatever anyone might say. But relentless wave after wave of corruption charges made against him since his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, opened the floodgates in 2003 have left him with his head barely above the murky waters.
Besides that, how he and his former boss managed to build their business empires from their supposedly modest incomes and also found money to build some of the best private schools in the country, while the public school system collapsed on their watch, have never been satisfactorily explained.
The last general election was worse for the third place candidate. The first and second candidates – Buhari and Jonathan – scored nearly 60 per cent of the total valid votes, while the other 12 shared the remaining with the highest among them, Adebayo Ayeni of African Peoples Alliance, scoring only 53,537 votes
Third place misery
In short, the only thing starker than Buhari v ‘Go-and-get-your PVC’ appears to be Buhari v Atiku. Yet public analyses of the outcome of the primaries in Abuja and Port Harcourt appear to suggest that the other 24 or so candidates who had also emerged from their parties’ primaries by Sunday, are wasting their time: It will be Buhari v Atiku, period.
Maybe. But just maybe. The figures have not been kind to those, like my friend, fighting off the despondency to accept that it might be a settled fight between Buhari and Atiku. In all four general elections since 2003, the highest number of third candidate vote in a presidential election was 2.6m or 7.4 per cent by Atiku Abubakar who ran on the ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria in 2007.