Now that the various political parties have chosen their presidential candidates, the battle for Aso Rock in 2019 has started in earnest.
Oby Ezekwesili, former Education Minister and founder “Bring Back Our Girls” Movement emerged as the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), while Donald Duke, former Rivers State governor was chosen to flag the flag of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Former Chief Security Officer to Late Sani Abacha, Hamza Al-Mustapha emerged from the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), former Ondo state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was chosen as the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) candidate, while Mr. Isaac Ositelu emerged as Accord Party (AP) presidential flag-bearer. Also, Pat Utomi, a first class intellectual and former Managing Director, Volkwegen of Nigeria emerged as a candidate of one of the parties.
These candidates, particularly, Oby Ezekwesili, Donald Duke and Pat Utomi are first class intellectuals and administrative wizkids who have what it takes to administer the country and turn its fortunes around, but in Nigeria where democracy is controlled by money bags and jackboot dictators, they stand no chance of making it to the presidency. Their parties, unlike the APC and PDP had no structural background to market their great potentials, but they could still remain in the background as advisers and opinion leaders.
With these mushroom parties and their candidates not making much impact, the contest is narrowed down between Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congres (APC).
Atiku emerged from a keenly contest PDP presidential primaries held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He won with 1,532 votes, defeating his closest challenger, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State who polled 693 votes.
Some PDP stalwarts had tipped Tambuwal as a better candidate, which is why it was not surprising that Governor Fayose of Ekiti State had criticized the emergence of Atiku in place of Tambuwal, threatening to leave PDP unless the result of the convention is ratified to bring the Sokoto State governor as PDP flag bearer.
Fayose's loud cry is a little too late as the failed PDP contestants, including Tambuwal have congratulated Atiku and pledged to work with him.
The coast is now clear for Atiku to plunge into the real battle, that of defeating the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general election.
The former vice president may not be too 'clean', but he is coming at a time Nigerians are completely fed-up with Buhari's style of governance. The massive hunger in the land, APC disregard for rule of law, arrogant display of power by those in authority and herdsmen's killings are what Atiku should make his campaign points.
Also, Buhari's lopsided appointments and his sidelining of the Igbo race, a major ethnic group in his administration which has led to agitation by the Indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) to actualize Biafra are what the PDP flag bearer should capitalize on to deal a devastating blow on Buhari.
Atiku himself understands that Nigerians are yearning for a change, which was why in his acceptance speech after the convention, he said. “We cannot fail Nigeria at this very moment because Nigerians are yearning for the return of the PDP to power. They have seen years of gross mismanagement of the APC and therefore, provides the opportunity for the PDP to return to power”, saying with the support of his fellow contestants and other PDP members, they would be in Aso Rock, come 2019.
Former President Jonathan is also optimistic that Atiku would become president in 2019. While congratulating him on his victory at the PDP presidential primaries, Jonathan said by the grace of God Atiku would be the next president of the country, stressing that Atiku would be the man to take Nigeria from being the world's headquarters for extreme poverty to being the global hub for prosperity and happiness.
Buhari who emerged as consensus candidate of the APC rode to Aso Rock in 2015 on a goodwill of transparency and discipline. But his avowed 'cleanness' has fizzled out, having presided over a country that is now heading towards disintegration as a result tribal and religious politics.
Many Nigerians have equally discovered loopholes in his fight against corruption, saying he is concentrating his corruption fight on his opponents and non members of his party, while treating corruption perpetrated by members of his cabinet and APC with kindsglove.
However, the president has insisted that he is on course with his corruption agenda, and believes it would still form the fulcrum of his campaign in 2019.
Buhari who is unperturbed by the massive hunger in the land, says he has reinvigorated agriculture and made it attractive to Nigerians, who according to him, are now reaping heavily from it. But he has no answer to the pervasive killings by Fulani herdsmen and does not seem to care that it is capable of costing him the presidency in 2019.
In the view of analysts, President Buhari is unperturbed by the disasters his administration has caused because he intends to use the power of incumbency to keep himself in power. They point to the several ways the president had used raw power to get his way. They gave as an example the Osun governorship election which the PDP candidate, Adeleke won but was overturned in favour of the APC, candidate Aboyega Oyetola. The analysts are also horrified by the manner the president has been using security agents to intimidate Nigerians, saying it is a test case of what would happen in 2019. That the man wants to perpetuate himself in office, using coercive power available at his disposal.
“But the system of perpetuating oneself in office without winning election by popular votes is an invitation to anarchy, which the president may not withstand”, okey, a political analyst who craved anonymity said.