As many Nigerians now look up to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rescue them from the suffering into which the President Muhammadu Buhari government has plunged them, there is talk making the rounds that PDP will make Buhari’s age an issue in the coming presidential election.
Some of PDP power brokers are said to be working towards choosing a much younger person than Buhari to fly the party’s presidential flag and so moves are therefore being clandestinely made in some quarters to work against former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar’s possible candidature on the ground that “he is in Buhari’s age bracket”. Buhari is 75, Atiku is 71.
If PDP wants to use age as the cornerstone of its campaign strategy that will be bunkum strategy and the party will lose the presidency miserably in the 2019 election.
This is because it is only in “age bracket” that any similarity exists between Atiku and Buhari, even though Buhari is still the older. Except in being in the same age bracket, the two men are miles apart in virtually all indices of comparison.
So, to begin to discountenance Atiku’s candidature merely on the ground that “he is in the same age bracket with Buhari” is to stand reason on its head. That view is myopic, illogical and flies in the face of good strategic thinking.
So, all the teeming and widely acknowledged leadership qualities, vision, brilliance and experience of Atiku should be cast away even though the man is in good and robust health?
Is age the only barometer for determining good health? How old was former President Musa Yar’Adua when his health failed him? He was only in his fifties. And how old was former President Ronald Reagan when he was elected and served meritoriously for two terms and has gone down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents? He was in his seventies, and like Atiku, in robust health.
When has age become the sole barometer for determining good health? Are many people in their twenties, thirties and forties not languishing in poor health while many others in their sixties, seventies and eighties are waxing strong in good health? Why do we pretend not to know this?
Now, let us look at the world of differences between Atiku and Buhari even though they are “in the same age bracket”.
Unlike Buhari, Atiku is in very robust health and is not associated with any ailment whatsoever. Atiku’s robust health has seen him attending to his numerous well managed businesses and political activities while travelling around Nigeria and the entire world regularly.
As a democrat, Atiku’s credentials are without parallel. Nigerians have come to know Atiku as the politician who plays by the rule and is always on the side of truth and the constitution.
Contrast this with Buhari’s disregard to rule of law, totalitarianism, penchant for disobedience to court rulings and his dictatorial tendencies.
Atiku’s economic management dexterity has seen him founding and sitting atop some of the most successfully managed companies in Nigeria and overseas, which cut across several sectors including education, agriculture, oil and gas, media, water, hospitality, maritime, beverages, etc.
It took Buhari only one year in office to plunge Nigeria into recession.
Unlike Buhari, Atiku is a famously detribalized man which is why he is popular across the ethnic divides that make up Nigeria.
Atiku is cerebral, erudite and articulate and can debate any subject under the sun, comfortably. Atiku is not the type of leader who will run away from any debate with his opponents as did Buhari in the 2015 general elections.
Atiku is one Nigerian leader that has never been found, in word or action, to favour any religion over the other.
Buhari is known to advocate for the extension of Sharia law all over Nigeria and his religious fundamentalism has also been seen in his appointments into key positions, especially security positions.
As one of the largest employers of labour in Nigeria, it is on record that Atiku has created over fifty thousand jobs from his business organizations alone.
Buhari has an awful and embarrassing record for job creation, both in his private capacity as a retired general and his official position as president of Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), over ten million Nigerians have lost their jobs since Buhari became president in 2015.
Production of animal feeds is one of Atiku’s businesses and Atiku had been advocating for ranching several years before the deadly clashes between herdsmen and farmers began. Add this to his call for restructuring of Nigeria. The only presidential aspirant from the north who has the political will to restructure Nigeria is Atiku Abubakar.
Buhari is anti-ranching and anti-restructuring.
Most of the star performers in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime were people brought in by Atiku who was then vice president. Among these people is Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The comatose state of affairs in Nigeria under Buhari says a lot about his ability or not to select a good team.
We pray there will be free and fair PDP presidential primaries. But if Atiku fails to pick the ticket, it will be very unfortunate for all Nigerians because there is nobody from the North that can beat Buhari in an election other than Atiku Abubakar. Atiku is the only northern politician that can stand Buhari eye ball to eye ball, pound for pound and crush him in a national election. Atiku is a walking encyclopedia of visionary ideas; a detribalised and cosmopolitan leader, just the real change Nigeria needs now.
There is no northerner that can divide the north and pull a large chunk of votes from Buhari’s stronghold more than Atiku. Also, there is no northern politician that can beat Atiku in garnering votes from South-south, South-east, and to some extent North-central.
Even among the Northern presidential aspirants in the PDP, none has Atiku’s pedigree relative to the indices mentioned above. Atiku towers above them all in every sphere of assessment and will transform Nigeria into a modern and prosperous nation.
If PDP fields any other candidate, it should forget the presidency as no northern politician, other than Atiku, can send Buhari packing from Aso Villa. Even Buhari knows this and has been making visibly desperate and panicky moves since Atiku left the APC.
Buhari dreads to be confronted by Atiku in a presidential election where both will fight for votes in the 36 states and 774 local government areas of Nigeria. Atiku has the capacity to massively crush Buhari in the South-east, South-south, North Central and share votes with him in the North-east, North-west and South-west. Even the South-west may yield to Atiku as the vast majority of the Yoruba will vote for a candidate that is known to be genuinely committed to restructuring Nigeria, one of Atiku’s major promises.
All that is required for Buhari to win the 2019 presidential election is for a northerner other than Atiku to pick the PDP presidential ticket. And all that is required for Buhari to lose the election is for Atiku to pick the PDP ticket.
This is without prejudice to the importance of a viable vice presidential candidate for Atiku, either from the South-east or South-west, who will add value to the victory-bound Atiku ticket. This combination will hand Buhari and his APC a crushing knock-out in the 2019 presidential election. Nigerians can hardly wait for that day of liberty.
*Udenna Orji, writer and political analyst, wrote from Abuja.