I wonder how many of the delegates who will vote to decide the APC’s presidential candidate will see this. They will probably be too busy having last minute discussions with emissaries of the candidates, who are trying to win them over. That is the beauty of democracy. At this stage, I am sure that only a few people really know what will happen today. It will be a close race, and rightly so.
The two leading candidates are Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, and as the delegates finalise their choices and approach the booths over the next several hours, they must ask themselves not just who is likely to give President Jonathan the best fight at the polls, but also who is most likely to be able to execute his agenda in office.
Muhammadu Buhari, now in his fourth presidential race, is perhaps the only national figure consistently aligned with the opposition since 1999. He has never flirted with the ruling party at all, and that is much harder than it looks. His reputation for integrity, established since his time as military head of state, remains intact. He also enjoys very strong support from the Northern electorate, and has a strong anti-corruption stance, which is a good one, given the extent to which it has destroyed our nation.
In addition, he is expected to be strong on security issues, given his success with the Maitatsine in the 1980s.
The problem however is this: once you move beyond these plus points, there is not a lot besides. While corruption is a big problem, it is not Nigeria’s only problem, and so far, Buhari’s plans to fix these are not obvious. In fact, there is no detailed plan from him to deal with issues of insecurity and corruption as they are currently manifest, given that these problems have metastasized over time.
His capacity to pass delicate legislation is also in doubt. He will have to work within a democratic structure, and a National Assembly that is often indolent and obstructionist, to say the least. Even if corrupt officials will be tried and jailed, that must also take place within the our broken judicial system.
At this point, the issue is obvious. There is little evidence that the General has taken the time to examine Nigeria’s problems and craft solutions to them.
On the other hand, Atiku Abubakar has done so in a very detailed document, which you can find here. He appears to possess all the tools to make a success of governance from day one. Under the Obasanjo government, as Vice President, he was instrumental in putting together the economic team that improved Nigeria’s position, and put the country on the path to sound growth.
This eye for talent is also evident in the way his campaign is being run, which everyone agrees, whether they like his person or not, is the best in this election cycle. It is a mix of new school social media savvy and old school campaigning, which has seen him visit delegates from 35 of 36 states, trying to sell them on his agenda.
This kind of 36 state campaign is the kind of national outlook and mentality that Atiku has cultivated over three decades of political activity, and will serve him well in a national election. He was a high ranking member of the SDP in 1992, and nearly became Abiola’s running mate. His networks and resources were also important in creating the PDP as we know it today.
These networks and resources have already been put at the disposal of the APC, in order to make it a second national party capable of holding its own and standing the test of time.
As presidential candidate, Atiku has the ability to split support for Jonathan in the South, something Buhari does not have. His influence will not be limited to a particular sector of the country. In addition, Atiku has demonstrable capacity to hit the ground running from day one, based on his manifesto, his ability to build crack teams, and his ability to work with the various arms of government to achieve objectives.
The former Vice President has pledged to support whoever the APC picks as its candidate today. It is a promise I hope he keeps, but as the delegates approach the ballot boxes later on today, they must ask themselves which of the candidates has the best chance in a general election, AND the ability to govern effectively. The answer to both questions in my view is Atiku Abubakar.