From Babajide Balogun
With a little over three weeks to the February 25, 2023, presidential election, it has become crystal clear the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007), Atiku Abubakar, stands tall well above the 17 other contestants. The Wazirin Adamawa has consistently shown a very good understanding of the Nigerian nation, capacity to deliver and empathy for the weak among us.
Perhaps the clearest sign that Atiku is headed for victory came, ironically, from the frustrations of Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which culminated in his second outburst in as many occasions in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
It is like anytime the Asiwaju sees defeat staring him in the face, he goes to Ogun State to bare it all, through blackmail and intimidation. When he realized that he was being edged out ahead of the APC presidential primary, he went to Ogun to cry, insisting that it was his turn to have a go at the presidency after 25 years of helping others.
It was clear blackmail, and it gave him the ticket only because APC is a contraption of strange bedfellows, each thinking about their selfish interest and what they stand to gain.
Now that the signs of another defeat are becoming clearer to him, Tinubu rushed to Ogun again. He blamed his misfortune on the ongoing currency swap and fuel scarcity forced on Nigerians by his party.
It was another blackmail targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari. Unfortunately for Tinubu, the 2023 presidential election is no longer an APC affair.
Nigerians, not Buhari, hold the ace as far as electing the next President is concerned, and they appear to have shown their preference for Atiku because of his confidence and capacity.
The APC has not performed to the expectations of Nigerians and, therefore, Nigerians cannot rely on the party, going forward. Atiku, in a deft political move, picked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate.
It signalled the demise of some people’s political career, but they would not go quietly. If anyone was finding it difficult to understand why Atiku settled for Okowa, the childish reaction of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State must have removed all doubts. Despite Wike’s resort to providing a platform for his fellow recalcitrant governors, Atiku has refused to lose focus of the main prize.
His maturity in handling the so-called G5 governors, in spite of all the mud thrown at him, must have impressed even Wike himself and his co-travellers. They just can’t understand how the Wazirin Adamawa continues to pull crowds wherever he goes.
They are faced with the stark reality that, despite their shenanigans, Atiku is cruising to victory. They are now unsure of what to do. Should they eat the humble pie by returning to the Atiku project or procrastinate and become onlookers during his presidency? The decision is theirs to take.
Atiku is now ahead in all the permutations by keen political observers. Many of them have since predicted victory for him, and the feelers out there can serve as a guide to those yet to see the writing on the wall. While the APC house continues to fall apart, Atiku is busy consolidating his gains across the country.
This is probably why the courageous female political activist Naja’atu Muhammad dumped the Tinubu project, where she was a director dealing with civil society organisations (CSOs). She refused to ride on the bandwagon of those pushing the Tinubu agenda for their selfish ends. She told Nigerians the truth as she knew it: that Tinubu was mentally incapable of running the country.
When Naja’atu made her revelations, there were attempts by the APC to discredit her. But Nigerians knew better. If she had not spilled the beans, she would have remained a director in the APC presidential campaign council.
Waziri is set to win handsomely in his North East region, consisting of his home state of Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, Borno and Yobe. In the North West, consisting of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto and Zamfara states, Atiku remains the leading candidate, even in Kano where Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party hails from.
The North Central has also bought into the Atiku agenda. Despite the noise being made by supporters of Labour Party’s Peter Obi, the South East is Atiku’s to lose because the region has always been the home of PDP. With Okowa as running mate, South South is PDP’s home. Even the South West that some are conceding to the APC will spring a surprise.
This is why Atiku’s path to victory is clearer than that of any pretender. He has more spread than any other candidate, having built bridges for over 40 years in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. As many people have come to realise, Nigerians know Atiku and Atiku knows Nigeria!
Not knowing how to stop him, or at least slow down his momentum, the APC is now clutching at straws. A spokesman of the party’s presidential campaign council and a member of Buhari’s cabinet is trying to get from the court what they couldn’t get from Nigerians.
They want the court to bar Atiku from participating in the election, citing some doubtful tapes from a serial blackmailer. But Atiku is not looking back. The closer we get to election day, the more his empathy for the weak shows.
Atiku feels the pains of Nigerians genuinely and will always stand to be counted. When the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) appeared adamant on not extending the currency swap deadline despite the attendant sufferings, Atiku spoke. He said currency redesign was a global practice, but added that an extension was needed for many people in remote areas with little or no access to financial institutions.
Eventually, the CBN had to agree with Atiku because what he said was out of patriotism and also the practical thing to do. It was not the first time that the APC government would rely on Atiku’s ideas to get itself out of trouble.
Nigerians have seen the manifestos of all the candidates, including those not fit to even wrap suya. Atiku’s stood out for the simplicity of its messages and the practical ways enumerated in tackling the issues holding Nigeria back.
It is true that the Federal Government can do with less powers, and Atiku has promised that, so that states can have more resources to do more for the people. Atiku’s manifesto has something for everyone: youths, women, artisans, businessmen and more.
It has timelines as well as key deliverables. It is one document that Nigerians must work to see implemented. Atiku is ready both physically and mentally, because Nigeria needs a President that is fit in both respects.
Essentially, in the next three weeks, at this defining moment in the history of Nigeria, the work to salvage Nigeria will begin in earnest. Nigerians will choose hope, peace and prosperity over division and recriminations and false promises.
So, to every student out there who is tired of the perennial strikes that makes him spend eight years for a four-year programme, hope is on the way!
To every soldier who is frustrated because of multiple deployments to war zones, hope is on the way!
To every farmer who is dejected and is being ravished by hunger because he cannot go to farm for fear of being kidnapped, hope is on the way!
To every parent who is in a difficult financial situation and cannot afford to send their children to school or hospital when they are sick, hope is on the way!
To every retiree who has not been paid his gratuity or pension, hope is on the way!
Waziri’s life as an orphan who struggled to be what he is today with the help of the Almighty God is made and prepared for this moment. He understands how you feel and what you are going through because your story is his life story and he has lived it too.
Come out on February 25 to reject cynicism and doubts and vote for hope and the real change for Nigeria.
This is the moment and there is light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t afford to walk away out of frustration, not this time when we are to make history and tell our children’s children that this was the moment when we refused to close the beautiful chapter of our history by electing the man Atiku Abubakar to steer the ship of state out of troubled waters to a prosperous nation where every citizen is treated with dignity and respect in peace and unity.
•Balogun, a political analyst, writes from Ibadan