Although there are about 70 presidential candidates for the February 16 general election, the contest is unarguably between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and former deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a few others can also have an impressive outing at the election.
Without prejudice to any of the 91 political parties that are participating in the 2019 polls and the 70 that have presidential candidates, this article should be limited to the two leading presidential candidates. While Atiku is asking for an opportunity to make Nigeria work again because he believes that the present Nigeria is indeed not working, Buhari is asking for another four years because he wants to take all of us to another level, perhaps to consolidate what he and his supporters believe is their achievements since May 29, 2015.
Buhari wants another four years to fight insurgency, corruption and revive the economy. He has been dealing with these problems since 2015. It is not in doubt that both candidates have many followers and supporters across the country. Some of their supporters are even fanatical. They have much presence in the traditional and social media. Everything they do attracts media attention. The situation we have now is not quite different from what we have in 2015.
Perhaps, the only difference today is that the former opposition is the ruling party while the former ruling party is now the main opposition. To many Nigerians, the only difference between APC and PDP is the difference in name. They see them as two sides of the same coin, ideologically speaking. They are parties of big men and moneybags. They are elitist. They are never pro-masses. Yet, to some Nigerians, the two parties are different apart from differences in nomenclature. Even though the APC is the party in power, it is still behaving as if it is in opposition.
The party is still blaming the PDP for its unfulfilled promises and dreams for Nigeria. The handling of the APC primaries shows that the party is not so much united. This is where the PDP has demonstrated that it has learned from its past mistakes. While the PDP has admitted its past mistakes, APC will never admit its error. In fact, in terms of membership, there is indeed no much difference between the two major parties, courtesy of carpet crossing. In adopting the campaign slogan of making Nigeria work again, Atiku Abubakar believes that our present Nigeria is not working as it should be. Many Nigerians are in agreement with Atiku on this score.
Within a period of almost four years of APC, the economy suffered recession, we became the poverty capital of the world, our corruption index does not seem to drop, the number of unemployed persons keeps rising and more Nigerians lose their jobs, the war against insurgency is not yet over, the war against corruption is alleged to be selective. Atiku is in agreement with many Nigerians that the present structure of the country is defective and needs urgent restructuring. If he is given the chance, he will restructure the country to make it work. But the APC does not believe in restructuring.
Their leadership said that the nation’s problem is more with the system than the structure. But most Nigerians want the country to be restructured so that every zone or region will work and develop at its pace. Nigerians want a return to true federalism which they think has worked for us in the past. Our present federalism is like unitarism. It is so suffocating. Nigerians want state police, resource management and control among other things. They want devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units. The present central government is so powerful.
This can explain why states cannot pay workers’ wages, can’t maintain their roads, hospitals and schools. This is possibly why the minimum wage of N30,000 is still an issue. It is why university teachers are on strike. The poly teachers are also on strike. Even more strikes are coming. The education sector is not working. The health sector is also not quite okay. The power sector is problematic. That is why many Nigerians embark on medical tourism.
Atiku’s 10-point agenda is a pointer to how he wants to make the nation work again. If given the chance, he wants to create jobs by developing small and medium businesses, the engine room of any economy. Atiku says he will provide power, water, roads and other infrastructure. Any government that can solve the nation’s power problem would have solved so much of our ills. With adequate power supply, Nigerians can do wonders. They can even go to the moon. They can manufacture so many goods and fabricate many machines.
Above all, he will restructure the country and make agriculture better. Restructuring is the only thing that can save this country. It will make her develop humanly and materially. It will make her compete with other nations. Restructuring will make the country vibrant and grow the economy. It is one solution to our ailments waiting to be tapped. Security is vital for development of any nation. We are now grappling with insurgency. Anyone that promises to ensure security for every region will win the hearts of most Nigerians.
Atiku has promised women and youths more appointments if he wins the election. For so long, youths and women have been at the margins of any government in power. The only appointment given to women is women leader and to youth, youth leader. There is need for a paradigm shift. Women and youth cannot continue to be at the periphery of our politics. They must be part of our national politics and development. The women and youth must speak with their PVCS during the elections.
Atiku will expand the healthcare and make it work and possibly terminate the unending era of medical tourism. With enough political will and determination, any leader can make the nation’s health system better than what it is now. The 2019 election is between what is now and what is to come. This is the choice before the electorate.