Fellow Nigerians, let me say how excited I am that the Nigerian Presidential election is barely two weeks away. Naturally, nothing dominates the news here than the topic of who is likely to win. I have no power of clairvoyance, but I have some modest and sufficient experience about Nigeria’s political history as well as world politics. This is the reason I often attempt to analyse and dissect the chances of the main candidates. Every candidate counts in an election of this nature. I’m forever proud of my decision to participate in 2011. Contrary to what many have said or written about me, I actually expected a miracle to happen and my extraordinary confidence must have been bolstered by the sheer audacity of Barack Obama who took on the humongous American establishment, and stubborn status quo, and tore them to shreds. The same spirit must be the one propelling some of our friends and compatriots, Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwezili, Tanko Yunusa, Omoyele Sowore, Donald Duke, Eunice Atuejide, Alistair Soyode, Kingsley Moghalu, Tope Fasua, and others (not in any particular order).
The lesson I learnt from that 2011 experiment will live with me forever. The first is that Nigeria must find a way to return to a two-party system. Our young candidates would have better chances if they emerged from mainstream parties. It would have been a straight fight between, perhaps, an older candidate and a youthful one. I believe, this must be the reason Alhaji Atiku Abubakar promptly cashed in on that punchline when he described himself as the bridge between the old and the young. And if you watched the interview conducted by the strong lady, Kadaira Ahmed, with Atiku and Peter Obi, the difference was clear. Atiku looked more energetic, mentally alert, eloquent, knowledgeable, presentable, exposed, cosmopolitan and business-like notwithstanding the fact that he s only a few years younger than the President. I told some of my friends that night that if you give Buhari four terms, nothing would move because he would sit down in one position bemoaning the past and seeing future enemies. The stultification of Nigeria in the last four years is not as a result of PDP’s prodigality of the previous 16 years, but because of the sluggishness, taciturnity, clannishness, vindictiveness, obstinacy, and crass ignorance of many members of the Buhari cabal and cult.
There is nothing APC has not done to rewrite history. Their present supporters are the rudest humans I have ever encountered. They are incapable of any logical or superior argument. They are rigidly programmed to see anyone not in their camp as a thief and looter, as if that is all there is to governance. Atiku was able to point this out during the Kadaria encounter, when he boldly declared that rather than waste resources and precious time on chasing a few rats, he would consider granting amnesty to some of the looters as a quicker resolution and foreclosure to the unfortunate saga. Nearly 21 years after the death of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria is yet to fully recover all the alleged fortune in foreign lands. The money is not useful to Nigeria in foreign coffers. Some people disagreed with Atiku’s strategy for fighting corruption, but they forgot that it is foolhardy to grant amnesty to terrorists and murderers and refuse to consider same for pen robbers. The tragedy of Buhari’s entrenched position is that he and his disciples are not business-like. Everything must be fought as a jihad when some of the problems require tact and common sense.
I’m confident to say Buhari has not won new fans in the last four years, or better put, he has lost far more than he has gained, if any at all.
This election would be fought on several fronts. The first is funding. Atiku will never be able to compete on this account. Buhari is certainly not like former President Jonathan who was more democratically relaxed and thus allowed Buhari to campaign and roam freely. But for Atiku’s courage and extensive contact and global network, his campaign would have collapsed ages ago. Buhari and his people must be worried about how Atiku has managed to run such an efficient campaign filled with substance, entertainment and excitement. While the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and others continue to abuse PDP and even members of their own party, Atiku and company cannot be seen attacking people. The melodious and mellifluous campaign song of Atikulation is catching on sporadically on social media. The infighting in APC should be cause for alarm. Things are falling apart in so many states and Buhari has not demonstrated enough capacity to reconcile his party. Except a miracle happens, APC is not likely to field candidates in several states of the Federation.
Next is ethnicity. This will play a major role in the imminent General elections. It appears that Buhari has walked into a major trap this time around. Unlike his pan-Nigerian outlook in 2015, he has atrociously become the most clannish leader in Nigeria’s contemporary history. For a man nursing a second term ambition, it is strange and inconceivable that he would throw caution to the winds the way he did when he carried his Fulanisation of Nigeria to bizarre levels. He should have known that when tomorrow comes, his perceived actions would come back to haunt and torment him. Except for his die-hard supporters, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Buhari to say he is the true father of the nation when he has blatantly refused to embrace everyone. The interesting thing is that an in-depth analysis might show that there is a balancing exercise over time, but the nature and manner of the appointments Buhari has made is what leaves much to be desired and is particularly galling.
Once upon a time, Buhari enjoyed a cult-like followership in several parts of Nigeria, especially, in the North West and North East. I believe he still does, but not on the scale he did in the past. I predict a substantial reduction in his votes in key States that he could afford to take for granted in the past. I will start with the massive State of Kano. Say what you will, former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, will chip off a minimum 40 percent of Buhari’s previous votes in Kano, that is if not up to 50 percent. Those who claim Buhari is invincible may be right to some extent, but he lost some precious diamond the day APC allowed the iroko tree called Rabiu Kwankwaso to quit APC. This development will plague Buhari in this election.
I will say President Buhari reached the peak of his glory and popularity in 2015. For the first time, he was able to secure the support of so many who had written him off in the past as being too old and archaic. The hatred for PDP and its leadership blinded many of us from seeing all the warts we had complained about and Buhari became our new bride. Despite the blistering campaign for Buhari nationwide and the alliances formed between the powerful forces that combined to form APC, and some noticeable, but studiously ignored infractions during the election, the difference in votes between Buhari and Jonathan was under three million. Buhari’s popularity has since dwindled dramatically since then. APC chieftains know within them that they are currently on a very difficult mission to bring Buhari back to power. They are aware that he has become too old and tired and sickly, but they are goading him on for their personal survival. This explains all the moves to urgently take over other arms of government that are likely to make things difficult if they need to perform some magic like they did in Osun State recently.
My first forecast is that Buhari will win many States in the North West, but not with the kind of margin that he had in 2015. Atiku will challenge him big time in Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna and even Katsina. It was easier for Buhari in 2015 because he contested against a Southerner, but this time around, Atiku is as Fulani as they come. Not just that, Atiku has structures and he’s been in the race for over 25 years and thus built many bridges and made strong connections with a veritably formidable network of friends and associates. Buhari used to do very well in the North East, especially in Bauchi, but it should be noted that, this time around, Atiku is from the North East and he would put up a major fight in his territory. Buhari may still have a slight edge, here and there, but nothing monumental enough to shake Atiku.
Atiku will perform better than Buhari in the North Central. This may help him cancel some deficit he may have acquired in the North West and North East. Atiku is likely to obliterate Buhari in the South East and South South, the traditional enclave of PDP. South East offers a unique advantage because Atiku’s Vice President candidate comes from here as well as Atiku’s adorable wife, Jennifer. But since every vote for Atiku is badly needed, he would have to find a way to galvanise people of his catchment area to come out to vote and defend their votes. The South West is a bit dicey for both Buhari and Atiku. Buhari’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo comes from this zone and he is well loved by his people though many have complained that Buhari has handed too much power to his cabal instead of empowering this cerebral, refined, hardworking and meticulous gentleman who has shown a capacity and ability to galvanise and unify Nigeria. However, Atiku’s matronly wife, Titi, also comes from this zone which further complicates the equation because she is also well loved by women who feel she performed well as wife of the Vice President, from 1999-2007. I still expect APC to defeat PDP in this zone even though the margin of victory may be slender.
As the Economist has predicted once again, I see a tight race but a slim victory that would make Atiku Abubakar the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We wait with bated breath!
OXFORD UNIVERSITY, HERE I COME
At the end of January, I received wonderful news regarding my application for admission to the African Studies Centre of the University of Oxford. As everyone who follows me knows, academia is my first love. My dream was always to be a teacher and once I stepped into the hallowed precincts of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, then known as University of Ife, it was love at first sight with academics. The love fest was complete as I walked into the sanctuary of books at the University Library where I worked from 1977-78 and my passion for reading simply exploded. I knew that this was what I had been made for, and my career in journalism has merely been a rite of passage towards the achievement and fulfilment of my quest for the knowledge that comes from reading and academics.
And so, it was with great joy, elation and excitement that I received the letter from the Director of The African Studies Centre, and The Rhodes Professor of Race Relations at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, Professor Wale Adebanwi, informing me that at the instance of the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, I had been approved as an Academic Visitor at the African Studies Centre of Oxford University. Professor Adebanwi wrote:
“I am happy to inform you that the Management Committee of the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, UK, has approved your request for an Academic Visitor status at the Centre in the Hillary and Trinity Terms, 2019 – that is, between February and July 2019.
Oxford University’s African Studies Centre (see: http://www.africanstudies.ox.ac.uk/) is one of the world’s leading centres of African Studies. The Centre is the focal point for graduate level work and faculty research on Africa. Alongside a vibrant doctoral (DPhil) programme, the MSc in African Studies, inaugurated in 2006, is already recognised as one of Europe’s most prestigious and most successful training programmes in its field. We have trained graduate students who are now holding important positions in different spheres of social, economic and political life in Africa and the rest of the world.
We note that during your fellowship at the Centre, you plan to work on a book manuscript based on your experiences as a journalist, writer, publisher and social media activist entitled, “Celebrity Journalism and the Social Media in Contemporary Africa.”
We will expect you to present aspects of your work at a seminar before the end of your fellowship.
We look forward to hosting you. And we hope your time at Oxford will be mutually rewarding.”
It is my aim to utilise my rare combined degrees – a first degree in Yoruba from the University of Ife (now known as Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) and a Master’s degree in Literature-in-English – to craft a biography of my journey through the world of journalism, politics and social activism.
Since I announced that I was going to be working on this book manuscript at Oxford University, my teeming readers and supporters have been asking about the fate of this Column. I wish to assure everybody including all my regular readers and fans that this Column will continue to appear regularly and will not be prejudiced, but rather enhanced, by my new adventure.
I hope you will all join me as I start another phase of my life and pray for the success of this new endeavour.