Nigeria is in a delicate state: our political survival beyond 2019 now requires a constellation of forces in support of a more prudent option, which must be made by putting a lot of things into context. Apparently, the choice we made in 2015 has put us in a worse situation that demands serious and urgent soul-searching. To salvage our nation from the looming danger, therefore, we must find a viable and pan-Nigerian alternative to President Muhammadu Buhari in the next election. Our country is sliding to the verge of the precipice. If care is not taken, she may be headed on a dangerous road to Kinshasha.
Our nation is gasping for breath while the survival space is thinning out very fast. The rate at which evil is encircling our nation is quite alarming, and the sheer incompetence of the current administration in addressing our challenges makes 2019 really too far. If by any chance we can do a Zuma option in Nigeria, the country will be better for it. We certainly need a new thinking, a new idea, a new perspective and a new leadership approach to solving our problems. Forget the misrepresentation in the highly pro-liberal western media, the rise of Brexit and Trump was never a mistake. The UK and the US wanted it. It is incumbent on every society to take such an action as would help to secure and protect its interest, economy, heritage and peace.
We are going to need more than just a president in our search for good leadership ahead of 2019. Because to get out of the current quagmire, Nigeria will need a team of leaders that will comprise the best of the North and the best of the South – real problem solvers – who can give their all, selflessly, and with the fear of God. Having this at the back of our minds, we must make a choice – an alternative to Buhari – one way or the other to give our nation a new hope. However, two prevailing dynamics have so far emerged: the option of a paradigm shift and the option of settling for an experienced hand, with verifiable antecedents, one of which is that he must be a detribalised Nigerian.
Atiku Abubakar qualifies as a viable option in the experience category of these prevailing dynamics. He is one of the last of the nationalists in the country, and indeed, a pan-Nigerian politician, based on his antecedents, exploits and engagements. In solving problems, there is a time to seek an experienced player to salvage a bad situation and restore hope, and there is also a time to beckon on a wonder kid to do something extraordinary, especially in the game of football, which Nigerian politics has become. This is a decision Nigerians must take without making the mistake of plunging the country into another round of problems.
There is a huge difference between a team that is still on a level term with its opponent, playing to impress, seeking victory, and a team that is 4 – 1 down, desperately seeking for survival and struggling to come from behind to restore parity. If you are down, survival comes first, before you can thinking of victory. Nigeria will need more than Dammam and Atlanta miracles combined to redeem the nation from its present state in order to first restore hope to a terribly divided nation. Atiku is in the league of a few leaders who can be called upon to unite, stabilise and secure this nation.
Recall that the death of Umaru Musa Yar’adua had denied the North an opportunity to have a fair share of power, until Buhari was elected in 2015. So like in 2007, we are most likely to witness a presidential contest that will be substantially an all-Northern affairs, just as it was in 1999 for the South. Although, a Buhari from the Northwest is currently in the saddle and may likely seek re-election, but there is a growing agitation in the country he must not be re-elected. Of a truth, Nigeria has been badly managed under his watch and there is no sense of urgency or capacity to reverse it.
But to stop Buhari from returning, we must put into serious consideration certain factors that revolve around the history of our elections and political trajectory. While the electorate have not been sufficiently galvanised for an alternative to the “no to Buhari” agitation, we must also not forget that we are very poor with our sense of history. As a people, we can easily let go our pains because of momentary benefits. Aside this, Buhari is going to dangle a one-term-left-for-power-to-return-to-South carrot. He has already sent a message to the South-East to wait for 2023, even though it was without any firm pact as Atiku did to the zone in 2011.
This is where the odds favour Atiku most. The former Vice President is known to have once pleaded with the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to allow him to complete the remaining term of the late Yar’Adua, but it did not work out. This time round, the South is more likely to listen to him in a bid to find an alternative to Buhari, and pitch a tent with someone who will not go beyond 2023. Atiku is certainly in a pole position to win the South over with a one-term promise. But it will go beyond a gentleman’s agreement, and the commitment must be real and strategically worked out.
Atiku can win 2019 if he could strike the right deals with the middle-belt leaders on how to end the herdsmen’s menace in the country, and faithfully commit himself to the South on how he is going to implement the restructuring agenda he has been preaching. He has little or nothing to fear about the core North who will never vote for him as long as it is not a contest of Atiku versus a southern candidate. The 2019 election is about rescuing the nation; but in a rescued Nigeria, cows cannot graze freely without ranching while the centre cannot hold on to powers without devolution.
The interesting case about Atiku is that it is even easier for him to win the presidential election than to secure the ticket of the PDP. There is a lot of intrigues and unimpressive gambling going on in his party. The governors in the opposition party are up to different tricks as if it is given the PDP will win 2019 without presenting a formidable team that can defeat Buhari. It is in the interest of the party to put its house in order quickly, settle for a popular candidate who can win before the emerging coalition make a political option. I do not know of any core northerner who can assemble a good team like Atiku. He has consistently demonstrated this in politics and business.
But most significantly, Atiku himself must seek out those who can help his political cause. He can indeed surmount both the party hurdle and the national challenge, if he can put in place the right strategy, work with some selfless minds, knowledgeable experts and a committed team; and, also, very importantly, he must sincerely commit himself to God that he will not betray the trust of Nigerians. There is no doubt that the Waziri is the political honey badger of Nigeria: he is fearless, courageous and strong enough to survive political bees. The Atiku option is vsiable.
Ariyo-Dare Atoye is a concerned citizen of Nigeria writing a letter to his president. He can be reached by email.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.