2023: Atiku likely to enherit Buhari’s northern support

Buhari and Atiku
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…As many northern APC members plan to work for him just as PDP northern members voted Buhari in 2015

By Charly Agwam, Bauchi; Umar Yusuf, Yola; Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos; Abdulmumin Murtala, Kano & Haruna Aliyu, Birnin Kebbi
In the 2015 general election, a northerner, General Muhammadu Buhari, as the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress defeated the incumbent, a southerner, Dr Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

It was said that Buhari enjoyed the massive support of the northern electorate, including members of the opposition PDP because he was seen as one of them. Many PDP governors were even reported to have worked for Buhari’s emergence as President.

At the conclusion of the recent presidential primaries for 2023 election however, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has a southerner, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as its flag bearer while a northerner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged as the presidential candidate of the PDP. With Atiku, from the north, as a presidential candidate, the northern voters, expectedly are queuing up behind him irrespective of party affiliation.

It is therefore not a surprise to find in Adamawa state, billboards with Atiku’s photograph alongside that of the APC governorship candidate in the state, Senator Aishatu Dahiru Binani and the APC senatorial candidate for Adamawa Central, Malam Abdula’aziz Nyako, as “a winning team”, flooding every nook and cranny of the state.

Meanwhile, it has been alleged that the group that is sponsoring such posters and billboards in Adamawa state are members of the ruling PDP in the state who are not on the same page with the Ahmadu Fintiri-led government.

Though the group was regarded as a faceless one, it continued to place such billboards at any available space in the state.

The government however claimed it had no idea of such billboards in any part of the state.
In Bauchi state, a lot of frontline politicians who hitherto were chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are now defecting with their followers to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).

Interestingly, these defections have only benefited political parties whose flag bearers are from the northern part of the country. Although, Bauchi defectors usually give reasons for defecting, it was gathered that they were changing parties to be on the side of the majority which seeks to perpetuate northern presidency beyond 2023.

Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, an Electrical Engineer, Abdulraman Aliyu said he would vote a northern presidential candidate under any formidable party.

“Democracy is a game of number. It is no secret that the North has the number to remain in power for as long as it wants. There’s no need to pretend, my family and I will vote for a candidate from the North. Why will I vote someone else when a northern politician is on the ballot?” he queried.

The leader of the National Harmonized Traders Union, Dr Bature Abdulaziz, who is also the founder of Patriotic Elders of Nigeria (PEN) strongly believed that the former vice president Atiku Abubakar, now presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would enjoy massive support of voters from the north in the coming 2023 general elections.

In an interview with Saturday Vanguard in Kano, Dr Abdulaziz however decried the manner both the APC and the PDP conducted their presidential primaries which he described as terrible, saying the defections of members from one party to the other in order to get a platform to contest was a bad omen.

According to him, “It may be possible for some supporters of Atiku to support Tinubu and for some Tinubu’s followers to support Atiku. This is because of the way and manner the primaries were conducted in both the PDP and the APC.

Everyone saw what happened during the primaries such that people were only interested in getting a platform in which to contest as they moved from one party to the other. There were those who lost the opportunity to become candidates in APC and moved to PDP and vice versa.

For this reason, this kind of exodus will also take place as it happened before Buhari emerged. The people in the north on their own will prefer Atiku to Tinubu. But don’t forget that the APC governors in the north have the federal government at the center. The federal government and Tinubu’s supporters will have to double up their efforts.

A northern elder and PDP chieftain, Abdullahi Muhammed Lamba, argued that the PDP was fair in throwing its presidential ticket open during the primaries as the north was in power for only two years out of the 16 years that the PDP ruled the country while the south enjoyed the remaining 14 years.

He argued that the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) has lost its support in the north and can no longer win the hearts of northerners who suffered mentally and financially to bring President Muhammadu Buhari to power.

Lamba contended that “APC’s poor governance was responsible for the insurgency plaguing the north which the masses thought Buhari as a retired army General would contain. But it became worse under him as the north has become a killing field under the APC led government”.

He explained that none of the promises made to Nigerians by the APC has been fulfilled, with the economy in comatose and fuel scarcity persisting under the president who is also the minister of petroleum. He said that even the president’s home state of Katsina is being occupied by armed bandits and he watches helplessly as scores are being killed, raped and kidnapped.

He declared that, the PDP having learnt its lessons was set to reclaim power in 2023 with Atiku Abubakar.

In Plateau State, Ambassador Bagudu Hirse, submitted that “the support enjoyed by Buhari in 2015 was as a result of the security situation in the country as many people argued that if he did not win, the country would not be in peace. But you need to go to the embassies and see how Nigerians are trying to leave the country. The good thing about Atiku is the Muslim/Christian combination, which is the major thing in his favour. Atiku stands a chance of being voted in because the Muslim/Muslim ticket will not work out in the present situation in Nigeria.”

In his own opinion, Mr David Racha noted that “the northerners have only one agenda which is their religion. The youths are even less equipped, they have no knowledge of their history and this definitely is not their fault.”

Another respondent, Mr. Alex Kwapnoe said, “due to religious bigotry, I see Atiku getting some support from the north. But there will be resistance from Kano, Borno, Yobe, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Zamfara in an attempt to safeguard their influence in such states.”

To Mr Stephen Musa, “Politics, especially in Nigeria is unpredictable. Even though the event in 2015 is different from today, anything can happen. However, I doubt if Atiku will enjoy the same patronage Buhari had. Remember, the APC governors were unanimous in their decision on power shift during the primaries which produced Tinubu.

“My view is that Atiku may not enjoy the support of some APC governors, but may end up losing the support of his PDP governors if the party fails to resolve the internal crises which emerged after the primaries. The southern governors, and indeed their supporters are not happy with the outcome of the primaries, which produced a Northern candidate. Then there is the issue of the choice of the vice-presidential candidate, which some of the governors, even from the North, are unhappy about. One thing is clear, 2023 will definitely be dicey.”


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By Abia ThinkTank

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