To state that political conversation in the country has changed since the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the flagbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the affirmation of President Muhammadu Buhari equally for the second term as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is to state the obvious. What with the stream of congratulatory messages to both of them and their respective parties, the flurry of political alignments and realignments by sundry elements with the aim of securing themselves comfort zones where they hope to see the green light.
This is just as the rhetoric of mutual recrimination has also not been in short supply as each party tries to outdo the other in casting as much aspersion as possible, on the respective fortunes of the opposing camp. What is missing so far is comparable affirmation in concrete terms of the likely direction any of them – if elected will take the country through, with respect to defining a future for it. Many Nigerians would have wished that by now the political class – especially those seeking public office would have engaged the country with attention on their specific appreciation and options for moving the country forward.
In all fairness however, for the incumbent Buhari, the way forward is not as much of a mystery as that of the challenging Atiku and his team. After all much of what can be said of him is that he was the second in command in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration; which remains a far cry from what he would do when formally and personally in charge. Buhari therefore still earns the title of tried and tested, while Atiku is technically a yet to be discovered talent.
Yet the wide spread acknowledgement of Atiku’s nomination by the PDP is a factor which the ruling party will ignore at its peril. Even hitherto Buharists are on the band wagon of welcoming Atiku. That is why the forthcoming 2019 in which both Buhari and Atiku shall be the leading combatants in a field featuring other presidential candidates but with less stature, remains a dispensation which Nigerians need to define the parameters and hold them accountable for such.
Already the testing ground for much of what the future holds for the country with respect to what to expect from whoever emerges as leader in one capacity or the other or the other, has been revealed by the conduct of the various primary elections in which the core interests of Nigerians were largely sidelined. Hardly did any of the hundreds of candidates emerge from public endorsement of his or her candidature based on convincing outline of mission in office. It was either such was handpicked by the powers that be or, he or she was a beneficiary of rotational politics, whereby primordial sentiments ruled the day. Little wonder that the primaries have been trailed by so much acrimony especially in the APC where the mere nomination to an office is seen largely as an automatic ascendancy into the position.
For offices at state and local government levels such are usually the feeding grounds for local potentates where they often dominate proceedings. Hence change from outside is often resisted except it comes from the direct stake-holders. But with respect to the critical office of the President, experience has shown that allowing aspirants to access it without any concrete and verifiable agenda has been the bane of the country’s development.
The foregoing consideration is critical for the ruling APC as its biggest error of judgment shall be to think that 2019 and beyond will be a roll-over of its performances for the period 2015 to date and into the next dispensation – that is if it even wins power in the forthcoming polls. Hence to rest on its oars is to misread the political jigsaw even with the new look PDP which has dramatically not only reinvented itself but has also drained critical mass from the APC with respect to the recent wave of defections from APC to PDP. If nothing else, the verve with which the PDP reinvented itself is enough impetus for re-viewing whatever parameters which the APC could have been using to appraise its biggest rival. Rising from the brink of disintegration the PDP came out strong and piping hot, leading to its latest master act being the conduct of its primaries in a most commendable manner.
In contrast to the PDP the ruling APC offered to Nigerians a regime of promises of promised changes, which are yet to manifest to the level public expectation was raised. The consequence was a mismatch between what Nigerians generally were promised and what the administration was hard put to deliver. The question then is, did the APC promise more than what it could deliver? The answer lies in the affirmative since the promises were legitimate but the operating environment was completely misunderstood by the APC.
In the same vein the PDP should not see itself as the peoples’ darling for now. Not a few Nigerians are still viewing its reforms as mere gimmicks aimed at catching votes after which it becomes business as usual. Nigerians are actually asking metaphorically if the leopard has changed its spots?
The situation becomes more interesting when it is considered that the difference between the two parties is not more than that between twelve and a dozen. This is just as the difference between Buhari and Atiku has enjoyed a wide swathe of opinions which but for their different career antecedents coalesce into a comparison between sharp corner and a sharp bend. This foregoing reality defines what can possibly be expected of an Atiku Presidency in spite of the din from welcome messages now trending.
The way out for the country is for the various aspirants to high office of the President at least to be induced to marshal out for Nigerians, where they hope to take the country to. There should not be any ceremony about such as is clear to all the country is in the woods. And the time to hold them is now, before the actual campaign starts and they will cite the alibi of being too busy to come to terms with the true wishes of the people.