You can see the angst in Alhaji Atiku’s face as he reeled out his grievances over the outcome of the Presidential Election during his world conference last week. Everyone who truly knows his journey up until that moment can understand the dept of his anger.
In 2003, Atiku had a good number of governors by his side and was prepared to give his boss, President Obasanjo an unsettling run for the PDP presidential ticket scheduled for that year. The popular thinking then was that Atiku would get the ticket. Atiku came close, very close. But OBJ ate the humble pie and Atiku rested his sword and quest for another day.
In the race towards the 2019 presidential election, the permutation was that Atiku had the right clout and name recognition to take on President Buhari. Atiku as projected picked up the PDP presidential ticket and the race began. But very early on in the campaign, Atiku began to show signs of complacency. Ordinarily, when you are up against an incumbent, you fire all your cylinders to campaign as hard as you can. But that was not the case.
The feeling in the air during the campaign was that Atiku was counting on a free ride on the back of Nigerians who were angry with President Buhari. Perhaps, Atiku felt that that anger was enough to propel him to victory. Therefore, at the various campaign stops around the country the former vice president hardly said anything that would sharply separate him from President Buhari. In most cases, he speeches were as brief as those of the President.
Lack of science
It appears also that Atiku and his campaign team may not have done any scientific analysis of the electoral map to determine where the votes would come from and how to convert them to his advantage. Some major newspapers did a trend analysis of every election Buhari had taken part in and made projections. None of those projections favoured a win by Atiku. At best, it was going to be a photo finish depending on certain conditions.
Those who were screaming an Atiku win were Facebook prowlers who picked up information from fringe media sources that were hyping unfounded gains in favour of the Wazirin of Adamawa. The only area where Atiku’s team did very well was in media warfare. But for Festus Keyamo and Adams Oshiomole, APC would have been beaten silly. Lai Mohammed who was the tough cookie and a thorn in the flesh of President Jonathan’s campaign organisation couldn’t replicate his 2014/15 performance. This time, he was as flat as a flat tyre and even sounded ridiculous a few times with some bogus allegations.
Looking back at the presidential results across the country, Atiku did better than expected in some areas, particularly in the South West which was supposed to be in Buhari’s kitty. But as projected, the winning votes were expected from the North West and North East instead of the South West as in 2015. And that was exactly what happened.
In 2015, President Jonathan knew that he needed to take the South West to win and he did every thing in the books to do so. This time around, Atiku should have paid a lot more attention on splitting the votes from the North West and North East states where Buhari was expecting a heavy harvest. Atiku did not do so.
I hear, Atiku says he has a ton of evidence on how the February 23 election was rigged. It is one thing to have some evidence, it is another to have enough evidence to overcome the “margin of win.” For Atiku to be declared winner, he must have enough evidence of rigging that will not only void 4m votes but also provide additional votes that will put him ahead of Buhari’s score.
In my study of presidential elections, that is a hurdle as high as the sky for any man to overcome and prevail. If Atiku were to contest any part of the electoral process that he deems unconstitutional, may be his case could be worthwhile. But if it is just about the numbers, he would be wasting his time and money. Atiku’s dream of becoming president is effectively over.
Nevertheless, going to court is his constitutional right. But if I were in his shoes, I would think more about how to step into the role of a statesman. Nigeria needs a lot of statesmen to help guide things in the right direction without taking positions in tribal or religious cubicles.
All things considered, we are thankful that the war between the PDP and APC was fought mainly in the media and not on the streets. The PDP should go back to their strategy room and begin their plan for 2023. The race for that year has begun.