The main reason supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari seem satisfied with the choice of Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the biggest opposition, PDP, is because they believe that Atiku’s bad corruption reputation would be a turnoff for voters.
On the other hand, the main reason why the PDP suddenly believes it stands a solid chance next year is the state of the economy. The initial recession and now slow growth of the economy as well as the massive unemployment figures are things that the APC administration cannot wish away.
The candidates of the PDP (Atiku Abubakar), SDP (Donald Duke), ACPN (Obiageli Ezekwesili) and YPP (Kingsley Moghalu) have all focused on an economic and human capital development message. None has elevated corruption as the main plank of his/her candidacy, although Ezekwesili talked about “values being at the base” of her “#CitizensFirst” agenda.
Following Atiku’s endorsement on Thursday by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, two statements have come from the APC. The first was from a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, the second was from the APC spokesman, Yekini Nabena. They both had one theme: Corruption and Integrity, which they believe Atiku lacks.
“The President will not relent in the war against corruption because the ordinary people are the ultimate victims if we surrender to corruption and let its perpetrators go unpunished,” the presidency said in its statement. “Nigerians trust President Buhari in this effort because they are convinced he is not in government for personal financial benefits, or for an ego trip. It is just eleven years ago that the former President and Vice President in their ugly fight for power accused each other of corruption. Nigerians are yet to forget all that.”
On his part, Nabena referenced the fact that the current spokesperson of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, had once written a piece when he worked with Thisday newspaper in which he revealed the details of a Special Audit/Forensic Investigation of Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) that indicted Atiku.
“Alh. Atiku Abubakar grapples with several other corruption indictments. This is a fact and reality he needs to deal with and come clean about. PDP cannot be simplistic and attempt to wish away the issue of the integrity of candidates seeking elections into positions at all levels, particularly as 2019 approaches… the Nigerian electorate must have that opportunity to choose from candidates that can pass the integrity and anti-corruption test… When the choice is to be made, the electorate have the option of a proven and decent presidential candidate who is putting the people first and on the other hand a racketeer who will readily mortgage the country commonwealth to personal coffers and cronies,” he said.
As for the PDP, while attempting to counter the APC’s corruption strategy, the party is focusing on economy and jobs. In fact when Atiku spoke to PDP delegates last Saturday in Port Harcourt, that was the main thing he mentioned.
“The economy has slowed bringing hardship across Nigeria, increasing hunger and poverty, farmers struggle, businesses close, and jobs are lost… It is time we get Nigeria working again. We need jobs, wealth creation for farmers and across the agriculture sector, along with security for every Nigerian so that they may prosper. This is why I ask for your support…” he said.
Who wins in 2019 will be a function of which of these messages resonate with Nigerian voters. Do Nigerians believe that corruption is the most important problem they are contending with today or do they believe it is the economy?