It is less than four months to the presidential election, but the shadow boxing has begun in earnest.
The two leading contenders are bragging about their chances.
Former Minister of Information Prince Tony Momoh yesterday said he was confident President Muhammadu Buhari will win.
Momoh told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on telephone that the president deserved re-election.
The Atiku Abubakar camp disagreed. It said the former Vice President would retire President Muhammadu Buhari to his village in Daura after the election.
Momoh said Atiku, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), could not stop Buhari as he (Abubakar) was only popular with the elite and not the masses.
Momoh, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said the Buhari administration had impacted on many ordinary Nigerians, and they would vote him in 2019.
He, however, said Buhari would lose some votes in the North because Atiku is from the region, but that the APC candidate would make up in other regions to win.
“I don’t think Atiku can defeat Buhari. No; he can’t, Buhari has done well in the delivery of his electoral promises and he will get the support of the people.
“Look at the war against insurgency, for instance, has he not done well? Is the situation in the Northeast as it used to be? Of course, there is relative security in the region and the people will want to vote for an administration that made that possible.
“Again, the school feeding programme, the conditional cash transfers and the other social programmes of the government, tens of thousands of Nigerians have benefited. You don’t expect them not to vote Buhari.
“These are the real people that will vote, not the people on Facebook or Twitter. The people who are moving against the President now are the elite, not the people, and the reasons are obvious.
“Yes, Atiku is popular with the elite, but how many are they? So I don’t see him winning, though, he will get votes in the North as he is from that region and he is a Fulani and a Muslim like Buhari.
“However, the President will make up for lost votes in other regions like Southeast and South-South where he has delivered many projects to win,’’ he said.
The former minister said the achievements of the President’s fight against corruption and the power of incumbency would work in his favour.
To Momoh, it is an illusion for the PDP to believe the selection of former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra as Atiku’s running mate will deliver the region to the party.
He said the Igbo are politically sophisticated and it had never been easy predicting their direction in any election.
Momoh argued that Buhari picked running mates, the late Chuba Okadigbo and the late Ume Ezeoke, on two occasions for elections, but still lost in the Southeast.
The former minister said the region was open to both candidates in 2019, based on the large number of both APC and PDP members in the area.
He urged Nigerians to participate in the electoral process and obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to vote leaders of their choice.
“The power to choose in 2019 belongs to the people. For that reason, I urge Nigerians to obtain their PVCs to participate in the process.
“It is only when we participate that we can vote people of our choice to help realise the development objectives of our nation,’’ Momoh said.
He urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do its best to deliver credible elections in 2019.
In an email message last night by Atiku’s Media Adviser Paul Ibe, the former Vice President said the 2019 election will be a referendum on the “failed” All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
Ibe said: “This is a government that has failed on all fronts. Nigerians can no longer be hoodwinked by the Orwellian propaganda that is the signature of this administration.
“The 2019 presidential election will be determined by Nigerian voters and not by political soothsayers.
“Nigerians will make a determination whether to settle for incompetence versus competence; cluelessness versus knowhow; joblessness versus employment; restiveness versus engagement; divisiveness versus unity; nepotism versus merit and bigotry versus inclusiveness.
“It is instructive to say that since His Excellency Atiku Abubakar emerged as the presidential candidate of the PDP, the APC administration has gone into a panic mode.
“They need to be reminded that they cannot stop an idea whose time has come. Nigerians are yearning for a competent and visionary leadership that will fix the mess that has been made of our economy, give jobs to the teeming unemployed, ensure security, heal the divisions in the land and get Nigeria working again. Atiku is well-wired to provide such leadership.”
Babatope said Atiku was an experienced politician and that he had the capacity, credentials and clout to win and return power to PDP.
“Atiku is the new face of the PDP. It is time for the party to win back power because I am confident Atiku will win.
“My confidence is based on his political experience from being the founder of the PDM with late Yar’adua to being the Vice-President where he did very well.
“He also has national appeal as he is a detribalised Nigerian with successful businesses all over. He is a bridge builder, a man with great capacity and passion to lead.
“Atiku is the next president. Our People want him. He will rescue Nigeria, I am so sure he will win,” he said.
Asked if the former vice-president did not have the ascribed qualities when he failed in his past attempts to be president, Babatope said everyone had his appointed time.
He noted that Buhari also failed in his past attempts under different parties to be president until 2015 when he emerged under APC.
Babatope said 2019 was the destined year for Atiku’s presidency and that Nigerians would be better for it.
He said the selection of former governor Peter Obi of Anambra State as Atiku’s running mate would improve the party’s victory margin in the election.
He added that the APC had failed Nigerians and that the PDP would return in 2019 “to restore hope”.
Babatope said though the South-West PDP was not in the zoning equation of the party for now, he believed the region would gain massively at the end of the day.
“We know how we do our things in the party to favour everybody. For now, we are preparing for the election, by the time we win, I am sure the South-West PDP will gain big from the power arrangement,” he said.
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