How Buhari Is Rigorously Campaigning For Atiku

Atiku Abubakar and President Muhammadu Buhari

One salient treasure the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC has lost in the last three and a half years is public trust.
This present administration was able to easily increase fuel price, electricity tariffs, delay setting up a cabinet, enjoy relative calm when the economy was in recession coupled with the depreciation of the Naira and prosecute high profile public figures without any major protests on the streets because people believed in the government.
Today, the approval rating of the APC might be below 20% if measured and this has grave implications. A major sign of loss of legitimacy is that the people will start to perceive every action or inaction of the government wrongly. The goodwill of the government of the day will be overshadowed by noise, conspiracy theories and criticisms. This signifies a disconnection between the government and the people. If this is not well managed during an election period, the government should be ready to pack its bags unless it wants to be like President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, President Omar al-Bashir in Sudan, President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi, Paul Biya in Cameroon, Faure Gnassingbé President of Togo, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and other very unpopular governments.
Before I delve into Buhari’s lapses fully, I will like to make reference to a similar issue around the world which has to do with the essence of public trust. The youngest lawmaker in the US, new Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed a 70% tax rate for the rich. A senior columnist at Yahoo Finance – Rick Newman discredited her proposal citing the distrust in government in the U.S.
According to Rick Newman, in 1958, 73% of Americans said they trusted the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. By 2017, that had fallen to 18%. Surveys show that a majority of Americans don’t trust Washington with their tax dollars, and voters think the government wastes about half of all the money it collects.
This issue of public distrust will hinder any government from making bold moves without any public opprobrium like what President Emmanuel Macron is facing with the Yellow Vest protesters in France due to his rising fuel prices, high cost of living and other economic challenges.
When a former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan removed the fuel subsidy in 2012, it was like he committed political hara-kiri. He also infamously explained that 'stealing is not corruption'. Intellectually speaking, he was right but because of his low approval ratings at that point in time, his explanation was misconstrued by the public and his image was further tainted. The backlash even lived after his administration.
Today, it’s the APC turn to face the downsides of public distrust in which the people listen to public speeches with their ears blocked and also read press statements upside down.
The APC has costly started the year on a very bad note and they are in for more stumbling blocks. The leaked audio tapes of the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi who doubles as the Director-General of the Buhari 2019 presidential campaign in which he disparaged his principal is like a gully erosion that will eat up the foundation of the Buhari campaign structures. Amaechi has been presented as a conman selling a product he doesn’t use or believe in. Apart from this, the arrangement of Buhari’s rare interview with the Arise TV network in which the presidency rejected the plan for a live interview, barred Arise TV correspondents from conducting the interview, prevented them from using their equipment but rather allowed the national TV station, NTA to record and hand over the raw files to Arise TV reeks of suspicions. Many have asked; ‘What are they hiding?’ ‘Is he truly suffering from dementia or is he actually the impostor Jubril Aminu Al Sudani as separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu claimed?’
The Federal Government's decision to abandon due process and prosecute the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen for false declaration of assets has been interpreted as a futuristic move of President Muhammadu Buhari to compromise the judiciary ahead of a possible unfavourable presidential election result. Many have wondered the motive behind the speedy trial of Onnoghen when the petition against the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola by Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders. CACOL hasn't been attended to. The same government which ignored the Ganduje's dollar bribe videos, petitions against Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Kayode Fayemi and the clamour for the prosecution of the former SGF, Babachir Lawal, former DSS director, Lawal Daura and several APC faithful with questions to answer. 
There is a palpable fear that votes will not count on the 16th of February which is the day of Nigeria's presidential election. The ordeal of Onnoghen is seen as a plan of Buhari to hold unto to power like former President Laurent Gbagbo did in Ivory Coast in 2010. The top gainer is the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar who is seen as Buhari's major challenger and viable option considering his popularity and party's deep-rooted structure in Nigeria.
Last week was a long one for Buhari. His performance at the ‘The Candidates’ town hall meeting further explains why his media team has been hiding him over the years. The president suddenly became a spectator while dressed as a player. He stared at his Vice President Yemi Osinbajo like he was transmitting the messages to the latter's brain through infrared. Many people who didn't believe U.S President Donald Trump called him 'lifeless' had a rethink. 
In Kogi State, Buhari slipped during a presidential campaign. While that is normal, this has been weaponized and many have attributed that to his rumoured health and age.  Another video also showed Buhari missing his steps as he tried to take a seat at an APC rally in Kaduna State.
Buhari gave credibility to those who claim he is suffering from dementia when he said he assumed power on the 19th of May, 2018 instead of May 29 the same year. He also reportedly said he assumed power as a military ruler in 1984 when he actually did in December, 1983.
As his supporters fought hard on social media to dominate after the myriad of faux pax, the 76 year old leader was unto the next gaffe. He apparently endorsed Great Ovedje Ogboru in Delta State as the "presidential, senatorial and 'governortorial' candidate' of the APC while handing over the party's flag to him originally as a gubernatorial candidate. The video was widely shared on social media to ridicule him and it has been very effective. 
Atiku, 72, on the other hand has been diligently rolling out his plans for Nigeria should they give him a chance and some economic experts have been endorsing his views e.g. the sale of the state-owned oil company, NNPC.
Atiku also travelled to the U.S with his entourage after 12 years of staying away to make a political point which is that, America's Department of Justice has no criminal case against him. The news reduced the morale of Buhari's supporters while it increased the confidence of people selling the Atiku product. Rather than ignore the noise of the campaign period and focus on the messages, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed probably after reading the draconian books of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced that Atiku would be questioned on his return to Nigeria as regards the collapse of Bank PHB which happened over 8 years ago. It would be recalled that Sisi technically contested against himself in the April 2018 presidential election in Egypt securing over 90% of the votes after forcing all his opponents to step down.
Many Nigerians who are even apolitical have frowned at the underhand tactics employed by the government which also delayed signing the Electoral Amendment Bill that backed the usage of card reader machines and electronic transmission of election results. It’s on paper that Buhari benefitted immensely from the usage of incident forms. 
An INEC report showed 10,184,720 votes representing 75 percent of the total votes cast were from states won by Muhammadu Buhari, then presidential candidate of the APC, while 3,351,591 votes representing 25 percent came from states won by Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP.
Many suspect a repeat of the Kano incident in 2015 where cows reportedly voted and waited behind to defend their votes.
The APC is indirectly painting Atiku as the victim paying the golden price like Jesus Christ for trying to free Nigeria from captivity. This is making him more popular. This is giving him public sympathy. The electorates are very fickle-minded and their support can be swayed at the final minute.
The more people lose faith in Buhari, the more they consider Atiku as his replacement.
Atiku on Saturday goofed by failing to take advantage of Buhari’s expected absence at the presidential debate to shine. Nigerians hailed him as he flew into the country from the U.S and briefly prepared for the debate. We were shocked when he dramatically made a U-turn after storming the venue of the debate using Buhari’s absence as an excuse. 
Buhari got away with his non-participation at the presidential debate in 2015 but this time around, it will be a minus on his scorecard. People will not only question his intellectual capacity but they will also discuss his mental and physical fitness to lead a nation of 198 million people out of the doldrums.
Finally, Buhari's media team needs to restrategize. They are not acting like journalists or Public Relations specialists at all; they are more of voyeurs who are more interested in the next door neighbour’s apartment thereby neglecting their houses and exposing them to attacks. There is too much of the mention of Atiku's name on their lips. Their attacks are the same and have become boring in the media. They need to reduce the publicity and visibility they are giving Atiku through the regular criticisms while they focus on Buhari's achievements.
Their offensive campaign strategy reminds me of the making of Trump. He was an unconventional candidate with the African style of political campaign. In Africa, political campaigns are less of issues and more of character assassination. The media publicized his utterances and gaffes which were alien to the American political space. The platforms like CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and others enjoyed the views from Trump contents but unconsciously sold his brand for free. Even people who were not interested in politics enjoyed and laughed over the drama Trump brought to the table. They began to love what they were seeing, they were indoctrinated by his views and hence, they cast their votes for him at the end of the day.
Buhari's foot soldiers should learn from history and get over the undue obsession with Atiku as we have over 70 candidates gunning for their principal's job, although unrealistically.
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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on Phone number: +2347053302356.
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