7 Things Atiku Must Do to Win the 2019 Presidential Elections

Source: Dr. Bell IHUA

Nigeria is currently at a Kairos moment, an opportune and defining time in history, where posterity would judge every citizen aged 18 and above, on the role they played to help shape a better future for the nation, especially our children and those yet unborn. Whether you’re independent and non-partisan, or you’re a party loyalist; we must all agree that the country isn’t on the right trajectory. This current path is not sustainable.Real change must happen for us to take our rightful place in the league of nations.

As a political watcher, one can easily decipher that the 2019 general elections would not be business-as-usual. Something must give, something must break. The same way Isaac said to his son Esau in the scripture that “when you become restless, you shall break of the yoke from off your neck”. From the perspective of an experienced opinion pollster, I can tell Nigerians have become restless, and something is about to break.

Thankfully, the political space has opened up, there’s been some significant new entrants spicing up to the political process and tackling genuine issues that touch the heart of our common existence. I have particularly enjoyed Kingsley Moghalu’s erudition on tackling the economy; Tope Fasua’s articulation on the digital economy, artificial intelligence and the urgency of purpose; Fela Durotoye’s discourse on rebuilding a new image for Nigeria; Chika Ukaegbu’s 3 pillars of Education, Entrepreneurship and Technology; and Sowore’sradical nonconformist campaign approach (not on legalizing marijuana though!) amongst other aspirants, now candidates. Do these guys have a chance? Yes, they do, but not necessarily in 2019. For one, they are fragmented, and the lack of cohesion will not give them the critical mass needed to win an election of this nature.

By and large, the current contest comes down to a two-horse race between the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Are they the best candidates Nigeria can have? I don’t believe so; but we must understand that this is the reality of our current political system and structure. Former VP Atiku emerged winner and candidate of the PDP from a seemingly well-organized presidential primary in Portharcourt last weekend, and as the campaign begins, I’m led to share some thoughts on 7 things Atiku must do to emerge victorious in the 2019 presidential election. Now, these are my thoughts and strong personal convictions and I believe everyone is entitled to theirs. Whether or not Atiku Abubakar would become president of Nigeria come May 29th 2019 would be largely dependent on the clinical and strategic execution of most, if not all, of these 7 inter-related points discussed below.

  1. Elevate Campaign into A National Movement: Up until now, the focus of most aspirants has been to pick up their party candidacy. Now done and dusted, candidates can now settle down to commence the real work of campaign and selling themselves to Nigerians. It is my firm believe that leaving the campaign as a two-horse battle between APC and PDP is a recipe for failure. Atiku and his campaign team need to raise the conversation far and above party lines into a national movement wrestling for the heart and soul of the nation. With almost 11 million Nigerians newly registered to vote in the 2019 elections, it is clear that young people aged between 18 and 35 years would be a strong factor in deciding who emerges President. For most of these youths, particularly first-time voters, there’s never been a rallying-point or ideology to inspire them to action. There may have been a glimpse of hope in the call for “change” that heralded the emergence of President Buhari. But, in truth, much of that hope has long been dashed. So, elevating the campaign into a movement means giving fresh hope to all Nigerians, especially these young folks. A messagethat can inspire a new Nigerian dream. One that inspires hope in a brighter, greater and prosperous future for all. Atiku’s campaign slogan already captures this #ANigeriaForAll; however, it now needs to move from being a mere slogan to an ideology embodied by a critical mass.
  2. Let the Big Ideas &Bold Statements Start Flowing: Now, beyond the usual unrealistic campaign promises such as equating one Naira to one Dollar, Atiku and his campaign team need to come up with big, bold, realistic and actionable ideas that can inspire hopein Nigerians and send clear signals to both local and international partners that the true giant of Africa is set to wake again.We need clear ideas on what Atiku would do to create jobs for Nigeria’s brewing time bomb, the massive unemployed youths. Everyone knows that civil servants in Nigeria are poorly paid, but decry corruption in the system. Atiku needs to be clear on what his administration would setas the newsustainable minimum wage. Would Atiku commit to working with the best brains Nigeria has in every sector? Would he commit to granting significant political appointments to young emerging leaders less than 40 years old? Would he commit to 50:50 gender parity in cabinet positions and appointment slots? How many new “graduate” Police officers and Armed Forces personnel would his administration recruit within the next 4 years? Whatis Atiku’s practical action plan to tackle the country’s unending security challenges? How much would his administration commit towards genuinely funding MSMEs and Youth Entrepreneurship?How does Atiku plan to reduce our excessively burdensome cost of governance? With 13.2 million out-of-school children in the country, would Atiku commit to ensuring that no Nigerian Child will be out of School?What are the genuine social safety nets and poverty alleviation programmes that his administration hopes to implement? The list is endless; but the ideas I’m talking about have to be really big and bold enough to inspire meaningful hope.
  3. Call for Support & Ideas from All Interested Nigerians: As I often say, for governance to be effective, it has to be inclusive and participatory. Beyond rhetoric, Atiku needs to enlist the support of all interested Nigerians, home andabroad, who are keen to see real change in the country. Anyone who has great ideas on how to move any sector forward should be welcome to contribute. There should be a dedicated email and team, responsible for genuinely sifting through theemails and responding to the emails as well. This email should not be only for the purpose of campaign, but should run through his administration on assumption of office. It would also serve as a tool for capturing Nigerians opinions and assessments of his administration and its reform efforts. Atiku’s campaign needs aunit in charge of public opinion, to help navigate his campaign strategy through the nuances of publicattitudes and opinions; particularly at a time like this, where rumours and fake news are rife, and perceptions can easily be swayed like a pendulum by politicians whose only aim is their personal interests.
  4. Going Across Party Lines:The task of rebuilding Nigeria is too great and enormous to be left in the hands of a single political party or group of politicians and their associates. Atiku needs the collective effort of a critical mass. It is time to go across party lines to identify and recruit Nigerians from all walks of life to help realize his dream of rebuilding a new Nigeria, #ANigeriaForAll. It istime to rise above nepotistic politics of party loyalists, cronies and kinsmen; and seek out honest, dispassionate and detribalized Nigerians, irrespective of creed and tongue, to joinin the process of rebuilding our fractured nation. I really do not intend to mention names, but permit me. For instance, why would you have a Pat Utomi or Nuhu Ribadu caught up in the murky waters of crookedparty politicking, when they can be called on to contribute those grandiose and lofty ideas? Certainly, thereshould be room for some of Utomi’s “Asian Tiger” economic philosophies, and ideas of connecting the nation by highspeed railsandturning Lagos-Ibadan express road into a massive 12-lane regional corridor with immense capacity for creating an economic revolution. It isn’t rocket science! What I’m simply saying is that all “discerning”hands must be on deck, and not left to political jobbers and rent seekers to determine who gets what, when and how.
  5. Extend A Hand of Fellowship to Other Younger Candidates: If I had my way, Atiku’s Vice Presidential candidate would be Professor Kingsley Moghalu. But if wishes were horses, then even beggars would ride. I have always been an advocate of a fusion between old and new-breed politicians. I have never been under the illusion that the new-breed have all it takes to do the job; neither can the traditional politicians and juggernauts do any better. If for anything, the latter group has been responsible for bringing us to our current sad state as a nation.But let’s be frank, there’s been some really interesting new entrants into the political space,who have been articulating their thoughts and churning out great ideas like they own a factory where ideas are manufactured. My friend Tope Fasua, Kingsley Moghalu, Remi Sonaiya, Fela Durotoye, Omoyele Sowore and Chika Ukaegbu are some of such intelligent minds. When you listen to them share theirthoughts and insights on fixing Nigeria, you get a sense that we have all it takes to change the current situation. I’m of the opinion Atiku should reach out to a good number, if not all, of these folks to see how they can work together and what each of themcan bring to the table. I believe they can contribute significantly to shaping policy and raising the quality of the campaign above stomach infrastructure. Again, this point is central to elevating the Atikucampaign into a national movement.
  6. Start Constituting Your Cabinet Now: If Atiku would be taken seriously, he needs to show Nigerians that he can hit the ground running from May 29th 2019. This lies in his ability to start building his cabinet from now, and announcing them officially in 24 hours from his swearing in ceremony. This isn’t new territory for Atiku. He’s been there and done that! One of the strengths often credited to him is his ability to spot talents and governance materials. This is the time to bring that strength to bear, in order to identify credible men and women who across the country to join him to rebuild this nation. Linking this to my earlier point, the search for cabinet members and appointees should go across party lines; and be purely based on credibility, competence and track records. Interestingly, no single region is the sole repository of this calibreof people. Some of them are known, many are little known; but they have distinguished themselves in their various corners, with track records for delivering excellent results and effectively managing people over time.Look for such men and women wherever you can find them, and convince them that Nigeria needs them at this critical moment in history.
  7. Rally Nigerians Around A Common Cause: Lastly, Atiku and his campaign team must rally Nigerians around a common cause. Now, this is far more than organizing state-to-state campaigns and political crusades. Nigerians need a fresh cause to fight for this nation. And just before someone picks on me for inciting violence; what I simply mean is that there needs to be a strong resonating message from Atiku, that would appeal to the conscience of a critical mass and positively sway public opinion on voters’ decision in his favour. There’s a message that needs to be communicated to Nigerians, that would move the campaign from the hands of Atiku and his team into the heart of ordinary Nigerians. Atiku would enjoy a landslide victory at the 2019 presidential election when ordinary Nigerians own this national movement; and they are ready and willing to go around their communities and neighbourhoods canvassing for votes, not because anyone has paid them to do so, but because they understand that the struggle here is for the soul of the nation.

In conclusion, as I round up this piece, a number of questions are propping up in my head – Why am I really writing this piece?Why all this for Atiku, is he a saint? What of all the concerns that have been raised about Atiku’s credibility? To the 1st question, I’m writing this for my children, and their own unborn children, that I played this little role in 2018 to lend my voice for the call for a better Nigeria. To the 2nd question, my answer is a No. But I’m convinced that an Atiku-led government would do much better than the current order. For the 3rd question bordering on the concerns raised on Atiku, I would base my response from my experience and perspective of someone whose job has givenhim the opportunity to travel extensively across Nigeria in the last three years, and is currently travelling even as he writes this piece. I’m of the opinion that some of these concerns do matter. However, I am convinced that those pushing these concerns aren’t doing so for the love of Nigeria or Nigerians, but for their own personal interests aimed at political gerrymandering. If you ask me, I know the average IDP in Askira-Uba isn’t really bothered about any 39 briefcases; the jobless youths I saw in Ogbomosho are unconcerned about whether a candidate can travel to America or not; and the woman I saw with her sick child at the Iyaro motor park in Benincity couldn’t be bothered about the number of wives any candidate has.To be honest, the election isn’t about Atiku anymore, but for afuture that would herald real change and present a radical departure from where we currently are as a nation.

Dr. Bell IHUA holds a PhD in Management from University of Kent, at Canterbury United Kingdom. He’s a public opinion pollster, social researcher and evaluation expert based in Abuja.

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