I’m frankly not excited about an Atiku presidency. In a previous widely shared Facebook status update, which I developed into a full-length column (see link in comment section), I dismissed Atiku as a cancerous old stager. I also advocated for a third force that is neither Atiku nor Buhari, which Obasanjo quoted in his last public letter to Buhari. Nevertheless, if I have to choose between Atiku and Buhari, I’d choose Atiku with a lot of hesitation. There is no question that Buhari is the absolute worst president Nigeria has ever had the misfortune to be burdened with. He is thoroughly and irredeemably incompetent, not to mention unapologetically bigoted and lazy. Only a sick country would reward such a person with a second term.
Atiku does have visibly thick, ugly ethical stains on him, which is why I'm not excited about him, but he is, without a doubt, cosmopolitan, passionate about learning, and infinitely better versed in knowledge of governance than Buhari would ever be in a million lifetimes. Here’s why I think he has a chance against Buhari.
There are broadly 5 voting blocs in Nigeria: the Northern Muslim bloc (which isn’t based on contiguous geography), the northern Christian bloc (which is also not based on contiguous geography), the southwest bloc (which is impervious to religious differences), the southeast (which is entirely Igbo) and the southern minority bloc.
To win a presidential election, you need to win at least four of these blocs. Because of his history of comparatively genuine pan-Nigerianism, particularly in contradistinction to Buhari’s nakedly unremorseful ethno-regional chauvinism, Atiku will handily win the northern Christian, southeast, and southern minority blocs. He will lose the northern Muslim bloc, and the southwest bloc would be tricky, especially if his running mate is chosen, as is rumored, from the southeast. So it won’t be a cake walk.
But here is what he needs to do if he must unseat Buhari. The South expects power to return to it in 2023. The Buhari campaign says only a Buhari second term can guarantee that. Atiku can neutralize that by signing a legally binding, publicly available affidavit that emphatically states that he will not, under any circumstance, seek a second term in 2023. It’s not enough to just say it since Buhari, who made bigger pretenses to “integrity,” has violated this pledge. His advanced age, in addition to signing an affidavit that can be used against him in court should he violate his pledge, will redound to his acceptability in the South.
Finally, he should actively reach out to people in the southwest, particularly those who are reeling under the hegemonic strangulation of Tinubu, and strike a deal with them. A Buhari second term will end Nigeria as we know it. Of that, I am sure. Anyone, at this time, is better than him.