With few months to the 2015 general election, attention has been drawn to the struggle between the two most prominent politicians in the north; former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar and former Head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, who would lock horns for the APC Presidential ticket.
While General Buhari is renowned as the most popular grassroots politician in Nigeria, with an impeccable credibility, Atiku is respected as the wealthiest politician in the country, with unbounded political sagacity.
These unique advantages which they possess over each other have therefore triggered off high level of interest in their current struggle for the APC Presidential ticket.
Recall that in 2011 Presidential election, when the north was searching for consensus candidate, Atiku miraculously defeated General Ibrahim Babangida to emerge as the north’s consensus candidate during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries.
Similarly, General Buhari effortlessly emerged the Presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), through which he polled millions of votes to become the first runner up to President Jonathan in the 2011 Presidential election.
It is interesting to note that he recorded this great success in less than one year campaign for the 2011 Presidential elections due to late registration of CPC as a political party by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Though both lost to President Jonathan in the 2011 polls, these two political titans have at different fora expressed their intentions to re-contest against Jonathan and PDP but now on the same opposition platform.
This has attracted attention among Nigerians apparently because they are obviously the most qualified in popularity, financial muscle, strategy and network to stand against both Jonathan and the machineries of the ruling party.
However, the topmost concern in the mind of most observers is how the leadership of APC intends to manage this unusual advantage and convert it to success rather than brew acrimony among the bigwigs if amicable solutions are not arrived at.
It is clear today that thousands of Nigerians who believe their fates lie in the success of APC in the 2015 Presidential elections, are now looking forward to collaboration between both Atiku and Buhari, when either of them eventually emerges as the opposition’s candidate in 2015.
Recall that shortly after the National Secretary position of APC was zoned to the north east, many political observers had foreclosed the chances of Atiku contesting against Buhari at the party’s primary election.
Some political analysts even described this as a political manipulation aimed at blocking Atiku from contesting against Buhari in the primary stage.
But as a dogged politician, he has once again proved analysts wrong, as he wangled his way to become one of the topmost opposition contenders for the 2015 election.
This to a large extent speaks eloquently about his political complexities and values which the APC must contend with for the success of the party.
Evaluating the political values of both Atiku and Buhari leaves one puzzling about how the opposition party intends to harness their rare political values for its success in the next year polls.
In this regards, there is no gain saying the fact that however the opposition party handles this latest challenge will make or mar its momentum towards Aso Rock next year.
Clearly speaking, both contenders are critical to the performance of APC, particularly in the north; which is the domain where the opposition party is banking on for success in the polls.
Speaking to our correspondent on the way forward, a chieftain of the party, Osita Okechukwu, talked about adopting consensus method in choosing the right candidate.
“APC is looking at consensus, Article 20 of our constitution provides for consensus. Nigerians need a change, so among those that have indicated interest, the leadership of the party will think out of the box and look for the candidate that will give us victory”, Okechukwu said.
While assuring that in the APC, Buhari is the defacto Presidential candidate, the Conference of Nigeria Political Party (CNPP) spokesman also said “Since President Jonathan has locked down the South South and the South East, APC is looking for a candidate that can equally lock down the North East and North West, so that the battle will now be for the North Central and the South West, and Buhari is in a better stead for that”.
He also refuted the allegations that Atiku, being the wealthy candidate, may buy up the delegates, arguing that the leaders of APC are committed democrats who cannot be bought over with money, even if they eventually go for primaries.
“Buhari is not a greedy man, even his opponents know this, and he will be in a better stead to fight insecurity and corruption which are the Nigeria’s greatest problem today”, Okechukwu added.
In a sharp response, the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said anybody that is interested in contesting the 2015 elections on APC platform, should prepare for a democratically conducted primaries.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, the former number two man of Nigeria said those who are talking about consensus are only afraid to contest with him through a clear democratic process.
He said based on experiences and background of some politician in the party, they may not be prepared for primaries, even as he ruled out consensus.
Another chieftain of the party, who spoke as anonymous, called on the leadership of the party to device a strategy to accommodate those that lost in the primary stage, saying this will naturally enlist their support and cooperation with the party’s Presidential candidate for the general elections.
“Those that may not be favoured should be accommodated and the positions and structures of government should be negotiated by involving the party hierarchy in the geo-political zones of the country. No zone should be left out”, the source said.
Nevertheless, from the antecedent of intra party politics in Nigeria, politicians usually work against whoever emerges victorious at the primary stage. This is another issue which the opposition party should consider.
It is therefore apparent that before the primaries, APC leadership should also put measures in place to ensure collaboration and cooperation among those that jostled for the Presidential ticket of the party. This will check backbiting and anti-party activities by those that lost.
Be that as it may, political analysts are of the view that politics does not thrive on selfishness, and to this end, both major candidates of the opposition party must be prepared to work together as one if the party hopes to make any significant impact in the 2015 general election.