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President Goodluck Jonathan faced former military leader Muhammadu Buhari for the presidency in 2011 and emerged victorious winning the vote 59 percent against 32 percent. In the rare event of history repeating itself, Buhari is set to face Jonathan again after winning a primary against four other candidates in the All Progressives Congress (APC) convention in Lagos. If public opinion is to be relied on, Buhari may win this election.
In a highly competitive Nigerian elections race since the end of the military reign in 1999, the septuagenarian ex-military Muslim general from the north who once seized power in 1983, only to be deposed two years later will be facing Jonathan for the second time. Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo will be running mates and candidates from the governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the elections due next year.
For the APC’s candidate Buhari, Nigeria’s insecurity since the Boko Haram attacks, economic disparities and corruption are issues he wants to tackle if successfully elected. While he did hold power briefly for two years, the popular leader with backing from northern Nigeria, has not been in power for almost 30 years and political analysts believe that he does not have it takes for an elected leader to fix a Nigeria that is facing more issues than one.
Buhari is yet to announce a running mate for the elections, a race he is running for the fourth time now. The running mate is important since he or she will bring in votes from the south, especially since the APC needs someone with a strong track record in the region. The APC hopes to ease regional tensions in Nigeria, by choosing someone who can bridge this political gap. Suggestions include fellow Muslim Babatunde Fashola, the outgoing governor of Lagos state who has earned respect for the reforms he introduced in the region. While religion has never been an issue, the option may be rejected since the aim is to represent both the Christian and Muslim population in Nigeria at the elections at least to garner votes to win.
Buhari won against his closest rival the ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, gaining 3,430 votes out of 8,000 while Abubakar ended up with a dismal 954. Abubakar congratulated the former general via Twitter saying, “The delegates have spoken, you fully deserve the victory.” BBC correspondent Will Ross predicted that the presidential election race in Nigeria next year will be a tight one, especially if the opposition stays united behind a single candidate. Nigeria presents challenges that are hard to ignore. The Boko Haram and their jihadist insurgency against the Christians in the north and the task of rebuilding a nation after it was declared free of Ebola in an economy that is under strain due to the failing oil price is a challenge whoever wins this presidency.
Jonathan, the sole candidate of the ruling PDP told his party cadres on Thursday, “today we are stronger, bigger and more in tune with the yearnings of our people.” For a leader facing criticism over how the Boko Haram insurgency was handled, Buhari at this time is believed to be a better replacement to combat the militants. Despite allegations of human rights abuses, Buhari’s 20-month rule as Nigeria’s military rule will be remembered for a strict campaign against corruption and indiscipline, something Nigeria needs now.
By Rathan Paul Harshavardan