POLITICS TODAY

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2019, Buhari and the lost grip on North

By Baraka Labaran
In 2015, the North as a whole provided almost 80 percent of the total votes that saw Muhammadu Buhari, the then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress to victory.
The Northwest alone accounted for more than nine million of Buhari’s 16 million votes that came from the North while more than half of the Northwest votes came from Kano and Kaduna states.
It follows therefore, that Buhari’s chances of securing reelection in 2019 are hinged solely on his ability to retain his populist superiority in the Northwest particularly in the two northwestern states of Kano and Kaduna.
Repeating this feat is becoming less feasible for a number of reasons: chief among which is that the factors that would shape 2019 elections are fundamentally far apart from those that determined the 2015 polls. This time around, the main contest for the presidency is going to be between Buhari and Atiku Abubakar; both strong northerners, both Muslims and both Fulani.
In addition to this and more worrying, is that the current administrations of the two swing states of Kano and Kaduna, have in the last three and a half years inflicted more damage than good to the APC and President Buhari’s integrity and by implication, to the electoral values of the President.
The embarrassing bribery scandal currently involving Kano state governor Ganduje is most certainly going to reflect negatively on Buhari and APC’s 2019 performance.
The President must come clean with the Ganduje affair if he still keeps the hope of retaining the Kano votes. This he can do by openly distancing himself from Ganduje, condemning the act and ordering a thorough investigation into the matter. Anything short of these would certainly affect his popularity with the Kano people which is already waning.
The situation is worse in Kaduna where already voter discontent is palpable and escalating as a result of governor Nasir elrufai’s reckless handling of affairs of government.
Since coming to power in 2015, elrufai has dragged the APC in the state into many embarrassing situations with unending confrontations with established traditional institutions, the state civil service and about everyone that matter in the state.
Buhari must dig in hard by moving fast to trim elrufai’s wings in order to pacify the mounting anger among the citizens particularly the aggrieved workers, the clerics and ulama, traditional rulers and elders of the state.
By way of suggestion, he can assign the responsibility of reaching out to these classes of aggrieved persons to a responsible Kaduna opinion leader who is genuinely respected across board.
But first, the President must see through the smokescreen in Kaduna state in order to reclaim his fast fizzling populism resulting from the direct actions of elrufai and close-knit circle of friends.
At stake here, is not only the continued suppression and oppression of critical political players in the state through manipulating what remains of the state’s APC hierarchy, it is also about the implications of another four years under an elrufai government generally.
Understanding these implications by Buhari, requires understanding how the once loved APC reached this stage in Kaduna: el-Rufai came with the promise of security, ending poverty, protecting the vulnerable, and improving the economy. But the gap between el-Rufai’s rhetoric and reality keeps growing wider throughout the first three years of his first term, which may as well be his last with the concomitant likelihood of dragging the President down with him.
As the policies adopted in governing the state most often contradict APC and el-Rufai’s promises, the trends also indicate that they have led to further deterioration of his electoral value.
This is evident in the way the last three years witnessed a drastic erosion of Kaduna state institutions – traditional, religious, and socio-political dynamics as part of the effects of el-Rufai’s form of governance which stresses the absence of internal democracy in the APC, absence of real representative government, broadening legislation that undermines rule of law, and increasing influence of sycophants.
Everywhere in the state, concerns are mounting about the restriction of freedom of association, press, and expression, the use of state power with impunity as impediments to democratic due process.
The confinement of the ruling elite to a narrow circle of friends and relatives are not just clear signs of the administration’s bad governance, but are damaging to el-Rufai’s politics itself and the state’s future stability which could reflect negatively on Buhari.
This insular approach has already deepened the fragility of the APC in Kaduna with likely potential of raising the stakes several more notches beyond the reach of el-Rufai and Buhari next year.
Buhari must therefore wake up to the reality that unless he forgets elrufai’s deceptive antics and move personally to mend the broken fences with critical political players who wield considerable influence on the public, he risks losing the massive support he got in the state.
Other flash areas that President Buhari must concentrate on include the resurgence of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East worsened by the disabling situations in the Internally Displaced Camps and the rampant and pervading poverty across the region.
Buhari must reclaim his statesmanship by restructuring his current security apparatus, looking deeply into allegations of corruption against the military hierarchy and checking out the burning issue of deployment of inefficient, ineffective and obsolete weaponry in the battle.
Accordingly, he must quickly be seen to be moving decisively to turn the dilapidation in the IDP camps and the general infrastructure decay in the Northeast as well as tackling the excruciating poverty across the entire region.
These steps so far seem to be the only remaining opportuniies available to Buhari and the APC if they must retain that legendary political supremacy in the North as the hands of the clock tick steadily towards 2019.
Baraka, a public affairs analyst writes from Kaduna

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