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Nigerian Opposition Party Picks Abubakar to Battle Buhari

Discussion in 'Nigeria News, Politics' started by Admin, Oct 7, 2018.

  1. Admin

    Admin Administrator

    Nigeria’s main opposition party nominated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari in February elections in Africa’s biggest oil producer.

    Abubakar, 71, won the People’s Democratic Party’s primaries against 11 other candidates, taking almost half of the votes cast at the nomination convention Sunday in the oil hub of Port Harcourt. His victory sets up a battle between two septuagenarians to lead Africa’s most populous nation where more than 50 percent of the people are under the age of 30.

    The choice of Abubakar, who hails from the northeast, could divide the vote in the northern base of Buhari, who is 75. Nigeria’s northeast and northwest regions, which accounted for 40 percent of registered voters in 2015, together gave Buhari, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, 81 percent of their ballots in the last election.


    [​IMG]
    Atiku Abubakar

    Photographer: PIUS UTOMI
    “We have a wonderful opportunity to return the PDP to power,” Abubakar said in his acceptance speech. “We’ve enumerated the challenges faced by the country over and over. What we need to do is to proffer solutions. That is what will make us different from the clueless government of the APC.”



    Regional Autonomy
    Abubakar has criticized Buhari’s handling of the economy, which is having an anemic recovery from a recession two years ago, and called for the privatization of the oil industry. He also favors greater regional autonomy, scrapping the system of multiple exchange rates and increasing spending on education.

    “A lot of people are rating him as the strongest against Buhari; I’m not so sure,” Amaka Anku, the head of Eurasia Group’s Africa Practice, said in an emailed response. “I think it will be an uphill battle. He represents the past, and has no real raison d’etre, and is the weakest on Buhari’s strongest suit: integrity.”

    Abubakar, a Muslim and father of 26 children, defected from the APC last year, returning to the PDP, under which he served as vice president from 1999 to 2007. He’s been presidential aspirant in three different parties since then, losing the ruling party nomination to Buhari in 2015.

    Wealthy Politician
    A former Nigerian Customs Service top official who later became a major shareholder in Intels Nigeria Ltd., an oil-service company, Abubakar is considered one of the richest people on Nigeria’s political scene.

    Read about Nigeria’s ‘cash and carry’ politics

    To carry the Feb. 16 vote, he will have to convince the electorate that allegations of graft, which opponents have used to explain his fortune, are untrue. He’s denied any wrongdoing.

    “Atiku has a high profile and good name recognition locally,” said Antony Goldman, West Africa analyst at London-based PM Consulting. “He is a politician’s politician, but that also has its downsides in a culture marked by corruption.”

    While his advocacy of regional autonomy has earned him support in the country’s predominantly Christian south, he will have trouble winning enough support in the northwest, Buhari’s home region, which accounts for about a quarter of the voters alone, Anku said.

    It’s “unlikely that Atiku can crack the northwest vote bank in the way the PDP needs to do to win,” she said. “But let’s see who he picks as a vice president.”

    — With assistance by Yinka Ibukun
    Source: Bloomberg
     
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