Much like his nearly four-year presidency has divided Nigerians sharply along ethno-geographic and religious fault lines, President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid has proved no less divisive. From a legacy of a fractured country, the next frontier of conflict appears to be between the Southeast and Southwest geopolitical zones over 2023 presidency.
Having seemingly failed to deliver on any of his core campaign promises of tackling corruption, insecurity and growing the economy with very little or nothing in terms of life changing infrastructural development on the eve of election, the Buhari campaign has been reduced to the use of ethno-geographic sentiments for power to bait votes. However, this latest attempt to sway votes in the Southeast and Southwest geopolitical zones appears to be not only flawed but dead on arrival.
By way of subtle electoral blackmail, Buhari’s APC has thrown up the long agitated for-Nigerian president of Southeast extraction-trump card as a potent weapon of negotiation for securing the geo-political zone’s support for the President’s re-election. Having shut out the zone from his kitchen cabinet and entire top echelon of the nation’s security services, efforts are underway to win over the people with the issue of presidency.
Speaking to newsmen after a recent meeting between President Buhari and the Southeast governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the visit was remarkable and had corrected the impression that the federal government was not doing anything for the people of the zone. According to him, “we received a very high-powered delegation today (yesterday) and I think it is a remarkable visit because they came essentially to thank Mr. President over the major activities that have taken place in the Southeast.” On whether President Buhari solicited the votes of the Southeast at the meeting, the SGF said: “This obviously might not be the most appropriate time. “You remember there was a programme in the Southeast where Mr. President asked me to represent him and I threw the kite by telling the south-eastern states that their quickest and easiest means to the presidency is to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term. Meaning that they can short circuit the period in terms of only having him there for another four years and whatever they do in 2019 will determine what will happen thereafter, because politics is a game of numbers and it is like a cooperative society.” Having repeatedly justified the marginalization of the Southeast on the basis of the paltry 198,000 votes scores obtained in the zone by the President in the 2015 election, his handlers are now trying to misrepresent this political punishment as a useful lesson to learn to become wiser by voting the APC presidential ticket in 2019.
In a now familiar pattern of double speaking by the Buhari administration, in another part of Nigeria, this time in the Southwest, a different kind of song is being sang by another set of regime agents.