By Hajara Tijjani
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 chances 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.
In Kaduna, Buhari must also dig in by moving fast to percify 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.
Here on Buhari loyalist, Sani Shaaban stands out; he possesses the needed charm, the necessary integrity and the required determination to carry out urgent interventions to mend the broken fences and clog the widening gap between the APC and the Kaduna voter.
The President should first see through the smokescreen in Kaduna state in order to reclaim his fast fizzling populism resulting from the direct actions of elrufai and other self-acclaimed political stakeholders.
He must wake to the reality that unless he brings on board such critical political players who weild considerable influence on the public, he risks losing the massive support he enjoys in the state.
Instructively, Shaaban who was deliberately and mischievously schemed out of the political arrangement prior to the APC primaries, is incidentally the head cornerstone that the builder has refused.
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 opportunity available to Buhari and the APC if the must retain that legendary political supremacy in the North as the hands of the clock tick steadily towards 2019.
2019: For Buhari to retain supremacy in the North
By Hajara Tijjani