Election: Eurasia Group says Atiku has gained momentum but…

Atiku picks hole in 2019 budget
Atiku Abubakar. PHOTO CREDIT: DW

A political-risk consultancy firm, Eurasia Group, has said that while the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has gained momentum in his bid to win the February 16 presidential election; he may lose to President Muhammadu Buhari. 

In its final Eurasia Group Politics First election forecast released this week, the group said Buhari has a 60 percent chance of being re-elected.

According to Eurasia, “On election day, the ruling All Progressives Congress’s (APC’s) significantly greater control of local political structures and resources — it governs 23 states compared to the opposition’s 12 — will boost voter mobilization and solidify Buhari’s advantage.”

The group said that the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria will not affect the elections.

“Positive news coverage in recent weeks, along with Buhari’s controversial move to suspend Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen over allegations of corruption, have boosted Atiku’s campaign, but it is too late to change the electoral dynamics and Buhari remains favored to win on 16 February.

“As we have previously noted, key actors in Atiku’s camp—including his campaign’s Director General Bukola Saraki, key powerbroker Governor Nyesom Wike of the oil-rich Rivers State, and southeast governors from his People’s Democratic Party (PDP)—had been disengaged from his election campaign,” the Group said. 

“Wike was annoyed by Atiku’s failure to consult him on key decisions, Saraki remains distracted by a tough Senate reelection battle in Kwara State, and the southeast governors are hampered by many conflicting motivations, including their own lack of political clout (which makes them reluctant to overtly challenge the Federal Government) and their wariness of Atiku’s running mate Peter Obi, a former governor of the southeastern Anambra State who they view as a political outsider.

“The lack of enthusiasm on the part of some PDP governors is a problem for Atiku because these officials control significant discretionary funds at the state level (known as ‘security votes’) that are easier to access without triggering graft concerns,” it further noted. 

Eurasia Group also stated in the report that Atiku’s voters do not match Buhari’s in passion and are unlikely to risk their lives on the streets for him. 

“Though Buhari’s decision to suspend the Chief Justice triggered widespread criticism and stoked passions (along with fears about a more autocratic Buhari second term), many voters blame the judiciary for not moving quicker to force Onnoghen’s resignation after he admitted he had violated rules regarding declaration of assets.

“Thus, should Atiku lose, as we expect, there will be few motivated stakeholders to encourage or instigate serious violence. Instead, we expect PDP governors to quickly turn their attention to fighting to retain their own jobs in state elections on 2 March,” the group added. 

Recently, the Eurasia Group said Buhari would continue “as a politically weak president”.

In 2015, the group tipped Buhari to defeat former president Goodluck Jonathan, changing its stance some weeks to the election, after it had initially chosen the former president to win.

At the time, the group said although it initially tipped President Goodluck Jonathan for re-election, “a number of factors had since changed, and the pendulum had swung to the Buhari’s side”.