As Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari get ready for a showdown in 2019, The Economist, an English-language weekly magazine-format newspaper, has written a new article about the two men.
An ugly beauty contest; Nigeria’s presidential election pits a wheeler-dealer against a soldier
Both candidates are boringly familiar to voters. Mr Abubakar has been in every election since 1999; Mr Buhari every one since 2003. Oddly for a country where half the population is younger than 18, both candidates are in their 70s. Both face the challenge of energising an electorate that is growing disenchanted by extravagant promises that bring little change.
For all their outward similarities, the two are quite different characters. Mr Abubakar, a wealthy former vice-president and customs-service chief, is a politicians’ politician, a gregarious character who masterfully outflanked his rivals in Port Harcourt. He campaigns as a business-friendly candidate who will get Nigeria’s economy going. By contrast President Buhari, austere and introverted, is a former military ruler who does not hurry to make decisions and is suspicious of Nigeria’s corrupt political and business elite. Mr Buhari’s aides say his administration can claim successes in the fight against jihadists in the north-east and in diversifying the economy away from its dependence on oil, which once accounted for 90% of government revenues.
Mr Buhari’s extraordinary victory in 2015 challenged the long-held view that it was impossible to unseat an incumbent in Nigeria. A key to his success was his ability to hold together an awkward coalition of parties to defeat Mr Jonathan. To repeat the trick, Mr Abubakar will need to win the full-throated support (and financial resources) of rivals he has just trounced for the nomination.
Mr Buhari’s challenge is different. Although his nomination was uncontested, the party has been tearing itself apart over which candidates will run for state governorships and seats in the senate. The first lady, Aisha Buhari, said on Twitter that some of the APC’s primaries had been rigged. She criticised party managers for sanctioning a culture of “impunity”.