Nigeria’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will look to enriching himself and his cronies if he wins the presidential elections holding on February 16, an America political risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group said in its annual report for 2019.
He is a “gerontocrat who would focus on enriching himself and his cronies, avoiding the difficult and politically unpopular tasks necessary for reform,” Eurasia Group said in the report published on December 7.
However, the group said Abubakar, because of “his better health and keener intellect” compared to President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, “would create a brief, superficial boost to the country’s image.”
“But it would also pose the risk of a return to an even more rent-seeking governing style,” the group added.
Abubakar, a former Nigerian vice president for eight years, will be contending with about 59 candidates for the post of presidency.
However, his main contender is the incumbent president. Abubakar, after leaving the APC for the PDP in late 2017, has become one of Buhari’s harshest critics, especially on the economy.
Abubakar has touted his experience in government and business as being what the country needs, citing his role in overseeing economic reforms amid solid growth under former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
His proposed policy program has emphasized job creation, and he has promised to implement liberal economic policies if elected, including scrapping the current system of multiple exchange rates that he describes as “anti-business.”
However, critics consider Abubakar as a corrupt figure, a perception that dates from his time in Obasanjo’s administration when he allegedly accumulated significant holdings in oil and banking enterprises and built a sizeable real estate portfolio.
He and his fourth wife Jennifer Douglas, an American citizen, were allegedly indicted in 2010 in a 328-page American Senate committee report for transferring over $40 million “suspect funds” to America from offshore accounts between 2002 and 2008.
“Ms Douglas helped her husband bring over $40 million in suspect funds into the United States, including at least $1.7 million in bribe payments from Siemens AG, a German corporation, and over $38 million from little known offshore corporations, primarily LetsGo Ltd. Inc., Guernsey Trust Company Nigeria Ltd., and Sima Holding Ltd,” the Carl Levin-led Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation said on page 173 of its report.
Although Abubakar has not visited the United States since he was indicted, he has maintained that he did nothing wrong.
But with his reconciliation and endorsement by Obasanjo last October, his consultations with influential pressure groups in the north, southwest and the Niger River delta, Abubakar appears to be having some success at cementing the backing of the political establishment.
Political analysts, however, has said while Abubakar has gained some level of momentum, victory is far from certain.
Abubakar’s choice of running mate, Peter Obi, a former state governor with a good track record, may help lock down votes in the southeast, where the majority Igbo people have complained about a lack of national representation since their leaders tried to secede from Nigeria in the Biafra civil war in the 1960s.
But the choice of Obi also carries the risk of tilting votes in the ethnically Yoruba-dominated Southwest, a key swing region where Vice President Yemi Osinbajo comes from, firmly in favour of the Buhari.
Eurasia predicted the “election will be close, and a challenged or inconclusive result is possible.”