By Kimani Chege
Nigerians went to the polls end of February is a choice of two people. President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is seeking a second term. His main challenger is former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, 72.
The two leaders are trying to take control of Africa’s leading economy (375.8 billion USD) and the most populous country in the continent (190.9 million in 2017). While the country has seen the leadership of President Buhari, there has been speculation on what an Atiku presidency would mean not only for Nigerians but also to Africa.
Atiku is a seasoned politician and power player who has risen to the level of Vice President and despite trying to win the presidency for three times, he has never managed. Pundits are predicting a more sustained shot this time around.
Atiku is a business magnate with vast interest in oil and real estate. He is also known for his love for football with great liking for UK’s Arsenal Football Club. He is also a well known philanthropist who uses his massive wealth to support charity work.
If he ascends to the helm of the country, he is keen on revamping the Nigerian economy which he has openly slammed Buhari for its sluggish growth in the last three years. His major rallying call has been on revamping the economy that has been reliant on fluctuating international oil prices.
Players in Africa also hope that with his rise to top office, he might be friendly to the Africa Free Trade Pact which Buhari’s regime shelved. With Nigeria playing a significant role in African trade and economy, the entry of Nigeria into the AFTA will be a major boost to the African economy.
Atiku was born in the northern state of Adamawa which incidentally has seen attacks from militants. He was part of the team that has been helping the northern regions cope with militants attacks and once offered education to the Chibok school girls abducted by Boko Haram.
His rise to power would give him more authority to solve the crisis in the north. The skirmishes goes beyond Nigeria as Boko Haram has had an influence in Cameroon and some parts of Central African Republic and Chad.
Nigeria is also expected to play a greater role in the development of pan African political initiatives, a role last well played by Jonathan Goodluck.
Atiku has been accused of illegally accruing wealth through questionable deals. At one time, he was mentioned by a US Senate report of diverting public resources to his own use, an allegation he has denied.
He has been quoted as saying that he is ready to tackle corruption but would work on an amnesty for those who have plundered the country’s economy. Nigeria is ranked high on the most corrupt countries in Africa and Atiku’s critics had argued he is not the right man for the job due to the ethical questions.
Atiku is a shrewd businessman who has steered his business empire in a turbulent Nigerian economy. He is known to oscillate from politics to business with lots of fluency and this has been argued as a key trait that can help Nigeria rediscover its allure.
While as Vice President for eight years, he oversaw the privatization of hundreds of loss-making, corrupt or poorly managed public firms. This has given hope to his supporters that he can help revive many of Nigeria’s state corporations.
His influenced could be felt beyond Nigeria in terms of attracting worthy investments into Africa. At the moment, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa are the leading magnets of private venture investments as well as the Foreign Direct Investments.