By Charles Agwam – Bauchi
Last Tuesday, the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi witnessed an unprecedented crowd of supporters who thronged the overstretched stadium in support of the candidature of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar Bauchi State was, before now, what many would call a ‘Buhari territory’. But that perception seems to have waned in the last three and half years of the Buhari presidency. Many have attributed the decline of Buhari’s popularity in Bauchi to a number of issues bothering on the increased level of poverty, high level of unemployment, insecurity amongst others. Also, there are concerns in some quarters about the health of the President, especially his mental capacity to effectively lead the nation for the next four years. Obviously, part of what have exacerbated these concerns are his slurred speeches in and out of campaign arenas and his inability to recognize people sometimes, especially those in his own party. ALSO READ: Elections: Atiku urges security agents to be apolitical Unlike in 2015 when Buhari, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), ran against Jonathan, a Southerner, he will now be running against an opposition candidate with the same ethnoreligious background as him – and that counts for much for an average Bauchi voter. Corruption, which President Buhari is perceived to be fighting, seems to be an albatross on the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar. The perception of some voters is that he is corrupt and would ‘steal’ the country’s resources if voted into office. But there are also those who say they are tired of hunger and joblessness and would care less about corruption as long as they are able to feed and cater for their family needs. Uche Secondus, the National Chairman of PDP, during the campaign for his party’s presidential candidate said “We are convinced that with this crowd, Bauchi state is for PDP. They can not rig elections in Bauchi state, if they try it, whatever they see, they will have to take it. We have the best presidential candidate in the country today because he is competent and has the capacity to lead the nation. “Buhari is tired, weak and can not go further anymore. But Atiku has been tested and proved. He will provide food, security and employment. He will not cede his power to cabal because he will be the Commander-in-Chief that will work for the people”. Atiku on his part, said “Three years have passed, what has APC done for you; except hunger, poverty and lies? When I was Vice president in 2003, a memo was brought to me by Hon. Shira for the restoration of Steyr company and I approved 500 hundred million naira. But APC has driven the company into comatose. If you vote me, I bring back your Steyr company to create jobs for our teeming youths. “We even commissioned rail lines running from Bauchi across Gombe to Maiduguri but APC has spoilt it. Also, we commissioned dry port to boost businesses in Bauchi, but it is closed today because of the nonchalance of the APC. But I will revive it if you vote for me” Atiku and Secondus may have spoken from their perspective as leaders of the opposition, but much of what they said is being discussed daily by ordinary people at ‘Mai shai’ (tea shops) joints and elsewhere around the state. But a week, they say, is enough for things to change in politics. However, many pundits say the presidential election will be 60/40 in Bauchi, in favour of Buhari.