Nigeria’s Abubakar has launched a bid to replace Buhari as president

Abuja, Nigeria

Nigeria’s main opposition leader Atiku Abubakar launched his presidential election campaign on Wednesday, calling for a landslide victory to save the country from a “terrifying descent” into anarchy.

The official election campaign began on Wednesday, ahead of February’s presidential vote to choose a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari, who is serving his final second term.

Nigeria’s next leader will inherit growing insecurity, separatist unrest, a sluggish economy, double-digit inflation, industrial theft of crude oil and an ever-increasing petrol subsidy bill that is draining government finances.

Abubakar, 75 years old, and former vice president between 1999-2007 is running for the third time. According to him, a PDP government would rebuild the economy, improve security and the education sector and run a smaller government.

“We have a plan to deal with these issues,” Abubakar said at the launch of his campaign. He gave no details. “Under the watch of the present APC government, our beloved country has witnessed a terrifying descent into anarchy.”

To become president, Abubakar will have to defeat the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, and Peter Obi of the Labor Party, his former candidate in 2019.

He also has to deal with disappointments in his PDP party, after an influential faction boycotted Wednesday’s event, pushing the president, an ally of Abubakar, to quit.

Abubakar had previously said he would give more power to the 36 states, remove the oil subsidy and privatize the national oil company and give the private sector a greater role in the economy.

Nigerian polls are unreliable, but Tinubu and Abubakar – both septuagenarian political veterans – head the two largest political parties that have ruled Nigeria since the return to democratic government in 1999.

The PDP wants to return to power after the defeat of Buhari’s APC in 2015.