The President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, should be in a celebratory mood at the moment. After all the politicking and intense power broking, he has just been declared the winner of the PDP Presidential Primaries.
This was by no means an easy feat. The President has just defeated one of the most politically astute personalities in Nigerian politics today. Having won over 75% of the total delegates vote cast from all States of federation, the President and his advisers deserve the much needed commendations and congratulations. The results were officially released in the early hours of Friday, January 14th, by both the Chairman of the PDP Presidential Electoral Panel and the Chief Returning Officer.
The released results show that the President convincingly won all the PDP delegates votes from the six geo-political zones except one – the North West. The President lost to Atiku in the entire delegates vote from this Zone except for Kaduna and Katsina States. The result from Zamfara State was particularly embarrassing. The President was overwhelmingly defeated managing to secure less a mere 9% or 7 out of a total of 77 possible delegate votes in that State. The situation fared better, but below expectations, as the President lost in Niger, Kano and Sokoto States securing 15%, 18% and 28% of PDP delegate votes respectively. There States voted overwhelmingly for Atiku.
Could the President’s defeat in most States of the North West geopolitical Zone (except for Kaduna and Katsina States) be directly attributed to the Ciroma factor? Possibly it could, however, an analysis of the recently released PDP presidential primaries results suggests the contrary, at least for now. The President won all the PDP delegate votes from the States of the North East geopolitical zone. He beat Atiku in his home State, Adamawa. He also won in Yobe, the home State of Adamu Ciroma, the coordinator of the Northern Leader’s Forum that shortlisted Atiku as the Northern consensus candidate. In fact, the President won more than 70% of delegate votes in Adamawa State. Both Adamawa and Yobe States are in the North East geopolitical zone of the country. If the political animosity against the President is on the issue of zoning, why was it perhaps more deeply entrenched (it seems) in the North West than in other parts of the North? The President’s advisers need answers to these questions and that very urgently.
Whatever may be the reasons for the President’s predicament as indicated by the results from North Western geopolitical zone PDP delegates, we can be assured that it is not good news. In the midst of congratulatory messages from all around the world, the President and his advisers need to reflect and discover what went wrong in that particular Zone. The President’s defeat could lead to disaster in the coming Presidential elections when the President will vie mainly against a more formidable opponent General Buhari, an illustrious son of the Zone, and a past Head of State of Nigeria who has been enjoying glowing reviews in the media across the country. His only predicament is that he is currently not in the PDP, but hold on; the game plan might seriously tilt in his favour for whatever reason.
Perhaps the political strategists of the President had foresight about the likely challenges he might face in this political region and had astutely guided his strategy and approach to political decisions accordingly to woo the political machinery from this Zone. Now, some of the President’s political sedatives had been more evident and direct, for instance, the appointment of Namadi Sambo as vice-president worked instantly in Kaduna State. The President won more than 60% of the vote. The strategic positioning of Jonathan’s ambition as the continuation of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan mandate was another carefully orchestrated political tranquilizer.
Over 93% of the PDP delegates from Katsina State voted for the President.
Other political overtures that might have worked, and which were deliberately clandestine and surreptitious, therefore deliberately less perceptible, include the soft handling of corrupt practices allegedly levelled against the wife of the late President Hajia Turai Yar’Adua. And of course, you cannot ignore the Obasanjo factor in Katsina – he is still revered in Katsina for his unflinching loyalty to the Yar’Adua dynasty. They have Obasanjo to thank for making their sons Vice-President and President of Nigeria at various times.
It is important to note that out of the four shortlisted Northern Consensus candidates; Saraki, Atiku, IBB and Gusau, only the duo of IBB and Gusau were instrumental in delivering their State delegate votes to Atiku. Even Atiku himself could not win in his home State. With the benefit of hindsight, would either Gusau of IBB have emerged as the Northern Consensus candidate? This proves Babangida and Gusau as master strategists and PDP stakeholders who cannot ignored in Nigerian politics.
For those who wish to be reminded, the North West remains an important geopolitical Zone and a power bloc in the country having produced at least 5 of Nigeria’s past presidents. While it remains an important stakeholder in the Nigerian project, the greatest weakness of the region remains it’s often vulnerability to acts of terrorism from militants mostly from neighbouring countries. Religious intolerance and its resulting violence from Kano and Sokoto States would easily belittle the past carnage of the Jos. The President needs to work on gaining the support of stakeholders from this region as it could be used to destabilise the country’s efforts towards growth and development. This becomes more urgent, for the President, than basking in the euphoria of having won the PDP President primaries.
Political strategists loyal to the President must at once develop scenarios on how to effectively address the concerns as well as gaining the support of this Zone. This remains a weakness in the President’s campaign.
Suggestions abound, but the following can be instantly adopted. One, there must be immediate and aggressive overtures to the candidates that did not contest the PDP presidential primaries (more than to those that did contest) – particularly IBB and Gusau. Two, the President should implement visible and direct programmes on education, health, literacy and skills levels. The President has the advantage of doing what other aspirants would promise to do. Efforts must be made to ensure that the Federal Government support gets to the grassroots. Three, publicity on the Presidential elections must commence at once. Four and perhaps the most important, all internal bickering within the PDP must stop. Five, candidates with competence and results-driven leadership must be appointed to drive PDP programmes.
Johannesburg, South Africa