Promoters of the Northern Political Leaders Forum must be kicking themselves now for choosing Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as their consensus candidate, given the results of the just concluded People’s Democratic Party primaries. In reality, President Jonathan won in 32 states and Abuja, Atiku in none, and General Babangida in four!
I had predicted in an earlier instalment that ”the easiest way for them to lose this battle now is to ditch Babangida for one of those stalking horses, and the oligarchy knows better than to do that”. In the event, the NPLF demonstrably did not know better and that has proved to be a monumental mistake.
Senator Mahmud Kanti-Bello said in the Sun newspaper yesterday that the struggle “died the day they named Atiku as the consensus candidate.”
Kanti-Bello should know. Appointed Deputy Director-General of the IBB Presidential Campaign Organization, the Senator who is also Majority Whip in the upper house, and others, were compelled to sacrifice their principal’s (IBB’s) ambition in their now obviously regrettable consensus arrangement with Alhaji Ciroma’s clique. “The choice of Atiku was faulty and it is there for all to see from the beginning. I knew from the day they named Atiku that this is going to be the result”, Kanti-Bello concluded.
One result of the PDP primaries is the demystifying of Atiku the consummate political player—a qualification not borne out by the fact that he lost even in his own state (Adamawa) and that of his chief proponent, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (Gombe). Without any doubt a gifted and an immensely charismatic politician, Alhaji Atiku’s critics nevertheless maintain that he rose to high prominence in Nigeria’s politics only by riding the coat tails of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and, following the General’s death, by consistently playing the ethnic card.
Nobody that unreliable, they say, citing examples like his recent flitting movement between political parties, could command the type of followership Atiku craves, pretends he has, but evidently lacks.
It took Babangida’s delivery of his (IBB’s) strongholds of Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara and Niger at the primaries to prevent a humiliating total rout of Atiku. That resounding defeat nonetheless may be the first sign that zoning, one of a number of concerted assaults on our political democracy, is dead or dying.
This morning, another maverick of Nigerian politics, Chief Godwin Daboh advised the Turakin Adamawa to do the sensible thing—accept defeat and join hands with others in the PDP to ensure success of Jonathan’s candidacy. It is good counsel Alhaji Atiku is well advised to heed, to ensure his continued relevance and place in the mainstream of Nigeria’s politics especially in the coming period between now and 2015. Otherwise, the former Vice President is in danger of going down as merely another political adventurer.
Talking of remarkable politicians, Babangida’s evident impact at the primaries, even in his absence, is enough reason the progressives cannot afford to let the Maradona drop out of their radar. Ignoring Babangida, even at this stage, could still be as ever perilous, which probably informs the entreaties President Jonathan is reported to be currently making to the ex-dictator. As things are, it should not be too difficult for the Minna General to take sides with President Jonathan since his widely perceived nemeses—Nuhu Ribadu and General Muhammadu Buhari—are conveniently opposed to Jonathan. As I said previously, IBB may not get to wear the crown but he is still nonetheless a formidable kingmaker.
Still on the issue of presidential primaries, the insipid manner of the Action Congress of Nigeria presidential primary that produced Nuhu Ribadu as candidate has raised suspicion and led to suggestions that the party is not sufficiently interested in the presidency this year. The strongman of the party, former Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu is rumoured to favour winning as many state governorships, national and state assembly seats as possible, to place them in a strong position to fight for the presidency in 2015. In this way, Tinubu hopes to kill two (possibly more) birds with one stone.
The former Governor gets his own back at Ribadu for his (Tinubu’s) past travails at the hands of the former EFCC chair. Also, the ACN godfather prevents the emergence of a more powerful figure in the party, someone that might checkmate his payday with the governors he (Tinubu) bankrolled into office. In addition, Bola Tinubu continues to strengthen his personal position towards a presidential ambition in 2015. If these speculations, believable given the way Tinubu cowered Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos to fall in line, are true, it will be the shame of our politics that the only candidate that could give Jonathan a good run for his money is hostage in this manner to financial backers. Talk about strange bedfellows.
This leaves Goodluck Jonathan, true again to his now famous inadvertent nature, the only big fish in the pond of this presidential race. Being the big fish however has its drawbacks.
One of the Yoruba names for a whale translates as inexhaustible fish. Before animal rights bleeding hearts turned it into opportunity to display their great love for lower creatures, sometimes inexplicably well and above their love of fellow human beings, a whale stranded in shallow waters was considered a blessing for the food budgets of nearby communities. It used to be an opportunity to hack and cart enough meat away to household larders, to last weeks and months. What is food for coastal communities however, is mortal jeopardy for the beached whale since the animal is hacked to death eventually, unless high tide comes to its rescue before predators had gouged out too much of tissue for its survival.
There is also a saying, still about the whale, that on the day this giant of a sea mammal is beached, all kinds of knives surface.
Nigeria’s democracy in the form of Goodluck Jonathan’s aspiration for April presidential elections, for a long time now has found itself stranded in the very shallow waters of Nigeria’s oligarchy politics and other narrow and selfish political interests. Sadly, so many knives are being stuck into and slashed at it and with such frequency that, akin to a beached whale and obviously the intention of its attackers, it might still suffer ‘death by a thousand cuts’. The opponents of our democracy have shown and continue to show that they will stop at nothing to subvert it.
Political opposition to the democratic aspiration of Goodluck Jonathan has been having a field day, taking full, sometimes undue, advantage of President’s inexperience (ineptitude is admittedly another word that comes to mind) and, not surprisingly, the open season is attracting all manners of opportunists. So, is Jonathan really in danger of dying by a thousand cuts? Will this war of attrition with his detractors wear him down to capitulation eventually?
The Jos Christmas and New Year Abuja bombs, without forgetting last year 1st of October in Abuja, are just the latest but perhaps the most cruel and most sinister so far, of numerous such daggers being stuck into our fledgling democracy. It is the reason I make their issue the first amongst killers of our political progress.
What until then sounded like merely a few politicians throwing their prattles out of the pram turned ugly on Nigeria’s 50th birthday. The bomb attacks of Friday 1st October 2010 in Abuja were perpetrated with that cold-hearted tactic that guarantees maximum casualties—they exploded one bomb to attract rescuers and spectators, and exploded another when people had gathered around the scene. Whoever planned the October Abuja bombings (and indeed the bombs of Christmas in Jos and Abuja New Year) intended to kill as many Nigerians as possible!
Yet petty politics appears to be preventing a swift bringing of the culprits to justice. It is not far-fetched to suggest that the government’s seemingly lack of despatch in dealing with the October murderers may have, sadly, played a part in encouraging the Jos and New Year bombers. In October, we had a good opportunity (perhaps the best ever) to make sure it was the last time anybody took Nigerian lives with impunity, not the least because we can reasonably assume that the government of the day did not do it, unlike when previous administrations were noticeably complicit in murders. I say reasonably, since nothing is impossible. The safety of that assumption however, is up there with the probability that George Bush did not plan the 9/11 attacks.
Secondly, the emerging facts that operational personnel of this butchery are from the President’s own backyard in the Niger Delta, I believe, should further enhance the opportunity to unearth the complete truth. Unfortunately, President Jonathan and his government have, by this apparent politicking, failed to show a convincing commitment to the sanctity of Nigerian lives and the supremacy of the right of Nigerians to a peaceful existence in their own country. The inevitable consequence is the impunity of the Jos and Abuja bombs.
Despite his success at the PDP primaries, no doubt a small but welcome tide for a stranded whale, survival of President Jonathan’s government and success of his election aspirations may yet depend on how he deals with these clear and present assaults upon our collective well-being and so far, the signs are not encouraging.
The President may at last have started to win skirmishes in this battle for the presidency in April but our democracy will require much more, to defeat corruption and terror.