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– taking a long view

By Bisi Lawrence
Look round the political terrain at this time, and just listen. The negative whine of disenchanted entities soar around, though they can hardly faze the resonance of the joyous jingle that enrich the positive mind. It was that frame of mind that put paid to the distorted desires of the mega-party which did not even last long enough to leave the imprint of any real name on our minds. It disintegrated – as we knew it would.
It was not our prayer that it should be dissolved in the manner in which it imploded, neither was it our wish that an amorphous entity like that should thrust itself into the body politic at this time as no more than just one more distraction.

These are the times for serious issues. But it was a collection of strange bedfellows with a negative approach to political development and not a jot of constructive agenda in tow. They got together from the North, and from the West, from the South and from the East for no other purpose than to destroy a political party which they perceived as too big, and getting bigger.

They shared not a stand of  trust among them from the beginning, and found no common ideology as they went along, except to demolish a structure that others had built for a common purpose and through a common will. And, in the end, they had to “self-destruct”.

That returns us to what the lawyers delight to call “status quo ante” – or something like that. The Peoples Democratic Party is still the party to beat on the national front. It is the most widely spread, and broadly based political organisation in the country, and it may very well produce the next president – Iwu or no Iwu.

There are many people who believe that the good professor and Chairman of INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, is not capable of conducting a free and fair election.

But as Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has pointed out, it is indeed purely a matter of perception. No matter  how  well any election he conducts may turn out to be, there are people who would still see it as flawed in every aspect, fixed as they are on that spot by a rigid mindset that would not allow even the briefest light to shine through. It is becoming more familiar these days as a behavioral trait amongst Nigerians who may have been heirs of the crowd at the trial that led to Golgotha. Like a cracked record they are stuck in one groove – “Crucify him!”

Anyway, Professor Iwu is a goner. What we are saying is that his continuance in office would tend to make very little difference in the presidential race, in any case, since the PDP candidate would seem to have had it all wrapped up, looking at the scene from this distance. His stay, at the same time, might affect the disposition of the electorate  to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan’s candidacy, which is already being canvassed. That could turn out to be more than a distraction according to developments.

One aspect of our modern political mores that this would impinge upon directly is the “zoning” practice now in vogue across the board in our political organisations. The idea, basically, is that the presidency should rotate among the ethnic sections in the country.

But it has now seeped down to the appointments of the State Chief  Executive Officers which are meant to involve each area in its own turn, so that just as Northerners or Southerners wold not monopolise the presidency by any means, neither could Ijebu, or Egba, or Yewa, for example, monopolise the governorship in Ogun State. It even goes deeper these days to the local government areas where fresh appointments are resisted from the same areas as the former chairmen. In one word, “zoning” has arrived.

It would obviously, unfortunate, clash with the prospects of Jonathan’s candidacy for the presidency. And one would imagine that the progress of  those  who have it in mind should be hedged with caution. It had been widely assumed that the tenure of  Umar Yar’Adua’s presidency was guarded by the fact that it would be for two terms because that position had been zoned to the North, just as Obasanjo’s presidency was zoned to the Southwest.

In circumstances that have unavoidably catapulted Jonathan from the South-South into near reckoning for the presidency, a backlash may be created by the resentment of  Northerners  who might feel that they were being dealt out of a second term.

That, in fact, is the main thrust of the “zoning” system, that the position is held, as it were, in trust for the ethnic region and not entirely as by the personal merit of the incumbent.

Indeed, the fear of Jonathan grabbing the presidency from the vantage point of an Acting President must continue to give nightmares to some ardently committed  Northerners even now. That is basically why we have been put through the mill of a constitutional logjam even just to have him act as president; that is why the president himself  has not resigned, though it is now unlikely that he would still be physically able to serve in office; that is why the cabinet he appointed could not sum up the will to declare him unfit for the highest elective position of the land. The second term of  the tenure had to be preserved for the North.

Now, when some people are proposing that the Acting President might as well assume the office of the President of the Federation of the Nigerian Republic right away, you might say they are sailing quite close to the wind indeed. It is no less than a very delicate enterprise because it would tend to force  the hand of the PDP to nominate him then as its official candidate, being the incumbent president. And what is so wrong with that, would you ask? It runs counter to zoning, if I may remind you.

Though the Northerners in the PDP who are uptight about the principle of zoning may look like pursuing a point of  little merit at the moment, it would only be fair to admit that they are asking for no more than what is their entitlement.

The genesis of the practice actually gave the earlier advantage to the Southwest. Olusegun Obasanjo owed his second coming solely to the adherence of the Northern party members to this arrangement. The concession was made on both terms of the tenure, and it was on the tacit understanding that the North would be so accommodated immediately afterwards.

That was subsequently one of the enabling factors of the Yar’Adua candidacy which was personally nursed by the enthusiastic support of Obasanjo. For the former president, of all people, to now align himself  with a support for a South-South candidacy might require some clarification.

All the same, there is no doubt at all that Jonathan would make a great president. His performance during the recent visit to the United States was a masterpiece of competence in control, and a demonstration of impeccable conduct. He enthusiastically confronted challenging issues with an unassuming candor that spoke of sterling sincerity. We may have more like him in the country today, but they are not very many. But even at that, he is on the side of being a lightweight in the political arena.

Caution should instruct him not to over-expose himself  too early to the rough-and-tumble of national politics which may yet bear him golden fruits with patience in the near future.

Who are then the heavyweights? They are those who, first of all, would not seem to have the encumbrances of  the “zoning” factor. So, they would be Northerners and should be members of the PDP. Two names come to mind – Ibrahim Babangida and Atiku Ibrahim.

IBB has been a military president, while Atiku was a former Vice President. Babangida would be having his first sharp taste of real out-and-out hustings, but Atiku has been out there before. It is ironical that when IBB was recently reported as expressing a desire for a campaign conducted along the lines of the late General Yar’Adua, he was referring to an apparatus Atiku operated and inherited, but later transferred to Obasanjo in their joint campaign for the first term.

Perhaps, the ravages of time and conflict have reduced some of its efficacy by now. All the same, IBB may have to re-think his strategy to avoid being second-guessed by an astute opponent.

There are other players who may come into the field, but it would not be in the same vein of seriousness with IBB and Atiku. Mention  may be made of  Marwa, the personable former Governor fo Lagos State, who may have swayed a less demanding electorate by the attractiveness of  his youthful mein.

There is yet former military Head of State, Buhari, still very articulate and purposeful, but at the moment in dire need of a firm political base. Then there are several state governors whose appeal suffers from the limitations of an overwhelmingly parochial spread, and requires more exposure for acceptance on the national scene.

In fact, there are millions of others who are entitled to vote and be voted for as citizens of this country. Furthermore, everyone is free to adopt or support one candidate or another. It is all based on personal views and conviction. And so, a word for some of those who have gone into a huff over some views recently expressed on this page. Why should you hold my opinions for me, or feel that I should embrace your conviction as mine?

Or childishly warn that your continued respect depends on my seeing eye-to-eye with you on every issue? A newspaper is a market place for the exchange of various views on various issues. So let us have your views without getting unduly personal. There is no need to get overly emotional and condemn a situation without proffering a solution, or revile a candidacy without offering a suitable substitute. These times call for a realistic approach to our circumstances.

The die is cast. The agenda is set. It may be looking  far ahead, but what one can perceive from this distance as a certainty, is that the next presidency will be virtually  won at the preliminaries of the PDP, especially now that the balloon of the mega-party is burst.

Time out.


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