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Can the North stop Jonathan?

By Hugo ODIOGOR Deputy Politics Editor
Can a sitting President bow out of power without a fight? And if he chooses to fight, what will be his place in history if he is defeated at the party primaries?

These are the dilemma facing Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as each camp weighs their options in the forth coming elections.

With the declaration of Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and General Ibrahim Babangida on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the arena of confrontation is set and every one awaits Dr. Jonathan’s next move.

On the part of the opposition, we have Alhaji Ibrahim Shekerau of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), General Muhammadu Buhari of Convention Peoples Congress (CPC), Otunba Dele Momodu of Labour Party areequally showing strong interest in the plum job of the presidency.

At the heart of the matter is whether the North can stop Dr. Jonathan ,either at the level of the primaries or in the election proper. A recent media survey projects that Dr. Jonathan will emerge victorious in 17 states if PDP conducts primaries in the 26 states that it controls. That is a significant leap that can silence any opposition but political analyst believe that Dr. Jonathan, who has been running his political career on good luck may be thin on strategies to contain the crafty wiles of General Babangida, whom many are beginning to see as a potent threat to Dr. Jonathan’s ambition to remain in office until 2015.

As it is now, both Gen. Babangida and Alhaji Atiku are working on a theory of uniting the North to prevent Dr. Jonathan from getting beyond the primary stage. But the problem for both men is how to structure the composition of the delegates sent by each state. Before the new move to limit the number of delegates which can come from each state governor, the practice has been for all manner of political appointees to show up and vote.

This situation made state governors very powerful. But reform minded Jonathan has been leading the campaign to trim the powers of state governors. This is a double edge sword which might hurt the president. The issue now is whether the combined team of Babangida and Atiku is strong and powerful enough to upstage a powerful federal might and bureaucratic machinery?

Will the powerful bureaucracy, controlled by the major ethnic groups stand by the president? How strong is Babangida and Atiku in the North or in other parts of the country for that matter. A clear demographic survey of the Hausa Fulani camp may suggest that the Hausa Fulan seven states will maintain its opposition to the mergence of Dr. Jonathan at the primaries.

Specifically, such states as Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina and Bauchi These are those who would not want to concede power in 2011. At the primaries, such states in the North Central and Middle belt namely Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Kaduna would want a flexible approach to power arrangement in the country. This is a situation that might work well for Dr. Jonathan. For all the brouhaha about the possible candidature of Gen. Babangida, he still has an uphill task to dismember the PDP machinery to surmount.

Atiku, who is team up with Babangida has not been fully integrated into the party even at his home base. The issue then is what joker does PDP have in place to deny Dr. Jonathan a ticket at the primary.? First, there is a concerted campaign of moral blackmail which his gaining ground. That is to the effect that the president should serve his time and resign honourable..

The plank of this campaign is that Dr. Jonathan should be a gentle man and relinquish power. But with pressure from international community, his South South base, the professional and intellectual groups, it is difficult to see the president chicken out in a battle that he seems to have an upper hand.

The point remains that Dr. Jonathan has three prong battles to fight to be able to overcome the onslaught from Gen. Babangida and Atiku within PDP. The first is the battle of self-confidence. He has to convince himself that he can fight the battle. The second is how to unite his South South base to avoid being broken into by Gen. Babangida, who still commands measurable acceptance across the country. The third battle is that of holding PDP together after the primaries, because a win for him would lead to realignment of political forces as the North would want to present a common front to challenge him in the election proper.

The outcome of the primaries will foretell what to expect in the general election.

A PDP Chieftain Ogbuseshi, Philip Ibonye, told Vanguard “that the North is still a potent force, but the dynamics of Nigeria’s politics has changed the old order may not be applicable in the new dispensation. We are facing a new era of fast pace changes. Those who are still thinking of the North as old Monolithic North, might be wrong.”

Hon Emeka Maduakam argues that there are serious political realignments in the country. As at today, we cannot say we know the position of South West, we can say that the South East is going with the thinking that Dr. Jonathan should run. We cannot rule out the fact that the like of Babangida would penetrate the South East and South West.

It is therefore time for Dr. Jonathan to begin to work on strategies to penetrate the North instead of relying on goodluck or the confrontational approach of some South South Leaders. What ever is the case, the formal entry of the President into the race will end all speculations and put the battle squarely in the hands of PDP power brokers. Commonsense however suggests a wait and see approach. But the truth remains that a sitting president does not go down in African politics.


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