BY SONI DANIEL, REGIONAL EDITOR, NORTH
Amidst continuous denial by those already mentioned as having presidential ambition, the game will boil down to one seat hotly contested by many from the same party.
Even before the whistle is blown, the contenders are already enmeshed in a muffled hide-and-seek game. Curiously, none is willing to admit they are interested in the game that can catapult one of them to the zenith of Nigeria’s leadership and change the ego for life.
Interestingly, all the major contenders are from the ruling People’s Democratic Party, which has been holding the nation’s mantle of leadership since the return to popular democracy in 1999. There is no sign the party, which prides itself as the largest in Africa is ready to concede its covetous job to the opposition it has often ‘defeated’ with overwhelming votes and subsequently floored in the election tribunal. As it has always been, the contenders are holding their game plans to themselves, hoping to see who will bell the cat.
It is not unlikely that repercussions will follow party members, no matter how influential, who challenge President Jonathan’s right to contest in 2015. Jonathan’s inexplicable reluctance to come clean on the matter of his 2015 ambition is what has prompted many into the ring. And that in itself, is sure to hurt both the pretending president and a courageous army of first-timers to the contest.
His lethargy is perhaps what is fueling the rumoured interest by several influential party men in the political race. Apart from Alhaji Sule Lamido, who was earlier said to be preparing to run with Rotimi Amaechi , several others have also indicated circuitous interest in the emerging game.
Governor Sule Lamido, who was widely touted to have been anointed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to succeed President Jonathan, has kept a studied silence on the matter. In several fora where the question was put to him, the former foreign affairs minister, has parried the issue, preferring instead to say he feels flattered by the linkage of his humble self with the high office in the land.
The governor, who does not however hide his closeness to Obasanjo, has continued to dazzle his people with good performance that has changed the face of his state capital, Dutse, and given a sense of hope to the natives.
Despite the high calling of his office, Lamido has chosen to live with the people and cater for their needs. He wants to be identified with the poor rather than be carried away by the trappings of the office. The governor has sworn not to borrow a dime to run the affairs of the state, so as not to leave behind any debt for his successor. How he manages to transform the state therefore remains a miracle to many of his admirers and visitors to the once downward state.
Lamido it appears, is driven by the passion and policies of his late role model, Mallam Aminu Kano. “I am going to confront the underdevelopment in the state in a way that could satisfy the yearnings of the vast majority of our people whom poverty and misery have reduced to conditions unworthy of human beings,” he has said.
“That is the ideological framework, which defined the Talakawa struggle founded and led by the late Mallam Aminu Kano. This ideology simply means democratising love, care and compassion so as to bench mark humanity in terms of diginity and respect,” the governor stated in his inaugural address in 2011.
If the coast becomes clear for him to contest, Lamido would be riding on the crest of his modest achievements in Jigawa to sell himself to Nigerians and ask for their votes to occupy the exalted office of the President of Nigeria.
The humility and connection with the people have made him to regard the post of a governor as a privilege to interact the more with the people rather close the gap against them.
He says: “I do not see any big deal being the governor of a state. I am still myself and I continue to relate with the people the same way I have been dealing with them when I was a private individual. To me, governance is just a position of leadership to provide service for your people. It does not change anything in me.
What may however work against his alleged presidential ambition is finance, which he may not have as much as most of his contenders. But if the goodwill of the people of Jigawa State were all that was needed to put him in Aso Rock, Lamido would have started celebrating his victory. The people have already endorsed him for the job not minding the daunting task that lies ahead.
The Niger State Governor is unarguably one of the most visible governors in the Northern part of Nigeria, having occupied many federal posts before settling down to the job of governing his state in 2007.
The “Chief Servant” is already at home with the politics of his people and the North, having been holding sway as the Chairman of the powerful Northern Governor’s Forum, a political platform that canvasses the interest of the North and its people on many national issues.
But he has not openly declared any interest in the presidential race. Nonetheless, his name keeps coming up whenever the presidential race is discussed. How that continues to recur and who is linking his name with the contest, could best be explained by his handlers and supporters in Minna and Abuja.
The Talban Minna remains a popular face in the north particularly with his novel concept of servant leadership, as a paradigm shift from the known brutal master-servant leadership in Nigeria.
Aliyu explains the concept as “the need for a paradigm shift from our present style of master-leader relationship, which sees leadership as a means to personal wealth to that of servant-leadership, which recognises the people as the target beneficiaries and encourages participatory democracy.”
According to him, the servant-leader must perceive his/her role as a humble employee, a steward who forgets his/her personal interests and who is more concerned with the greatest good for the greatest number.
Though the governor has been using the concept to run the state since being elected governor in 2007, it is only the people of the state who can vouch how far the principle has gone in changing the ways of doing things in the state. The people are also in a better position t judge if the Chief Servant has changed their landscape and fortune.
But beyond that if the concept has worked in Minna, will it work in Nigeria if Babangida Aliyu were to be elected the president of Nigeria?
Again, like other governors, Isa Yuguda has not publicly declared his interest in the presidential race. But like his colleagues, his name rings a bell among those said to be interested in the contest. As one of the governors well liked by the system, apparently because he does not easily rock the boat, Yuguda remains a possible contender, whose chances may be brighter than others in the murky game.
Asked recently to clear the air on the matter, the former aviation minister, said, “I am just hearing that from your mouth. Is that what they are saying about me? But should he make up his mind to run, what would count for and against Yuguda?
Yuguda’s decamping from the ANPP, which sponsored him for election in 2007 for the PDP remains a sour point for him as his accusers see him as one who can easily be assuaged to change course.
But the governor insists he remains who he is-simple, steady and straightforward in his dealings. He does not bend or change course as long as what he does is in the interest of the people and society, he insists.
“Before I came into office, there was that dichotomy between indigenes and non-indigenes. I have also abolished discriminatory fees in all Bauchi schools to ensure that all Nigerians irrespective of their states of origin, who are in Bauchi State can access the same quality of education like Bauchi state people,” the governor said.
His argument is that all Nigerian children should have access to education and that they should enjoy the crumbs that fall from the government and should not be discriminated against under any guise.
“I don’t want any child in Bauchi State to grow up and begin to imagine that he or she is not from here or somebody will come and tell him that he is a non-indigene because he has another state. I want a situation that will make it possible for those who are from other states but are staying and doing business in Bauchi to have a sense of belonging and benefit from all that the administration can provide. It is by so doing that our country Nigeria will make progress and prosper as a united nation.
Despite all that, will he be able to replicate what he has started in Bauchi across Nigeria and will Nigerians take him serious if he were to run and become president of Nigeria?
The governor of Kano State is known for his hard stance on several national issues and he appears to have ‘answers’ to all matters relating to Nigeria. He has not however made public his rumoured presidential ambition. However those close to him, describe Kwankwaso, as a man who can change the fortunes of Nigeria and Nigerians if he becomes President either in 2015 or in the near future.
His admirers describe Kwankwaso as one Nigerian politician who has ‘seen it all’, having been a long standing public officer and a member of the House of Representatives before becoming governor of Kano State for the first time in 1999. His second time in the Government House Kano in 2011 has given him additional political impetus to canvass for any position in Nigeria. He may not be a very popular Nigerian politician because of his controversial views of national issues.
He is currently embroiled in a verbal war with the National Assembly over the review of the 1999 Constitution, which he describes as a sheer waste of time and resources. According to him, nothing will come out of the exercise and that Nigerians should not waste their time paying attention to it. But that position has pitted him against the national assembly members, who see him as someone trying to disrupt the review of the law.
In Kano, where Kwankwaso has been holding sway in the last two years, things are said to be looking up and there is hope he can continue to change the landscape with more projects and infrastructure. But can he address Nigeria’s problems if he is made the president?
PDP and Jonathan’s disposition
Despite the veiled interest being expressed by interested individuals, it may not be long before the PDP wields the big stick against those with an eye on the presidency.
The party has already told an Abuja Federal High Court that it can sponsor Jonathan for the next election. And there appears to be little or nothing interested party members can do to change the decision of the party in that regard.
The option that may be left when that happens is for the aggrieved to either bury their muffled ambition or leave the party and the coveted seat for the leader of the party-Jonathan.