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When it is time

By Owei Lakemfa
NIGERIA is a unitary system with a federal constitution. That is why the race to control the centre, and thereby, the country’s resources is so intense that the political elites are ready to employ any means necessary to get to power or cling to it even on their death bed. Lots of calculations and progressions are made not for the country or good governance, but how to attain and retain power.

One of such was to install Alhaji Umaru Yar’ Adua in power for eight years. He was supposed to be filling the quota  of the North. This arrangement is not in the interest of good governance or the country. It is simply a gentlemanly agreement on how best to share the national wealth amongst the largely indolent political class without the usual squabbles.

The politics being played is that of primitive accumulation as government is the biggest and most profitable investment in the country. The successful politician has to be in power in one form or another in order to  access the country’s wealth.

The primary issue in this self-centred politics is not whether the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can perform or not. It is not the competence of the Action Congress or its gradual reduction to the old AD status of a regional party. It is not whether the All Nigerian Peoples Party has lost the glue that held it together or the inflexibility of a Muhammadu Buhari.

It is not about the party that will defile its platform by yielding it to Ibrahim Babangida or the unprincipled manoeuvrings of Atiku Abubakar. It is not about service  to the country or providing the dividends of democracy. It is purely about accessing power and partaking of the sharing of the wealth.

The average politician who is like a one armed bandit will do whatever it takes to partake in the sharing. In this system in which the country is game, the person who has custody of the cake and holds the knife, is the most important. That is why today, the issue in Nigerian politics is President Goodluck Jonathan;  will he run, won’t he, should he run, should he  run from the presidency?

I do not know the criteria in picking Dr Jonathan as Deputy Governor in Bayesa State. But when I met him when he chaired the State’s Public Service Lecture which I was privileged to deliver, I came away with the impression that he was a grossly under-rated person. The state officials did not seem to think highly of him. Yet within some months, he was sitting firmly in the governor’s saddle after the impeachment of his boss.  His good luck sees him today presiding at the Aso Rock.

Jonathan is like Yar’Adua, a quiet politician lacking the bravado of Olusegun Obasanjo, the desperation of Atiku Abubakar, the impunity of Ibrahim Babangida and the obstinacy of Muhammadu Buhari. In this sense, he is politically unpredictable. The powers of the presidency are so awesome that if he were to throw his hat in the ring, automatically, he becomes the man to beat. To circumvent this, various campaigns are on to ensure he does not.

Some seem based on principles; that he should be an unbiased umpire who should build his legacy on electoral reforms, and as the man who ensured credible elections in the country. The issue is that these were the same things Yar’Adua set out to do.

The question therefore is: Would the latter have been advised not to contest the presidential elections simply because he promised to midwife electoral reforms? There is the trite that the PDP has  zoned the presidency to the North. The chief advocate of this is Atiku who claimed that it was zoned to the South from 1999 to 2007, therefore Jonathan is ineligible.

To this group, whatever leadership qualities Jonathan possess, no matter his achievements as president are immaterial so long as he is not from the North. Yet these are self-seeking arguments. If Atiku truly believed that the presidency was zoned to the South  in 2003, why did he decide to contest against Obasanjo?

In any case, how did the so-called zoning moderate Buhari’s challenge against Obasanjo? Is it not illogical to assume that the zoning formula of one of the country’s over 50  political parties supersedes the country’s Constitution? In any case, if Atiku or any other PDP politician were to win the 2011 presidency, would it be assumed that it would be for one term in view of Yar’Adua’s tenure or it would be a fresh two terms?

There are those who suggest that Jonathan would be a good running mate. To who? If I may ask: Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, Atiku, General Gusau, Babangida, David Mark? So he is good enough as a Vice but not as a president? It would be unwise for Jonathan to allow himself to be crowded out of  the presidential race.

The fact is that if Jonathan decides to run, as he should, he has the best chances of being elected in fair polls whether or not he stands as the PDP candidate.

It remains to be seen whether Jonathan made a wise choice in Sambo as Vice President who self- serving politicians might want to persuade to stand in the 2011 presidential polls. Whatever the case, people can only scheme, or even succeed for a short period, when it is time, it is time.

These are the clear lessons of Jonathan’s ascendancy to the Presidency, Sambo’s rise to the  Vice Presidency and  Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa’s emergence as the new executive Governor of Kaduna State.

Conversely, these are the lessons to be learnt from the fall of Yar’Adua’s men, the welcome sack of loquacious Professor Maurice Iwu and the disgraceful exit of Vincent Ogbulafor as chairman of the PDP. I am not preaching the philosophy of fatalism, all I am saying is that nobody can stop the rain.


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