By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Chief Barnabas Gemade, former National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party does not agree Atiku Abubakar is the consensus candidate of the North as he is being projected. ‘I am a Northerner and he does not represent me or my political views’. He dismisses consensus as a reflection of political interest of Mallam Adamu Ciroma and says Atiku is no match for Jonathan’s candidacy.
The Northern Leaders Political Forum recently produced its consensus candidate in the person of Atiku Abubakar, the former Vice President. Now it is Atiku Vs Jonathan. What chances for Jonathan?
You should be asking me what chances for Atiku who was elected consensus aspirant by a section of the North.
But since you asked me about Jonathan’s chances, I want to tell you clearly that Jonathan is the consensus candidate for the whole country and a consensus candidate of the whole country is far bigger than a consensus candidate of a region. Atiku is not a consensus candidate of the North.
He is the consensus candidate of Adamu Ciroma’s group and that group does not represent the whole North. He represents the interests of few individuals, all of them 17 from the beginning who reduced to nine and it is not even all the nine that are for Atiku.
It is a very dangerous development in the political arena of Nigeria. If we begin to use factors which are extraneous in selecting candidates, ie, where he comes from; the tribe he belongs to; the religions he practices; the language he speaks and use those indices to choose a candidate, then it is very dangerous for Nigeria.
We should chose candidates based on the most popular person, the most qualified person and the most acceptable person by the majority. So, Atiku is a product of an exercise resulting from a small section of people even though they give their name as leaders of the North but they are not our leaders. We have many leaders of the North, including myself whom they do not represent. Therefore, they represent themselves.
They don’t represent us as Northerners. So, their own selection is an exercise to satisfy their selfish interests and ego. The question should be, how far can that go. To me it cannot go very far.
The consensus group has a strong support base.
After a political contest of any kind, people who lost out will tell you that they will support the winner. But you don’t just assume that, you wait until you see that. So, let Nigerians wait and see the support of those people. Why didn’t they support him from day one?
What issues do you think would shape the delegates votes at the convention?
The PDP delegates would vote overwhelmingly for the national consensus candidate and they will allow a section of the people to vote for their sectional consensus candidate.
Do you think this issue of national assembly members becoming members of their parties’ NEC would affect voting pattern?
It has nothing to do with voting in primaries. It will not affect Jonathan’s chances. That one is just a clear case of attempting to checkmate what they consider as domination of another section of the party. I think that the issue is that nothing can ever be settled by each person staying in his own corner.
The only way that matter would be properly settled is if the issues are brought forward for a round-table discussion. We have party caucuses, we have party Board of Trustees that can look at those matters and settle them amicably.
I think national assembly members should tread cautiously and governors should also relax their strained control over the party in their states. Everybody can have their free day politically.
With the situation of things in some PDP states, how would the primaries go because the issues with governors and national leadership over congresses and primaries are still pending?
That has always happened and we always come out of it. We have always come out of a few contentious areas in the country regarding PDP chapters in the states. I don’t think it’s something to lose sleep over. We have always had problems here and there.
And that does not mean a political party must always win all the states of the federation as a ruling party. These are the dynamics of politics that allow opposition to have a way in some places. If people do not unite properly in their states and foster a common front, then, it would leak.
So, how would these issues affect Jonathan or Atiku in the scheme of things considering that Jonathan does not seem to be doing well in the good book of many. Many think he shouldn’t have chosen governor Gbenga Daniel as campaign director in the South West if he wants their support?
Politics is not marriage. It is a game. You cannot say that because a political person belongs to that wing and I don’t like him, that wing will not win. The people who have something to drag with others should pursue those matters on their own. I don’t think it is going to affect the principals, directly. The question is, what is the alternative? Nobody wants to join a losing team. Some people will study a winning team and work with the candidate that is likely to win.
In 1999, not everybody liked Obasanjo and the people that were campaigning for him but when he went to Jos, because he was the candidate that was likely to win overwhelmingly, the people voted for him and he won.
Would you say that Jonathan has a strong support base?
What is a strong support base? It is the number of people that spread across the entire constituency which is Nigeria that are supporting him who have control politically in all areas and Jonathan has a lot of people who are backing him who have control in their own areas politically. And we have seen candidates who are being supported by people who have not even won ward elections in their own areas.
So, if you haven’t won ward elections in your own area and you are supporting a candidate, how can that candidate be confident that he has your support? That is wasting your time. I’m saying so because in the field of politics, we know ourselves.
There are names in Nigeria that in their own villages, when they speak, they don’t have control over their people. They can’t even go to their polling stations to vote because their opinions are rejected in their areas.
Many Nigerians think Jonathan is a weak leader and has not achieved anything as President. It was once reported that he is losing control of things. Now, consider the renewed militant attacks in the region, importation of arms and ammunition.
Basically, the security situation is not something to write home about.
That does not hold any water. Those problems were cultivated in the past during the regimes of past rulers. How come those people were not called weak? Why should Jonathan who is trying to stop these be called weak when we know these things have been there? You cannot satisfy Nigerians. You cannot satisfy everybody in the world.
If you are doing the right thing, just focus on it. Jonathan is still pursuing the yearning of late President Yar’Adua on the Nigeria-Delta question. Anytime you are trying to discuss with your fellow man and settle matters amicably, people must talk. Jonathan is a peace-maker and that is what he inherited from Yar’Adua who is no more. So much has been done in the Niger Delta. The problems have been there and nobody should point out the person who is trying to proffer solutions as a weakling.
Those who ruled Nigeria in the past made the same promises and failed. In the case of the President, he has been tested but one cannot say trusted . Why would PDP delegates vote for him ?
Jonathan is a brand new fresh air to blow on Nigeria and Nigerians have clearly indicated that he is what they want now. Whether people consider him weak is not the issue. The race is not for the strong. It is for those who persevere.