By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
After more than two months of consultations political sensitivities are again high as the 17 Man committee of Northern elders get set to announce its choice candidate to confront President Goodluck Jonathan for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket.
It is an unprecedented effort in the quest for power for Nigeria’s northern political class which until recently was believed to be invisible in the political power game.
Indeed, it was the conviction of the Southern political class that political power would be unattainable for the region that motivated the crave for the enactment of zoning in the country’s constitution prior to 1999.
Where that and the call for devolution of power among the country’s geopolitical regions through the appointment of six geopolitical Vice_Presidents failed, the south was able to win an agreement for zoning in the PDP at the formation of the party in 1998.
It was undoubtedly based on that that the party conceded the presidency to the South in its 1999 presidential primaries.
The stubborn effort of the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi in upturning the agreement during the Jos convention was remarkably unsuccessful.
A sitting Southern President, that is Dr. Goodluck Jonathan if he wins next year’s presidential election, is at the brink of stretching the south’s hold on power to an unprecedented 14 years within a 16 year period.
That possibility arising from the death in office of President Umaru Yar‘Adua has left some of the North’s political grandees in shock. Mallam Adamu Ciroma reputedly a partaker in the schemes of the famed Kaduna Mafia has most notably been up in arms at that possibility and been at the forefront in the mobilization of northern opposition to Dr. Jonathan’s ambition for a fresh tenure of his own.
Ciroma was himself the subject of bruising attack by one of the North’s own political grandees, Senator Uba Ahmed, one of the most powerful figures during the second republic.
Senator Ahmed has dismissed Ciroma’s quest for a consensus candidate as undemocratic and against the grain of the very convictions as demonstrated by Ciroma during his active political days.
“Adamu (Ciroma) was opposed to the principle of consensus in 1978 when he was a presidential candidate and we wanted Zik to come, when we wanted to merge NPP with NPN and for Zik to be presidential candidate and for Shagari to be his running mate, did he concede? No, he didn’t,” Ciroma told Vanguard.
“During the NRC, SDP days, he was again a presidential candidate when we met the Senators for a consensus candidate, he refused when he realized that he was not going to get it. How now does he expect someone else to do what he himself refused to do?”
The four candidates under seeking the approval of the Ciroma committee are Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), Atiku Abubakar, Gen. Mohammed Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki.
All four aspirants have prior to now promised to abide by the decision of the Ciroma committee. Remarkably, all four candidates have their points_men in the persons of the Director Generals of their presidential campaign organizations in the Ciroma committee.
Indeed, the four director_generals Raymond Dokpesi (IBB), Ben Obi (Gusau), Udenta Udenta (Saraki) and Chris Mammah (Atiku) are all southerners.
Considering how far they have gone and the efforts they have put into the presidential campaign, Vanguard makes an attempt on how they will react to the decision of the Ciroma Committee where it is not favourable to them.
After much dithering procrastination, Gen. Babangida entered into the race as a very reluctant aspirant. The persuasion of friends and associates that a return to Aso Rock would help to straighten the bent records of his time in office as Military President is indeed his motivating factor.
Once he entered into the race he has given the campaign some measure of seriousness, but he has not adopted a do or die affair.
If anything, his major loss if he is not adopted would be that the once nationalistic outlook of the former military President would have been smeared. Babangida had before now called for the scrapping of the federal character principle as a way of building a more united nation.
In his bid for the presidency he had to step down such nationalistic and unifying utterances as he like other northern aspirants chorused the principle of zoning.
If he is not chosen, the IBB mystique would have been finally demystified and he would have no opportunity of running again as age is not on his side.
If he is not chosen he would not break ranks.
With the particular exception of the presidential campaigns of the Sani Abacha era, Atiku has participated in one form or the other in all the presidential contests in the country since 1993.
The 2007 presidential contest was undoubtedly his best run. It also presented him with the most formidable opponent, not in the person of any of his rivals, but in the person of an unforgiving sitting President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Perhaps the best prepared of all the four contenders for the consensus endorsement, Atiku is, however, seriously wounded by some credibility questions, notably his alleged desperation for the job.
His political meandering which has seen him do almost anything including reconciliation with Obasanjo and the PDP have not helped his politics. It is also remarkable that his running mate in the 2007 presidential contest, Senator Ben Obi is director_general of the campaign organization of one of his rivals for the consensus ticket, Gen. Aliyu Gusau.
Atiku is believed to command the loyalty of about eight members of the Ciroma committee and hence the upbeat mood among many of his associates.
Should Atiku not be considered he is likely to go it alone into the contest.
Gen. Aliyu Gusau
An effective strategist, Gusau is reported to have used his nearly eight years at the head of the country’s intelligence services to maneuver politicians to his favour.
The former spy according to sources in the committee ordinarily has the best advantage to go into the campaign as a candidate. He is said to have the least level of negative baggage compared to the three other candidates. His major disadvantage is, however, his lack of exposure to the electorate.
Should he not be chosen by the Ciroma committee, the strategist would not upturn the applecart. He would simply go for a well deserved retirement.
Governor Bukola Saraki
Innuendos that Governor Bukola Saraki was a pretender in the race have been overcome by the apparent seriousness he has given to the presidential contest.
His major advantage is the energy of youth that is lacking in the three other allied aspirants. His major disadvantage is said to be language identity with the North.
He is the least mentioned as a consensus choice maybe because of that very reason of his alleged inability to speak the Hausa language fluently.
If he is not chosen the general belief is that he would pick the Kwara Central Senatorial ticket that has been in his younger sister’s custody in the last eight years.