By Ochereome Nnanna
Procedurally, it was very meticulous and disciplined. Getting the four pro-zoning presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the North to agree to abide by the outcome of the search for their consensus candidate to clash with President Goodluck Jonathan was a smart binding force from which it was difficult for any of the subscribers to back out. However, for some, it was the easy way out, the classic “soft landing”.
The greatest beneficiary of the soft landing was General Ibrahim Babangida. He discovered, midway into the game, that the hordes of sympathisers that thronged his Hilltop Mansion in Minna when his wife, Mariam, died nearly a year ago, was not a measure of his current political rating.
He found out that, despite all his efforts to wave aside the import of his annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the death of Dele Giwa, his political comeback was going to be haunted all the way by them. Had he emerged as the choice of the North he would have been the laughing stock of this season’s transitional process. Pity for a man who otherwise should have gone down in Nigeria’s history as her greatest institutional builder.
General Aliyu Gusau remained a stranger, despite putting his face on posters. Few people ever heard him speak, let alone knowing how his minds worked and what he would do. His greatest credential – security – could not sell him because it was precisely during his years as the nation’s number one mai gadi (gate man) that many unsolved murders, undetected acts of terrorism and religious/communal clashes happened. In other words, Gusau really had nothing to justify seeking the presidential office, other than (as someone humorously pointed out) the fabled prophecy by some marabout that Babangida, the late General Sani Abacha and he would rule Nigeria!
Governor Bukola Saraki had hoped to capitalise on his chairmanship of the Governor’s Forum to get his colleagues behind him. However, he did not reckon with the fact that Nigerians are not keen to extrapolate the shame of Kwara State to the national level.
His father, Senator Olusola Saraki, would impose his daughter as the president of Nigeria after Bukola had taken eight years! Nigerians were not interested in giving the Saraki’s the opportunity to use national resources to resuscitate their failed family bank – Societe Generale Bank – after it was looted down twice before. It is only the Saraki’s (and perhaps their acquiescent Kwara political serfs) that do not know the stigma that their political history has imposed on them.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was obviously the best choice among the lot. He has shown the ability to build political movements from the scratch, creating and sustaining loyalties among his followers and associates through thick and thin for years. Atiku is a great fighter who knows when to breathe fire and when to eat the humble pie.
He fought his former boss, General Olusegun Obasanjo and remained as Vice President till the bitter end of their eight-year cohabitation. He came out boldly to rally Nigerians to oppose Obasanjo’s tenure elongation project. His court battles and victories elicited many game-defining landmark verdicts. These helped push him forward as the only pro-zoning aspirant that could tackle Jonathan for the PDP ticket in the epic primaries ahead.
Atiku has also proved his mettle in coming in from the cold, from square zero, to the front line. Only about two years ago, he was seeking to come back on friendly terms with his arch foe, Obasanjo, to enable him return to the PDP. He was severally humiliated, but that did not stop him. Later on, he went on his knees to Professor Jibril Aminu and Governor Murtala Nyako to be allowed to come in through the Adamawa chapter of the party.
He was rudely rebuffed. Undaunted, Atiku one night paid an unscheduled visit to Aminu in the senator’s Abuja residence along with his wife and a few loyalists, and the disarmed senator found it difficult to send him away from his house. The only problem he has continued to encounter in his home turf is the Nyako factor because the Governor’s interests will be threatened by Atiku’s full readmission.
However, Atiku’s real battles have just begun. Getting his fellow pro-zoning Northerners to give ground to him was the easiest part. Now that he is standing face-to-face with Jonathan, Atiku’s greatest real obstacle is his former boss, Obasanjo. Obasanjo will take the challenge of seeing to Atiku’s defeat as a personal fight.
If Atiku beats Jonathan, Obasanjo will lose everything he accumulated in his eight years in power. More than ever before, Jonathan and Obasanjo are going to work very closely together against Atiku, and many of the governors Obasanjo imposed in 2007 who are seeking a second term in office will be enlisted in the impending war within PDP.
Atiku will face two other challenges. Number one is that in his 17 years of presidential aspiration he has never managed to let Nigerians know how he would change the system for the better. All we see is a man who is hungry to be president and is willing to do anything to get there.
Number two is that he is a product of a sectional, hegemonic plot for the continued domination of Nigerian politics by Northern political oligarchy. This clique believes, and has trumpeted it on rooftops, that North is Nigeria. Atiku himself has said in the past that once the North decides, Nigerians would always follow suit.
This is the time for them, through the Atiku consensus, to prove it. It is also a great opportunity for other Nigerians to prove them wrong and justify Sunny Ade’s song: Nigeria yii ti gbogbo wa ni (Nigeria is for all Nigerians).