By Ochereome Nnanna
ALHAJI Atiku Abubakar, the consensus candidate of the pro-zoning Northern elements of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was never allowed to savour his victory over Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki.
If he thought his emergence would catapult him straight into a two-cornered fight for the PDP presidential ticket with President Goodluck Jonathan, he may now think again. Left to some elements in the party he many never get that opportunity.
The only thing that seems to have held up in his favour is that his pro-zoning former co-contestants appear to be going along with the deal. However, disciples of some of the strong contenders have already lost the appetite to soldier on as they have their own political headaches to worry over.
Atiku is still facing unbending challenges in his Adamawa home state, where Governor Murtala Nyako will have no earthly reason to embrace or support him. It is getting more and more difficult to know from which part of the North that the former Vice President will get his delegates from to defeat Jonathan.
As if his troubles were not tough enough, some elements in his party are now saying that the waiver he was granted for his presidential ambition would be re-examined. Left to these elements who are out to grease the President’s path, the pro-zoning Northern aspirant may be blocked if the party decides that the waiver was not properly granted. Alternatively, Atiku’s opponents are also mooting the idea of a “consensus presidential candidate”.
The simple meaning of annulling Atiku’s waiver or pushing for a consensus candidate is that some pro-Jonathan party members are looking for unfair and undemocratic means of ensuring the emergence of the President as the ruling party’s candidate. There will be many repercussions if this ignoble course of acting is pursued by the party.
In the first place, Atiku will definitely go to court to contest the annulment of his waiver. He will also sue all the way to the Supreme Court to block any move towards consensus candidacy. If this happens, the PDP might still be in court till after the presidential elections of next year. In the end, the courts might insist that political parties have a right to nominate their candidates, but I wonder if this old verdict will apply in the face of brazen assault on the rights of members.
Secondly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Professor Attahiru Jega, has made it clear that it will not accept any consensus candidature from any political party if anyone comes forward to complain about the process by which such a candidate emerged. After all, consensus means that the stakeholders of a group have agreed in unanimity that a course of action should be taken.
There is no consensus where there are dissenters. This will be an opportunity to see if Jega’s INEC will be different from that of Professor Maurice Iwu, who, after threatening not to recognise candidates who emerged from undemocratic processes still went ahead to field such candidates for the PDP.
The move by some elements in the party to block the waiver or go for consensus candidacy is an offshoot of the political desperation of the Olusegun Obasanjo era, which was defined by do-or-die antics. Many of the governors who are visible and audible in pushing for these undemocratic measures on Jonathan’s behalf are busy in their own states perpetrating worse evils to ensure their own re-election.
In some of these states, governorship aspirants who have declared their intention to challenge some of these governors have either had their relations and top supporters killed or kidnapped. This is what we are seeing in Governor Godswill Akpabio’s Akwa Ibom State, and Akpabio, as a means of ensuring his own return, is fanatical about returning Jonathan by all means.
The PDP will do well to realise that its current public perception woes are linked to its poor internal processes and external use of state agencies to impose leaders on Nigerians rather than allow democracy to take its natural course.
Even when the Party and its preferred candidates had clear advantages over their opponents, they still went for extreme measures to make assurance doubly sure. Why would the party consider blocking Atiku’s waiver or settling for a consensus candidate when most of the indices appear to be in the president’s favour?
The world is watching to see if President Jonathan’s often repeated pledge to ensure a free and fair election will be implemented, and this will start with free, fair, democratic and acceptable conduct of the ruling Party’s primaries.
Obasanjo’s do-or-die politics has led the party to lose five states – Anambra, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun states, with Rivers State given to Rotimi Amaechi, a candidate that the Party’s leaders had shoved aside undemocratically. Never in our history had a ruling party been so drubbed.
What this tells me is that the Judiciary, the final arbiter in our electoral matters, has decided to give justice to PDP’s opponents provided that the opposition presents strong and credible candidates.
In the South East, South-South and North where the Judiciary merely asked the candidates to return to the polls (which invariably resulted in the repeat victory of the PDP) it was because the opposition parties did not give the ruling party enough fight to enable them get sympathetic or benevolent judgement at the Court of Appeal.
In 2011 the situation will be markedly different, especially in the North, where General Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is waxing stronger by the day. PDP must walk the Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo reform talk or else through its undemocratic culture it may lose its commanding majority after 2011, a prospect, many Nigerians think, may not be a very bad idea at all.