By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
PROSPECTS of an authentic Nigerian consensus presidential aspirant emerging in the unfolding presidential contest were as at Monday night being shaped out in Abuja.
At the centre of the unfolding alliance were Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN who were putting finishing touches to what could be a dream ticket to shake the dominant Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the forthcoming presidential election.
The PDP already has its own version of a consensus candidate in the person of Atiku Abubakar, the erstwhile Vice-President of the country who was chosen as the consensus aspirant of the nine-man Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF. The NPLF based its choice on zoning chose Atiku ahead of the trio of Governor Bukola Saraki, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Mohammed Aliyu Gusau.
The talks between the CPC and ACN Vanguard learnt were aimed at forging a formidable opposition to challenge the dominance of the PDP in the forthcoming elections. The chances of a merger between the two parties have for now been ruled out on account of time constraints especially with the general elections now at the corner.
Besides the time constraint, there were also indications of reservations by the leading gladiators from both sides on surrendering the identities with which they have been known. Also Buhari from his recent political experience is believed to very suspicious of many professional politicians who it is said could do anything to advance their political interests.
Despite being the leading light in the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and the catalyst of the upheaval that threw away the PDP in some states like Kano, Buhari was reportedly sold out by the party leadership after the 2003 and 2007 presidential contests.
Following his bitter experience in the ANPP, Buhari using the platform of The Buhari Organisation, TBO his campaign outfit, sought out other antagonists of the PDP whom he could work with.
Among those he checked out were Atiku Abubakar then of the AC, Atthairu Bafarawa then of the DPP and other political stalwarts in the mega party movement. Unfortunately the talks under the aegis of the National Democratic Movement, NDM, did not get that far despite the hard declarations by the trio of Atiku, Buhari and Bafarawa to throw out the PDP.
Mutual allegations of self-centeredness and backstabbing shadowed the talks culminating in the break up of the NDM early this year. Their plan to form a broad based political party was as such derailed.
While Atiku returned to the PDP, Buhari soldiered along in the struggle against the PDP. Remarkably, at the same time, Tinubu’s ACN was gaining strength across the country through the recovery of gubernatorial seats at the Court of Appeal. Besides winning back the governorship of Ekiti and Osun, the ACN has also been bolstered by the series of defections into the party from across the country by dissidents within the PDP.
Among the leading defectors were former governor of Imo State, Chief Achike Udenwa who decamped last week alongside his one time political foe turned friend, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume. Also boosting the strength of the AC were other high flying defectors like Senator John Akpanudoedehe of Akwa Ibom State who defected from the PDP.
The increasing electoral strength of the ACN was also able to attract other high flyers like Bafarawa, erstwhile chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
So, given the ACN’s potential it was not surprising that Buhari would again seek co-habitation with the party that has now grown to become the nation’s number two political party.
The talks that are ongoing would undoubtedly factor the strengths and weaknesses of the two parties.
Buhari brings into the prospective alliance, an unadulterated identity of honesty and probity in governance alongside a fanatical support base in some sections of the North. He is particularly strong in the Northwest and Northeast where he could on a fair day win or pull through as a runner up in a contest against the best the PDP could offer.
He is, however, is limited by funds and is weak in many sections of the South. He is equally disadvantaged by the long running campaign by the PDP under Obasanjo which pinned the toga of religious extremism on his person. Remarkably that toga is increasingly wearing off as many Nigerians see through the PDP fanned smear against Buhari.
The ACN despite its own increasing strength across the nation is still a small player in the North as it would have to play at the best a third position to either of the PDP, ANPP or CPC in all of the States of the North.
As such, the prospects of an alliance between the CPC and ACN could offer a strong opposition to the PDP hegemony in the country.
However, the challenges against the alliance are equally formidable. The first is the unwavering determination of Buhari to contest the presidency. There are indications that the ACN was now willing to concede that slot to him, but then on the condition that he would have to use the platform of the ACN as against his earlier determination to forge along on the platform of the CPC.
Given the religious inclination of Tinubu as a Muslim, a Christian from the South would have to be identified as a running mate in order to pay heed to the nation’s increasing sensitivity towards religious matters.
The emergence of Buhari as a presidential candidate of the CPC-ACN alliance would inevitably spell doom for the presidential aspirations of Bafarawa, Ribadu and the immediate past National Secretary of the ACN, Dr. Usman Bugaje.
While that could be a personal loss to the aspirants, it could in the end be a win for the nation should the Buhari ticket fly in the presidential election. After all, having Ribadu in a frontal position in the campaign against graft in a probable Buhari civilian administration would be a great advantage.