By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Never before has the otherwise once politically cohesive North been pushed to the wall as it is now. Even more vexatious for some is that the source of the disharmony raging in the North today is the smiling innocent looking and seemingly harmless ‘political neophyte,’ Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The discord that followed last Tuesday’s meeting of the apex socio-cultural northern group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF was reflective of the problems now ravaging the North. Thrust with a near fait accompli, after the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the political tendencies in the North are now seeking to advance beyond the shackles it was tied to by the outcome of the PDP primaries.
Remarkably, the major protagonists of zoning and forces behind the Northern consensus candidate, that is Atiku Abubakar, have largely remained silent.
Mallam Adamu Ciroma, the leader of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF which canvassed zoning and adopted Atiku as the North’s candidate for the PDP presidential ticket has remained largely silent since the convention. Ciroma remarkably, was not able to deliver his Yobe State to Atiku at the convention.
Jonathan in the first direct political contest of his life on January 13 defeated Atiku for the presidential ticket of the PDP. Undoubtedly, incumbency was credited as a factor which helped in outwitting Atiku from achieving a life long political milestone.
Following the convention, northern political leaders have been meeting quietly to pin point the way forward for the geopolitical region. Among the first revelations from the post-convention meetings was the split in the G-4, that is the four Northern presidential aspirants who subjected themselves to the consensus arrangement.
Aside Atiku, the other aspirants were Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State. While Babangida and Gusau helped to deliver their states to Atiku, Saraki on his part was not able to deliver Kwara to Atiku.
Associates of Saraki were quick to trace the development to what they alleged to be the conspiracy that was waged against their man during the selection process. They claimed that Saraki was schemed out in the arrangement because he was not from the core North.
Indications were that Saraki was equally helpful in the decision of the 20 PDP governors to adopt President Jonathan prior to the convention. It was as such not surprising that Saraki was not part of the meetings by the trio of Babangida, Gusau and Atiku after the PDP convention.
The group in their meetings reportedly resolved that the convention result should not be challenged in court.
While the trio met privately and unannounced, the ACF which had all along been split in its own assertion on zoning had a more canterkarous post-convention meeting in Kaduna.
At the end of the meeting, the group condemned the procedure adopted by many of the parties in their conventions.
The group in a resolution signed by its national publicity secretary, Anthony Sani equally slapped a strong rebuke on the ruling PDP, which it claimed failed to adopt zoning in choosing its own candidate.
“In particular, ACF is disappointed with the outcome of the primary elections in the ruling party, the PDP. The emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate is legally and morally wrong because it is a violation of that party’s constitution, which clearly requires that under the zoning/rotation formula, a northerner be returned as candidate in the 2011 general elections. In this regard, and in the light of its principled stand on fairness and rule of law, the ACF rejects the outcome of PDP presidential primaries,” the body said in its communiqué.
That reportage of the communiqué which was interpreted by some as an open rebuke of the Jonathan candidacy was quickly followed by diverse comments from Northern stakeholders.
While Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State dismissed the resolution as not binding on Northerners, some especially in the House of Representatives saw the resolution as reflective of the view of the North.
Northern elder-statesman and former Secretary General of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, Senator Uba Ahmed weighed in advising the ACF to keep to its original apolitical inclinations.
Apparently shocked by the reportage, a member of the national executive committee of the ACF, Alh Mohaamed Abdulrahman cried out that the communiqué which he claimed was apolitical had been doctored.
“They are meeting to discuss like Ohanaeze or Afenifere. There are 60 parties in the North, so there can’t be 60 organizations all clamouring for the North. So they are free to meet as friends as they all believe in the North. They can meet, they can advise, there is no problem. There is no fear over anything, just relax, stop getting worried,” Gov. Lamido told reporters after submitting his nomination form at the PDP national secretariat.
“I am not worried because we went through a number of things including civil war. It can’t be worst than that, we came out of it clean and clear and we reconciled as a country united under God. There is no cause for fear. We will secure your future. Don’t worry,” he further said.
Asking the ACF to be strict with its apolitical objectives as formulated at inception, Sen. Ahmed said: “When the ACF was formed it was in response to Ohanaeze and the Yoruba Council of Elders. In forming it, they were specific that they were a non-political organization and I remember being asked if I were a member of ACF and I said I wasn’t and couldn’t since I am a politician and could not belong to a non political organization.
“For an organization like ACF, they should be consistent not only in its organization and its formation, but also in its utterances because at one time they were saying they were a non-political organization. Since when have they amended that status and become political?”
Noting that Section 221 of the constitution restricted political pronouncement to only political parties, Ahmd added: “Even though what they said may not be directly political, but it can be seen as a negative contribution to one candidate!”
But Alh. Abdulrahman who disowned the content of the ACF communique issued at a press conference in Abuja said: “So if there is any issue like I’m reading in the front pages of the newspapers, it never happened there. This is a doctored communiqué probably reflecting the personal whims or ideas or agenda of certain people but certainly not that of the Arewa Consultative Forum. I am just trying to keep the records straight, because when we held a meeting of ACF, it was decided that at the ACF National Executive Committee held yesterday in Kaduna that the reaction and development that were fallout of the primaries of all the parties, it was decided that the political committee of ACF should convene a meeting immediately, and that individual opinions and reactions are not the issue because ACF must take a common stand on the matter.
“So the political committee which is the body of the ACF that is delegated to carry out this action should hold a meeting immediately and that thereafter the chairman of the political committee, Alh Ahmed Mohammed Gusau, summon a meeting of the ACF political committee to look into the entire issues relating to the political process and where we are now, which is the post primaries situation, and advise the ACF National Executive Council.”
Asserting that the view of a group should not be made to reflect the view of the entire North, he said: “The opinion of a few people from PDP does not constitute the opinion of ACF. Everybody has a right to hold on to his opinion but such should not be misconstrued as the opinion of the ACF”.
The ACF resolution was itself received with mixed feelings in the House of Representatives yesterday. While Rep Aminu Shagari (PDP/ Yabo/Shagari Federal constituency, Sokoto) endorsed the resolution as reflective of Northern opinion, Rep Bitrus Kaze (PDP/Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, Plateau ) sharply disagreed saying that the President was in good standing to contest and would be backed by the North.