By Femi Aribisala
There is a lot of irritating noise coming especially from the North-West concerning the need for the presidency to return to the North in 2015. This should be discarded as sound and fury signifying nothing.
To talk of the presidency returning to the North is to presume the presidency belongs to the North. It does not! There should be no Northern president of Nigeria for the next 14 years at the very least. After that, the presidency should not go to the North-West. It should go to the Middle-Belt.
The new PDP: In the last few weeks, we have witnessed a comedy of errors whereby some PDP Governors, mostly Northern, have rebelled from the PDP, formed what they call a new PDP with one central demand: that Goodluck Jonathan should not contest for the presidency in 2015. This makes for good newspaper headlines and little else.
It is preposterous to insist that a sitting president should not go for a second-term when he is entitled to do so. Those who are opposed to him should challenge him at the polls if they can. In my opinion, they don’t stand a chance against him and they know it.
This is a Nigerian thing. If you start a business and are successful, your competition does not strive to match or exceed your services. The favoured option is to try to drive you out of business. They will pay the police to close you down.
They will go to the babalawo and ask him to terminate you with extreme prejudice. You will come to your office and find a dead chicken on the doormat. What all this says eloquently is that your competition cannot compete with you. The same goes for the shenanigans of the so-called new PDP. There is nothing new about these jokers.
All they have to offer is the same bad news. The reality they don’t want to face is that Jonathan is unstoppable as the PDP presidential candidate in 2015. A new PDP candidate does not even have a look-in. Neither does a PDM candidate, which Atiku is apparently reserving as his fall-back position when his shenanigans in the PDP come to nothing.
It sometimes takes Nigerians a long time to face reality and admit defeat. This is the case with Atiku Abubakar. The bitter truth is that, try as he might, Atiku can never be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The 2015 election will be between President Jonathan and the APC presidential candidate. The only opportunity that the North has to produce the next president lies in the APC putting forward a Northerner as its presidential candidate. Even then, President Jonathan must be the odds-on favourite to win. As a rule, sitting African presidents don’t lose elections.
Lame-duck Governors: Politics is a power-game. However, the high jinks of the nPDP are all smoke and mirrors. All but one of these rebel governors is a lame-duck; meaning this is their last term in office. With the sole exception of Abdulfattah Ahmed of Kwara, they have all served two terms as governors and that is the statutory limit.
Lame-duck governors have greatly diminished power. Their opponents know they will not have to tolerate them much longer. Lame-duck governors run against the clock. They are soon to be dumped into the dustbin of history. That is the predicament of these loud rebels.
What is pathetic about their situation is actually their central demand. President Jonathan is at the height of his powers. He is not a lame-duck. He can run for a second term. That gives him enough time to deal with his opponents. It also tells them that they better make peace with him now, or they will be in the wilderness possibly for the next six years. That is a very long time in politics. By that time, at least six of the rebel PDP governors will be politically dead.
These politicians facing a bleak future are now demanding that the President relinquish his advantage by making himself a lame-duck like them: declaring that he will not contest for the presidency in 2015. President Jonathan is certainly not a fool; so that is not going to happen.
This is my prediction. The rebel lame-duck governors have had their 15 minutes of fame; thanks to the Nigerian news media that hankers after sensational stories. They have made the noise and grabbed the headlines. That is the end of the road for them.
They have to come back to Jonathan cap in hand. I repeat, politics is a game of power and, at the moment, Jonathan is sitting pretty. If these lame-duck governors don’t play ball, they will all be handed over to the EFCC if and when Jonathan is returned as president. I actually believe that is
what all this brouhaha is about.
These governors want assurances that they will be left in peace to enjoy their booty after their retirement. I don’t believe that assurance should be given either. They have gone about it the wrong way. They should have gone to the President to plea-bargain rather than all this bluster. As it is, the PDP machinery in their states will be taken away from them and that will be it.
Who are the people going to follow? Would they join a man who is going to be out of a job as governor within two years, or will they follow a sitting president who is likely to remain president for another six years? It is a no-brainer: Jonathan has all the cards hands down.
Of all the rebel governors, the most pathetic is Rotimi Amaechi. He is from the South-South. Nevertheless, he is demanding that a South-South president should not seek a second-term. Within the framework of Nigeria, that position is not only idiotic, it is politically suicidal. You don’t scuttle a South-South presidency in favour of the North and expect thank you from the people of the South-South. All Amaechi has achieved is to consign himself into future political irrelevance.
Northern political disintegration: There are still more smoke and mirrors. One of these is that the North can determine who will be president of Nigeria. That is all poppycock. If it were true, Buhari would have been elected Nigeria’s president in 2011. He won all the far northern states of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. Nevertheless, he still lost woefully by 10 million votes.
Time was when a Northern candidate was certain of victory by sheer weight of numbers. All that is history now. The North is the only region in Nigeria that no longer exists politically. Thanks to Boko Haram, it is now divided between Moslems and Christians. The Middle Belt now considers itself Middle Belt and not as the North. What is the point of including yourself in the North if all it gets you is to play second-fiddle perpetually to Sokoto, Kano and Katsina? The North is now also divided between the elite and the masses. What is the point of insisting on a Northern president when all it produces are Northern billionaires without appreciable development of the North?
In their insistence on being president of Nigeria yet again, the far North is burning its bridges. The most faithful supporters of the North politically have been the South-South and the South-East. The possibility for such continued support in the future is now being scuttled by the seeming Northern determination to truncate the legitimate second-term bid of a South-South president and to deny the Igbos their rightful claim to the presidency. If the politicians of the far North are not careful, they will not get a president from their area for another 50 years.
Federal character: Nigeria is an agglomeration of peoples of different regions and ethnicity. This must be reflected in the polity. Accordingly, the North should take an extended sabbatical from the presidency. Other regions have tolerated a Northern presidency for 37 out of 53 years, to no great effect. There is nothing to recommend another Northern president in the short-term. The last thing Nigeria needs right now is another President Musa Yar’Adua with his highfalutin seven-point programme.
Northerners are rightfully the apostles of federal character. By the same token, the presidency should reflect the federal character of Nigeria. Jonathan is important as the first South-South president. The South-South deserves a second-term according to the principles of federal character.
After eight years of a South-South presidency, it cannot be said to be the turn of the North again, when the Igbos, a major ethnic group, have only had a head of state for six months. Before we can talk of another Northern presidency, we should have had at least eight years of an Igbo presidency. If after that, the presidency then moves to the North, it should not go to the traditional Northern odd-jobbers. It should go to the Middle Belt for another eight years.
My advice therefore to the people of the North (especially the North-West) is that they should fasten their seat-belts. They may be in for a long journey in the political wilderness. The way out is not through this nPDP nonsense which is likely to antagonise the rest of the country against them. The predicament of the far North requires greater political dexterity. There is a new realpolitik in Nigeria, and it is not to the advantage of the North.
Zero policy debate
Nigerian elections are peculiar in that there is hardly any policy debate as such. It is all about which region gets the presidency, as opposed to which policies get implemented. In 14 years of PDP presidency, I have yet to discover exactly what the party stands for. Nobody seems to care. Immediately a president is elected, the debate begins on where the next president should come from. 2015 is two years away. Nevertheless, we are already in election-mode. Government money is being saved for the next election. Government money is being looted by the lame-ducks. Everyone is shouting “my turn;” “me-first.” Meanwhile, Nigeria continues to go to the dogs.