By Abdulsalam Muhammed Kazaure

THE All Progressives Congress, APC, appears intent on snatching a sure defeat from the jaws of a likely victory with its baffling ‘all-Northern’ strategy. 

Following the nudge of certain Northern figures who are blinded by self-interest and an inflated sense of their political prowess, the party looks to be plotting the emergence of a Northerner as its presidential aspirant, an audacious betrayal of its agreement with its Southern bloc on ceding its ticket to the zone in honour of the power-sharing arrangement key to Nigeria’s political stability. 

It was the agreement, brokered by leaders of the party from the two regions, that shaped its national convention held in March where Senator Adamu Abdullahi, a Northerner from Nasarawa State, emerged as the consensus choice for the position of National Chairman. 

The rationale was easy to understand: in a simple reversal of roles in the past eight years, the national chairmanship position went to the North while the presidential ticket, after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari, would return to the South. There was a like-for-like microzoning arrangement that saw office positions held by the South-South, South-West and South- East swapped by the North-Central, North-West and North-East respectively.  

However, bent on claiming all the benefits, the scheming Northern hegemons within the party are insisting on an open contest for the ticket with a thinly-veiled ulterior motive of abusing their control of the party to bend the race in favour of yet another Northerner, a situation that would leave the South with nothing and see a 16-year-long Northern hegemony.

The signs are hard, if not impossible, to miss with Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa and Senate President Ahmad Lawan from Yobe State, being positioned as the party’s flag-bearer. Sources from within the party indicated that at a meeting held by the Northern leaders with the APC Chairman in attendance and presiding, it was proposed that these two aforementioned individuals alongside Governors Zulum (Borno) and El-Rufai (Kaduna) should purchase the presidential nomination and expression of interest forms, a proposition that Zulum and El-Rufai declined. Also at the forefront of this agenda is Governor Bagudu of Kebbi. 

The excuse offered for the growing betrayal, according to inside sources, was that the APC must act to counteract the PDP, the opposition party that also looks poised to shatter its brittle unity by ignoring loud calls for equitable power distribution within its own rank to favour the recycling of a Northern candidate, Atiku Abubakar, for the 2023 contest.

Atiku’s emergence on the platform, the argument goes, would lock the popular votes from the North in his favour and seal the APC’s defeat. Tribal and religious affiliation matters more to the average Northerner than party loyalty, they claim. But this simplistic, navel-gazing argument is not only disingenuous, it is clearly unfounded. 

The idea of a monolithic North ignores the multifarious interest and demands of the North Central and large Christian population in states like Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna and equally sizeable in Gombe and Bauchi. In the South, grave questions are being asked given the fractious state of affairs within the general body polity. 

If after eight years of wielding power, some in the North can still not be persuaded to relinquish it to the other side in a multi-ethnic union, what then is the point of the alliance – or the national union? To exclusively cater to the interests of the North and reduce the South to glorified courtiers?

Since 1960, the year of Nigeria’s independence, grumblings of ‘Northern dominance’ have cast a pall on Nigeria’s politics. Although successive governments have sought to downplay the notion and manage the resulting ethnic tension, the Buhari administration has failed spectacularly in this regard. 

With the subtlety of a sledgehammer, President Muhammadu Buhari has made appointments and other political decisions that carried optical problems and worsened anxiety down South, further complicating the position of Southern leaders of the APC who face agitated questions from followers on whether or not they have been fooled into an unprofitable merger.

To replace Buhari with another Northerner as the candidate of the party is to effectively affirm the fears and portray the Southern extraction as political fools. Such a candidate, in that circumstance, would be impossible to sell beyond the North. And this reality exposes the fatal flaw in the argument of those arguing for the retention of power in the North. 

It is an argument that both take the Southern votes for granted and exaggerate the swaying power of the ‘core North’ and its votes harvest – precisely the sort of thinking that reduced President Buhari to a perpetual failure with the misses of 2003, 2007 and 2011, before he eventually reached out to the South and secured victory in 2015.

His previous failures and eventual success in 2015 when he obtained the backing of the South underlined the glaring fact that no single region can claim presidential victory without the active – and enthusiastic – support of the other. 

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, a Southerner, would also learn this lesson in 2015 when, ignoring the agreed zoning arrangement, members of his party turned on him and delivered the APC a historic victory as the first party to unseat an incumbent since Nigeria’s return to democracy.

But beyond a costly lesson on the importance of honouring the informal power-sharing arrangement of a complex nation of multiple cultures and religions delicately glued together, the South’s courage and steadfastness in halting Jonathan’s tenure extension bid to return power to the North in honour of the agreement also shows why the excuse of the APC’s Northern hegemony is untenable. If the South can persuade its voters and stand up to its own president, there is no reason that should not be the case up North.

Furthermore, if the PDP does recycle Atiku, a tired warhorse tainted by damaging accusations of corruption, the fallout would throw the party in disarray and present the APC a powerful opportunity to contrast itself with the opposition as a party sensitive to the country’s unity and the South’s legitimate aspiration for power with the nomination of a Southern candidate. 

To do otherwise is to lose all the in-roads made in the other regions besides the North and render futile the hard work of its South core to portray the party as a truly national party, not a ‘special purpose vehicle’ chauffeured by megalomaniac Northern hegemons who are playing them (the supposed Southern partners) for fools. In other words, the APC cannot count on the South’s votes if it nominates a Northern candidate, and if President Buhari’s experience is anything to go by, that is a sure path to defeat.

If the South rejects the APC and the PDP for perpetuating Northern hegemony and invests it hopes elsewhere, causing an impasse in 2023, what would that portend for the future of the country as a single and united entity? Danger lies ahead, but it’s still within the power of the APC to draw the country away from a perilous cliff.

Mallam  Kazaure, President of Arewa Political Forum of Nigeria, wrote from Abuja


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