By Ochereome Nnanna

“What the average Northerner needs is somebody who’s from the North and also understands that part of the country and has been able to build bridges across the country. This is what the Northerner needs, it doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate, I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of Northern origin.”

THE above statement which former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, uttered at the interactive session with the Arewa Joint Committee in Kaduna on Saturday, October 15, 2022, will stand against his name for all time. He later sent his media aide to tell Nigerians that it was just “a joke”.

I agree with Atiku. His desperation to be president has reduced him to a huge joke. The man who brands himself “the Unifier” is a Caliphate irredentist. We have not forgotten his act of deleting his tweet condemning the lynching of Miss Deborah Samuel by a jihadist mob, just because his presidential ambition was threatened by Muslim extremists. He could not stand firm on his convictions; perhaps he hasn’t any.

The myopia of that statement is so pathetic. The Igbo nation resoundingly voted for Atiku in the 2019 presidential election which he won. President Muhammadu Buhari used the military and the courts to hijack the victory for his second term. The Igbo nation endorsed him in Enugu in November 2018 at the Nike Lake Hotel. I was there. Atiku came down personally to receive that endorsement. Ailing Professor of Law, Ben Nwabueze, famously said he would not die yet until Atiku was declared president. If that election was allowed to be free and fair, Atiku would have been President and Peter Obi his Vice President.

Atiku became a multibillionaire after leaving the Nigerian Customs. He made his money in the South-West, and some of his business, social and political associates are from there. If he becomes president, a Yoruba woman, Titi Abubakar, will be First Lady. Yoruba votes helped propel him in 2019. Indeed, he once used a political party founded and nurtured in the South West – Bola Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, – to run for president in 2007 after he was booted out of the PDP by his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo.

For Atiku to summon the gumption to say that of people who have done so much for him and upon whom he will still heavily depend if he is ever to emerge president, is the height of ingratitude. It is not only a great insult; it is a hate speech and totally unbecoming, and unexpected from a politician of Atiku’s ancient pedigree. It is a Freudian slip that lets us into the inner recesses of Atiku’s mind as to what he really thinks of Southerners. As far as I am concerned, Atiku is not different or better than Buhari. A snake can only beget a longish offspring.

Atiku has always made the North, not Nigeria, the cornerstone of his political aspirations. He has always boasted that once the North makes a political decision, the rest of us will fall in. This is a simplistic and self-serving postulation which needs to be properly contextualised. It may look like it on the surface. For instance, it was the North’s decision to allow the South-West to produce the president in 1999 that made Obasanjo president.  

On the other hand, it was the Arewa/Igbo/Minorities alliance that produced the Northern People’s Congress, NPC’s, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister in 1959 and the National Party of Nigeria, NPN’s, Shehu Shagari as president in 1979 and 1983. It was also the merger of Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Yoruba with Arewa elements in the All Progressives Congress, APC, that produced Buhari as president in 2015. It also took South-East, South-South and North’s alliance to elect Goodluck Jonathan, a Minority, as president in 2011.

From the above historical evidences, it is clear that the primary factor that produces presidents is not the North. Admittedly though, the North is the biggest political bloc, and its usual common front and high voting power give it a clear advantage over the rest. But despite that, the North lost the 2011 election to a Minority man in spite of its strenuous efforts to snatch power from Jonathan. Incumbency is a leading factor. Jonathan won the 2011 election because he was in office and easily attracted allies. Atiku and Buhari, who represented the North in 2011, were soundly defeated because the North was out of power.

Cross-regional alliances are also vital. No region can win the presidency without external help. The North has benefited more than the rest from these alliances and should be grateful, not arrogant or take the others for granted. The reason is because, while Muslim the North is united, the rest of the country, which commands a greater population and the wealth of the nation, is fractious.

The envies and ethnic rivalries among the elements of the East, West, Southern Minorities and Middle Belt are the sources of their weakness and the North’s power. Should these regions come together, the Arewa North’s vaunted power is finished. A single candidate supported by these regions will not only win with a landslide, he will get his 25 per cent in at least 26 states. They prefer to remain as the North’s slaves to be insulted by the likes of Atiku, Nasir el-Rufai and other Arewa loudmouths. They prefer to go to Arewa toes to lick the oil mined in their own backyards. So be it for them.

Those who depend on regional, religious and ethnic factors to campaign have nothing to offer Nigeria of 2023. How they campaign is how they will rule. Atiku’s “restructuring” mantra is a fake bait. Swallow it at your own peril. 

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