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Friday, 15 November 2013

2015: The Hottest Battleground

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Simon Kolawole
Professor Ango Abdullahi, spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), has never left anybody in doubt about where he and his group stand: the North must produce the president in 2015. Speaking last week, he declared once again: “There is no going back on the presidency returning to the North in 2015.” Former governor of Sokoto State and member of the All Progressives Alliance (APC), Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, famously told TELL magazine in 2002: “We want our power back!” He lamented that the North made a mistake by conceding power to the South in 1999. This, in truth, is a popular sentiment in most parts of the North till today. There is a feeling of frustration and marginalisation in the Nigerian power equation.
It is not difficult to understand why. If President Jonathan wins in 2015, that will take him to 2019, meaning between 1999 and 2019 - a period of 20 years - the North will have been in power for only the three stricken years of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who died in office in 2010. But Southerners will say the North was in power for 36 years between 1960 and 1999 and should, therefore, not complain, having dominated for so long. Northerners will fight back by saying those were mainly years of military rule, not democracy. Southerners will say whether it was military or civilian, it was de facto power which clearly shaped the economic and political structure of Nigeria. The argument never ends.
Does the North mean business in 2015 as Prof. Abdullahi has said? I think so. The signs are there. The North does not go to political battles without a game plan. Agreed, the strategy does not always work, but you never know when it will work. I think the strategists who led General Muhammadu Buhari into believing he could become president through Northern votes alone (“we have the numbers” is an age-old Northern political motto) have now revised their game plan. The emergence of APC, with Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu finally agreeing to work together, is an indication of a change in tactics. If the arrangement works out, President Goodluck Jonathan will fight the battle of his life in 2015. A political marriage between the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba will be a handful.
In my opinion, the APC offers the Hausa/Fulani the best route back to Aso Rock. The ideal situation for the North, of course, is for both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC to field Northern candidates, but Jonathan will never let go of the PDP. The “New PDP” - which is overwhelmingly Northern - is not likely to succeed in its move to take over the PDP. They may end up in the APC. This scenario is being test-run already. The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) chairmanship election was the first port of call. Governor Rotimi Amaechi won 19 out of 35 votes, while Governor David Jang got 16 votes (Yobe abstained). Most of the governors who voted for Amaechi are now gravitating towards the APC.
In fact, the 10 opposition governors that voted for Amaechi have moved into the APC (add Yobe and you have 11). Seven of the nine PDP governors that supported Amaechi are now in the “New PDP” with a chance of defecting to the APC: Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Adamawa, Rivers, Kwara and Niger (also called the G7 governors). The other two, Kebbi and Gombe, are still in the “Old PDP” and no one knows their next move. And, by the way, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Kebbi and Gombe all voted for Buhari in 2011. These states have never been Jonathan’s strongholds. By simple math, APC is the platform the core North is banking on to reclaim Aso Rock.
President Jonathan, from my reading of his own game plan, is banking heavily on the South-east, South-south and Northern minorities for his re-election. However, I think Jonathan needs the South-west if he is to win at first ballot. And he has a potential in-road into the South-west, which currently seems aligned with the North. Faced with the stark reality of choosing between a Hausa/Fulani candidate and Jonathan, those South-westerners who naturally resent the so-called Northern “oligarchy” may rebel against Tinubu. This could be a game-changer. The South-west is definitely going to be the hottest battleground. It could swing the presidential election either to the North or to the South. I am looking forward to the most competitive election in Nigerian history.
Finally, and I have to say this, isn’t it sad that all political analyses in Nigeria still start and end with ethnic and regional dynamics? Whether it is Edwin Clark or Ango Abdullahi talking, the anchor is always regional sentiments. But I have not given up hope that one day, campaign for political office in Nigeria will be on the basis of performance: the incumbents showing off their achievements to seek re-election and their opponents playing up their own manifestos as better alternatives. It is not enough to say “vote for me”. You must tell us why you deserve it. And it is not enough to say “vote out the incumbent”. You must tell us what you will do better than him.
And Four
Other Things...
In a country where scandals involving Tafa Balogun, Bode George, Joshua Dariye, Salihu Buhari and Chuba Okadigbo drew anger and condemnation from a broad spectrum of Nigerians, it is disheartening that some narrow-minded persons are trying to reduce the armoured cars scandal involving the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, to an ethnic thing. I knew it was going to come to this, anyway, because that is the way we are in Nigeria. But no right-thinking Nigerian will condone the recklessness going in on government, irrespective of mother tongue.
While we are still dilly-dallying here, Ghana has just sacked the Deputy Communications Minister, Victoria Hammah, after being caught on tape allegedly saying she would stay in politics until she had made $1 million. Ironically, Hammah played a key role in President John Mahama’s election last year. But she has now been fired. Mind you, she was not sacked for stealing - but for allegedly suggesting that she was going to enrich herself. That is a saner society. No wonder, Nigerians are flooding into Ghana. Shame on us.
I find it quite objectionable that the health status of Mrs Clara Chime, wife of the Enugu State governor, has become a political issue. If anyone is suffering depression and having hallucinations, I believe these are personal issues that should not be celebrated on the pages of newspapers, except the patient so chooses. Our reactions to psychological conditions are fuelled by ignorance and outdated myths. These are conditions that are treatable medically, but many of us are still living in the age when twins were being killed because they were considered strange.
We started the year by winning the Africa Cup of Nations and have now claimed the U-17 World Cup title as dessert. The Golden Eaglets were a joy to watch right from their first match, and I was delighted seeing tomorrow’s stars in the rampaging full-backs Musa Muhammed and Samuel Okon, the mercurial Kelechi Iheanacho, short-stopper Dele Alampasu and other highly gifted players. Congrats to coach Manu Garba for assembling such an athletic, entertaining and free-scoring team. The future of Nigerian football looks great. The production line just got better!


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