The next presidential elections may still be five months away, but the tempo in political activity – at least going by the frenzy created by the more than 8,000 groups ‘pleading’ with President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election – gives the impression that the polls are just around the corner.
It is not clear if the PDP will put its candidates through primaries, but if it does, it will simply be to simulate due process. Any other candidate picking the PDP ticket will lead the party’s implosion. Of course, those ‘eating’ from the chaos in the system know better than to pour sand in their own bowl of garri.
President Jonathan’s most serious challenger will likely come from the APC, though who that person will be is another matter. For now, lacking the power incumbency and muscle to create a Pyongyang-like mass hysteria of individuals, groups, associations and ‘transformation ambassadors’, the APC is relying on traditional politicking as the party primaries approach.
Former Head of State, Gen Muhammadu Buhari is no stranger to the contest, having run thrice before in 2003, 2007 and 2011. There is no doubt about the popularity of the peoples’ general, but his mass support has not put him office principally because certain sections of the northern elite fear that the egalitarian Buhari may erode the basis of their privileges.
I am not campaigning for Buhari or even for a northern president. I believe that what should matter to Nigerian voters are the track-records, integrity, sincerity and vision of a candidate, not their region or religion. The reality, as we all know, is different, especially with a president who deliberately finds ways of aggravating religious and ethnic divides for political advantage.
It has been observed, rightly, illiteracy, corruption, injustice and inequality are the major factors fueling northern Nigeria’s ongoing religious, political, social and economic upheavals, and that even the most basic form of good governance will go a long way to mitigate these challenges.
It is clear that without drastic change, things may get even worse in the north, and consequently, Nigeria as a whole. It is equally apparent that Jonathan has neither the inclination, nor the capacity to manage these challenges.
The question is, now that even the North’s elite are no longer safe, will they bite the bullet and support Buhari if he emerges as the APC’s candidate? As they have in the past, I think that the northern establishment will work for Jonathan.
I do not see Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Gusau, Adamu Ciroma, Barnabas Gemade, Jonah Jang, Gabriel Suswam, Bello Mohammed Halliru, Samaila Sambawa, Ibrahim Mantu, David Mark, Jerry Gana, Sarki Tafida, Jonathan Zwingina, and others supporting Buhari’s candidature. For them, the present state of insecurity and uncertainty is more tolerable than a possible Buhari presidency.
That is because the interests of the northern establishment is, and has always been different from that of the ordinary people of the region. The North that supports Buhari has nothing to do with the usurpation of political and economic opportunities to the exclusion of other Nigerians. Buhari’s North is the North that is poor, hungry, illiterate and devoid of hope.
Buhari’s followers are the victims of the corruption and arrogance of the narrow clique in the establishment that has held Nigeria hostage for decades. His north is one for whom the various administrations headed by northerners have not resulted in better lives, education or improved opportunities.
Buhari’s north does not fly to Europe or America every fortnight for medical checkups or shopping sprees in Dubai. This north does not keep bank accounts in London, New York, Dubai, South Africa, Jordan, Beijing and Hong Kong; they own no bank accounts at all. This north that does not allocate all the best positions in the country to its children, qualified or not. Buhari’s north simply wants a better life.
Given the security and economic situation in the North today, if votes were to be free and fair, Jonathan will not get up to 10% of votes from the region. This is because despite proclamations, if Jonathan has achieved anything in the past four years, it has not reached them. To add insult to injury, he is sending the wrong the emissaries to woo their votes – the same people that systematically impoverished the region and the country.
Northern elite may despise Buhari and vehemently oppose his return to office because they suspect, rightly or wrongly, that he may destroy their power base and end their corruption and nepotism. But how long will they continue to ally with, and support a system that has proved to be incapable of protecting the very system from which they derive their benefits?
Does the northern establishment fear Buhari so much that they are willing to support a clueless leadership, whose incompetence threatens the existence of the North and Nigeria, simply because they want to preserve their elite status?
Interesting times make for interesting choices.