Thursday, 20 January 2011

NIGERIA: NEW BEGINNING AND NEW POLITICS

There was no doubt in any mind about the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries concluded last Friday. There was no doubt about the fact that President Jonathan would be the one to fly the flag of the party in the April presidential election. For one, it is only logical that when you have a sitting president the only way you can have the incumbency factor going for you is when you have an incumbent as your candidate. The only thing going for the PDP is power, and where is the power if the president is not its candidate or he has been disgraced by the party?
I have listened to and read many comments on the last presidential primaries of the ruling party. One thing is very clear to me: if there was any malpractice as alleged by those defeated, it must have been perpetrated by the governors of those states affected and not President Jonathan. Like millions of my fellow citizens, I watched it live from the beginning to the end and it simply appeared very transparent, peaceful and orderly. Obviously, Atiku came back to the PDP just to contest the presidency and he was rejected by the party delegates.
A friend told me that the southern states were backward for voting overwhelmingly for Dr. Jonathan. I have a different view. The Atiku aspiration was based on a false premise of northern regional support. Atiku was so carried away by this that, during his visit to the president's home state of Bayelsa, he told the delegates openly that Kano has at least four times more local government areas than Bayelsa and that the North has 61% of all the delegates, but he was only there to fulfil all righteousness. So what is wrong if they decide to vote for their own?
The Ciroma consensus committee, though of doubtful mandate, can now know that regional politics is a wrong approach and that the choice of Atiku was not really popular. Remember that Tofa was defeated by Abiola in Kano in the 1993 presidential election, conclusively proving that the ordinary northerner is politically sophisticated and cannot be swayed by sentiments. Atiku could not even read the mood of the delegates when he was called upon to make his speech at the convention. He was very combative and was still talking about zoning, which to all intents and purposes died with President Yar'Adua as far as the proponents of the concept are concerned. Zoning was a temporary expediency that has achieved its purpose and is no more the issue as far as PDP is concerned.
One dangerous dimension to the whole thing is the issue of religion that crept in surreptitiously, though not openly during the contest. It must be realized that President Jonathan is no doubt a Christian, but he is not representing Christianity. Similarly, Atiku is a Muslim but he is not representing Islam. They are all representing certain class interests in the ruling party, which now has many of the country's oppressors and tyrants. No one should therefore think or feel that any religion is defeated or has triumphed by what happened.
Atiku was talking about democracy but he helped to mutilate Nigerian democracy in 2003 when he helped to bring back himself and Obasanjo at the expense of Buhari who was the acclaimed winner of that election. I personally, like many, don't feel any sympathy for him. Even the formula used in defeating him last Thursday night was attributed to him, as was reported in ThisDay newspaper of Saturday, January 15, page 4. He was paid back in his own coins.
One of the major problems of Atiku is his unguarded utterances. In the past, he had accused the other northern zones of marginalizing the Northeast. Now it is the same Northwest that he was castigating that voted for him substantially. And it has turned out that, in his official biography, he says that his father was from Wurno in Sokoto State and his mother was from Jigawa - all in the Northwest.
Another thing is his style of politics. He was so overconfident that he started being very arrogant while his opponents remained humble. Even in his speech at the convention, he was behaving like a secondary school student in a debating contest. He was busy attacking his opponent and not addressing the real issues of the moment. Goodluck Jonathan is the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If one is aspiring to occupy that office, courtesy demands that one treat that office with dignity. Gen Buhari does not belong to the ruling party. But whether under Obasanjo or now, he has never consciously or unconsciously tried to attack the president even though he belongs to the opposition. That is decency and statesmanship.

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