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NEEDLESS FUSS ON CONSENSUS CANDIDACY

By NBF News
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One disturbing aspect of national discourse is the shameless double standard and hypocrisy adopted every time. A stand will be allowed to pass unchallenged as long as it benefits one part of the country and the same stand instantly becomes a crime when and if adopted by another part of the country. The latest of such double standard is the process of a consensus candidate by the North in selecting who, from that region, would challenge Goodluck Jonathan at the primaries for the selection of the PDP candidate in next year's Presidential elections. From the tone of the antagonists of the consensus candidacy, we have seen everything - blackmail, ridicule, insults, intimidation etc, - all heaped on the North. The impression now created is that the North introduced consensus candidacy into Nigerian politics especially after the return to civilian rule in 1999.

Wait a minute. Have we forgotten how we arrived here? The background to our present situation illustrates how to grab, retain, or regain political power. Any politician or political party without that mind-set is in the wilderness with all the attendant aimlessness and hopelessness.

President Umaru Yar'Adua died in office and the Vice President took over. The new President Goodluck Jonathan thereafter indicated his desire to be elected President in his own right, which would constitutionally and legally enable him to be in office for the next eight years, beginning May 2011. Other members of Jonathan's ruling PDP (especially Northerners) then checked him that the party's zoning policy as it affected the North (in the person of late Umaru Yar'Adua) must play out. In other words, since Umaru Yar'Adua did not live to complete the zoning tenure of eight years, another Northerner must complete the tenure. Hell broke loose. The North stood its ground quite legitimately and four of them expressed interest. Meanwhile, it was established beyond reasonable doubt that their PDP operates a zoning policy for Presidential elections and that Goodluck Jonathan not only attended the meeting at which zoning was adopted, but in fact, also signed the party document to that effect.

If therefore, a group of people (four of them) wanted to challenge Goodluck Jonathan for power in those circumstances, it was only sensible and logical that they (the four) should not split their votes in any primary election encounter with Goodluck Jonathan. The challengers therefore had to coalesce and settle for one among themselves to vie for nomination at the primary elections. That would not be the first time a zoned appointment would be retained for a Nigerian or a consensus candidate would be adopted for a Presidential election combat.

Nigeria's first Federal Attorney-General and later Chief Justice of the Federation, Taslim Elias died during his tenure as a Judge of the World Court at The Hague. The vacancy created by that death was still retained for Nigeria and was filled by Prince Bola Ajibola also a serving Attorney-General who completed Elias' tenure.

Back here in Nigeria, South - (Yoruba) was the first to adopt consensus candidacy. It was therefore ridiculous and untenable for Doyin Okupe, (Obasanjo's first spokesman) to describe consensus candidacy anti-democratic. When did it become undemocratic for any group ethnic interests to adopt a consensus candidate? Only when the North adopted such solidarity?

When he first contested the Presidential elections in 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo did not win a single ward, local government or a state throughout the South-West. Those who elected him were Northerners, South-Easterners and South-Southerners. Three years into Obasanjo's civilian rule, contrary to the one term agreed with his backers, the fact that Obasanjo reneged was true to his character. The worst aspect was that the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AD), which bitterly opposed Obasanjo in 1999, turned round not to contest the Presidential elections in 2003, all to show solidarity with Obasanjo by directing South-Westerners to vote for him solely as a Yoruba. The sing-song of blackmail and opportunism was 'ours is ours. He is our son.'

The political purpose was obvious. South-West did not want their votes to be split between Obasanjo as PDP Presidential candidate and any AD Presidential candidate. It was an entirely different thing that as usual, Obasanjo reneged on the agreement with AD governors in South-West by rigging all of them away from office.

However, the important point is that if it was politically acceptable in 2003 that South-West should adopt Obasanjo as a consensus candidate, why should it be unacceptable for the Northerners to adopt one of their own as a consensus candidate? The intention in 2003 for South-Westerners was not necessarily to embrace PDP as a party but to build a consensus round Obasanjo. What is the difference?

On another note, following the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua in office and his successor Goodluck Jonathan expressed his intention to contest the 2011 elections, South-South people's assembly and governors of South-South each met one after another and both adopted President Goodluck Jonathan as their choice (candidate) for the PDP ticket in the 2011 Presidential elections. Since then, nobody from the South-South zone has entered the race either on the PDP ticket or the ticket of any of the remaining almost 60 political parties. In short, South-Southerners of every political orientation have all adopted Goodluck Jonathan as their consensus candidate.

That was long before the North only recently adopted former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as their consensus candidate.

Unless we are saying the entire South is right on consensus candidate and the North is wrong on the same issue, why is everybody (especially Southerners) pretending not to know that South-South (has) endorsed Goodluck Jonathan as their candidate? Why is every critic berating the North keeping quiet over the South-South governors' meeting at which Goodluck Jonathan was adopted as their consensus candidate and a public statement was issued to that effect?

Then at least 40 political parties have endorsed Goodluck Jonathan as their Presidential candidate. If that is proper and acceptable, what is wrong with the North adopting a consensus candidate?

Remarkably, the consensus candidate of the North, Atiku Abubakar is for the primary elections for the Presidential ticket. On the other hand, the consensus candidate of South-South, Goodluck Jonathan is straight for the Presidential elections. Fortunately, despite all the untenable criticisms, the North pursued its process of a consensus candidate to a conclusion. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar was nominated as the choice and therefore has every right to confront Goodluck Jonathan in rivalry for the PDP Presidential ticket.

Undaunted Herbert Unegbu
This appreciation should have been written about three years ago. An otherwise prominent Nigerian wrote about the best tribute to the memory of Otunba TOS Benson, one of Nigeria's founding fathers who had just died. The writer of the tribute was one of the few remaining who could write sincerely and authoritatively about TOS Benson. In his days as a practicing journalist, those were Herbert Unegbu's most sterling qualities.

The tribute to TOS Benson was published in a Lagos weekly newspaper with the editor's note that 'Herbert Unegbu lives in Onitsha.

God. The possibility was that when Herbert Unegbu dominated respectable journalism in Nigeria, the editor of the Lagos Weekly which obliged him by publishing his tribute to TOS Benson, would barely be in a primary school. The two most outstanding moments in the days of the defunct West African Pilot were when Nnamdi Azikiwe was the Editor-in-Chief before going into full-time politics and later when Herbert Unegbu was the editor of the same newspaper.

Unegbu maintained the brightest and most widely read column under the pen name of Unu Habib. I was a young boy at CMS Grammar School Lagos and I made sure I never missed that column. When last year, in an interview, I listed Mr Unegbu as one of those whose writings (on standard and anality) inspired my early interest in journalist, a friend close to him expressed surprise that the man attracted admirers as far as my generation. I then promised to write a short tribute to Mr Unegbu but with torrent of events all over the world almost every minute, it is not been possible to keep that promise.

Two qualities marked out Herbert Unegbu among his generation of journalists - independent -mindedness and guts. Herbert Unegbu's sense of nationalism did not go to sleep on Nigeria's attainment of independence in 1960. Infact, Nigeria's independence opened for him a new challenge. If colonial rulers found him uncompromising in his editorials and column in the West African Pilot, Herbert Unegbu even became more fervent critic of our new local political overwords. Unegbu's principles became more daring while his patriotism clashed him with professional colleagues on the opposite side of Federal Government owned Morning Post Group of newspapers situated at Malu (cow) Road, Apapa.

It was a weekly bloody (so to speak) duel. Herbert Unegbu apart from pungent editorials, wrote his column as Unu Habib in which he punched holes in various government policies, much to the annoyance of those on the Morning Post who must justify their pay by supporting and defending government policies they opposed before independence. For years, the battle raged between the two sides with Herbert Unegbu (as Unu Habib) always on top. The decisive moment when Unegbu professionally decapitated 'The Cowheads of Malu Road.

It was cemetery silence or hopeless gasping for breadth for Unu Habib's rival columnists on the post group.

The post group of newspapers died over the heads of the cows at Malu Road while the West African Pilot became epileptic because of Herbert Unegbu's exit in controversial circumstances, a testimony of the vibrancy he established and sustained throughout his tenure.

Circumstances of Herbert Unegbu's exit from the West African Pilot? The crisis of 1964 federal elections provoked a stalemate in which ceremonial President Nnamdi Azikiwe prepared a radio/television broadcast, to the effect Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa to form a new government owing to irregularities in the elections.

With advance copies of the text of the broadcast in newspaper houses, a compromise was reached in which Zik eventually agreed that Tafawa Balewa could form a broad-based national government.

Herbert Unegbu, then aged 41, found it too late in the day to withdrew his paper's edition carrying Zik's broadcast which was never, eventually. The headline was ominous as Herbert Unegbu maintained his position on 'ZIK'S STAND'. At that stage, he had to quit. I read Herbert Unegbu's recent interview with a Lagos Weekly newspaper and Unu Habib remains his bluntest, most distinct and ever courageous to express his views even among the mob, especially on the state of the nation after fifty years independence.

Herbert Unegbu is in his late eighties.
Corruption challenge for Nigeria and America
Not long ago, American Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, was in Nigeria during which she alleged that the war on corruption was slowing down if not already abandoned. The first impression is that Nigeria is accountable to the United States on how we tackle social vices. Since her allegation in the first place was incorrect (obviously because she was misbriefed by American officials in Nigeria) Hilary Clinton was criticized in this column that rather than slowing down or abandoning war on corruption, Nigeria was merely adhering to rule of law, just as in the United States, and if operating that ideal of a democracy slowed down trials for corruption, that is a fall out of a judicial process we have to cope with.

Nigeria would, therefore, not abandon or bye-pass judicial process and dump suspects into jails, all to impress foreign critics. In any case, if Nigeria stupidly chose to impress foreign critics by not adhering to rule of law, the same United States would document such cases to stigmatize Nigeria for allegedly violating human rights. Specifically, Secretary of State was challenged, still in this column, to tell the world what happened to top Americans involved in the Halliburton scandal for which the United States seems to ordering Nigerians involved to be prosecuted.

Well, Nigeria has responded. Criminal charges have been preferred against former American Vice-President Dick Cheney for his alleged role in the Halliburton scandal. America must respond by extraditing Dick Cheney to Nigeria for the trial. It is a challenge for both Nigeria and the United States. There cannot be any excuse for the US to refuse such extradition request from Nigeria. Afterall, Nigeria routinely, just for the requesting, extradites its citizens if and when needed to face criminal charges in the United States.

A serious challenge for Nigeria is that if Dick Cheney is not extradited at Nigeria's request, Nigeria will, henceforth, have no basis for extraditing its citizens to face trials in United States. In addition, United States will have no basis to insist on Nigeria prosecuting its citizens involved in the Halliburton bribe scandal. Nigerians anarchists who unpatriotically mis-informed the American authorities that war on corruption had been abandoned should now pursue Nigerian government's trial of ex-American Vice-President Dick Cheney's alleged involvement in the Halliburton corruption scandal.

However, there are two important observations. Dick Cheney allegedly committed the offence as an ordinary citizen before he was elected American Vice-President. Therefore, there is no question of immunity. Second, the fact of the mere allegation against Dick Cheney of being involved in the Halliburton bribe scandal and the criminal charges preferred against him by Nigerian government does not mean Dick Cheney is necessarily guilty. Nigerian law courts will determine his liability or not.

How long that will take depends on Nigerian judicial process. That was the point made for Hilary Clinton in this column last time. Now that an American citizen is involved, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has the ball in her court.