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THE VETERAN CANDIDATE

Did you know that in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen (2013), a dangerous political situation confronted the incumbent Presido of Nigeriar, Goodlock Ebeli Jonatham, the now renowned “shoeless” and “clueless” strategist, who hails from the minority South-South of the country? Politicians from the North, led by former military ruler and lanky General Muhammaduw Bukhare, mounted a ferocious attack against the former university lecturer and ex-Governor of Bayelsar State. Even more dangerous still, Bukhari's CIPICI went into an alliance with the largely South-West-based opposition ACIEN, led by the Jagabam Borguw and emeritus governor of Lagoz State, Asiwajuw B. A. Tinubuw, also a master strategist and political genius, who has overly made his mark in Nigeriarn politics, to form the APICI. Now, how does Jonatham deal with this second menace from the South-West, and yet hope to repel the retired army general from the North? More so that both men now work together, which is, indeed, a real nightmare that could frighten any great strategist.

As Presido Jonatham gets ready to march south against the “Progressives,” an old fox in his party went down on both kneels and offered him advice. “It will be a mistake, sir,” said the man, “to want to pacify the region by force.” Jonatham, at best, would most likely humble Tinubuw, but as soon as he heads north again to combat Bukhari, the Jagabam would invade again. “Rather, it is preferable to win hearts,” said the wise man, “to cities; better to battle with hearts than with weapons. Mr. Presido, I hope you will succeed in winning the hearts of these people.” Jonatham simply responded, “I thought as much too, sir.”

To Jonatham's expectation, after going round consulting notable personalities, Tinubuw and Bukhari launched a powerful attack, capturing five governors and over one hundred Federal legislators from the president's party. What a calamity, many sympathetic to the president's cause thought; but the Jagabam and the General couldn't see what they were walking into - a trap. Just as the Progressives began to rejoice having been catapulted to majority status at the Parliament, the president quickly realigned. He prevailed on his party chairman (old Bamango Turkor, whom he appointed as Chairman of the country's railway corporation) to step aside, brought in a young northern tusk (Adamuw Muazuw, a former Bauchi governor) as his replacement, and rallied the remainder of his party governors, who now swore to ensure his reelection, to his side. He also got the courts to give him a life-line to delay the Progressives from formalizing and promulgating their new strength by changing the leadership of the House of Representatives, to reflect these new realities, and there the status quo presently holds sway. Already, as witnessed in the year just ended, in the President's party – the PIDIPI, there are also talks of disintegration within the APICI and some members rooting for a pull out to form the new APICI. Already some 5,000 PIDIPI members, who defected to the APICI in Kaduna recently, were reported back in the PIDIPI on Friday, 24th January, 2014. Also, the following day, Saturday, 25th January, former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiruw Bafarawuw and his teeming supporters, returned to the PIDIPI from the APICI. Four days later, it was the turn of former Kano governor, Ibrahimm Shekarauw and his supporters to dump the APICI for the PIDIPI. And more, still, are said to be expected back. The APICI's lot also got boosted when former vice president, Atikuw Abubakah defected from PIDIPI to its fold recently. The Senate leadership has also being playing its own delay tactics in the upper chamber to slow down Bukolar Zaraki and 11 other legislators planning to defect to APICI. Meanwhile, we hear that the PIDIPI has won back five senators or legislators to its fold. It has also captured Belgorer in Kwara State from the APICI. And the beat goes on- back and forth!

Many would remember that the last time Jonatham (then as Yar'Aduar's running mate in the “presidorial gumbo” contest of 2007) defeated and “captured” General Bukhare, then running on the ANPIPI ticket, he appointed some of his party members into his administration as ministers and advisers. He didn't treat them as prisoners of war, or punish them in any way. Rather, he had their shackles removed, and pleased them with food and wine, and spoke to them kindly: “You are all upright men,” the President had said. “I believe you all have parents, wives, and children waiting for you at home. They are doubtless shedding bitter tears at your fate. I am going to release you, so that you can return home to your loved ones and comfort them.” With joyous tears in their eyes, the men thanked the president graciously and abundantly. He then ordered that the general be brought to him, saying: “General, if I release you, what will you do?” The man replied: “I will pull my army of supporters together again, and lead them against you to a decisive election battle this time. But if you defeat and capture me a second time, I will bow to your superiority.” Jonatham not only ordered his release, but in traditional manner, showered him with a horse and saddle as gifts. The President's angry handlers were confused: “Your Excellency, sir, why did you do this?” The President explained to them: “Forget that he is majority and I am minority, but I can capture that man as easily as I can take something out of my pocket. I am only trying to win his heart. When I do, peace will return to the nation.”

As the Daurar-born veteran presidential candidate had promised, he attacked again in 2011, this time using the CIPICI force. But his own party officers, whom Jonatham had shown kindness and treated so well in 2007, rebelled against the general, captured him, and delivered him to Jonatham at the presidential villa in Abuja, where he posed the same question to him as before: “General, if I release you one more time, what will you do?” The general replied, citing several excuses: “I haven't been beaten fairly, but merely betrayed by my own party officers. I lost through bad luck. The voters' register was a ruse. No election took place in my strongholds (Apology to Xris Ngigee). In fact, the electoral people bungled things and rigged me out.” “What will you do, sir?” Jonatham repeated calmly. “Of course, I will contest again, but if defeated and captured a third time, I shall give you my loyalty and never rebel again.” But this time the president promised him, saying: “Very well, General, but if I defeat and capture you again in 2015, I will NOT release you.”

• Based on the story of Zhuge Liang (181-234 A.D.), Chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. Liang is often recognized as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era.

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Articles by Ajiroba Yemi Kotun