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Secretary of the Political Committee of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mohammed Abdulrahman, is not a pretender. A political analyst of the old stock, he is one of the founding fathers of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) headed by the late Abdulrahaman Okene. He is however worried about the North's inability to move along generational lines.

To Abdurahman, the North should forget about Nigeria's presidency in 2011 because 'a man who has not been able to run his political machinery or political tribe or political grouping well enough in 40 years to come up with a succession plan does not deserve to rule the country…That is why the South should have it.'

But his averment is with salient examples.
For instance, he said despite the North's population, which should have been a bargaining chip, it is now begging to rule Nigeria, using zoning as a weapon. 'The tables have turned. It is we begging for zoning to rule a country that we have ruled for 38 years.'

His verdict is clear: President Goodluck Jonathan should contest the 2011 presidential election while the North use the four years he would be in the saddle for soul searching. 'There is nothing stopping Jonathan from running and there is nothing saying if Jonathan runs, there will be rigging,' Mohammed said.

He also spoke on Mallam Nuhu Ribadu's return to the country, but said the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should 'shut up.' Excerpts…

Bane of Nigeria's democracy
Nigeria got to where it is today because Nigeria was forced to become a cartel. A cartel of usurpers; people who decide who should rule this country. They have a stake. If it is bunkering they share it among themselves. If it is the budget, they share the budget among themselves. They leave the common man to his own predicament, to suffer in squalor and depravity. That is what happened in the Niger Delta.

When they were sharing the oil wealth since oil was found, nobody in the Niger Delta was considered. People from Lagos, Sokoto, Borno were given oil wells. But the landlords of the oil wells were left out. That is what gave birth to Isaac Boro's uprising of those days. That is what gave rise to Saro-Wiwa. Then the Ijaw empire was born. Ijaw became an empire that cannot be pushed aside. Just like you have the Sokoto Caliphate, the Borno empire, you have today the ijaw or the South South empire. That was why both President Olusegun Obasanjo and (his successor) Umaru Yar'Adua were sending presidential jet to go and pick them and bring them to Abuja for discussion.

It doesn't matter whether they wanted to undo them but they had condescended enough to show that it is the oil everybody is after. It is power people are struggling to get, not what to use it for. It is not about equity. It is not about managing the resources of Nigeria for development. That is why I told you since the civil war, the only thing we have gained in Nigeria is staying together in peace. There has been no development at all.

Now, when the Ijaw people became of age, their boys carried guns. The rest is history and it is that history that has saved Nigeria, because I agree politics is a game of numbers. But we have not played it as a game of numbers in the past. Politics is about concern for the people. That is why they say it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But that has not been Nigeria's democracy and I believe that the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria is the present government because there is a shift in age. The shift in age is going to save Nigeria from a lot of things. It is going to save us from deifying our leaders. They called Obasanjo Baba and we are still in the handover of Obasanjo's singular act on the Nigerian polity. It is when you call them Baba that they want to get a third term and a fourth term.

If you look at the African countries, most of the old people are those who perpetuate themselves in power. They want to die there. Probably by the time they die, they have programmed their own children to take over from them. Nigeria is a country of over 140 million people; we will not let it happen. We believe that some Generals in Nigeria retired at the age of 35. Some Generals were Head of State at the age of 34.

The military is a major part of our politics today because in everything, whether the party politics or in leadership, they are the people. Even the traditional institutions are being taken over now by the military people. So I will have nobody tell me that northern Nigeria did not rule Nigeria for 38 years because that segment was a military segment. They are here today. They were there yesterday. So I believe we must not deceive ourselves. Northern Nigeria has ruled Nigeria for 38 years. We cannot wish off the military rule. It is human beings who did it.

Obasanjo, product of northern establishment not zoning

The talk now that it is the turn of the North to produce the president is unjustifiable. For God's sake, when some of us stuck our necks out to fight for a shift of leadership, for the South to have a taste of it…Abiola won an election; the election was annulled. I am not part of the people who insist June 12 has to be addressed. We can immortalize Abiola and move on. Most of the people who got involved in the June 12 are part of those who have enjoyed the aftermath of June 12. The people who we have been told in many publications that told General Babangida that if he allowed Abiola to be sworn in as president, over their dead body or they were going to take over government, are mostly the participants and players benefiting from our present civil rule, which we call democracy.

This is not democracy. But it is the same military men who forced Babangida to annul the elections that are enjoying it. Who is asking them questions?

This is one of the problems we have. They are largely northerners. You have seen the list. It was published more than two times, of those military people who say Babangida must annul the election because Abiola cannot be their Commander-in- Chief. When they annulled the election, it was a southern president we asked for that there should be some equity because Nigeria belongs to all of us. We must allow some people because it is not an ethnic thing. Some people should have a taste of it because we are Nigerians. It was annulled and since then the South has not been democratically allowed to rule Nigeria. I am taking you there.

Obasanjo's presidency was not zoning. We don't even use zoning for presidency or anything. We use zoning to create the equity that once the head of state emerges through any means, either by election whether rigged or not, because some of these people are supported by certain people who want to close up their intransigence against the Nigerian state, we are saying that we should exercise equity in the sharing of public office. That is what zoning is all about. So that one ethnic group cannot own the whole of Nigeria's top jobs; that we can carry everybody along, because it is a Nigerian collective. It is not one man's personal fiefdom so that all Nigerians should participate in ruling or leadership. That is zoning.

But that of the President is not the idea of zoning because June 12 would not go away. It cannot be wished away. So the people who created the June 12 situation wanted Obasanjo to do them a favor because we felt (Ernest) Shonekan was there and he is from Abeokuta. But the Yoruba people kicked against him because they believed if there is going to be equity, there shouldn't have been annulment. It is not whether it can be addressed or not. It is the fact that for the first time, a southerner was allowed to mingle and look for votes. Abiola did his legwork very well and he even defeated Bashir Tofa in Kano.

So it means some people are there who will never allow the presidency to go to the South unless it is in their own terms. Who is fooling who? Obasanjo's presidency was a favor to those people who woke up trouble in Nigeria…Obasanjo nursed pains and he was removed from prison to Aso Rock. But the prison pain had not gone out of Obasanjo. So he actually behaved like a prisoner and decided to hold the people he felt were responsible for his predicament to ransom. Obasanjo held the northern establishment to ransom. Obasanjo's eight years can't be said to be democracy. The Yoruba didn't vote for him and the government was considered that of the North. That is the ransom because the southern people did not vote for him.

I was the one who phoned General Adeyinka Adebayo and told him that was the last chance the South West had to expose themselves to the position of power in Nigeria. Let him get the Yoruba, even though they did not vote for him, to support Obasanjo's presidency. So Adeyinka Adebayo started the meetings they held in Ibadan, which was called Egbe Omo Yoruba or something. They decided to come together to support Obasanjo.

You must understand that it was an attempt to put June 12 behind us. It was not rotation. There was a mess on the ground created by the northern establishment. Don't call them military. It was the northern establishment. All of us were part of it. So when Obasanjo got there, just like the Babangidas decided he must be president, Obasanjo decided that Umaru (Yar'Adua) would be his own choice. If the northerners think they can railroad him into the presidency just like that, he too he wanted to test the efficacy of the power of incumbency and he unleashed the rest on us.

Obasanjo did not even get a second term as a result because people are saying eight years. He did a favor to the northern establishment to put June 12 on the side. When it came to the second term, he was refused. Atiku was going to run against him. You forgot what happened? James Ibori and a few of them told Atiku to run against him and we were told by those who knew that Obasanjo had to kneel down to beg and dobale for Atiku Abubakar. Obasanjo used his best joker. He begged them, praised them and used his gimmicks to get a second term, not by rotation or zoning, and that was why he unleashed terror on Nigeria. That is why he tried to kick Atiku to the side.

What I want you to understand is that Obasanjo did not join PDP. I am telling you the dynamics of Nigerian politics now. PDP joined Obasanjo because he became his own man with his own rules. Sunday Awoniyi, everybody had to leave the PDP. The founding fathers had to let go. They left because that was not the PDP they intended. When Obasanjo's hold on the people who joined him became too much, the PDP that joined him started becoming weak. That was when they set up the Ike Nwachukwu group and other groups to reconcile and bring back the founding fathers. So Obasanjo didn't join PDP. Rather the PDP joined Obasanjo. It was his rules. It was his game. It was his direction. It was his National Assembly because he changed even the Senate Presidents the way he liked.

When Obasanjo was doing all these, why didn't all these people shouting about northern turn, who put Obasanjo there, talk? Why didn't they protest? Our politics became a politics of foolish people because they no longer were serving or representing the interest of their people. They were no longer Aminu Kano, Azikiwe or Awolowo. It is sit down, they sit down. Okay this is the money for you; and they were sharing Nigeria's patrimony.

It is President Jonathan's right to contest, going by the Constitution. I want political common sense to be the very first factor of the reforms. I am one of those who feel the parties themselves must reform. If the people don't reform, rigging will still take place, even with Jega as INEC chairman. We will come to that. The people producing the oil wealth of Nigeria, I told you just a few minutes ago that when trouble started in the creeks, the militants were ferried in presidential jet to Abuja for discussion. It means even the leadership knew that they had some power and I said that is the time they became an empire, an economic empire.

So, the Sokoto caliphate, the oligarchy, the northern establishment has a match for its feeling of leadership. Jonathan is from the creeks. If by dynamics of politics he became president…because everything about Nigeria has been about grabbing power and controlling the resources, that is what our politics is. It is not about serving the people. Jonathan is from the South and it has ruled Nigeria for only 12 years out of 50 years. If Yar'Adua were alive, it could have not come out at all. If Yar'Adua was serving Nigeria and alive today, all these issues wouldn't have arisen. That is why Jonathan never said anything when the cult that surrounded the sick president was having its way. Some of them disrespected Jonathan as vice president. That is why I said clamor for power is about control of the resources of Nigeria and our common good. But many people abused it and it is these abuses we want to stop.

Everybody is saying it is God that brought in Jonathan. But what was not possible in 12 years of the new civilian contraption we call democracy; what we couldn't do, they say Jonathan should do it in 11 months. What sincerity is there? Is it possible? Roads, light, that is power, electricity, food. What couldn't be achieved in the politics of Nigeria in 12 years, they want the man to do it in 11 months. It doesn't make sense to me. In these 11 years, it wasn't just Obasanjo, the northern establishment were more around Obasanjo's presidency. They were part of whatever Obasanjo did. So if anybody is shouting Obasanjo today, I am not his best friend but we must stick to history. People should not build history. History is made. It is an aggregation of the happenings. If many people have forgotten, Mohammed Abdulrahaman has not forgotten.

North should forget Presidency and strategise for 2015

Those who say that Jonathan would ruin Nigeria if he contests the presidential election in 2011 are mistaken. Maybe they have been swayed…Leadership in Nigeria is not about ruining. We have tried to take Nigeria away from the hands of the usurpers. All those that have ruled Nigeria in the past are part of the usurpers and their supporters. There is no way Jonathan will ruin Nigeria because he wants to be president or some people want him to be president. While he is there spending his four years, we in the North are going to put our acts together because it is really shameful that the northern youths have been said to be useless, that they cannot rule; that they have not behaved like Obama; that they have not been in the House of Representatives or the Senate; that probably is where they are going to learn the ropes when governors are determining who goes to the National Assembly. All our rulers have emasculated the people because it is about money and power. It is not about leadership in service.

Why are we shameless? Babangida is not fair to the youths if indeed he said they are not capable of leading this country. I believe he is one of the reasons the youths cannot rule because a political process or political situation has to be dynamic. There has to be kings, workers, soldiers. It is a function. When the kings don't want to leave, the soldiers must go. That is why we have had so many coups in Nigeria because the people there don't want to leave. Most of them, our present crop of leaders from the North who want to rule, became Generals from the age of 30, 31, 32. Forty years later, they do not feel anybody could do it other than them. They have to be on the driver's seat. There is a problem.

Why we don't deserve presidency now
A man who has not been able to run his political machinery or political tribe or political grouping well enough for 40 years to come up with a succession does not deserve to rule the country. That is why I feel the Abiola election annulment was not just about free and fair election. That is why the South should have it. They should have it because they may never have the chance to have it again because the people who are emasculating us are saying they are the people who should rule. It is their turn. Look at the impossibilities happening.

We have the population. The tables have turned. It is we begging for zoning to rule a country that we have ruled for 38 years. It doesn't add up because it is our population that is supposed to be doing it for us. But we have a lot of people who don't even know what voting cards are. So that population will require a lot of political enlightenment and education for it to work. We should go back to the drawing board because if we don't go back to the basics, hungry people don't go to vote. Poverty will not make them vote because we say one man, one vote. If we say one man, one vote, it means people should be allowed to exercise their franchise.

The North is divided by the creation of states and many people don't understand the damage it has done. They see the benefit in the ability to become governors in their states; to have a separate budget, set up schools and embezzle part of the money. But it made neighbors and brothers enemies because there are some tribes that are in the majority in those states. They are in the majority because they are the most educated. So many things have happened with state creation. There are some states that wait for federal allocation to survive. And if we were really dealing with the devolution of powers, you know separation of powers is different from devolution of powers. Separation of powers is about the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Devolution of powers is between the federal, states and local governments. But it is been abused. If it was done rightly, some states would clamor to be joined back together because they don't have enough money to run their state.

I'm surprised the National Assembly is even talking about creation of states. How are they going to run the states? This is part of Nigeria's problems and part of the Northern problem. We have been so divided that those that got opportunity to serve and lead their states have held up to the reins of opportunities. In northern Nigeria, the political value has gone down. We only rally together when the matter becomes presidency. Recently, on the almajiri issue, they came together to raise funds. They called it Sardauna Foundation. We hope it works; but if out of the 19 states governors, 10 behave like Sardauna, the North would have scaled it. It would have been a different story.

The creation of states created different blocs and pocket of power that wanted to be their own people's lords. They decided the game plan was to increase the gap between the rich and the poor. The haves and the have-not is what is protecting the rich from the poor. But now that enlightenment is coming, there is an upheaval coming. The almajiris on our streets are not going to be almajiris for the next ten years.

Those riding motor bike or okada are not going to be riding it in the next ten years. They would start asking questions. So the issue is 35 years ago, we said sai Baba; 25 years ago, sai Baba. The old men are still in charge. What Sardauna said about the young shall grow or the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, they have stopped tomorrow from coming. Forty years later, they are the same people who are going to rule Nigeria. We are not cursed.

Ribadu should shut up
It is going within the limits of the powers that be and their allowances. Now, for Ribadu, it is good he is back in Nigeria but I will want him to shut up. He is not a hero. Otherwise I would ask: Hero for what? For putting handcuffs in Tafa Balogun's hands? That is not the way to prosecute corruption because some people were just politicians. That is not the way to prosecute corruption. He did a good job. He was committed to his job. But the police service has its cannons. The military has its cannons. There was a time in the police force that the number of armed robbers you shot decided your promotion. Ribadu did a good job of his job but his assessment and performance that should determine whether or not he is a hero didn't reach the scale of one-tenth of a hero.

In fact, I think Farida Waziri is even doing a better job. Farida Waziri is doing a better job because it is the dictates and the agenda of the government at that time that Ribadu served that decided his actions. The agenda of the government at that time wanted to disgrace people, wanted to frighten people. It was a Gestapo that Ribadu ran in the name of fighting corruption. That is not how to fight corruption. Certainly, Ribadu is not a hero. He worked on Obasanjo's agenda and the agenda was not civil. It was not about the rule of law. It was banditry, gangsterism and a Gestapo. I learnt they would soon give him a job. If they do, he should keep quiet and do the job. We can't have a president and other people struggling for limelight and public attention at the same time.

If Ribadu believes that one day he could become the president of Nigeria because he is behaving like the Chinese cult that fights crime, it is not drug lord that he is fighting. He should just keep quiet and do his job. If he is allowed the chance to serve Nigeria as is being rumoured, probably as adviser to the president on anti-corruption, he should deal specifically with all other schemes minus EFCC. The reason I say so is a lot of things are there in the court, which have been waived. They should not have withdrawn the charges against him. He should have been sentenced if he is guilty, then offer him presidential pardon and give him a job to do as adviser.

Why Jonathan should contest
The reserve of the leadership for the country is being depleted. It should be rotation not zoning because zoning is about sharing of public offices so that all parts of Nigeria can get a piece of the action. If those young men who are about 40 and 50 now still believe that they should serve some people and still serve their children, I think we would beg God to please touch the hearts of these old men. Let them stop suffocating us with their political presence. There is the Council of State, which meetings all former presidents attend. If they have any ideas, let them pass it through the council. I am really disturbed that for 40 years, they have not found anybody under them. They have not trained anybody. They have not found anybody worthy of even occupying such public offices like president. They still want to be there. Something is wrong.

Jonathan is from the area that allows the oil into Nigeria's economy. We have abused the oil. We have squandered our riches. Let us not squander our relationship. People are asking for sovereign national conference because the function of the oil wealth does not translate to development and the uplifting of the life of the poor man. It is because the dynamics of leadership and management of our resources don't add up that the Niger Delta militants were striking.

At the time that Jonathan would rightly have been allowed to act as President to assist the sick President and get things done, many people in the North said he cannot be; that Yar'Adua could rule from anywhere. Then came the doctrine of necessity. Now, the people who were clamoring, insisting that Yar'Adua should continue to stand as substantive

President knew that he wasn't doing the job. Insincerity came in. Then we found out that a sick President that was not on seat, who could not even read budget was signing papers and our foreign reserves were depleting and the budget was being squandered. That is enough to teach us a lesson. The whole fall out of the Yar'Adua's illness is still going to come. But the little we have suffered from the few people who call themselves kitchen cabinet or cabal is enough for all of us to now open our eyes.

Now we will spend the next four years of a Jonathan presid ency to put our house in order so that the young men who have suffered for the North; the young men who have been distributing posters for 40 years can now feel what leadership dynamics is and what political process is, so that by 2015 there will be the leaders of the North. The gap is too much. We will not have it. Babangida is just one person; it is all the old people I am talking about. He, certainly, should not even think about the presidency because it is an abuse of the people. It is a complete mismanagement of the will of God on the people. We will not have it any longer.

It is no longer about the North being populated as some people said that if you don't let the North have the presidency, it will ruin Nigeria. Which Nigeria? The Nigeria that they have since dumped? The North that its leaders have disconnected from the people? There is poverty and squalor. Is it the same North they are saying we are going to ruin Nigeria if we don't get the presidency? No, no, no, no. They use the name of the North when it comes to personal interests and we are saying Nigeria's interest is what we have in our minds now.

We are saying that the people they have abused; the North they have abused, the North on whose back most of the leaders, using Sardauna's name, have ridden high with. They can no longer do that. Why don't their children get killed in the upheavals about the disagreement in Nigeria? It is the poor man's child that is killed. They are using the aggregate name of the North and the young ones who are their slaves and their operatives. They are the people going to unleash terror on us by the power of their nuisance. I think the security agencies should be hearing and listening and take note of all the utterances coming from different people at this time of the year. If they had done that at the time of Bola Ige, Marshal Harry and most of the political assassinations that we have suffered in Nigeria, they would have known who killed them.

Let nobody use the name of the North. They use zoning for rotation. There has never been any problem about zoning in Nigeria; we share the thing very well. Now they said the chairman of PDP is south, the president is south. The president just became president two months ago. So many things are going to be addressed in 2011. We are tired of seeking for our leaders. The problem and trauma and stress we went through from unleashing of a sick president on Nigeria by Obasanjo up till the time he died is all a crime.

At a time they said they should not give Jonathan acting president, when the militants started blowing up pipelines, all the northern governors said they should give him acting president. He was quickly confirmed acting president through the doctrine of necessity. He didn't steal the presidency. He didn't pay for it. He is not looting. He didn't learn looting from Yar'Adua because he was not a looter. He was not a liar. He was not a bandit. So that was Jonathan's boss. So, he has enough material with which to rule Nigeria for four years. We don't want anybody coming to upset the apple cart.

If they say the North has to have this because PDP said so, they have accused PDP of so many terrible things. They are still accusing Obasanjo of many terrible things and it is the same PDP they have accused of terrible things in Nigeria in the last twelve years that they are now giving support to; that PDP said they are going to zone. No, they didn't respect zoning as I have told you. Atiku didn't want Obasanjo to go for a second term. They didn't zone it to the South.

They wanted Obasanjo to do them a favor to cancel June 12. So what I believe now is that since Jonathan is there and they produce the oil, let them have a taste of southern presidency so that we are not seen as trying to create another annulment. Abiola won an election, we refused. So we really don't want southerners to be president in Nigeria? Is that the issue? What will four years do? What is it about Nigeria that people are trying to hide to stop a southerner from being president now, only for four years? I guarantee that Jonathan is going to spend only four years.

There are people with credibility there. I don't want old people to serve Nigeria any longer for all this mis-governance and all this lack of training people, indiscretion and mismanagement of our political goodwill. But more than anything else, it is their crop that want to be president for life. It is their crop that want to change the Constitution to extend their tenure.

If Jonathan goes in for four years, we have appeased the people in the south. We have rebuilt the Niger Delta. During Saro-Wiwa's time, I said all these things. I am not just saying it for the first time. I said it every time in the last 25 years. We have gone through all the creeks, with David Dafinone and all that, but I am saying the four years will allow the North put its house in order.