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The battle for who will lawfully occupy the Aso Rock Villa as the President of Nigeria from May 29th, 2011 has been interestingly turning and turning like a widening gyre, with the masses only awaiting who can bring food to their tables and ensure the safety of their precious lives and properties. To actualize these – provision of food, security and social amenities – Nigeria needs a God-fearing and patriotic President. Wherefore is this kind of man in Nigerian politics? The need to assess all the aspirants in the race to the presidency on the duo is significantly demanding because in our politics of today, there is hardly any with both of them. Patriotism is a relative quality which any one can claim and reclaim for a long period of time without being noticed. But the fear of God is the most difficult to claim for too long. The activities of those who claim to be men of God are well known, but because their followers are mostly captives of religious opium they cannot exorcise themselves. From the onset in this struggle for 2011 presidential position, it was clear that the north was ready for a life fight to actualize its dominance in the Nigerian politics and to, at least, ensure that it utilized the remaining four year-zoning arrangement by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the arrangement was born out of consideration to share power among all segments of the country, including the minority ethnic and religious groups. The fight intensified with the incumbent president’s version of interpretation of the zoning formula which he claims exclude the presidential position. A question that boggles is what would have the north done if Jonathan had declined to contest or what will they do if he suddenly decides to present his vice, Ach. Namadi Sambo who is from the north? That is if the power sharing is anything good for the country. This would have been a good choice if the president should have a rethink on the sharing formula of the party which he has worked assiduously from the past to sustain its supremacy and acceptability by the larger percentage of the Nigerian society. It is Jonathan’s defiance to severe this pact that the north seems to be standing on one footing for their collective deal. This led to the Adamu Ciroma led Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) to search for a consensus candidate for the North from amongst former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, former national security adviser to the president, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and incumbent Kwara state governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki to log it out with President Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential primaries of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).Ciroma’s wise-men group, after several weeks of researches and wide consultations on the four aspirants, chose Atiku. Apparently but not quite overwhelmingly, the group based their choice on certain yardsticks: acceptability by the Nigerian people, national relevance in the ruling party, strength of faith, humility and cooperation. They found Atiku to have met these qualities. And after this onerous task, all of the unchosen aspirants have given the assurances to work together to enable Atiku clinch their party’s ticket in the presidential primaries.

For Atiku, he has been humbled by his selection as the Northern consensus presidential candidate. “I am humbled by this endorsement, and I accept it wholeheartedly, with humility and sense of responsibility. I am profoundly grateful to the other aspirants who were screened by the Consensus Committee for their commitment to the consensus process. All three of them are eminently qualified for the office of the president. Their decision to abide by the decision of the Consensus Committee is a further testimony to their patriotism, honour, service and selflessness. Nigerians will forever remain grateful to them for their contribution to the peace, unity and stability of this country.”He is accusing Jonathan of overheating the polity by thwarting PDP’s zoning arrangement, "Our current President Dr Goodluck Jonathan was present at the extra ordinary exco meeting where the issue of zoning arrangement was concluded, it is therefore a rude shock to most Nigerians including the Northern leaders in PDP when indication emerged that President Jonathan totally disregard the PDP arrangement and offered himself to run for the office of the President in 2011". Atiku is insisting that the zoning issue is not a north or south thing; but for the sake of fairness, equity and unity. “It is not a north or south thing; It is about honour, trust and fairness. We must learn to respect agreements for the unity of Nigeria. We stand on the side of the truth, honour, selflessness, justice, equity and fairness.”

But President Jonathan seems to be more comfortable with Atiku’s nomination than if it were any of the trio especially IBB. Is the coast therefore really clearer for Jonathan’s presidency in next year presidential election? According to the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, the president’s camp welcomes the decision of the committee because it has brightened the chance of the president.It has been contestable the possibility of the nation witnessing free and fair elections next year with the president being a prominent aspirant. Many political bigwigs in the country have not only criticized the president’s decision to run in the presidential contest, they have asked him to stop making jest of the electoral processes by insisting that he will conduct widely accepted polls.

However, Atiku’s emergence as the north’s consensus candidate has attracted congratulations from many socio-political blocs and non-governmental groups. National Director, Directorate of Media and Public Affairs of Turaki Vanguard, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, says Atiku is the needed man to salvage the nation from its present sad and unfortunate precarious condition.In his usual manner, he is optimistic that Atiku has been accepted by Nigerians having all it takes: wisdom, commitment, selflessness, patriotism and political will to become the next president of Nigeria. He affirms that Turaki Vanguard Leadership was among the first political groups to visit to congratulate Atiku Abubakar because according to the national coordinator, Chief Hon. Olademiji Fabiyi, Atiku’s capability to emerge as the consensus candidate of the north and his eventual emergence as the flag-bearer of PDP at the primaries has ever been undisputable. Eze assures of the Vanguard’s unflinching readiness and preparedness to work with PDP, Atiku Campaign Organisation and entire Nigerians to ensure victory at the 2011 polls. He said the leadership of Turaki Vanguard has resolved to absorb and collaborate with more than a hundred Support Groups of President Jonathan under the auspices of New Nigeria Project (NNP) led by Alhaji Abdullahi Maibirigi which has in turn resolved to support Atiku’s candidature. This strong affinity with Jonathan’s support groups, he forsees, will surely play a pivotal role in assisting Atiku Abubakar become the next President of Nigeria. On their own parts, IBB, Gusau and Saraki’s groups have yielded to work for Atiku in the PDP battle. On behalf of the other campaign teams, the Director General of IBB Campaign Organisation, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, said that all the four groups will form a united campaign front for Atiku who he views as exceptionally qualified to lead Nigeria out of its present predicaments. Youths for Nigeria’s Political Revival (YNPR) has applauded the Ciroma’s forum, saying that Atiku was the only person from the present northern presidential aspirants who can wrestle the power that stands against the north’s desire to complete its remaining four years under the PDP agreement. National President of YNPR, Mr. Ogbonnia Amah claims that PDP is a colossal edifice whose architects are hell-bent to destroy because of individual and selfish interest. “Truly, PDP is strong and capable of ruling the nation for a longer time, but there can be danger if Jonathan manipulates the primaries”, Amah averred.

Also, an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential aspirant, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, who was also the 1993 presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) has congratulated Atiku and wished him well, even while recognizing the magnanimities of IBB, Gusau and Bukola for their maturity and good sense this respect.In a swift reaction to speculations that IBB and Gusau may decamp to ANPP to actualize their presidential ambitions, Tofa has urged both not to yield to calls on them to explore another political platform to contest the number one citizenship position, apparently because he hopes to be the ANPP flag-bearer.

But Tofa speaks of honour and respect as if they were sacrosanct qualities with Nigerian politicians and sycophancy as if it was novel in the polity. There is no perpetual ally or enemy in the nation’s politics of today. Every politician jumps and jumps and jumps from one party to another until elections are over. And advising Saraki on age advantage is like assuring him of long life – we all wish so. Opportunity comes but once, and there President Jonathan belongs.

Engr. Muhammad Ezeh of the South East Muslim Youth Congress (SEMYOC), is sure that the northern political dominance which Obasanjo and his group has perfected plans to break by all means may not be an immediate solution to the hydra-headed problems facing the nation presently. According to Engr. Ezeh, it is not good to disallow or disrespect the power sharing formula because of the future. The South, he said, should not be the first to flout this arrangement because it is in their favour owing to the fact that politics is a game of majority. But he was quite uneasy over the intention of the northern Muslim leaders to empower the Southern minority Muslims despite they have suffered derivation and socio-political neglect for a very long time.

In the same vein, a southeast group, Igbo Muslim Women Frontiers (IMWOF), believes that Nigeria needs a good president whether it is Atiku or Jonathan. The national leader of the group, Hajiya Hawwah Ugomma Obiahu scored Jonathan and Atiku high in their services to the Nigerian nation but wondered why the north decided to foreclose its chances so early by voting for a consensus candidate. She opined that all was not well with the Nigerian masses, hence the urgent need for them to decide who presides over their affairs in the forthcoming elections irrespective of ethnic or religious background. “We are more interested in who will lead Nigerians to their desired and hallowed position among the comity of developing nations”, adding, “We are tired of religious, ethnic and tribal politics.” She, however, congratulated the Ciroma’s led forum for attempting to unite the northern political stalwarts together by anointing Atiku. According to her, Atiku is a well-known detribalized Nigerian whose popularity spans the width and breadth of Nigeria, therefore his choice heralds his wide acceptability by the north. Other groups that see great future for Nigeria and its political well-being are The Grandeurs, United Leadership Front of Nigeria (ULFN), The Minority Voice (TMV), among others who not only pray for successful polls in 2011, but for God’s guidance for our leaders so that the electorate will witness great change in their lives after the elections. However, even as it is clearer that the fight for the PDP primaries is going to be between Jonathan and Atiku, are there all indications that the PDP will win next year’s presidential election following the party’s overwhelming control of the States and the National Assembly? A direct answer to this stubborn question may be misleading. Is it possible that IBB would just recoil into his shell as he did in 2007 or is there a big surprise waiting the nation? What happens if Atiku loses the PDP primaries; will all the four Ciroma’s screened aspirants line up behind Jonathan inside the PDP? What happens if Jonathan loses; will he happily hand over to Atiku knowing his pact with IBB, Gusau, Saraki and the Ciromas? Methink the political game is unfolding into more difficult scenes. Some political analysts claim that Atiku is not a bonafide member of the PDP since his expulsion in late 2006, but was only granted a waiver that would expire probably by the end of 2010. So, if this is ascertained, what would be his fate in the PDP primaries now to hold between November ending and mid January 2011? An analyst went further to foresee the possibility of a reunion between Atiku and his pet party, the Action Congress. Let me conclude this article with this foot remarks by an analyst, “In my personal interactions with Atiku leading up to his failed 2007 presidential bid, I found Atiku personally to be a very decent individual; a victim of the mentality in Nigeria that all stinkingly rich Nigerians are probably corrupt - aided by the vicious attack on him by a vindictive Obasanjo, who used the EFCC (under Ribadu) and others to go after him. He survived them all, and showed his mettle as a democrat by using his enormous wealth to fight for himself in court, which I admired, but I have been disappointed that he is prepared to use his enormous wealth to fight more for his own democratic rights than those of others that have suffered from the same 2007 elections, particularly within the AC.” He continues, “But unfortunately, it appears that he is now too overly ambitious to be president of Nigeria that he is making a monumental mistake returning to his vomit of the PDP. With Obasanjo still as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Nyako as Governor of Adamawa, Atiku has to keep his eyes wide open. Nigeria is a graveyard for overly ambitious persons who want to be president. I fear that his time may have come and gone - but I may be wrong, because I think that he would still make a good president, primarily because he knows his own limitations (unlike Obasanjo); knows how to recognize talent, and knows how to make the best use of them.”

Conclusively, he asserts, “I suspect that he will make a good president. Atiku's current spat with US law enforcement - which makes him look like a fugitive from the law and taints him - does not stop me from considering him to be a decent man. Not all fugitives from US law are indecent; not all non-fugitives are decent. The man may simply not want the hassles of an American trial, when this is not his country of citizenship. He can use his American lawyers remotely to make his case, and show up on American soil when all plea bargains have been agreed. That does not mean that he is guilty now, which he is not until proven so. If perchance he is President of Nigeria, I am certain that he will be able to come to the US under sovereign immunity, but he need never come the US again for the rest of his life if he does not wish to. That will be he and 6 billion other people minus 300 million. After all, Obasanjo was accused of having been bribed by Halliburton the other day; yet as we write he is somewhere in Atlanta, enjoying the Sullivan meeting or something.”

Nigeria political game can never be over until it is over. It is such that the more you look the less you see; the more you dig deep, the little you find or comprehend. We can only be assured of a Nigerian president after three major events in the next few months: party primaries, the presidential poll and a successful handover on May, 29th, 2011 by God’s grace.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail: [email protected]

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