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Political discussion, both in Nigeria and in the Nigerian Diaspora, is dominated by one question: Whither Nigeria with Adamu Ciroma’s group’s insistence on producing a ‘Consensus Candidate’ to run for Nigeria’s presidency in 2011. The significant point is not so much that a Northern Nigerian wants to present himself for election as his party’s standard-bearer, but that one section of the country, the “North,” wishes to present a solid-front sectional candidate for adoption by the entire nation. The whole saga is fraught with its own contradictions and ought to collapse of its own weight.

Mallam Adamu Ciroma, we recently found out, has consecrated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the region’s ‘Consensus’ candidate for the presidency. Consensus or dissensus? --that is the question. The victory speeches of the chosen Consensus candidate and his supporters were still ringing in our ears, and what happens? Adamawa State announces that Consensus Candidate Atiku Abubakar is not acceptable to them. And Mr. Abubakar hails from Adamawa State! If his state of origin (which knows him best) rejects him, why should anyone suppose that Nigerians should adopt him?

There is, too, the inherent contradiction of how a Northern ‘Consensus’ candidate should be presented to the nationwide electorate. Does he shed his sectional identification when, as is bound to be the case, he is presented as a ‘national’ candidate. Political deception can go only so far. Nigerians are an astute breed; they will smell this trickery from miles away.

To add an additional confusing layer to this already confounded situation, Atiku Abubakar now claims that he is in the running to serve out Yar’Adua’s remaining term. But he was not Yar’Adua’s running mate. That was President Jonathan. Atiku Abubakar was not even a member of Yar’Adua’s PDP during the last presidential elections. In democratic practice all over the world, it is the running mate of the deceased officeholder who serves out the electoral term, assuming that we agree that Yar’Adua’s term of office extends to 2015.

Now consider this: that Abubakar would not even attend Yar’Adua’s inauguration as president, remarking that the 2007 election was not credible. He would not, he declared, “dignify such a hollow ritual with his presence.” But now he wants to ‘elongate’ and extend the hollow ritual by serving out Yar’Adua’s term.

These inconsistencies and ironies may not matter much to Nigerians as they go about their daily business as citizens. They should matter. Mallam Adamu Ciroma, by imposing a ‘Ciroma-Consensus’ candidate through his hollow ritual of a search for a sectional candidate has Nigerians divided. He has managed to give the impression of a gang-up of Northerners against President Jonathan. The gang of four that has in it old military brass and old dictators (except for Bukola Saraki) only serves to remind Nigerians of an era in their history they would rather forget. This is unfortunate. This is not what Nigeria needs in the run-up to 2015.

Regarding 2015, some commentators are already pontificating on what they see as a slide into disintegration. Africa Abroad – USA charges that “what is clearly visible in the horizon is that Nigeria is on the road to fulfilling the CIA prediction” that the country would break up by 2015. If the North does not return to a ruling position, will an Arewa nation take its marbles and run? Their activities and utterances seem to point that way. A detailed account of their meeting on June 17, 2010 to discuss their plans (reported by the Ijaw Monitoring Group--Saturday Vanguard, November 27, 2010--has not been challenged. What about the Niger Deltans—will they want to continue as part of Nigeria? If either of these entities should somehow emerge as separate nation-states, would a Biafra or an Odua be far behind? These are the grave implications of the Consensus controversy and its polarization of the polity.

Given all of this, the election of Jonathan, as far at least as the PDP primaries are concerned, gives our nation the best hope of avoiding the trauma that extreme allegiance to ethnicity and religious affiliation as controlling forces in Nigerian political life could engender. The nation cannot hold together in this mode for long.

Jonathan in the eyes of perceptive observers has done much during his brief tenure in the presidency to earn the label of a truly nationally oriented politician. That a nationwide cross-section of legislators has endorsed him speaks to the question. His diversification of the leadership of the armed forces with the appointment of National Security Adviser Andrew Azazi, Chief of Defence Staff O.O. Petrinin, Chief of Army Staff Onyeabo Ihejirika and Air Vice Marshal M. Dikko Umar (Chief of Air Staff) attests to the importance he places on ‘federal character.’ This is the national outlook Nigeria needs going forth into a new era devoid of the taint and baggage many others carry with them.

Professor Jeffrey Ibim writes from Fort Valley, GA, USA.

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