HOW NORTH FOOLED JONATHAN
'I came to this meeting strictly on the invitation of one of the co-chairmen, who is not a politician and he said so there (at the summit). He is a friend of mine. He is Ambassador Shehu Malami. He invited me; he gave me the invitation card to come here. And before coming here, he did not say this was the position that was going to be taken here. So, maybe those people you mentioned are not here because they are not aware or they were not invited.
'In fact, quite honestly, before coming I thought they would be here. I thought we will have people like IBB, Atiku, Buhari and the rest. But I don't know why they are not here. As a politician I thought, whenever there is a gathering, you want to be there. Even if you don't want to be heard, you would want to be seen, and then you can pick one or two friends. I am surprised they are not here.'
Those were the words of Professor Iya Abubakar, former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Prof Abubakar, who hails from Adamawa State, was a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator between 2003 and 2007. His views, Sunday Sun's findings reveal, were representative of many like him, who knew little or nothing about the intention of the organizers of last Thursday's Northern Political Summit in Kaduna, but who attended because they were invited by friends.
Like he mentioned, many had expected that the summit would bring together the protagonists and antagonists on the issue of zoning, from where decisions on whether or not to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 poll would flow.
But as it later turned out, only a section of the region, mainly those referred to as minorities, dominated the proceedings. Sunday Sun gathered that the summit, which was allegedly largely bankrolled by the Presidency, had the backing of a retired but very influential General from the North East.
Although the summit may have succeeded in endorsing Jonathan for 2011, what the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) does with the resolution will largely determine where the North will go in 2011. This is so because based on the country's brand of politics, state governors possess the resources, both human and otherwise, appropriate for electoral victory.
Interestingly, if courage does not fail it, the NGF will be meeting in Kaduna this Thursday, to take a final position on the issue of zoning.
North vs North
Although some of them may still want to pretend about it, the fact remains that the North, as it is today, is divided over President Jonathan and the issue of zoning.
There are 19 states in the North. And in each of these states, there are heavy and lightweight political leaders. There are those who can only make noise without the necessary political value that would translate into victory at the polls. And there are equally those who will never be heard but quietly deploy resources, material and human, to ensure victory in whatever cause they believe in.
But from the delegates deployed to the summit last Thursday, it is evident that apart from a few persons, several of them may as well find it difficult to deliver Jonathan in their respective states.
How they stand
North Central: The zone put up appreciable representation at the event. From Benue, the representatives were indicative of the fact that the governor, Gabriel Suswam, identifies wholly with the Jonathan project.
The delegates, which included the immediate past Benue governor, Senator George Akume, former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, former Katsina military administrator, General Lawrence Onoja (rtd) among others, were led by Barnabas Gemade, former PDP National Chairman and currently a Senatorial aspirant.
It is equally on record that it is only Benue that has so far publicly endorsed Jonathan for 2011, in line with the resolutions reached at the last NGF meeting in Kaduna. The NGF had on July 1, 2010, asked its members to go home and consult and bring their resolution to its next meeting holding this Thursday.
Kwara: Although there are strong indications that the Kwara governor is tacitly supporting the project too, he is yet to show that publicly. Besides, the calibre of people sent to last Thursday's summit, if ever they had his backing to attend, did not in any way show that the state was ready to go with the summit's resolutions, as there were no known names in Kwara politics among the delegates in Kaduna.
Niger: Like Kwara, Niger too did not send any quality representative to the summit. Besides, the governor, who doubles as the NGF chairman and who was billed to attend the summit, stayed away from the event. Apart from Professor Jerry Gana, who was one of the brains behind the event, no notable politician from the state was at the event.
Plateau: The delegates from Plateau were a combination of those for and against the incumbent governor, Jonah Jang. Perhaps, the presence of Lar may have served as the unifying factor for the delegates comprising a former governor, Joshua Dariye, former Sports Minister, Damishi Sango, and former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu among others. Already, the governor has publicly declared his readiness to deliver the state to Jonathan come 2011.
Kogi: Like Plateau, the Kogi delegates also comprise those for the governor and those against the governor. The list included a former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, Senator Nicholas Ugbane, and former Chief of Army Staff, General Salihu Ibrahim (rtd) among others.
The implication of this combination is that they may work together to deliver the state to Jonathan irrespective of their differences. But the absence of the Vice Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, Smart Adeyemi, was very noticeable. He is however supposed to be one of the supporters of the President.
Nasarawa: The state had one of the highest delegates in attendance and the quality of representation is an indication that the governor was solidly behind the summit. In fact, the Minister of State for Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who was part of the 'show', was the one helping a few people who spoke to put in proper perspective what they meant to say.
North West: This zone produced the late President Umaru Yar'Adua and the incumbent Vice President, Namadi Sambo. But it largely boycotted the event. Jigawa: If the delegates from the state are anything to go by, it will be safe to conclude that the governor, Sule Lamido, appears non-committal over the contentious zoning issue. The zone's PDP vice chairman, Danladi Sankara, who was supposedly part of the organizers, stayed away from the event. Sankara belongs to the Lamido political family.
Kaduna: The governor was in attendance. But apart from him and his deputy, there was no quality representation from the state. And even though the governor's presence was indicative of his support for Jonathan, Sunday Sun can authoritatively reveal that as things stand in the state, except other notable stakeholders join him in the project, he cannot deliver the state to himself let alone Jonathan.
Kano: Only about three people came, and the Minister of State for Information, Mr Maku, had a hectic time identifying them. They were former Kano Deputy Governor, Umar Ganduje, former House of Representatives Speaker, Salisu Buhari, and Dr Mansur Mukhtar, immediate past Finance Minister.
Kano is currently under the grip of the ANPP and for the state to be delivered at all, the outgoing governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, must support the project. But can he afford to do that?
Katsina: The delegates had a semblance of quality. But if the presentation at the summit by Senator Ibrahim Ida, who was supposed to be speaking for the zone is anything to go by, it means the governor will have a lot of work to do deliver the state to Jonathan. That is if he is part of the project. Senator Ida's position on the zoning matter was completely at variance with those of North Central and North East.
Zamfara: This state had no representation at all. The only person who claimed to represent the state was former Environment Minister, Colonel Bala Mande (rtd). The governor of the state is IBB's in-law. He had laboured recently to deny that he ever supported the dumping of zoning, the issue that may have forced him not to bother to sponsor any delegation no matter how inconsequential they may be to the summit. Besides, the National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau, who also has his eyes on the Presidency, is from the state.
Kebbi: There was no politician of repute from the state who attended the summit.
Sokoto: Like Katsina, Sokoto had a semblance of quality representation. But Sunday Sun's investigation revealed that the man, Ahmed Mohammed Gusau, who was announced as the leader of the state's delegation was actually sent by the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, to the event as an observer. Gusau is a former Sokoto State deputy governor and chairman of the ACF political community. The NSF chairman, Senator Umaru Dahiru, was also absent.
The zone, like the North Central, put up an appreciable presence at the summit.
Yobe: The presence of the political gladiators in the state at the event, led by Senator Usman Al-Bishir, is an indication that the Yobe people, especially those in the PDP, are in support of the project. But the state like Kano is under the grip of the ANPP. Although PDP is threatening to take it over, to deliver the state to Jonathan, the incumbent governor must certainly be carried along.
Borno: This was the only state that gave the summit a semblance of a non-PDP affair. Although an ANPP-controlled state, the governor sent a large delegation, led by the state secretary of the party, Alhaji Yusuf Adamu, to the summit.
Speaking exclusively with Sunday Sun at the venue, Adamu revealed that they were at the summit because their governor was invited, insisting that it had nothing to do with the speculation that the governor was going to leave the party for the PDP. By implication, the Borno governor has made the job of the PDP gladiators in the state easier, as they would join hands to deliver the state to Jonathan, even if it meant PDP losing the governorship. The state incidentally had a quality representation, probably because the President's Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, was one of the organizers.
Adamawa: Sunday Sun investigation revealed that the governor, Murtala Nyako, is not favourably disposed to the Jonathan project. This perhaps explain the quality and quantity of the delegates sent to the summit.
Taraba: Apart from probably the Water Resources Minister, whose only credential is probably being an aide of the former Defence Minister, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), there was no notable politician in the delegation from the state. Incidentally, the Minister's nomination was against the wish of the state governor but was forced down his throat by Danjuma.
Gombe: Danjuma Goje is one of the governors not favourably disposed to the Jonathan project. But he is also eyeing the number one seat. There was no quality representation from the state.
Bauchi: The FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, was among the organizers. He was present with a large delegation from the FCT. But apart from probably a member of the PDP BoT, Alhaji Kaulaha Aliyu, who incidentally presented the position of the zone, there was nothing to show that the governor, Isa Yuguda, wholly associates with the project. Like Senator Bala, Aliyu was among the organizers. Interestingly, Bala and the governor belong to different political camps, even though they are both in the PDP.
The Obasanjo factor
Sunday Sun learnt that former President Olusegun, in spite of his tacit support for Jonathan, might dump him once it becomes clear the project may not fly.
'Most of our elders did not attend the summit because the organizers had a pre-determined position of what they wanted out of the summit. And the summit is just the handiwork of one retired General in the North. So we will see how he alone can stand the rest of us when the time comes.
'The Obasanjo we know is an intelligent man. You remember in 2007 many people thought Dr Peter Odili was the anointed candidate, to the extent that even the party's national chairman then was the one asking people to join the Odili campaign. And because of Obasanjo's closeness to the party chairman then, many thought Odili was the man. But what happened in the end? Was he not dumped at the last minute? I bet you, the same fate awaits our President except the real elders from the North decide otherwise,' one highly-placed Sunday Sun source revealed.
At the summit's venue, there were placards for both pro and anti-zoning, but those against outnumbered the protagonists, as only one or two bore pictures of the Kaduna governor, his deputy, Jonathan and Sambo and 2011 project.
But some of those from the antagonists read: 'Jerry Gana, how much were you paid?'; 'Northern Nigeria is not for sale'; 'Jonathan Goodluck is a product of zoning; we say no to your evil intentions'; 'Respect zoning'; 'We say no to Jonathan'; 'The North cannot be represented by sycophants'; 'We say yes to zoning'; 'Are there no gentlemen in Nigeria'; and 'Selfishness is not political trading.'