December 16th, 2010
He emerged from an ethnic game as the “consensus candidate of the North”
and proudly parades himself as such in the nation’s
political circles without qualms. But how in the world did a
man, who emerged winner of a closet election conducted by
nine handpicked sectional elders by razor-thin margin become
the consensus candidate of the North or of any section of
the country for that matter? I thought consensus was made of
Did they really say or mean “Consensus candidate of the North” or it was
a case of misrepresentation by some exuberant journalists?
What exactly is that? The words alone make me want to throw
up. I don’t know about you, but they’re as hard for me to
swallow as stones, and my stomach has a problem receiving
them talk less of digesting them.
Don’t blame my stomach, folks. Blame those hard, rocky words that have
forced their way down my stomach that is neither designed
nor configured to handle stones and rocks and causing me
serious constipation. And I’m not alone. Many, who took
those words in have similarly come down with severe
constipation and others are lacerated and hemorrhaging on
the inside. Perhaps those who invented them could swallow
stones and rocks, but I don’t. I’m still human and therefore
flesh and blood with no gastric acids to handle stones and
rocks. I’m not a vegan, but give me some veggies please and
perhaps some amala or tuwo with beef stew to
go with and I’ll be just fine; not stones and rocks for
dinner as Mallam Adamu Ciroma had offered us.
And that’s reason enough why somebody should come to my assistance,
because I’m yet to fathom how anybody, who desires to be
president of Nigeria could be comfortable wearing a banner
on his forehead with the inscription “I’m the Consensus
Candidate of the North!” in a multi-ethnic conglomerate like
Nigeria. Has Nigerian politics sunk to such low depths that
even presidential candidates now feel comfortable wearing
geo-ethnic labels and still hope to coast to victory at
national polls? I’m not exactly sure we’ve gone down so low,
but I could be wrong.
Anyway, I’ll leave that for history to determine whether I’m right or
wrong and history is beckoning on us to do its part and put
that issue to rest. All I could do for now is just sit and
wait it out.
Perhaps I’m missing something here or rather something seems to be
missing from the consensus equation that I’m trying hard to
figure it out. For all we know consensus does not arise out
of an election and a keenly contested one at that in which
the winner managed to snatch victory by the skin of his
teeth with just one vote. The word “winner” arises out of a
duel, war, competition or contest involving more than one
party. And it goes together with the word “loser” as its
opposite in meaning. In politics, it takes the form of
elections to determine winners and losers. Therefore, if
Atiku emerged “winner”, it follows that many of his fellow
contestants emerged “losers” in the contest and must bear
the tag of “defeated” candidates forever.
On the contrary, consensus arises out of a voluntary and general
endorsement of an idea, a position or a person. It involves
mutual understanding of common interests and agreements are
hammered out after diligent and involved consultations,
persuasions and trade-offs amongst the various stakeholders
to come to a common position with no acrimonious contests or
elections involved and therefore no winners and losers in
How was it then we’re told that a keenly contested election wound up
producing a Northern consensus candidate named, Abubakar
Atiku? By what alchemy was that feat achieved in the North?
Wait a minute: The Nigerian abracadabra seems to be at work
here and we need to demystify it right here, right now.
There are no two ways about it. It’s either that the meaning of the word
“consensus” has changed in the English language or Ciroma
and his group have reinvented the word and imbued it with
perhaps a different, technical, or should I say, “Northern”
meaning for the purpose of their ethnic game.
As far as the English language goes, consensus arrangements and elections
are two completely different things and processes with
completely different outcomes both in contents and
nomenclatures, which are neither interchangeable nor
transposable. And except someone out there is prepared to
educate me and others like me that consensus arrangements
and elections refer to one and the same thing in the Hausa
or Fulani’s Fulfube language (and I have lived in the
North), we cannot call the outcome of an election a
consensus agreement and the outcome of a consensus
arrangement an election without doing serious violence to
natural implication of the above submissions is that Atiku’s
present status is a bundle of contradictions. Atiku is at
once a “consensus” and an “elected” candidate of the North.
He is touted as a consensus candidate, but he is not really
one and anything but. How and what do I mean by that?
Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State talking about Atiku
as reported by the Vanguard newspaper 12/14/2010 edition: “I
don’t know anything about consensus candidate. We already
know our candidate, and President GoodLuck Jonathan is our
only candidate for the presidency.”
Benue State counterpart, Gabriel Suswam, couldn’t be more
blunt and direct in his denunciation: “I, as the governor of
Benue state, you take a decision and you do not consult me
and you say that that decision is a decision that is
binding, I don’t think that makes sense to anybody and it
does not make sense to me anyway.” And these and others like
them are important stakeholders in the North whose positions
determine the ultimate status of Atiku one way or another,
not the one imposed on the North by Ciroma and his group.
The sentiments credited to both governors are reflective of
the reactions of a cross section of Northerners to the
outcome of the Ciroma gambit. It’s been condemnation and
denunciation galore in the North.
Hardly a day passes without getting denunciations and
condemnations of Ciroma and his group by northern groups and
individuals. Atiku has become a poster child for political
battles in the North that supposedly produced him as its
consensus candidate. There are more voices denouncing the
outcome of the consensus exercise in the northern parts of
the country than in the southern parts and that bodes
ill-wind for Atiku because he’s nobody’s consensus candidate
but the four who elected him.
And he was announced as an elected candidate but he is not really one
either. Reason is that the committee did not want the world
to know how he emerged through an election but that fact
later came to light. The committee wanted to sell him as the
“consensus” candidate without letting the world know that he
was elected in closet election by just four votes rather
than a real election involving all stakeholders in the
The leaking of that information has done great damage to its credibility
and the final outcome itself. And that’s reason why Atiku is
neither this nor that. He’s like the bat, which is neither a
bird nor a four legged mammal. But Atiku can only be one or
the other not both at the same time. The reality however is
that he is neither of them. He’s, therefore, weighed down by
crisis of identity arising from a failed proposition and
wearing a hollow title of ambivalence.
HOWEVER, WE must not rush to hasty conclusions without examining the
matter a little more closely to see where the trails might
lead us to. In this inquiry, therefore, the issue we must
address with the information available to us in the public
domain is whether Atiku was actually a product of a
consensus arrangement in the North or a product of a secret
election held by a handful of men in someone’s living room
in the name of the North.
This issue would not have arisen if the proceedings of the committee were
made public and not shrouded in secrecy like those of a
secret cult or secret society. No one except the committee
members knew what went on behind closed doors even the
venues of the committee’s deliberations. No one knew its
terms of reference except the candidates themselves.
All that was made public were the constant drumbeats of producing a
consensus candidate for the north to rubbish President
Jonathan in the forthcoming PDP primaries. Nothing else was
revealed. Whatever Nigerians knew of the committee’s work
were the snippets of unconfirmed and unverifiable
information that the press managed to scoop out and fed to
the public. It was all a guessing game.
And what’s more; widespread consultation, which is at the heart of
consensus building was treated more like an afterthought,
and limited in scope to isolated quarters rather than as an
all-inclusive strategic imperative involving different
Northern social segments and stakeholders in order to carry
all critical segments and stakeholders along.
How could the proceedings and activities of a consensus committee be
shrouded in complete secrecy when the act of consensus
building itself necessarily involves wide-ranging
consultations of different stakeholders and interest groups
and nationalities in the North, extending even to the South,
if it truly meant business, knew what it was doing and how
to go about it?
Good enough the committee itself publicly announced Atiku as the “winner”
of the consensus arrangement. “Winner”? That sounded more
like an election rather than a consensus agreement. And sure
enough, the dominos began to fall. The veil of secrecy was
shredded and we now know what transpired behind closed
doors. Information leaked out and the results of a closet
election made public. Atiku was a product of a closet
election after all.
In determining the status of Atiku, therefore, it is important that we
get our terminology right. Election is direct negation of
The Webster New Collegiate Dictionary defines consensus as a “general
agreement” or “judgment arrived at by most of those
concerned.” It further defines the word “consensual” as
“existing or made by mutual consent without an act of
writing.” The above definition is clear enough and therefore
requires no further elucidation.
However, it is also clear that the process of Atiku’s emergence satisfies
none of the above and on the contrary, violates all of the
above criteria. Nowhere is the word “voting” or “election”
mentioned in the above definition as a process for arriving
at a consensus position. Did the majority of the
presidential aspirants, or for this purpose, candidates
themselves, or of the members of the committee, or of
northerners, agree amongst themselves on Atiku as their
consensus candidate in the PDP primaries? Did they
participate in electing Atiku to represent the North in the
PDP primaries? Not a chance in hell! And that is why the
outcomes of the Consensus exercise is not binding on anybody
in the North, not even strictly speaking on the candidates
themselves although morally bound to respect their voluntary
First of all, the Ciroma committee got all the contenders to undertake in
writing that they would accept the outcome of the
committee’s work however flawed it might be. That is not a
consensus but merely an agreement to abide by the result of
the committee’s work to be attained through consensus
Secondly, the committee proceeded to conduct a closet election instead of
working for a consensus, which was its original mandate.
Thus, instead of getting a result derived from “general
agreement” “arrived at by most of those concerned,” Atiku
emerged “winner” not by unanimous votes or acclamation by
the committee members but by just four votes to emerge
The very word itself “winner” totally negates the idea of consensus. The
idea of consensus is to avoid the idea or a winners or
losers and that explains the phrase “mutual consent” applied
in the above definition.
How did the committee come this? Here is what is in the public domain as
reported by several newspapers regarding the procedure
adopted by the committee. I took this one from “THE NATION”
newspaper, 11/24/20/10 edition because it is more detailed
and graphical about what happened behind closed doors. But
see also ThisDay Online report of 11/23/2010 with the
screaming headline: Revealed: Atiku Defeated IBB by Just One
Here we go: First, the nine committee members were divided on the mode of
voting and haggled endlessly over whether it should be by
secret or open balloting. It is instructive to observe that
only Audu Ogbe and David Jemibewon who are Saraki’s kismen
argued for secret balloting while the grand daddy of them
all, Mallam Ciroma and others fought hard for open balloting
obviously to intimidate the members and support his
Quoting its source, THE NATION reports:
“But Audu Ogbe and Gen. Jemibewon (rtd) said they should do secret
about 10 minutes to address the committee on the imperative
of secret ballot and why it would assist them to make their
“At the end
of the day, they were all persuaded by Ogbe’s argument and
they opted for secret balloting.
ballot papers were circulated to members to write their
choice of consensus candidate before it was later compiled.
compilation, the results indicated that Atiku had four
votes; Babangida scored three; Saraki had two and Gusau had
really a slim victory for Atiku.
saving grace was that they ignored the initial rule to go
for second round of balloting where it was a close contest.
further reported that it learnt that members of the
committee insisted on burning the ballot papers to “avoid
any of the aspirants tracing their writings through forensic
quoting its source the paper states:
the decision was made known to the aspirants, the committee
burnt the ballot papers.”
that “But the voting pattern later got leaked from those
assigned the responsibility of burning the ballot papers.”
to the source, those who voted for Babangida are: Mallam
Ciroma; Senator Jubrin Salihu and Magi Dambatta.
are; Bello Kurfi; M. D. Yusufu; Buba Yaro Mafindi and Amb.
his votes from Audu Ogbeh and Gen. David Jemibewon.”
“As at last night, all the aspirants were aware of the
pattern of voting and those who voted for them.”
had it: all revealed in black and white! What was conceived
and executed in secret to the extent of burning ballot
papers has become public property. Everybody knew who voted
for whom including Ciroma himself and Atiku’s razor thin
margin of victory; thanks to those who recorded the voting
pattern before the ballots were burnt and leaked the
information to the press. This should indeed count as
Atiku-Gate or, if you will, Ciroma-Gate! It rubbished the
work of the committee, making both the winner and the losers
aware of who voted for and against them. It’s the source of
the bad blood that is now hunting and hurting the North. The
above account has not been disputed by the committee and it
is anything but consensual.
On what factual basis then is Atiku being paraded as consensus candidate
of the North? True, the Ciroma committee was specifically
asked to produce a consensus candidate but failing which it
went beyond its specific mandate to produce an elected
candidate for the north not the consensus candidate it had
set out to produce. So much for consensus baloney!
It is abundantly clear, therefore, as night and day that Ciroma and his
group of ethnic gladiators seemingly succeeded in pulling a
fast one on the nation particularly the north and they know
it. It is out and out fraud. If Mallam Ciroma and his
so-called Northern Leaders Political Forum did not know what
they were about when they started out, it is hardly
surprising that they produced a flawed product that is now
suffering from serious identity crisis.
Atiku emerged from a fundamentally flawed process He must therefore
contend with its consequential crisis of identity. There is
just no way an elected candidate could be marketed to the
nation and accepted as a consensus candidate otherwise all
elected officials would similarly be deemed to have attained
their positions through consensus arrangements including
councilors, lawmakers, governors and the president himself.
Yet one must empathize with the self-inflicted position the committee
found itself in the course of its self-imposed assignment.
The committee simply did what it did because there was no
viable alternative to it. It would appear the committee had
failed to develop clear cut criteria for assessing the
candidates without resort to balloting, which is the
antithesis of consensus.
The crisis of identity now being suffered by Atiku has arisen due to the
committee being forced by circumstances beyond its control
to abandon midstream its original mandate of working for a
consensus candidate for the North and substituting that with
an election due to its inability to get the candidates to
agree on one of them to carry the mantle on behalf of the
With none of the contenders yielding to one another, the committee ought
to have developed objective criteria mutually agreed upon by
the members and the candidates to evaluate the contenders,
that is totally devoid of partisanship and stick with that
to the end. Rather than doing so, it allowed the obstacles
placed by the contenders on its path to summarily abandon
its original mandate.
With that, the character of the mission abruptly changed from consensus
to election and that explains why the candidates themselves
were out and about selling themselves to their northern
publics who nevertheless had no say in the final outcome and
are therefore stuck with a candidate they knew not.
At this point some people might want to know what difference it makes
whether Atiku is a consensus or elected candidate of or for
Well there is a huge difference that is not merely semantic or academic,
but substantial and historical in significance. It is
substantial because a consensus candidate would command
greater respect and acceptability across the board than an
elected candidate in that he would be a product of general
agreement amongst the stakeholders, including the
contestants themselves. By their very nature elections are
contentious and inherently controversial no matter their
level and this is more so in climes like Nigeria where
losers have been known never to accept defeat and concede
victory to the winners, and would always fish for reasons
not to accept the outcomes of electoral contests.
The purported election of Atiku is already suffering from this Nigerian
disease as allegations of favoritism and underhanded deals
are already flying in the air belying the outward show of
solidarity with Atiku by the defeated candidates. We are
beginning to see the game IBB is up to as earlier predicted
by this writer that he would find a reason to dump Atiku
before long. His so-called threat to quit the PDP is a
direct and frontal attack on the outcome of the exercise.
He’s fishing for a reason to quit the PDP so as to free
himself from the consensus tango with Atiku and contest the
presidential election under a different party platform. That
is what election means in those parts of the world—bad blood
It is becoming clear that everyone, including Atiku has fallen victim of
the consensus business invented and imposed on them by that
geriatric iconoclast called Ciroma. The reverse would have
been the case with consensus arrangement. Consensus
engenders minimal ill-feelings in that it is a voluntary
undertaking that does not engender the sense of “victory” or
“defeat” in the camps of those who won or didn’t get the
ultimate price because they help decide who gets the
ultimate price. In fact, as earlier indicated the words
“winner” and “loser” do not apply in consensus arrangements
and everybody is a winner.
Secondly, it is historical because the nation’s political history ought
to properly reflect the dynamics, modus operandi and
dramatis personae involved in the political evolution of the
nation in different epochs, including the process employed
in the nomination and election of its leaders at all levels
of governance at both regional and national levels.
Thirdly, the fact that the process of Atiku’s emergence has wider
implications for the national unity by setting a dangerous
precedent obviously commends it to appropriate analysis and
documentation for future generations. We cannot, therefore,
call a closet election a consensus. That would amount to
falsification of a still evolving history. And;
Fourthly, it matters because properly defined, the so-called consensus
arrangement was a total failure and ought to be recorded as
such for the history books and properly situated in the
present scheme of things by calling a spade by its real name
and not a “shovel”, “hoe” or “machete”.
Properly called, therefore, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku is not in the plain and
ordinary meaning of the word the consensus candidate of the
North but the elected candidate of the Ciroma committee
purportedly for the North under the PDP platform.
How did the nation come to fall for this egregious fraud by Ciroma’s
NPLF? Simple: No one seems to be asking pertinent questions
about anything in Nigeria. Some loonies simply emerge from
the woodworks to seize the nation’s imaginations by the
throat without questions to get their 10-minute fame and
fade out. Boko Haram, Abdul-Mutallab; you name them. Nigeria
is a haven for roving lunatics, who should be confined to
Ordinary Nigerians have too much on their plates to think about the
meaning of consensus and election. And the Nigerian media is
preoccupied with merely reporting the news that takes care
of their critical bills without bothering about its
analysis, which is much more involved intellectual
enterprise requiring depth and breadth and a measure of
historicity to it. And that’s why there is little or no
investment in investigative journalism. Sensationalism
brings the bacon home not hard core investigative slugs.
Don’t get me wrong on this: The Nigerian media are a vibrant one and
pretty enterprising too. But more often than not they have
fallen short of in- depth investigative journalism to get to
the root of things and have fallen victims to the
shenanigans of ethnic and religious warriors to the
detriment of the national agenda. Our national media
shouldn’t reduce themselves to echo chambers of ethnic
bigots to the detriment of our national aspirations.
Was it in the national interest for the Ciroma Committee to reduce the
Nigerian presidency to an ethnic property? Obviously not.
Why then was the media complicit in giving some measure of
credibility and legitimacy to the antics of Ciroma and his
group through its reporting without serious questioning?
It’s one thing to report news and another to give comfort
and undue publicity to purveyors of ethno-religious
divisions in the nation.
While it is not in my position to report the news, however, it is in my
position to analyze it. This consensus baloney would have
long been exposed and rubbished for what it is had the media
dutifully asked the relevant questions at the right time
without necessarily taking positions one way or another.
I’m convinced beyond every shadow of doubt that had the media given his
group cold shoulders as a way of showing their disapproval
of his ethnic mission it would have dampened his ethnic
zealotry and poured cold water on his mission. I’m,
therefore, appealing to the Nigerian media through this
medium to do everything in its power to discourage the likes
of Ciroma from dragging this nation back to its dark past.
And it is never too late to do so because there are many
more Ciromas, embolden by what he has done, waiting in the
wings to spring another ethno-religious or sectional agenda
on the nation.
Now, Ciroma has executed his coup plot and it is for the victims to face
the fallouts in its wake. And make no mistake about it:
There are no bigger victims than Atiku and IBB. They both
rode the tiger and ended up its belly.
But you know who the winner is? You guessed right: President Goodluck
Jonathan! Ciroma has paved the path for Jonathan in real
time, not for Atiku, who is being abandoned to his fate, and
certainly not for IBB, whose ego has been deflated, or Gusau,
who was humiliated, or Saraki, who was cut down to size. At
the end of it all, the only man left standing is Goodluck
And who says Mr. Otorofani has a problem with that? Not with a failed
proposition with multiple casualties in its trail! Boy, I’m
having a good laugh!
Hey, can’t blame me for that!
Franklin Otorofani, Esq. is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst