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Proud to be Nigerian: PDP Primaries—Repudiation of Anachronistic Diktat

---Cutting-Edge Analytics—

By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published Janunary 26th, 2011

Although the veritable Headmaster of the Northern Consensus Committee, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, had his eyes on IBB, the consensus idea itself was reported to have come from Atiku, who, sensing his superior understanding of the ground game over retired generals, succeeded in luring IBB and Gusau into it, and thereafter proceeded to load the committee with his own men who rolled over IBB and Gusau. But he failed to reckon with Jonathan, whose amiable and unassuming mien he had terribly mistaken as weakness. If he could roll over battle-tested generals; if he could fight the Emperor himself, OBJ, to a standstill before he voluntarily walked away from the PDP, who was Jonathan to stand in his way? He took Jonathan for a lily-livered paperweight that would be blown away with his heavyweight status, conveniently forgetting and/or discounting the fact that Jonathan had the presidency under his belt and all that comes with it.

When Jonathan was busy sitting and commissioning projects in strategic zones in the country and using that to garner support for his presidential ambition, Atiku had no answer. When Jonathan was busy making strategic appointments to garner strategic support from strategic zones in the country, Atiku had no answer. When Jonathan was busy attending international forums and presiding over international meetings with all the publicity and limelight and political goodwill that came with them, Atiku had no answer. When he was busy holding meetings and consultations with PDP Governors, who held the aces to get their support, Atiku had no answer and was busy talking down the economy as if that would secure him any votes in his party primaries. And, when he was busy visiting victims of terrorist bombings and empathizing with them at the hospitals, Atiku had no answer. How could any smart individual and a politician for that matter discount the power of incumbency?—Franklin Otorofani                                                                   

A Theory of Power

The conduct and results of the PDP presidential primaries held on January 13, 2011, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, are already making their way to the nation’s history books like no other primaries before them. And Nigerian historians, particularly of the political genre, are busy scrutinizing the details of the epochal event in the history of this great nation. But what manner of history would they present to posterity 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years down the road when the nation attains her centennial birthday? Would posterity look back and be proud of or despise the outcomes of the primaries? I’ll defer to the historians. However, if the PDP primaries have accomplished anything at all, it is the complete destruction of the mythology of political superiority of some sections of the country over others, and the notion of so-called monolithic north, which I never believed in to begin with and I have said that much repeatedly in my previous writings.

And, if the primaries have taught us anything, it is the lesson that political superiority is necessarily a function of political power management by its temporal wielders rather than of any inherent qualities that are immanent in any ethnic groups. Therefore, whoever is the wielder of political power for the time being is more likely to assume the qualities of political superiority over others.  Call it Otorofani Theory of Power! And so it has come to pass that one from an ethnic group or section of the country that had been characterized as politically inferior hitherto and which had been content to play only second fiddle all along was able to muster the courage to dictate the pace and choices for others hitherto considered politically superior. In other words, those who only knew how to be followers and had thus been forced to master the arts of political subservience, which had perforce become their political trademarks suddenly discovered that they too could lead others who were only used to being leaders; all because they suddenly found in their very own hands the levers of presidential power, which they quickly mastered and managed to produce the unthinkable and unfathomable only a few months back.

What that shows conclusively is that the notions of political superiority or inferiority that were grafted onto Nigeria’s political lexicon by circumstances and certain realities are relative rather than inherent or native to any given ethnic group or section of the country. It means that a people deprived of the custody and control of the levers of power for a long time as, for instance, the Ibos in South/East and Niger Deltans in the South/South or those minorities in the North/Central, are bound to develop attributes or symptoms of political inferiority, while the reverse is the case for a people who have long been used to the custody and control of the levels of political power for a long time, such as for example, the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group, which is really two distinct ethnic groups in political marriage of sorts. In reality, there is no ethnic group called “Hausa/Fulani” but Hausa and Fulani, separate and distinct, just like Yoruba and Ibo or Edo and Tiv. Yet Hausa/Fulani had been banded together as though it were a single ethnic group to lord it over others. Treated separately, Hausa and Fulani are definitively minority ethnic groups in comparison to Ibo or Yoruba. Banded together, however, they assume the status of majority ethnic group. It’s like banding Ibo and Yoruba together and calling the product Yoruba/Ibo as though it were a single ethnic group which it is not and cannot be, period, no ifs or buts. Yet the Hausa/Fulani ethnic mixed bag had somehow successfully used that patchwork of political marriage to dominate other ethnic groups in the country for 50 years since independence. But that is about to change.

My readers know that I hardly make assertions without backups, but there are no studies or findings that I know of on what I’m about to state here: I know as an empirically verifiable fact and from anecdotal evidence that there are lots of people down south amongst the Ibos, Yorubas and other minority ethnic groups, who have been forced by circumstances of political inferiority status to adopt Hausa or Islamic names and even learn the Hausa language to obtain favors from or simply belong to the ruling class, which happens to be northern and Hausa/Fulani ethnic stocks. It was prevalent in the Armed Forces, especially during and after the Nigerian civil war. Bearing Hausa names, dressing in traditional Hausa attires, and speaking the Hausa language was regarded as passport to the good life in their own country as though they were aliens in their own country who needed to belong. Stories abound of how folks were literarily forced to abandon, deny or hide their own ethnic identities to obtain what were ordinarily their entitlements as citizens. I know the profile I have outlined above doesn’t exactly square up with that of full-fledged citizens in any nation but that of slaves or second class citizens. But it was the case in Nigeria until recently. And if you are a Nigerian reading this, I’m sure you can easily relate to what I’m relating to you here if you’re honest with yourself. That is or rather was your country until now where your fellow citizens tried to hide their ethnic identities and forced to trade their ethnic names for Islamic or Hausa names! Sounds to me like what the colonialists did to colonized peoples all over the world centuries ago. Call it internal colonization if you like.  

That is your country, not India or someplace else, and if you are ashamed of what you have been presented above you are not alone. I’m too. Today, however, things have changed or are changing. For instance, today the Ijaw traditional attire, not the flowing babaringa with Shagari cap, has suddenly acquired the status of an official, national dress code all because of the acquisition of political power by an Ijaw man who has made it his business to showcase his traditional attire at each and every occasion. And no one need wear Hausa traditional attire, speak Hausa language or bear an Hausa or Islamic name to belong to the ruling class because the playing field is getting leveled up for good to make for, in Obama’s words, “a more perfect union”. Isn’t that a good development for Nigerians? Now, I don’t know about you, but I must confess that “I’m lovin’ it,” not necessarily because Jonathan is there and is likely, almost certain, to remain there for another four years all things being equal, but because we’re moving toward a more perfect union where citizens are treated as citizens as other multi-ethnic and multi-racial countries like the United States. And where they’re not for whatever reasons, the law is certain to be invoked to enforce compliance with laws demanding racial equality. As they say, it is not over until it is over and there is still some mileage left uncovered that will task the management skills of the present wielders of political power, but the ship of state appears to be on course to its destination and appear capable of withstanding the storms and tempests on the way. While historians will more delicately probe into the silent revolution that is sweeping across the country, political pundits and commentators alike, who are more concerned with the present and the future than with the past, are having a field day dissecting the entrails of the primaries as would the surgeon his patient. I’m neither a historian nor a pundit, but I fall somewhat loosely within the latter category.  And I will attempt to appraise the event in terms of its historical and affirmative significance given the unprecedented interests it had generated within and outside the country.

The PDP Primaries

It should be remembered in this regard that the issue as to President Jonathan’s eligibility to participate in the PDP primaries had, perhaps not surprisingly given its novelty, generated heated debates across the nation and beyond resulting. It had also spawned a series of litigation by vested interest groups that quite predictably ended in favor of the president. Predictably, I say, because the judicial outcomes were severally foretold by many pundits, including, of course, yours truly. Not shying away from taking positions this writer had been part of that debate while it lasted right up to the edge of the primaries and history has recorded my position as well for posterity as it has for others on both sides of the divide. And permit me to say this: It sure feels good to be on the right side of history, not merely to follow but to lead the way forward when the path seemed treacherous and political clouds made visibility a great challenge even for those with visual acuity. If democracy is a market place of ideas that it is, I felt I had some darn good ideas to hawk around that I had taken to the market place to sell with some pretty decent returns on my investments even if they consisted solely of words of encouragement or reproach, as the case may be, that I had received from both appreciative and not-so-appreciative readers in the course of my several public outings. I would, however, hasten to add that holding personal positions on any issues borne out of personal convictions deduced from diligent inquiry rather than on mere hunches or instincts, provides the individual with the psychological anchor that is badly needed to withstand the quicksand and storms of life. For, one who has no opinion and convictions of his own, but relies on the urgings and promptings of others, is nothing but a floating piece of deadwood going down the abyss with the currents of life. And conversely, one who holds opinions of his own is in total command of his faculties for, he has provided himself with a platform to stand on from which he can contend with others in like or unlike manner as the case may be. However, he that holds an opinion has a duty to share it with others unless his office or position otherwise recommends or its otherwise importunate to divulge it, all things being equal. And in so doing he subjects himself to something of a “Peer Review” of his position the outcome of which thereby further enriches his position.  

By now my readers must have known where I stand on the issues that had animated the primaries  and indeed the polity because I’m not a bland analyst but one with a cause—or if you like, an activist of sorts. And I have no apologies for that because even analysts are entitled to their political and ideological preferences as citizens and human beings affected by the same social forces that shape humanity in general and society in particular. As such, I’m not about to sell myself short in this business by shying away from taking positions that I feel strongly about in the polity. And my task is made a little easier in that I’m beholden to none but myself as an independent thinker, unencumbered by extraneous considerations and submitting myself only to the infallible judgment of history rather than tainted or cloudy judgments of men. I make bold to state therefore that I do stand for something, and I do have a position. What do I stand for and what is my position? I’m a strong believer and therefore an advocate of political equality, justice and fair play. Everybody talks about justice and equal rights when it is convenient and ignored when it is not. However, these values are inalienable rights and therefore not subject to someone’s convenience or inconvenience but must at all times remain permanent features of our national life. Justice and equal rights should not be reduced to empty slogans mouthed simply for the purpose of political correctness or as convenient platitudes in that their denials affect real people with flesh and blood, but given practical expression. Political equality in a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria is a categorical imperative without which the nation cannot long endure. Metaphorically, it is the glue that binds the federating units together. Unfortunately, not all see it as it is and that is why it must be fought for until it is realized.  

If you’re like me, I believe the Nigerian presidency is and must be open to all Nigerians of all ethnic extractions and not the birthright of any particular ethnic group or section of the country. I also believe that in a democratic system such as we are currently operating, the Nigerian people alone have the right to determine who occupies the office of president and that determination does not belong to political parties or their chieftains. Therefore, the role of political parties in the democratic equation is no more than platforms on which the candidates stand before the people as well as well as clearing houses. The decisions as to who to present before the general public for elective positions belong to the rank and file members of the political parties while the decisions as to who occupies what position belongs to the Nigerian electorate at large. The process or mechanism by which that goal is attained is through party primaries, which afford the people the opportunity to make that determination. That process or mechanism throws up presidential and other candidates bearing the banners of political parties, who are then made to face the general electorate during elections proper. At all times, the people are at the heart of the democratic process. But zoning deprives the people of that right and power with respect to elective offices in contradistinction to party offices, which are less democratic. It shortchanges the people. Not only that, it denies people from disadvantaged zones the right to exercise their political right to go for any office in their own country. That is called disenfranchisement in plain English and it is illegal and unconstitutional. And the courts seem to agree although they have only pronounced on the PDP constitution pleaded before them in the litany of cases that deluged the courts before the primaries were held.

The last PDP primaries were in tandem with democratic principles. And it is a shame that other parties have come short of these democratic standards. The opposition parties, particularly the ACN and CPC, have demonstrated to all that they have no respect for democracy and their own members by denying them real primaries and in their places imposing candidates on them. I’ll devote a full featured article for that later down the road but if Nuhu Ribadu of the ACN and Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC are serious about democracy they should have advised their own parties to conduct real primaries rather than so-called consensus candidate arrangements. Charity must begin at home. I give the PDP kudos for deepening our democracy with its tradition of primaries. It is tragic that those who shout the most about democracy have failed to live up to its dictates. And it is utterly disgusting to read the ACN Chairman, Bisi Akande, in effect boasting that the party imposed candidates on the electorate because it knows best. That is not only arrogant but arrant nonsense. At no time should party leaders arrogate to themselves the attributes of omniscience because democracy is not about knowledge but about choice and choices come with various considerations and dynamics at play. And that’s why there are elections. Any politician who claims to know better than the people themselves is by definition an autocrat and dictator. ACN is being led by autocrats and dictators if Akande’s pontifications are allowed to stand. And if his justification represents the official position of the ACN, I’m afraid that party will not go far and will remain the provincial entity that it has always been. I had doubted the ability of ACN to reform itself for internal democracy and I have not been disappointed with its conduct. It’s all in character.

In a fundamental sense the PDP primaries were more than just party primaries but primaries with something else added. Americans would call it “Primaries Plus.” While the official agenda was the election of a presidential flag-bearer for the party for this year’s presidential election, the unofficial item on the agenda was what one might call “Proposition 101”on the ballot, which required the delegates to decide the fate of the PDP zoning; a question that was earlier put before the party’s NEC meeting held a few months back and answered affirmatively with some caveats. And not surprisingly, the task for putting this all-important proposition before the delegates fell on the main challenger to President Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku. His address to the delegates left no one in doubt that zoning was the main question they had been asked to come and decide at the convention. Atiku minced no words in putting the issue before them. He specifically, unequivocally, unabashedly and passionately pleaded with the delegates to vote for zoning because the party’s constitution was supreme and every party man and woman was duty bound to uphold the party’s constitution. Even as the courts had decided the issue in series of judgments handed down before the convention his own reading of the party’s constitution had convinced him that voting for him was the only way the delegates could be said to have obeyed the party’s constitution as any votes cast for Jonathan in particular would be tantamount to gross disobedience of the party’s constitution which as the delegates knew carried severe penalties. Therefore, in the absence of then party Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, whose wings had been clipped by an Enugu High Court, and who would have been better placed to read the riot act to the delegates, Atiku took it upon himself to play the cop. He reminded the delegates that Jonathan himself had voted for zoning and made reference to his signature at the party meeting attended by Jonathan where the zoning policy was allegedly reaffirmed. And thereafter, he lashed out at Jonathan whom he indignantly accused of being dishonorable for participating at the primaries. Such a man, Atiku charged, could not be entrusted with the high office of president.  He thus laid the charge at the doorstep of Jonathan for the delegates, acting as mass jurors, to convict him by denying him their votes.   

On his part Jonathan, the accused, opted to take the high road of suing for national unity in his address-in-defense to the delegates. However, in an indirect answer to the charges of dishonesty leveled against him by Atiku, his Accuser-in-Chief, the President reminded the delegates that he had been on a joint ticket with the late president and would have remained on that ticket for a second term had Yar’Adua not died. That is a matter of fact not guesswork. And that his headship of the ticket now was a matter of providence and it naturally flowed from that joint mandate he held with the late leader. In order words, he, in effect, told them that when the captain of a ship is suddenly indisposed and unavailable to pilot the ship, the duty of piloting the ship to its destination naturally falls on the co-captain. And he, Jonathan, was the co-captain. That, again, is a matter of fact not guesswork. Therefore, he is the one who is naturally positioned to take charge of the ship. To him, there should be no question as to who was better placed to pilot the ship of State to its destination for the next four years amongst the contenders. That argument seemed to have carried a lot of weight and seemed unassailable too. It was all factually based and logical too. How was anyone going to dispute those facts of our recent history and the inevitable conclusions that logically flow from them? And it resonated with the delegates as determined by their voting patterns. It would be recalled that it was the same argument that swayed the party’s NEC to clear Jonathan for the primaries and one that makes a lot of sense on face value. It was a winning formula any day and Jonathan simply went back to it, time and again. Why change a winning formula?

But Jonathan bluntly refused to join issues with Atiku on other subsidiary charges of economic mismanagement, incompetence, internal crisis in the PDP and sundry charges leveled against him, preferring instead to dwell on his achievements so far in office and promising a transformative era for the country under his leadership for the next four years. It was obvious that Atiku was spoiling for a fight at the convention and lobbed several punches, but Jonathan deftly deflected his body blows, refusing to counter punch. That by the way is the strategy and attitude of election front runners. Underdogs are always spoiling for a fight and hauling missiles at front runners who endeavor to stay above pettiness and negativities. To illustrate, when Hillary Clinton was the undisputed front runner in the last Democratic Primaries at the beginning she immediately became the target of attacks by underdogs in the race. But she refused to join issues with her attackers preferring to stay above the fray. She maintained dignified indifference to the barbs from her attackers. But all that suddenly changed when Obama overtook her as the front runner after the Iowa caucus vote and her near defeat in New Hampshire where pundits had given Obama the votes. Overnight Hillary became an attack dog against Obama, joined of course, by her equally combative hubby, President Bill Clinton. The attacks roused up blacks in North Carolina to abandon Clinton, who was their favorite candidate early on and indeed of the party itself. And the same was equally true of Obama, who refused to attack Clinton once he became the front runner. After he became the front runner he was only fending off attacks from Clinton and never went on the offensive again until he faced McCain. If you want to know who is the front runner and underdogs in any elections just look who is doing the attacks and who is merely responding or fending off attacks. The underdogs do the attacks and the front runners merely react to or fend off those attacks. Hardly would a front runner be the first to lobe a verbal missile at his opponent(s). Underdogs do and they do it in order to bring down the front runner. There is nothing wrong about that. It’s the name of the game. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It all depends on the strength of the frontrunner and the weakness of the underdogs. But no such strategy can contain the force of a hurricane candidate like candidate Obama in the US in the 2008 presidential elections, for instance. I don’t know if Jonathan is the hurricane candidate in Nigeria, but he sure appears formidable enough to withstand such attacks from the underdogs including, by the way Nuhu Ribadu and Muhammadu Buhari, of the ACN and CPC respectively. But here we are concerned with gladiators within the PDP itself and not with the other party candidates. The analysis of the chances of other candidates versus Jonathan must wait for another time. Atiku was only answering the call of nature as the underdog in leveling those charges at Jonathan. Since he became Northern Consensus candidate, Atiku had been spoiling for a fight with Jonathan. He had been calling him out on a number of occasions as challengers always do. When he is not barking about zoning he’s accusing the president of economic mismanagement, depletion of foreign reserves and alleged incompetence in handling the security situation in the nation including alleged lack of implementation of Niger Delta Amnesty program. In fact, he wanted a debate. The president had before the convention directly engaged Atiku on all of these allegations, dismantling them with copious facts and figures and would not want to turn the convention into a tit-for tat-affair with Atiku on allegations that had been dealt with before. He saw nothing new in Atiku’s charges but a rehash of previous accusations that had been answered. It is clear, therefore, that zoning was the main item "on the ballot."

There was not a single delegate at the convention without zoning on his or her mind and that would explain why Atiku made it the first and primary issue in his address to the delegates. The other charges lobbed by Atiku were secondary and mere embellishments because they carried no weight in comparison. Zoning was Atiku’s trump card and he was determined to play it to the hilt and wasted no time placing the issue before the delegates as his first order of duty because he knew that his candidacy did not depend on Jonathan’s performance or lack thereof but on the party’s resolution of the zoning issue. In that sense Atiku was appealing the decision of party' NEC that gave Jonathan and aspirants from any part of the country the green light to participate in the primaries even as it reaffirmed its commitment to power sharing otherwise known as zoning. Jonathan’s participation in the primaries was because he had been given the go ahead to do so by the party’s NEC otherwise he would not be there at the Eagle Square for the primaries as contestant and that would have made Atiku’s day. But as we all know the decision of the NEC did not go down well with Atiku and three other presidential aspirants of northern extraction under the PDP platform namely: IBB, Ibahim Gusau and Olusola Saraki, hence their recourse to the so-called "Northern Consensus Candidate" option that produced Atiku.

Atiku could have been president-in-waiting had Jonathan been barred from participating in the PDP primaries by the party’s NEC, which was, however, unthinkable and unfathomable under any circumstances. Parties all over the world are not known to deny their sitting presidents a second term and PDP was not about to set that negative and unnatural record for the world. You were going to replace your president with someone who just popped out from nowhere to kick your president’s butt? That would have been a daring, Rambo-like hijack operation that would have effectively put the PDP out of business forever, with Jonathan simply moving to another party which would have automatically been in control of the presidency. No question about that. And the last time I checked the PDP is not exactly on a suicide mission on behalf of a man who had abandoned it and had been working overtime to destroy it from the outside only a few months back only to appear as a headmaster and champion of their party’s constitution to read them the riot act. That wasn’t going to happen under any circumstances anywhere on earth. Period! It is simply unheard of and it is amazing how this simple reality has become rocket science for some in Nigeria, who appear to be operating under illusionary blindfolds. We know and believe in miracles but that was one miracle that God was not willing to put His Divine Hands on because He is not a God of discrimination and injustice and protector of the weak and the disadvantaged.   

However, taking his case to the party's rank and file at the convention seems natural on the part of Atiku appropriately underlined by his last ditch, impassioned speech that, however, failed to sway the overwhelming majority of the delegates including those from his own State of Adamawa. That must have been particularly traumatic for Atiku--his total rejection by his own people. There is nothing more painful and traumatic than the rejection of a candidate by his own people. If he had won like it happened to OBJ in 1999 when he lost the South/West it would not have mattered much and the pain would have been somewhat assuaged by his victory. But Atiku is no OBJ and probably wouldn’t want to be OBJ either except for the offices OBJ occupied twice.  But not being OBJ whom he loves to hate has its price as he was badly mauled by Jonathan in what has been described as the most thorough and transparent primaries ever organized by the PDP, headed by Professor Tunde Oyediran, where nothing was left to chance.  

But true to his character, trust Atiku to find something to whine about, perhaps including some of his delegates whom he might claim did not understand the kind of turenchi employed by Professor Oyediran and his men to confuse his supporters, majority of whom he might further claim to be stark illiterates. And he could head to court for that and plead with the judge to nullify the results on account of the organizers not providing competent interpreters to his illiterate delegates who confused his name with Jonathan’s and wound up loading up on Jonathan’s numbers up to 2736 in all to his 800 plus, most of which should have come to him. It has been alleged that Nwodo’s sudden appearance at the convention was part of the game plan to nullify the election results. Could that be the “flaws” he was alleging and consulting his aides for before springing to action? We keep our fingers crossed for now. However, that he failed to congratulate Jonathan is also in character, not just for him but for Nigerian politicians in general, who are never graceful in defeat but always souring, causing and kicking, no matter what. I’m just getting to know now that Atiku has indeed gone to court again and as usual using others as proxies. Never mind that litigation has not been altogether too helpful for him this time around as it was in 2007. But hey, who can stop Atiku from litigation? That is his brand of politics. If failed gubernatorial candidates had litigated their way to the Executive Mansions in Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Edo states, who says Atiku could not litigate his way to Aso Rock and kick out whomever he finds in there? President Jonathan had better watch his back because Atiku is going to kick up some dusts like an angry horse, who has been denied a good lunch by his rider! That said, while a floored and traumatized Atiku was still lying prostrate on the canvass mumbling some jumbo IBB, who had earlier faked a threat to quit the PDP on account of zoning couldn't wait to congratulate Jonathan, describing his victory over Atiku as a "landslide" that he should not only take as "personal but for the entire party." And you wonder what happened to IBB's threat to quit the party should Jonathan was ever allowed to participate in the PDP primaries? And you wonder where were all their delegates that they had pledged to donate to Atiku to send Jonathan back to his village in Bayelsa went? And you begin to wonder also what happened to the whole consensus elephant? Well, never mind: what happened was what I told you would happen on these very pages; not once, not twice, not thrice, but several times that the consensus elephant would not fly! Have you ever seen where elephants fly? The consensus beast was an elephant that was not destined to miraculously develop huge and powerful wings and take to the air but designed to remain lumbering on the ground on all fours as all elephants do. Nigeria might be a land where the improbable happen including ruling parties fielding aspirants to challenge their own sitting presidents, but that doesn’t include elephants flying. That, I can assure you and vouch for too!

And that reminds one of the caption of a Thisday newspaper report when Atiku emerged consensus candidate of the north. It read: “Three down, one more to go!” referring to the flooring of IBB, Gusau and Saraki, with Jonathan waiting to take his drubbing by Atiku, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the crass naivety of the reporter and his editor.  In an earlier post, I predicted correctly that Atiku would be abandoned by IBB, Gusau and Saraki. And how swiftly has that prophesy come to pass! And guess what, they did not only abandon Atiku, Saraki was reported to have delivered his Kwara State delegates to Jonathan. One by one, all of Atiku's co-travelers in Ciroma's consensus boat bailed out and abandoned him to sink with the ill-fated ship. Call it treachery or whatever, if you like, but no one is exactly shedding tears for Atiku right now, not even Adamu Ciroma, for choosing to travel in an ill-fated ship of zoning that none, including Atiku, himself, really believed in. He should have been smart enough to understand that he was being set up as the fall guy. Those who set him up for the fall knew he was going nowhere but political oblivion with the consensus trap that was simply used to get rid of him. The northern consensus candidacy thing was originally conceived for the benefit of IBB and Gusau, the retired generals and not for a bloody civilian like Atiku who gate-crashed from the ACN to snatch the title from them. The humiliation that the defeat inflicted on IBB and Gusau by a someone who was not even reckoned with as party member a few months back was not lost on their supporters and northerners even though they tried to put a brave public face to it and pretended to have taken their defeats in their strides. Nothing of that sort happened. If anything, the opposite was the case—waiting for candidate Jonathan to avenge their defeats and humiliation at the primaries since they couldn’t do it by themselves having signed an undertaking to work with the winner of the northern consensus deal. And when it was crunch time Atiku found himself deserted by all. He was on his own. All along Atiku had been living in a fool’s paradise by parading himself as the northern consensus candidate. In reality he was nowhere near that status and appellation and that was why I had christened it “hollow crown” in my previous write up. Oh boy, haven’t I been proved right?

I tell you what: strange as it might sound, Atiku’s victory might have upset IBB and Gusau. Sometime ago after Atiku emerged as the northern consensus candidate I read a report quoting one of IBB’s aides wondering how would anyone expect his boss to support Atiku when his boss had been working all these years to prevent Atiku from succeeding OBJ or getting too powerful as to threaten IBB’s own presidential ambition.  And the aide simply dismissed such prospects as unrealistic and improbable despite public appearances to the contrary. And I believed him totally. IBB had no intentions whatsoever of working to make Atiku president his undertaking notwithstanding.  He could pretend to in order to fulfill all righteousness but that was it. There was no substance to that posturing. The story was told by the same aide of how IBB allegedly reported Atiku to his former boss, OBJ, about his alleged acts of disloyalty to OBJ and when OBJ demanded proof IBB went back to supply the proofs. And from that point on there was no love lost between OBJ and his deputy and as they say the rest is history. We are seeing that history playing out today in IBB’s reaction to Jonathan’s victory over Atiku. The truth of the matter which no one wants to admit for obvious reasons is that very few in the North wanted Atiku to become PDP flag bearer. They would rather have preferred him remaining in his AC or ACN or whatever name it is called. Atiku’s coming back to the PDP at the eleventh hour to upset their applecart and his clinching of the consensus victory was like rubbing salt on a festering sore. He killed their presidential ambitions and how was he expected to realize his own after killing theirs? When you hear people like Senator Kanti Bello, an IBB’s confidant, screaming at the top of his voice that “Atiku killed zoning,” it gives you a window into the prevailing sentiments against Atiku’s candidacy in the critical quarters in the North.  

If he had any doubts about that Saraki and IBB about face must have convinced him that he was made as a paper tiger with no claws and that why it was that easy for Jonathan to pulverize him at the primaries. He must be naïve to put it mildly that IBB and Ciroma wanted him to become president over them. You could sense the sense of elation in the tone of IBB congratulatory message to Jonathan, which only managed to mockingly, it seems, mention Atiku as an afterthought. IBB knew too well that the fate that befell Atiku in the hands of Jonathan would have been his and seems to be having the last laugh, and so is his former boss, OBJ. Atiku appears to be the only one who is not laughing at the moment. And that is because he was acting like the doomed dog, which refused to listen to his owner's whistle. His scandalous drubbing at the primaries represents not just the rejection of his person even by his own people and his brand of politics, but more importantly of what he stands for. He was the symbol of zoning and politics of divide and rule, which represents a reprehensible anachronism. And he was justifiably punished for that by his own party and his own state and his own local government delegates.

The PDP, both at the leadership and rank and file levels, have with one voice repudiated zoning as an instrument of power discrimination against any part or section of the country. And as my readers must have known by now, that is music to my ears. I don't know about you, but I can't be more proud to be a Nigerian and prouder still of our northern brothers and sisters in particular, who rejected their own son and apostle of ethnicity and division; our Ndigbo brothers and sisters, who saw through the fake promises of handing over power to them after one term; and our Oduduwa brothers and sisters, who as always stand firm on the side of justice. Together, they delivered a clear and direct message to ethnic and sectional champions that the presidency of the world’s largest black nation and her democracy would not be reduced to clannish or tribal affairs in the hands of ethnic gladiators. If she did, what kind of message would she have sent to other African nations and the world at large? That Nigeria is still a patchwork of warring tribes after 50 years of nationhood that is practicing democracy by zoning her presidency? Is that the best Nigeria could offer for democracy in Africa? Who would she be selling such anachronism to in Africa let alone the rest of the world? The PDP delegates have thus wisely, thoughtfully, patriotically and nationalistically voted to remove that stigma from the nation’s presidency and Nigerian leaders, and they deserve nothing but praise and admiration for their patriotism. This goes to show that the ordinary northerner has nothing to do with the drumbeats of zoning from Ciroma, IBB and Atiku’s bandstand. The humiliating defeat handed down to Atiku by PDP’s delegates was not just for him alone but for all forces of division and retrogression in Nigeria that had queued up behind him.

What Fell Him

Yet when we come down to the bolts and nuts of Jonathan’s victory we will find that it all comes down to strategic planning.  Several factors contributed to hand Atiku this resounding defeat the first of which is the power of incumbency.

Incumbency: To begin with, it was foolish and politically suicidal for Atiku to have taken on a sitting president whose popularity was not in doubt however new Jonathan was in the presidency. As I have argued in a previous write up, there is nowhere in the democratic world where an incumbent president would be so brazenly challenged by his own party members in party primaries. It’s almost unheard of in any established democracies. The rule of the thumb is that a sitting president is entitled to a second term if he so desires and the party’s primaries would be to formalize that understanding and make it official. President Obama’s candidacy under his Democratic Party is a foregone conclusion whether he is popular or not and whether he led his party to lose total control of Congress or not. It matters not. His candidacy is assured and no less a person than the Chairman of the Democratic Party Mr. Tim Kain has said that much that he wouldn’t expect any other Democrat to challenge President Obama for the 2012 presidential primaries. Before Obama no one challenged GW Bush in the Republican Party for his second term even with his unpopular war in Iraq making him extremely vulnerable. And before Bush no one challenged President Bill Clinton in the Democratic Party for his second term even though Clinton lost both Houses of Congress to the Republicans in the Midterm elections. And before Clinton no one challenged Bush Snr. in the Republican Party for second term. He was handed the party’s flag in obedience to tradition and was beaten by Jimmy Carter who was equally handed the Democratic flag for second term without challenge only to be walloped by Reagan. Go to Britain, France, Germany, India, Italy, Australia, Canada, Spain, etc, and you will find similar parallels.

That tradition is there in all established democracies to allow sitting presidents or prime ministers as the case may be go for second terms or as many terms as their constitutions permit. Abubakar Atiku knew about this tradition all over the democratic world and yet stuck out his neck to challenge Jonathan all because he felt the Nigerian presidency was his birthright and had to be delivered on his hands on the platter of zoning. Jonathan has not even done one year not to talk of one term and Atiku was already jumping on him. He couldn’t even wait for Jonathan to do one term in office before challenging him if he must do so and had to abandon his AC and rushed back to the PDP to dethrone Jonathan in the name of zoning. When things get to Nigeria they tend to acquire weird characteristics and it’s all about the “Nigerian factor”. It’s indeed amazing what ambition can do to some people. How deluded must he have been to think it was that cut and dried with such a nebulous formula as zoning! As he has found out rather too late, however, it takes more than an Atiku to move against an incumbent president who is not a political leper like former President Nixon of the United States. Although Atiku had dismissed the power of incumbency, which he boasted he would render impotent, he has seen how devastatingly effective that power could be when fully and effectively deployed. Even without more the power of incumbency clothes its holder with the aura of invincibility and a sense of inevitability unless of course the holder is unpopular. Given the tradition alluded to above, there has always been this feeling that a sitting president is entitled for election or reelection as the case maybe, and that feeling is very much present in the PDP and the nation at large. And it’s real and palpable too. It’s only those blinded by zoning that pretend not to feel its manifestations.

Ordinarily all the president needed was to indicate his interest and the party machinery would take care of the rest. In this case, however, given the heated debates, threats and intimidation generated by zoning champions the president was forced to do much more that he should ordinarily have had to do to secure his party’s nomination. And his most effective weapon was the use of PDP governors as his zonal campaign coordinators. As a former governor and sitting president, the use of PDP governors seems to be a natural move on his part given the enormous influence the governors wielded over delegates from their respective states. Those who scoffed at the adoption of Jonathan by the PDP governors as a fluke including Atiku who publicly dismissed their endorsement of Jonathan must be in doubts of their political smarts by now. The notion held in some quarters, including Atiku too, that the PDP governors would dump Jonathan for him at the primaries proper was simply silly more so when Jonathan himself had reciprocated their adoption of him and in fact delivered on his promise to support their own re-election bids in their states. What had Atiku to counter that mutually beneficial arrangement between Jonathan and PDP governors? Nothing, but endless complaints and whining! To think therefore that the governors would just walk away from their commitments and abandon Jonathan for Atiku who had made no investment on their political future was arrant nonsense. And the results proved it.

Apart from the power of incumbency, Atiku had become a stranger in the PDP who was viewed by many as a man who wanted to reap from the house he had sought to destroy from the outside. And the resistance to his readmission to the party even in his home state was a harbinger of the humiliation he received at the primaries. And that image of an opportunist was not helped by his adoption by the Ciroma Consensus Committee as could be seen from the avalanche of negative reactions even from the north that greeted his emergence as the northern consensus candidate. It was hardly a surprise then that no sooner he emerged than his defeated opponents abandoned him while still pretending to work with him. Which explains why neither Gusau nor IBB showed up at the Convention to at least provide some support and solidarity for Atiku. Both of them abandoned him when he needed them most. It is not clear if Atiku benefitted from their delegates at all.

OBJ Factor:  There is no question that OBJ remains an institution in the PDP. Well, the fact that he remains the party’s BoT Chairman till today despite spirited by failed attempts to remove him under Yar’Adua speaks volumes about the man. Although late President Musa Yar’Adua tried his best to whittle down OBJ’s influence in the party, there is no doubt that the man has regained his form under the Jonathan presidency, which is his own baby. However, the OBJ factor did not rub well on Atiku for obvious reasons and the man did not hide it. OBJ made it clear from the get go that Atiku was a joke and he truly came out as a huge joke at the primaries.  It was dumb for Atiku to have picked on OBJ at the primaries by casting himself as a champion of democracy to save Nigeria from alleged OBJ’s third term project.  It is unethical to claim all the credits of the administration, including the huge foreign reserves left by the administration,  EFCC, and Public Procurement Act, among others, and then turn around to vilify his boss at the convention by a man who was out canvassing votes on account of third term. The way he spoke would make MKO Abiola turn in his grave because Atiku was nowhere when the real fight for democracy was raging in Nigeria. Yet Atiku had the guts to tell the delegates that but for him there would have been no democracy in Nigeria and therefore no primaries. He was indulging in a bit of revisionism there.

Some Perspectives on Third Term: For starters Atiku didn’t tell us how third term could have led to the collapse of the democracy had it succeeded. If third terms kill democracy, democracy would have been long dead in the US because President Delano Roosevelt (FDR) did not only have a third term but a fourth term in the beginning of which he died in office. History is replete with European leaders who ruled for more than two terms. In France were François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand: 05/21/1981 to 05/17/1995 and Jacques René Chirac: 05/17/1995 to 05/16/2007. In Germany were Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck : 03/21/1871 to 03/20/1890 and Helmut Khol  10/01/1982 to 10/27/1998. And in Britain were British Prime Sir Robert Walpole: 1721 to 1742 and Henry Pelham: 1743-1754. And I could go on and on to cite leaders in other countries. Whether we are talking about Britain, Germany, Canada or Spain, you will find leaders who went for third terms and that per se didn’t amount to sitting tight because it is just twelve years at the most in modern terms. That wouldn’t turn anyone into a Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Baby Doc of Haiti, Pol Pot of Cambodia or Banda of Malawi, at least not in Nigeria.

At this present time the Major of New York City is on his third term as Major of the City having engineered an amendment to the City Charter to give himself another chance for third term and he succeeded. And he succeeded because New Yorkers voted him in for a third term. That has not killed democracy in New York City. It is the people who determine whether a leader who puts himself forward for a third term deserves it or not and vote him in or out. Merely putting himself forward for a third term guarantees no victory and so it would have been with OBJ. People would throw up the self-defeatist argument that Nigeria is different from other nations as such the leader would always win regardless. If that is the case then the problem is not with third term or fourth terms but with the electoral system itself that should be made accountable to the electorate. That has nothing to do with the tenure itself. Demonizing third term is running away from the real evil of electoral manipulation—rigging election. That is the real evil. The problem with Nigerian democracy is not about third term but about electoral integrity and the do-or-die attitudes of political actors. In well organized societies sitting presidents do lose elections and going for third or fourth terms offers no guarantees for victory.

We must put matters in their proper contexts. Atiku’s outlandish claim to have saved democracy on account of his alleged fight against OBJ’s third term attempt, which was no more than a constitutional amendment proposal out of over 120 other proposals, is crass revisionism. And I thought we should set the records straights for posterity. If I remember correctly, Atiku came to the third term battle late in the day when it was already raging and did so only when his own presidential ambition was threatened under the OBJ administration, which as we all know, was a carryover from his challenge of OBJ’s re-election bid back in the 2003 presidential election. To put it bluntly, Atiku was fighting a war of personal survival. Earlier in this write up I alluded to how IBB had reported Atiku to OBJ about his disloyalty and provided evidence to back up his allegation. That was in his first term well before third term came up in the proposed constitutional amendment at the tail end of his second term, which was itself one of the outcomes of the Constitutional Conference organized to re-engineer the polity. The truth is that Atiku had been disloyal and had been plotting against OBJ right from his first term. And the reason had to do with his own presidential ambition and had nothing to do with fighting for democracy. When it was time to fight for democracy in 1993 led by MKO Abiola, Atiku went AWOL because it did not affect his personal interest. He was nowhere NADECO.  He has not suffered for democracy. But we know those who went to prison to enthrone democracy and they include NADECO and CD operatives, Gen. Musa Yar’Adua and OBJ himself. Atiku should tell us what he suffered in the hands of the military for fighting for democracy. Nothing! At best he was Gen.Yar’Adua’s boy. Today, he is reaping the consequences of disloyalty and treachery by jumping from pillar to post and winding up with utter humiliation in the hands of someone like Jonathan, who was barely known in the country three years ago.  

So much noise had been made about so-called third term by vested interests like Atiku and his former AC chieftains like Bisi Akande and Bola Tinubu, the ACN dictators. But it is all baloney. It’s all hot air without substance. There is nothing inherently evil with constitutional amendment which includes tenure. In fact, there is nothing bad at all with it, except of course, when it is happening under an OBJ administration—a man who had voluntarily set a record in Africa as the first military leader to hand over power from military to civilian. The US constitution has been amended 28 times and the first four amendments were carried out within just a couple of years after its enactment to take care of certain issues, including the Bill of Rights. Nigerian had several issues to deal with which called for constitutional amendments and they include tenure. Today tenure is still an issue and the president himself has hinted at a proposal that would make the presidency a single term affair of six years in order to remove the re-election challenges and their consequent destabilizing effects. During the constitutional conference so many tenure options were proposed including six-year single term, state creation, revenue allocation, resource control, gubernatorial immunity, state police, etc, etc.  But mischief makers in AD and the north jumped on third term and reduced the entire constitutional amendment to third term as though it were some evil coming to hit the nation—all because they wanted OBJ out of power just so power could move to the north. That was the motive force behind the so-called anti-third term campaign and we all see if for what it is today. So much for the third term bogey!

And for Atiku to seek to make himself democracy champion on the basis of his opposition to third term when the entire world knew he was fighting for his own political survival smacks of dishonesty and fraudulent posturing on his part because nothing could be farther from the truth. And this has been copiously demonstrated for all to see in his undemocratic campaign on zoning which has been rejected by all well meaning Nigerians including his own people in his own state.  He runs around the country claiming to be democrat but when it is time to prove it like conceding victory to an opponent and congratulating him as true democrats do after an election universally adjudged free and fair and utterly transparent he flounders.  Now Atiku may be running around claiming to be a democrat but his own people in his own village in his own ward in his own city and in his own state know only too well who the real Atiku really is—anything but…And they showed it with their votes at the primaries. One does not become a democrat by mouth but by deeds.

I’m against sit tight leadership and have condemned the practice in my last article but we shouldn’t mix apples with oranges. We must be clear of what we are taling about when throwing words around loosely just to score cheap political points. Third term is third term and at the end of it another would have taken his place if he had won. It’s not sitting tight and it’s not the end of democracy either as Atiku and his clan would want the world to believe. At most third term would only have given OBJ twelve years in office and that’s not an eternity and that is if he had won the election. This is not about defending OBJ’s administration but to set the records straight. We know who the sit tight leaders are in Africa and the world at large and the last time I checked their list does not include the name “Olusegun Obasanjo”. They are the Mobutu Sese Sekos, Julius Nyereres, Kenneth Kaundas, Pol Pots, Muammar Quadaffis, Robert Mugabes, Fidel Castros, Omar Bongos, etc, etc, who were all or are still life presidents in their respective countries, not OBJ.  

I thought OBJ’s third term if he had succeeded would have given us more of the achievements that Atiku was happy to reel out, including the GSM revolution and perhaps better power supply by now than the two years wasted under Musa Yar’Adua. Even the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) is accusing Jonathan of squandering the huge foreign reserves OBJ left behind for Yar’Adua and is calling on voters not to vote for anyone who is not prepared to prosecute the anti-graft war as vigorously as it used to be. But you know something? We didn’t hear all these people talking about the good old days for EFCC and our foreign reserves which were all accomplished under OBJ praising the man or crediting him for anything. On the contrary they were all vilifying him for the very things they’re longing for today! If GSM were to suddenly go down in Nigeria today like NITEL, these folks would cry to bring OBJ back to power! If the airlines were to suddenly crash out today in Nigeria like Nigerian Airways, these folks would demand the return of OBJ. That the nation now has the largest and most robust and resilient air travel and banking industries and a growing economy is thanks to OBJ and his able, first class lieutenants.

Credits: If Atiku had anything of any achievement to point to under the OBJ administration the credit should go to OBJ and not to him. He cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. If he accusing President Jonathan of squandering the huge foreign exchange left by OBJ the credit for that belongs to OBJ not him. Ditto for EFCC, GSM, NIPPs, which have formed the bedrock of Jonathan’s Power Sector Roadmap and other reforms in both energy and power sectors. I was just reading a while ago that the federal government was already test running three of the IPP plants at Sapele, Alaoje and Olurunsogun, which will be due for commissioning in June, this year. Those projects were started by one leader who is still alive and will live to see the fruits of his labor; abandoned by another leader, who, unfortunately, is dead; and restarted by yet another leader, who is not only alive but on the saddle. Put together they had been described as the biggest power projects in the world in recent history. Yet they were abandoned by a leader who chose to chase shadows rather than giving light to his people. I’m putting this out because I was so upset by the unnecessary politicking that the late Yar’Adua introduced into the power sector reforms with particular reference to the Independent Power Plants, the railway projects, and the Mambilla Power projects that he inherited and abandoned under the pretext of alleged irregularities in the contracts. And ditto for Nigeria’s burnished image and rehabilitation in the international arena, some of which Atiku had claimed credit for in his address. The way he went pounding his chest about democracy, one would think he brought democracy to Nigeria. Atiku is claiming credit for everything including OBJ’s first class economic team and sticking the man with negatives. I thought that was unfair and unbecoming of someone who had occupied such an exalted position. Decorum and decency should have advised him against such a dumb move. But hey, people act out their essential personalities and characters regardless of their positions.

And talking about EFCC in particular, isn’t ironical, even amusing for Atiku and his ACN acolytes, who were campaigning to destroy EFCC are the ones now claiming credit for EFCC. Isn’t it funny that those who claimed OBJ was witch hunting them with EFCC and had called for Nuhu Ribadu’s head during Yar’Adua’s reign are those now making him their party’s presidential candidate in the name of empowering the youths? That’s right, the Tinubus and the Akandes who applauded Yar’Adua for persecuting Ribadu have now turned around to make the man their leader. Tinubu is doing the very same thing to Mrs Farida Waziri, Ribadu’s successor by accusing her of being used by Jonathan to persecute him. And that’s in character. They’re the untouchables in Nigeria. Ask them to come forward to clear their names of allegations of corruption and cries of political persecution would rent the air. They’re above the laws of the land and accountable to none. Pray, what qualifies Ribadu to become the presidential candidate of ACN but for his exploits in the EFCC which they had claimed to be mere witch hunt of political enemies and nothing more to it? Folks, I’m talking about the ACN here that just made Nuhu Ribabu, the former despised EFFC Czar, its presidential candidate by consensus. I can hear some the readers exclaiming: “Unbelievable— Only in Nigeria!”

Till today Nuhu Ribadu maintains his stance that no one sent him after anybody and that he was just doing his job his own way. He reiterated that in a recent newspaper interview. Do they believe him now? Do they believe that he wasn’t sent to witch hunt political opponents but was just doing his job his own way? If not why would they make him their presidential candidate if they thought he was being economical with the truth? Readers should now understand why it is said that history is the best judge of men, not men. The same ACN which was at the forefront of Ribadu’s persecution will be rolling out the drums for him celebrating his “achievements” as EFCC Chairman under the very same OBJ administration. That’s all ACN and Ribadu will be campaigning on! Incredible! Hypocrisy has no other name, folks. These folks are not only unscrupulous by simply shameless.

I don’t know what Atiku’s political strategies are but going to his party primaries to canvass  votes from delegates from all zones should have advised him against hauling bricks against the undisputed leader of the party from such a critical zone as the South/West or any zone for that matter and BoT chairman of his own party. I don’t know how many votes Atiku got for attacking OBJ at the convention from the South/West delegates. It was the dumbest thing any candidate could make. In fact it was suicidal. Maybe he thought he was addressing ACN convention where OBJ bashing would have automatically given him the ticket. Sorry, this was PDP where OBJ rules and delegates from the South/West could not have been particularly amused at such infantile tactics employed by Atiku against their leader. In the end OBJ was the one laughing as he had indeed promised Atiku long time ago. And he’s still laughing while someone else is, well, weeping and wailing over the decisive defeat handed down on his lap.       

IBB Factor: These are clear indications that IBB wants to play the OBJ of the North as the center of the northern universe in whose place there is no other and that was why he wanted to return as civilian president just like OBJ his former boss and possibly surpass his almost 12years in power both as military and civilian leader. And the only person standing in his way at the time was Abubakar Atiku. Therefore, driving a wedge between him and his former boss was a surefire way to knock him off track the presidential race on the PDP platform which actually came to pass with Atiku quitting the party altogether thereby paving the way for IBB to make his move. Unfortunately for him he did not reckon with the general from Otta, who was not about to let the general from Minna rubbish his own record as the longest serving Nigerian leader, dead or alive. Then enter Musa Yar Adua, the dark horse from Katsina to the chagrin of IBB, who was forced to retreat under fire. However, like the patient dog, IBB bade his time. Yar Adua's death barely two years on the throne and with Atiku still out of the way in the political wilderness gave him the perfect opportunity to bounce back since OBJ was no longer in a position to torpedo his ambition this time around.  Bam! Here comes Atiku again rushing back to PDP and telling him "Not so fast, buddy. I'm still here and you aren’t going to inherit the house I built with my own sweat behind my back while I'm still alive and kicking. Come on— let's go for the northern consensus thing!" You think IBB was happy about Atiku’s return to the PDP at the time he did? Nah! How could he? Would you, if you were in his shoes and had gotten everything under wraps to inherit the presidency only for Atiku to show up at the last minute to rubbish everything? Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. Would you?

Although the veritable Headmaster of the Northern Consensus Committee, Adamu Ciroma, had his eyes on IBB, the consensus idea itself was reported to have come from Atiku, who, sensing his superior understanding of the ground game over retired generals, succeeded in luring IBB and Gusau into it, and thereafter proceeded to load the committee with his own men who rolled over IBB and Gusau. But he failed to reckon with Jonathan, whose amiable and unassuming mien he had terribly mistaken as weakness. If he could roll over battle-tested generals; if he could fight the Emperor himself, OBJ, to a standstill before he voluntarily walked away from the PDP, who was Jonathan to stand in his way? He took Jonathan for a lily-livered paperweight that would be blown away with his heavyweight status, conveniently forgetting and/or discounting the fact that Jonathan had the presidency under his belt and all that comes with it. When Jonathan was busy sitting and commissioning projects in strategic zones in the country and using that to garner support for his presidential ambition, Atiku had no answer. When Jonathan was busy making strategic appointments to garner strategic support from strategic zones in the country, Atiku had no answer. When Jonathan was busy attending international forums and presiding over international meetings with all the publicity and limelight and political goodwill that came with them, Atiku had no answer. When he was busy holding meetings and consultations with PDP Governors, who held the aces to get their support, Atiku had no answer and was busy talking down the economy as if that would secure him any votes in his party primaries. And, when he was busy visiting victims of terrorist bombings and empathizing with them at the hospitals, Atiku had no answer. How could any smart individual and a politician for that matter discount the power of incumbency?

Condescension: Atiku’s condescending attitude toward Jonathan could be seen even at the convention in his address. And that's where he was gravely mistaken. Unlike IBB and Gusau Jonathan had the power of incumbency which he lacked and that made all the difference. He didn't reckon with that and if he did was quick to dismiss it as inconsequential. And he didn't reckon with the nation's constitution and if he did considered it inferior to the PDP constitution at least so far as it relates to its zoning provisions which are so dear to his heart. Thus while chanting the provisions of the PDP constitution which they recited like religious injunctions not once did Atiku and his aides referred to the Nigerian constitution as if Nigeria has no constitution and if it had its provisions were inferior to those of the PDP. His pitch to the delegates bristled with a sense of entitlement on account of what he claimed to have done for the party. He talked about how he allegedly stepped down for other presidential aspirants in the past right from MKO Abiola to OBJ as if MKO ever belonged to the PDP except perhaps posthumously claiming that there was really no basis for comparing him with Jonathan when it came to party building. But somehow he managed to forget to tell us that he was once given an opportunity to contest the presidency and he failed to make even a dent for all his vaunted political stature. He remembered those he claimed to have stepped down for but he failed to mention those who stepped down for him to become VP in 1999 and presidential candidate in 2007. And what is more, he failed to acknowledge that apart from OBJ no other individual in the PDP had been rewarded and benefitted from the party for so long having been a VP for eight solid years. No other PDP member apart from OBJ had enjoyed power that long in this and previous dispensations more so as he admitted himself he was given a free reign by OBJ, which no VP had enjoyed before and after him. While he was touting his party building prowess, however, he failed to remember that he had sought to destroy the same party he claimed to have built from the outside on the pretext that he was forced out by OBJ. How? He didn’t explain. If everyone who disagreed with the president must quit the party and seek to destroy it from the outside would there have been PDP for him to return to? He wouldn’t admit that his presidential ambition caused him to quit the party for the AC where he had sought to realize his ambition. He attacked Jonathan for allegedly destroying the party on account of those who decamped from the PDP to other parties but he conveniently forgot that he and many others including the PDP Chairman were able to come back to the party courtesy of Jonathan’s magnanimity and also that the PDP had acquired more state governors who defected from other parties than it lost to other parties through court judgments under Jonathan’s overall leadership. He also forgot that party crisis and defections in an election year is a normal phase and all the parties experience such phenomenon until elections are over and reconciliation starts.

On the whole it was such an awful litany of cheap shots, self-centered, vainglorious pitches that made my stomach churn reading it— totally devoid of class and higher ideals expected of one aspiring to such high office. It was a junk speech entirely devoted to spelling out his entitlement from the party, bristling with self-righteous indignation. And I thought that was a disaster right there that he later turned out to be. I did my stomach a bad turn reading it. But read it I must to enable me properly evaluate the man who wanted to rule us. And I wasn't at all surprised he fared so calamitously. By refusing to take the high road and coming to the convention to preach the gospel of zoning for grown-ups like him to the face of their sitting president and the acknowledged leader of the party for his own benefit as his personal entitlement from the party, he lost it completely. But not before he had helped to legitimize Jonathan’s candidacy by submitting to the primaries and fighting till the bitter end. Yes, Atiku went down fighting and he lost gallantly even though he has not displayed some grace in defeat, which would have stood him tall in the estimation of his fellow citizens. He chose to go with the advice of military apologists and Abacha henchmen like former Senator Waku from Benue State. 

I applaud Jonathan for resisting the attempts to disqualify Atiku through the courts and the PDP through the waiver issue. He displayed statesmanship by refusing to play OBJ of 2007 all over again. He must have learnt a lesson from that. Atiku would have become a hero overnight had he done that even though he had no real electoral value left in him today as the results have conclusively shown. I applaud him more for reaching out to the defeated contenders and bind the wounds. That is humility in victory. And believe it or not, I also applaud Atiku for tacitly accepting the results of the primaries even as he whined against not having a “level playing field,” whatever that means. At least, he has not carried out his threat of “violent change” as yet. Maybe he will do so down the road after holding “consultations” with his supporters.  But he will have a hard time recruiting political jihadists for that game plan since the primaries have been universally hailed as exceedingly transparent by world standards. It couldn’t be done any better than what the PDP showcased at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on January 13, 2011. Those grounds have been sanctified and hallowed for the history books. It was internal democracy at its best and the world has acknowledged it. And that is a huge damper for potential political jihadists that Atiku might be counting on for his threat of violent change.

Therefore, it is in Atiku’s best interest and the interest of democracy for him to accept the olive branch held before him by the president. Being a democrat that he claims to be is not just a matter of words but a matter of deeds and accepting defeat when it is this clear is the trade mark of democrats rather than being the bad loser that he is turning out to be. Refusing to congratulate Jonathan takes nothing away from his victory, but it takes a great deal away from Atiku. Oh yes, it does big time even if he does not appreciate it now, having surrounded himself with anti-democratic forces like Senator Waku. He should understand that this 2011 not 1911 and Nigerians are getting politically sophisticated by the day and they know a bad loser when they see one in front of them. Anyone taking advice from military apologists like Senator Waku should know that he is in the wrong company and that something could be wrong, somewhere with his political judgment. Anyway, he still has a slim chance of rehabilitating and reconciling himself with history.  

And with that Atiku “killed zoning”.  My apologies to Senator Kanti Bello!

Adieu, Zoning! You came. You saw. And you were conquered. May Your Soul Rest in Pieces. Amen!

From the stable of –Cutting-Edge Analytics—Where News Meets the Intellect--

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst.


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