Gradually the bell is tolling towards 2015. The tell-tale signs are getting clearer by the day. The tussle for the nation’s top most position is heating up as more aspirants from the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) declare preparatory to square it up against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sole candidate, the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan.
The President virtually had the party ticket handed to him through a supposed consensus by his party, thereby shutting the doors in the faces of other would be aspirants who may be nursing such ambition. It is that the nation awaits with bated breath as the main opposition party which insists on entrenching internal democracy in Nigeria struggle through in the its bid to come up with an acceptable figure that will slug it out with Jonathan for the impending contest. And this no doubt is a herculean task, especially that it has in its fold array of quality aspirants jostling to fly the party’s flag ahead of 2015 presidential election.
Within the last three weeks, two aspirants, a former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and a former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have formerly declared their interest to represent the party at the polls. More aspirants, equally qualified, are warming up to throw their hats in the race through public declaration.
However, since the party’s ticket was unofficially zoned to the North, two other aspirants for the position who have indicated interest to also vie for the office, Rabiu Kwankwaso, the Governor of Kano state, and Sam Nda Isaiah, publisher of the Leadership newspaper, are likely to declare their stand in the open soon.
Apparently, the party seems to be in a dilemma right now on how to select its candidate for the main race without hurting itself politically either through a workable consensus option or the primaries. As the only institution in the forefront of campaign for the entrenchment of internal democracy, the party top echelon would prefer the primaries option where aspirants would fight to secure its ultimate price.
However, as analysts have repeatedly argued and rightly so, going into the primaries at this stage of its development would be its undoing, especially with limited time it had to work for the acceptability by majority of Nigerians, of who emerge in the end as its candidate before the elections. It would be so short a time for the party to embark on healing the wounds that an open primary would inflict on aspirants who are likely to loss out of such arrangement and their supporters. The party in end would be the ultimate loser as such conflict could cause its aspiration of ending several years of PDP’s misadventure through a regime change. That is why there is urgent need to rethink the consensus option if it is really determine to save Nigerians from the shackle of poverty and underdevelopment.
However, as the party make haste slowly to weigh its option, may be the aspirants themselves, all from the same region, could lend the party on to its final decision by meeting and agreeing on a sole candidate among themselves who they can collectively support. In doing so, they must shelf personal interest and ambition for the collective aspiration of taking the nation out of its present near comatose state.
In taking the ultimate decision, what should also be uppermost in their minds is the state of the region that produced them. How the region was brought to its knees by its sons who were entrusted with power to advance its fortune but rather mismanaged it across the country. How the legacy of our premier could not be sustain by those we give in trust to do so. They must come out from among themselves a candidate with energy and clout; someone with the intellect and passion driven by the love to touch lives; a committed democrat who would provide purposeful leadership. A candidate that can be easily sellable to Nigerians from the other divide within the limited time available before the election.
That is why the recent news that aspirants from the North on the platform of APC have met in Kaduna with the aim of coming up with a consensus candidate is heart-warming. At the meeting called by the stakeholders of APC in the north, they agreed that the region should present a candidate that must bring back its “lost glory” and the country in general. Borno state governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima who represented the APC governors from the North at the meeting put the region’s problem more succinctly when he said: “The north is in a shambles. Citizens have become refugees in their country.” He suggested: “There is the need to produce the next president from the north. But this is not without challenges, requiring vigilance and courage. There is the need to bury our differences and become united to confront the challenges ahead. If we can summon courage to come together irrespective of our religious and ethnic differences, we are poised to form the next government, come 2015.”
Now, the region’s aspiration to “form the next government”, lies with the four aspirants from the zone, who are angling to fly the APC flag. There is no doubt that all of them are immensely qualified for the challenge. Buhari’s antecedent as an incorruptible personality is well known. His track record of performance in all sectors he had caused to serve the country is unprecedented. But the retired general has acceptability problem among the Christians even from the region and Nigeria at large and his emergence as APC candidate will affect its fortune at the elections.
He is seen by many especially among the Christian failfuls as a religious bigot and an average Christian would rather vote for Jonathan, especially now that the PDP has come to be synonymous with CAN. And as the respected Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi argued recently, a Buhari candidature against Jonathan will spell doom for the country as it will not only further polarise the country against religious lines, but that the outcome of the elections would be bloody. That is why the Northern leaders and elders must urgently prevail on the General to renege his ambition in the interest of peace and rather throw his support behind another aspirant for the race.
What is more, age is not also on the General’s side. At over 70, the rigours of office would no doubt weigh him down. Although some have suggested of recent that he could do the Mandela option by going only for term in office, the stabilisation the nation requires could not be achieve in just one term. Moreover South Africa was not in chaos when Mandela took over. The decision of shelving his ambition would not be a hard one because the General himself has voiced out at many occasions that he would support any candidate of the party’s choice. Like Buhari, Atiku also has an impeccable public service credential. Also his experience as the number two man to former president Olusegun Obasanjo should stand him out as a good alternative to Buhari but his reputation as a serial defector would work against him in a contest. Moreover many party members see him as a newcomer and as someone who lack fidelity.
He also has corruption allegation against him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) although he is yet to be convicted by any law court. So the former vice president could be persuaded to jettison his ambition and deploys his network of foot soldiers as well as loyalist behind another aspirant.
With the two gladiators agreeing to shelf their ambition, the ultimate decision on who will fly the party’s ticket would be between the two younger aspirants, Sam Nda-Isaiah and Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Of the two, although Sam has built an enviable reputation of single-handedly building and running a newspaper company across the Niger, where notable newsmen have tried and failed, he has little experience in public office and larger political environment. The publisher’s goodwill is through his constructive appraisal of government policies and programmes in his popular back page column every Monday. This no doubt he has endeared him to many hearts across the country and such advantage could be well harnessed in support of his co-traveller, Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, who the odd seems to favour to confront Jonathan in the impending battle.
Kwankwaso no doubt, is the ideal candidate the nation needs at this turbulent moment of its history to wriggle power from the clutches of vampires that have held it hostage for years. He represents the change the nation and its people clamour for years. Like APC leader and former governor of Lagos State puts it in an analogy cerebrating the 58 anniversary of the Kano state governor recently, Kwankwaso has been tested and have come out as a committed democratic and a purposeful leader. Tinubu’s message to the leader of the Kwankwasiyya movement, who he described as a tested social democrat reads in part: “Many will have passion and enthusiasm, but few will have experience and wisdom in addition to those. For the man in whom the bright elements seem complete, let’s celebrate.
For the man who joins the fray while the battle was tough, let’s celebrate. “Many will make new friends everywhere they go, but few will stay true to old friends. For the man whose friends are treasures, let’s celebrate.” This description of Kwankwaso by no other person than the Asiwaju himself sums up his personality as an outstanding character, and such should be the points of sale of the aspirants to the electorate. His performance in Kano is also a big selling point for this man who had confronted the power that be and joined the fray while the battle was tough. Kwankwaso has made a statement in Kano by the unprecedented development that has taken place there; he has shown that he can turn around the fortune of this country with the available resource at the centre. He has made sacrifices by confronting the presidency and turning his back on his former party, while his colleagues chicken out with their tales between their legs. Yes, he can take us there. He is our man.
Attai Otteh is off no 22, Angwan- Ogebe, Ankpa, Kogi state