Still in search of a northern president
The monolithic North which came together under one roof and under one voice in 2015 to support the candidature of President Muhammad Buhari is today in disarray. The region is divided along several interests and opinions, making it extremely difficult to pick from the retinue of 15 northerners who have declared their interest to challenge President Buhari in next year’s election.
Among the presidential aspirants from the North-West are the current President, Muhammadu Buhari; former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; former governor of Sokoto State, Dalhatu Bafarawa; former Minister of Special Duties, Kabir Tanimu, and Senator Datti Baba Ahmed; while in the North Central there are John Dara; Professor Jerry Gana; Senate President Bukola Saraki; former governor of Plateau State, David Jang; and Mattias Tsado, while in the North-East there are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo.
Buhari’s road to 2019
Jonathan’s failure to vacate the seat after completing Yar’adua’s tenure and after which he decided to run again against the northern interest was his greatest undoing. By 2015, it was clear that the region didn’t want anything to do with Jonathan. Buhari who had contested three times and failed became the beautiful bride of the region. Thus, he was subsequently adopted and supported by the northern oligarchs. With the support of other regions, he won the 2015 presidential election.
Now, three and half years on the saddle as president of the country, the region is divided over his re-election bid.
Investigations revealed that today the northern establishment is not in favour of his re-election bid even though there are some others who would want him to continue in office beyond 2019. Those who are rooting for his continued stay as the country’s number one citizen argue that the North has only four years to remain in power. They claim that Buhari ought to be supported and given the opportunity to complete all the projects he started. They further argue that if another candidate emerges, the country will again be plunged into another crisis like the one witnessed after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Apart from that, the president’s scorecard in the fight against insurgency in the North-East and other parts of the country is also seen as one of the reasons he should be allowed to continue. According to them, allowing him to remain in office would lead to total victory against the insurgents since the war is almost coming to an end.
A member of the Borno Elders Forum, who pleaded for anonymity, remarked that “Before the president assumed office, the North-East was traumatised by war. Many had abandoned their homes and were living in IDP camps. But today the insurgency has been degraded to the barest minimum and many people have returned to their homes and have re-united with their families.
Also, speaking in the same vein, a public affairs commentator, Abdulnasir Umar, maintained that the era of bomb blasts in some major cities has become a thing of the past, saying places like markets, motor parks and schools which were becoming bomb sites are now very free as people move around without fear of being attacked by suicide bombers.
Those rooting for the return of Buhari remarked that he has equally done well in the fight against corruption. According to them, many people who had embezzled funds have either returned some of the looted funds or are currently facing litigations across the various courts in the country.
“We are now in the era where people are afraid to steal. The era of wanton stealing of public funds is over,” the source declared.
They further argue that the anti-corruption fight has also been carried to the doors of top government officials found wanting while in office. They cited the dismissal of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, as well former director-general of the DSS, Lawal Daura, as well as the recent resignation of the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, over the NYSC certificate scandal.
Odds against Buhari
On the other hand, those who want the president to return to his home town, Daura, believe that a young candidate is better to steer the ship of state. Apart from his health challenges which they said remains a major factor, they also claim that Buhari’s government is being run by a cabal. They accused the president of paying lip service to the ongoing herdsmen/farmers’ crisis in some parts of the country, especially in the North-Central.
According to them, the unending killings in Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna states show clearly the failure of the government in power. The failure of the president to revive the economy is also seen as a major setback. Those opposed to him point to the increasing high cost of living and rising cases of unemployment as too glaring to ignore. With the value of naira still at N360 to a dollar, they maintain that it would be suicidal to continue to support Buhari. According to them, the president seems to have run out of ideas on how to tackle the myriad of problems confronting the country.
In a recent interview, Paul Unongo had told the Nigerian Tribune that because of the division in the region, the various interests and opinions being proffered by different people across the region, elders in the region met and decided to set up a six-man committee whose mandate is to pick a candidate that is acceptable in the region and equally acceptable in the other regions. Unongo had said the committee, which he is a member, would do a thorough job to ensure that the region presents the best for the country.
Six weeks into the working of the committee, investigation revealed that the committee could not reach a consensus. A member of the committee who pleaded for anonymity remarked that the members of the committee had failed to agree on whether to support Buhari or any other candidate.
According to him, while two members of the committee had agreed on Buhari, two had also lent their support to one of the candidates, while one is in favour of another candidate. One of the committee members, it was gathered, could not make up his mind.
It was also revealed that it was not clear whether the committee had met again. A source revealed that “the elders’ committee is divided. Right now, I don’t even know whether they have met again since the split.”
Following the deadlock, the aspirants from the region have been tacitly given the nod to contest on their different party platforms. To this end, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be fielding 11 presidential aspirants; the Social Democratic Party (SDP), two aspirants; the ARP, one presidential aspirant and the incumbent from the APC.
According to a reliable source who pleaded for anonymity, Atiku, Saraki, Makarfi and Kwankwanso appear to be leading in the build-up to the party’s convention in the first week of October.
He said “I assure you that anyone of them that emerges will slug it out with the incumbent and even defeat him.”
However, the spokesman for the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) in Kaduna, Mr Samuel Aruwan, contended that they are not losing sleep over this development. According to him, “you are living in the North; tell me who among them is more popular than the president?”
The roles of traditional rulers as well as religious leaders according to pundits would be a major determining factor of who emerges as the next president.
Each of the political parties that can market its candidate to these two bodies will eventually produce the next president in 2019.