On Tuesday, virtually all major newspapers reported rather lavishly that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, would be crossing over from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Ordinarily, such decision should not have generated the attention it did but for the permutations toward the 2015 presidential election.
For the ruling PDP, it has always been an open secret that President Goodluck Jonathan would seek re-election while his party’s ticket has also for a long time been signed, sealed and delivered for him. On the APC side, for quite sometimes now, there has been a school of thought that defeating an incumbent requires strategic options that could include looking beyond the familiar field to picking a candidate acceptable to the generality of Nigerians. That is how the name of Tambuwal was thrown into the mix.
Before we examine the feasibility of the Tambuwal option and what it portends, it is important to first look at the current field. The publisher of Leadership newspaper and my brother, Sam Nda-Isaiah, has declared his intention to run for the APC presidential ticket. In terms of educational qualifications and exposure, the University of Ife-trained pharmacist comes highly recommended for the number one job as a man of vision and ideas. However, to the extent that ethnicity and religion are strong factors in today’s Nigeria, I do not believe that APC is looking in the direction of Nda-Isaiah, however impressive his credentials may be.
Also on Tuesday in Abuja, Kano State Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso declared his intention for the APC presidential ticket. An erstwhile Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, a former Minister and two-term Governor of Kano State, Kwankwaso clearly has the requisite experience and political acumen. But a major drawback for him is that his name does not command national recognition. While such could be built over time, I don’t think the opposition party would want to gamble away what promises to be their best shot at the presidency on the altar of sentiment. So even when we concede Kwankwaso has been a good Governor for Kano State, where the APC leaders are concerned, this may not be his time.
This then brings us to former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar. All factors considered, the Turaki Adamawa seems to be the most prepared of all the contenders in the field and given my interactions with him over the years, he has clear ideas on what he would do as president. He is also a national figure who needs no introduction anywhere in Nigeria. Unfortunately, his long-drawn war of attrition with his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo (in the course of which his reputation has been viciously assailed) and his penchant for changing political party at every election cycle has so damaged the Atiku brand that all the big wigs in the APC that I know don’t even consider him a serious contender for the ticket.
Now, we are left with Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), easily the biggest masquerade in the APC. The former Head of State has contested the presidential election three times in the last 11 years against three different PDP candidates and lost thrice. Buhari’s selling points are his personal integrity and discipline, attributes that are sorely needed in the Nigerian political space today. There is also a growing feeling that as a former military leader, he might be able to handle better the security challenge confronting the nation. And in terms of followership, Buhari has a cult-like support base in the North-West and North-East zones of the country that could easily be mobilized on election day.
Despite those attributes, Buhari is rightly or wrongly generally perceived as parochial in disposition and for that reason, not trusted by many Nigerians in the south and the middle belt. But more importantly, most Nigerians (including this reporter) do not know Buhari’s position on critical political and socio-economic issues of the day since his few public interventions, almost always on BBC Hausa Service, have not provided any peep into his mind. Buhari also carries a religious cross: “Honestly, what do Nigerians want me to do? If they don’t believe I’m not a fundamentalist, what else can I do?” That was Buhari, speaking in an interview with TheCable last week on an issue that will just not go away.
It is for the foregoing reasons that some people within the opposition party are calling for a “more acceptable” candidate who is also prepared for leadership. That is how the name of Tambuwal comes to the equation. And without any doubt, a Tambuwal ticket on the platform of APC will change the dynamics of the contest for the 2015 presidency. He is young (still below 50), clear-headed, has full grasp of the issues, very articulate and does not carry either an ethnic or a religious baggage. For sure, Tambuwal will feel at ease campaigning in Enugu, Port Harcourt and Ibadan as much as he would in Kebbi, Damaturu and Minna.
Now, a disclosure is appropriate here: Tambuwal is my personal friend so I plead guilty to any charge of bias. But this intervention has more to do with looking at the options available to the opposition party if it really wants to compete in February next year than my own personal prejudices. Even at that, is a Tambuwal ticket really feasible within the context of the APC projections? With what I know and given my interactions with many of their governors and leaders, I do not think so and I perfectly understand why.
When politicians form parties and invest all their time, energy and financial resources, they do so because they have a direct stake. For that reason, Nda-Isaiah, Kwankwaso, Atiku and Buhari could not have been doing all the difficult work in the APC just for Tambuwal to come and take the party’s ticket. They do so, betting on themselves. Therefore, the cold calculation of most of the APC pundits and their sympathizers is that if Buhari could poll 12 million votes in 2011 when he had no structure to support his aspiration, he would do far better with a formidable opposition structure. But such political arithmetic (including one from my own egbon, Dele Momodu) ignores several important variables in an election in which religion, ethnicity, money and the power of incumbency will come to play.
All said, the decision on who to field as the presidential candidate is that of the APC to make now that the PDP is staying with the incumbent. However, for the neutrals, a Jonathan-Buhari electoral rematch offers little by way of excitement even though political pragmatism may make that the easy pairing in the circumstance. On the other hand, a Jonathan-Tambuwal contest will enliven the entire landscape and draw the best out of the two contenders. But I am realistic enough to wager that such may not happen. Or will it?
Of Governors & ‘Retirement Home’
My column of last week, (Senate: Governors’ Retirement Home) generated considerable interest from readers. Aside those of who sent me mails with their own perspectives, there were also calls from critical stakeholders on what needs to be done. Interestingly, all of them were of the opinion that the current situation where governors see the Senate as a place to hibernate after their tenure in office is antithetical to the growth and development of our democracy. A few, however, pointed out errors of fact on my part.
Abdulkarim Umar says: “…this is just to add that there were more than six governors who came to the Senate after their tenure in office in 2007. Apart from the six you mentioned, Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State and Ibrahim Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State were also elected to the Senate. It is also important to remember that two Governors in the class of 1999-2007 sent their wives to the Senate: Oluremi Tinubu and Zainab Kure (former First Ladies of Lagos and Niger States respectively). In 2011, two more Governors joined their colleagues in the Senate: Bukola Saraki of Kwara State and Danjuma Goje of Gombe State. Meanwhile, also in 2011, Boni Haruna of Adamawa State and Jolly Nyame of Taraba State contested for Senate and lost.
Salisu Suleiman writes: “Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State went to the Senate in 2011, not in 2007 as you wrote because, after his tenure as governor, he became secretary to the PDP Board of Trustee then chaired by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Also, you forgot to mention that in Plateau State, Jonah Jang is equally preparing to contest for Senate. Meanwhile, Ali Modu Sheriff left the Senate in 2003 to become Borno State Governor, and wanted to return in 2011, but he was defeated. Babangida Aliyu of Niger state has already ‘zoned out’ Senator Shem Zagbayi who was elected only a few weeks ago because he wants the seat…”
I was also reminded by Senator Tunde Ogbeha, a retired Brigadier-General who spent two terms between 1999 and 2007 in the red chambers (and one of the best lawmakers at the time), that it may be difficult to push the argument for long legislative tenures in some circumstances. In his own case, for instance, there was an agreement between and among the constituent units within his senatorial district for a form of rotation to balance the diversities. Ogbeha was gentlemanly enough to honour the agreement so he did not seek a third term in 2007. In the peculiar nature of our country, there are many situations like that.
I stand corrected by the interventions, including the one who pointed out that Dr. Chris Ngige, a former Anambra State Governor who is currently a Senator, should also be mentioned. However, Jang paints a vivid picture of what we are talking about. “If God decides to give the governorship to the son of Jang, let it be. Whoever God anoints, let’s accept it”, the Plateau State Governor said recently, confirming speculations that he has been grooming Yakubu, (his son and special adviser on special duties who virtually runs the state), to take over from him next year.
While Jang reserves the right to anoint his son as successor at a time he is also plotting to be a Senator, there is a public cost to his ambition. If you add the life-long pension Jang is receiving from the Nigerian Air Force from where he retired as an Air Commodore to the jumbo packages he is entitled from Plateau State after his tenure as Governor and the hefty remunerations he will receive as Senator once he gets to the red chamber, then you will begin to have an idea of what public service means in Nigeria with such “legitimate” three-for-one attack on the public treasuries just to keep one old man happy!
The Verdict Written By Olusegun Adeniyi and Culled from Thisday; [email protected]
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