By Dr. Aliyu Tilde
Jonathan and the Northwest
I concluded The Days of Jonathan by giving the new Nigerian President a choice between continuing beyond 2011 and handing over to a newly elected President by that date. If he favours the former, he should “persuade his party to accord him the ticket and win his tenure through free and fair elections.” If he chooses the latter, however, he should “smake his days colourful by painting them with the colours of selflessness, equity and justice.” I can now say conclusively that though my preference went for the latter, Jonathan has chosen the former. There are strong indications that he wants to contest the election in 2011 and he is likely to announce this after finishing consultations.
It is clear from the above that even in those days I was not bogged down by the a priori moral precept of the PDP zoning formula. In fact, since 2002 I have argued against rotational presidency because it limits to only 16.7% the chances of Nigeria getting the best President. It is also undemocratic and puts the stamp of permanence to the divisions we inherited from colonial times when we should be doing everything to get rid of them. It is not surprising therefore that only the PDP has adopted that formula. More importantly, even for the PDP that adopted it, it has proved impracticable within just ten years.
What is interesting in the impracticability of that PDP zoning formula is how it has put the best two bedfellows in Nigerian political history at loggerheads. The wrestling is essentially now between the South-south from where Jonathan hails on the one hand and the Northwest that has monopolized power in the North, on the other. Since independence, the Northwest has always used the South-south to leap itself to power and the South-south has remained its surest partner. Now with Jonathan in power, the South-south is asking for a return gesture in that partnership of half a century.
To me this is the core of the matter, but the Jonathan camp itself is making a blunder in the manner it is going about its persuasion. I thought Clarke, the most senior South-south elder in the Jonathan advocacy, would take a flight to Minna, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Sokoto to win for his son a support that would reciprocate the role his zone has played during its long history of political partnership with the Northwest. Attempting to appeal to what the papers call “northern minorities” first is likely to lead the two best friends to washing their dirty linens in public. That is the Jonathan side.
However, I expect that even without his request, the Northwest will be generous enough to support him. In fact, this is something long overdue as it was the right thing to do in 1999. The Northwest should have picked a southern candidate from the South-south. Instead, they went for Obasanjo, from the Southwest, who finally proved to be a nemesis for those who shoved him to power. Supporting Jonathan now would really give the Northwest a record of accommodation and sacrifice in political partnership. The South-south and other zones would then see reason in aligning with it in future because it pays. However, if it insists in clinching the PDP ticket, then it has committed a blunder for the second time – in 1999 and 2011 – by elevating its interest above that of their partnership. After all, what would single tenure of four years tenure (2011 – 2015) provide for the Northwest that nine previous tenures which spanned for over three decades did not provide it with? In fact, power has only helped to corrupt the Northwest more than it did to the other parts of the country. Because of this, the region today has the lowest human development indices and poverty is most pervasive there. So acceding power to Goodluck would be good riddance for the ordinary Northwesterner.
I believe it is not too late for both sides to discover a common ground. Jonathan must abandon the present mathematical approach to the situation. Let him take the moral argument to the Northwest and win their support. The Northwest must not hesitate, on the other hand, to lend him and his zone their support. It has the moral obligation to do so. We, the other Nigerians, are onlookers waiting for the election day.
As a footnote, I must explain to my readers why I singled out the Northwest instead of using the North as Nigerians are used to and as I have used severally in the past. This is largely based on the statistical analysis of power in this country. I have realized, as I once hinted in this column, that when speaking in terms of power, the Northwest has failed to share it with other parts of the North. All the nine political leaders we had from the North who ruled Nigeria, except for Balewa who sat in for Sardauna in Lagos, were from areas that fell either in the former Northwestern State or the present Northwestern zone. The count: Sardauna (Sokoto), Gowon (Kaduna), Murtala (Kano), Shagari (Sokoto), Buhari (Katsina), Babangida (Niger), Abacha (Kano), Abdulsalami (Niger) and Yar’adua (Katsina). It is also not surprising that all the contenders of Jonathan in the PDP so far are from that area. And I would not like to believe that there are equally competent people from other parts of the North.
The statistics are so overwhelmingly lopsided that people from Northeast or the Middle Belt no longer have an appetite for a common “North” nomenclature. That is why the comment of a Fulani VOA Hausa Service listener from Taraba did not come as a surprise when asked whether Jonathan should be given or denied the PDP ticket. He said, “I do not mind if Jonathan is given the ticket because in the North, you are not considered a Northerner unless you come from the Northwest. For us who are in Taraba, some people even consider us as aliens.” He spoke the truth I think, though we must be careful not to generalize here. The Northwest we are referring to is not that of its entire citizens, but that of its political elite who have consistently put themselves first before others, who have not realized that the world is fast changing.
I am opening this wound deliberately because it is beginning to spread at an alarming rate. We earlier dismissed it as an Atiku affair but it has gained ground to the extent that it needs to be addressed as evidenced from the above quoted VOA comment. For those in the Northwest who want a united North – or better still, a united Nigeria – it is a challenge that they must stand up to.
Secondly, all the discussion about zoning is relevant only in the context of rigged elections. Despite the pledge of Jonathan and the capacity of Jega, people are still waiting to see before they believe that their votes would count. In an atmosphere of free and fair election and multiparty democracy zoning will matter least because with time the PDP will lose its predominance unless it performs in office creditably. Elections will increasingly be determined by merit to the extent that the ethnic, religious and regional attributes of a candidate would not matter. Right now, its incumbency plus rigging give it the weight to be considered as the next tenant of the Presidential Villa. That is why Nigerians are concerned about what happens in the party.
As at now, Jonathan and the Northwest should go to their common bed quietly. We are watching them.
8 July 2010