By Adagbo Onoja
Against the background of the insurgency in the PDP and permanent damage it has wrought, irrespective of how it is resolved, the word tough luck is more than ever before, too weak to describe the task of (s)electing a president in 2015. God still has a very big job on His hands. This is more so that already, there is very deep doubt about the possibility of re-inventing leadership in Nigeria from the very, very low level to which leadership has degenerated long ago. The doubt is even stronger at the top, best captured by the soliloquy of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria about who will come and from where to repair Nigeria. His soliloquy suggests that most people have given up about the possibility of quality leadership ever again in Nigeria.
In that sense, the incumbent president of Nigeria and, by implication, the PDP is swimming against a tide. The tide consists, among others, of genuine attempts at many levels to re-invent leadership in Nigeria. But, unlike what elders like Edwin Clark and similar elements in the Northern part of the country are saying, giving the impression that Jonathan is targeted because he is Ijaw or a minority, the tide is not directed at Jonathan as a person or as a regime but a consciousness warranted by the country’s uninspiring history of hopeless leadership.
It is also a reckoning that 170 million people cannot be left at the mercy of the purposelessness to which a very high percentage of those who found themselves in power today, from the bottom to the top, have reduced democracy and power in Nigeria. Too many of them have no state building qualities. Most do not even know that there is anything called state building as the essence of politics. They have never heard of the concept. Yet, they are the leaders. That is why a number of them do things which they don’t even know have grave implications for the survival of the state itself.
That’s the origin of this consciousness about reversing the trend of very poor leadership as well as the associated reckoning that leadership selection in 2015 will not serve the purpose of national survival and renaissance if left to a mechanical first-past-the-post process. Rather, it must be a deliberate process involving the intervention of interests, forces and actors towards identifying and pushing the candidature of that guy who embodies the very best subjective factors, (the political grooming) to match Nigeria’s abundant objective factors and take the country from idiocy to modernity in the fastest and most painless way. It is within this context that there is a mapping obligation in the sense of constantly updating on the emergent or plausible scenarios in the journey to 2015 consequent on the insurgency earlier referred to and also the observable difficulties of the opposition group in achieving coherence vis-a-vis the agenda of re-inventing leadership in Nigeria.
It is now a year ago when what can be called the first of this map reading was inaugurated, speculating the combinability of Sule Lamido and Chibuike Amaechi, solely on account of their history of rebelliousness. As at that time, one did not think of Jonathan going for 2015. The analysis turned out so spot on and suiting to everyone involved that they didn’t mind it being attributed to them or credited with masterminding it. Of course, since I was still an adviser to the Jigawa governor at that time (though already away on a study leave) no one believed it wasn’t Lamido speaking. Hence, the piece acted as the original trigger of the on-going combustion between the president and Governor Amaechi, circumscribing all the katakata in the party now.
An actor like OBJ added his own dimension to it in Dutse, Jigawa State, recently in respect of this feared Lamido/Amaechi ticket when he said or was reported to have said that Lamido is a performer. He raised the stakes because Obasanjo is not a small fly in the Nigerian political ointment. In fact, some people compare him to so large a political snake that no one ever knows on which part of its body s/he stands. You may actually be standing on the head when you imagine yourself standing on the tail and vice-versa.
Sule Lamido will not become a major contender just because OBJ said so. But, considering that without an Obasanjo, a Sule Lamido, though Fulani, would not have been allowed by the gate keepers to inherit power in Northern Nigeria, there is a food for thought somewhere in the reported virtual endorsement. This is because Obasanjo, both as a signification and as a person, opened the gate for him by, first, picking him as a foreign minister and later, negotiating his acquisition of the governorship in 1999. In a way, therefore, Lamido is Obasanjo’s own creation and when he says openly that Lamido is a performer, he is rolling up his sleeves. But even on his own, Lamido is some force, what with a cross-cutting experience combined with a history of trouble making that makes him the other lone politician with base in the North-West, aside from General Buhari.
Beyond the Lamido/Amaechi front is another front that can go viral on its own. No one in Nigeria today can say s/he has not heard the slogan, “from the Southern minority to Northern minority”. Though potent a slogan, it is still a very confusing slogan because it is still not clear who it is promoting. Some say it is no other than Senate President, David Mark. Yet, others swear it is Professor Jerry Gana. Both are formidable, whether it is David Mark and his incumbency advantages or Jerry Gana who made a shattering entry into politics in 1983 by beating the candidate of the status quo without money and a heritage of power. How the Middle Belt will make the choice between the two of Mark and Gana should the situation arise remains to be seen. The devil will be in the details. What would be decisive would be how each one of them would be rated in terms of being a force for reconciliation in the North and on providing humane leadership for the entire Nigeria.
Neither Mark nor Gana would most likely set up shop to challenge the incumbent. But the slogan could acquire a life of its own. This is a theoretical possibility in the emerging situation because if a consensus emerges among those who make things happen, this sentiment would very easily overwhelm the Niger-Delta chauvinism that Chief Edwin Clark is, unfortunately and disastrously, hanging GEJ’s luck in 2015.
There is the Atiku Abubakar factor which I refuse to join others in writing off. In a republic like Nigeria whose politics can be as unpredictable as the British weather, those who think all the consensuses have been formed and a particular actor is out and out could find themselves on the wrong side of history. For an aspirant with Atiku’s readiness to hit the ground running because he needs no further re-training in the protocols of power, it could still be morning yet on creation day.
If we take the configuration analysis to the level of the parties, 2015 is going to be a battle between the PDP and the APC, in one form or the other. In other words, there will be two main parties in the contest, by whatever name this eventually comes to from the current dynamics in each of the parties. Whether the opposition party comes as APC or by whatever name, General Buhari is a constant star there in the sense that Buhari has become a mass movement in himself. It is very, very possible that Buhari would win free and square in the North-West and Nigeria, depending on who his political beacons are in the two other most strategic geo-political units as far as presidency making is concerned. Buhari is simply a very active force, irrespective of whether we like him or not. But this is not to close one’s eyes to the debit side of that force: the geo-political concentration of the Buhari mass following. That reality is such that the APC is in trouble if it doesn’t pick Buhari just as it is in trouble if it picks Buhari.
Should the APC decide to solve the Buhari balance sheet problematic by putting forward an alternative to Buhari in someone like Chief Audu Ogbe, (the last of that generation of Philosopher-politicians left on the political scene), that could be a permanent game changer. I am not in APC and I have no way of knowing Ogbe’s disposition to power right now but I am certain that the APC will create a very serious problem for the PDP the day Buhari, with Tinubu, raises an Audu Ogbe’s hands in Kaduna at a mother of all rallies, with particular reference again to the much talked about reconciliation in the North.
These are the internal and external tides against which GEJ would be swimming as the incumbent. To the extent of incumbency and the associated advantages of resources and enhanced bargaining power with other contenders, GEJ, though very unpopular, is still a formidable aspirant if a presidential election holds in 2015. In a federation that is like no other in the whole world in terms of complexity and within which sense can quickly become nonsense and vice-versa, his chances are absolutely bright.
Of course, like all his predecessors, he has formidable challenges. No one can be so sure whether the challenges would consume him or he would effectively challenge the challenges and emerge a warrior. What is, however, no longer in doubt is the fact that the most formidable of the hurdles is the discourse of 2015 by someone like elder Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, the advertised godfather of the president. And I would like to dwell on this a bit.
Chief Edwin Clark is certainly a respectable voice even if only for the fact that he is a senior brother of J P Clark, the poet. Poets are not ordinary human beings and it is certainly a function of our backwardness that we have no regards for poets and men of letters in Nigeria. My assumption is that the brother of a poet must also have traces of the poetic imagination and is, therefore, respectable.
However, Chief Clark is making statements that must be embarrassing to that civilized cultural roots. How could anyone in the 21st Century say that a certain contestant in an impending election must win the election? That is what many newspapers credited to him last Tuesday, (June 18th, 2013). And that is not the first time he is saying that. He has said it so many times that he must believe in the analogy by now even as totally unhelpful as it is. If a particular candidate must win an impending election for whatever reasons, then why do we need to hold the election again?
His statements might have been intended to provoke, intimidate or annoy some sensibilities for its own sake or he thinks he has a joker that can never fail in terms of making Jonathan win the 2015 election. Gowon, IBB, Abacha and OBJ must have each thought he had a joker too. Joker or no joker, Clark is running the risk of consciously and/or unconsciously forging a consensus against the Jonathan presidency in 2015. And one constant in Nigerian politics is that the incumbent is always a goner once, for whatever reasons, an elite consensus emerges against him. I don’t think I need to illustrate this. In any case, the emerging configuration as summarised above is much, much more complex than relying too much on a joker.
Heavens will not fall if GEJ surfaces as the president in 2015. In Nigeria, this is possible and even so through a credible election, irrespective of current lackluster nature of the regime. But such a surprising outcome will not be a product of mediocre strategies and unimaginative chauvinism. No!
Onoja is accessible via firstname.lastname@example.org