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Behold, The Northern Candidate

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After months of political manoevering and juxtaposing, after months of political  bickering and tinkering, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Vice President  emerged as the Northern consensus presidential candidate for the Peoples Democratic  Party (PDP) as announced by the Adamu Ciroma – led Northern Political Leaders Forum  (NPLF) on Monday 22nd Nov. 2010.

This hard won victory has placed enormous pressures on the former Vice President to  maintain his Northern Identity and ensure a Northern dominance as in the pre -  Olusegun Obasanjo era where nearly all Federal Govt. Directors-General and  Inspectors General were of Northern extraction.

In the Pre-Obasanjo era it was impossible to think that a police officer other than  from the North could be appointed Inspector-General of the Nigerian Police Force.

It is one of the greatest ironies in Nigeria’s political history that Northern  Nigeria could gang up against the rest of the nation after ruling the country for 38  years out of its 50 years of corporate existence as an Independent nation. It is  also an absurd irony that a former Vice President of Nigeria who was supposedly  elected by a majority of the Nigerian people metamorphosed and degenerated into a  parochial and regional champion euphemistically called Northern consensus candidate.

And perhaps the label that best describes Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is that of “Northern  candidate” as the label is the truest reflection of his 8 years stewardship as  Nigeria’s Vice President from 1999-2007.

For 8 years as Nigeria’s Vice President, Atiku’s greatest achievement is the  establishment and ownership of the most expensive university in Nigeria which he  strategically built in Yola (Adamawa State) to conform to his Northern consciousness  and mentality.

Apart from the American-modelled University the former Vice President is also the  proud owner of a State-of-the-Art Printing Press which is also in Yola. All this  wealth to build this multi-billion dollar empire was acquired, during his  stewardship as Nigeria’s Vice President.

For our Consensus Northern Candidate, these twin projects are tiny drop in the ocean  as his businesses flourish both in Abuja and throughout the world especially in  America where he has a heavy entrepreneurial base.

It has never been in doubt that he would serve only Northern interest judging from  his antecedents as a man who is only interested in the welfare of Northerners  especially from his Adamawa enclave.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is not the leader for a twenty first century Nigeria. Nigeria  has outgrown the bitter regional politics and crises of the 50s and the 60s. We are  in the computer age where face books and twitters now dominate the world.

However, the greatest relief is that the consensus candidate project is not a  Northern conception. It is the agenda of a few myopic and self-seeking individuals  who are struggling to regain political relevance in the Northern Political equation.   These 13 wise men are Nigerians who have served the nation in various capacities  but whose private bank accounts have dwindled over the years and were only able to  smile to their banks with largess from the aspiring candidates except Alhaji Aliyu  Gusau who did not have much to dole out but was the most qualified candidate out of  the four aspirants as he is the only one without only skeleton in his closet.

It was not surprising that nearly all progressive forces in the North even within  the PDP rose in unison to condemn Adamu Ciroma’s “masquerade” which took almost 5  months to build- from conception to reality.

The most virulent attack came from the President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum  (AYCF) Alhaji Yerima Shettima who said “Atiku’s emergence as a consensus candidate  for the PDP, does not translate to a Northern candidate” and that “Atiku is not a  popular personality that has the Northern acceptance”

Also, the National Vice Chairman of the PDP Youth Vanguard in a new conference in  Kaduna disassociated himself from the Adamu Ciroma-led consensus committee and  emphasized that the committee “lacked the competence to speak for the North since  some of its members were not in the PDP”. Alhaji Rilwan Abdullahi also enthused that  “sectionalizing the issue of Nigerian presidency is undemocratic, unfair and unjust  and because the Nigerian constitution has given every Nigerian the right to aspire  to any office in the country.

If various youth all over the North, have the political wisdom to denounce  principles of feudalism and ultra conservatism, then there is hope for the North and  for Nigeria by extension.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as the Northern candidate was challenged by  several notable Northern politicians who believed that money in Ghana-must-go bags  was the deciding factor. Even though Gen. Ibrahim B. Babangida was the richest of  the four aspirants, he was already over confident that he had already clinched the  deal. But on the voting day IBB’s strongest supporters-Gen. David Jemibewon, Audu  Ogbeh and M.D. Yussuf who were conscripted into the committee by IBB himself  switched camps as they obviously had better offers from Gov. Bukola Saraki and the  eventual winner. For aforestated reasons Alhaji Aliyu Gusau did not win any votes.

It is true that Nigeria’s “ancien regime” politicians have not learnt their  mistakes. If these aspirants had to bribe their way just to contest in the PDP  primary they are not even sure of, what will happen if per chance and unfortunately  these corrupt, do-or-die politicians have access to the seat of power and the  national treasury.

Nigerian politicians should for once think of the Nigerian masses rather than using  leadership to enrich themselves and their families and communities of origin.  Nigerian leaders should take a cue from British, American and even African leaders  who have left behind legacies of a Victorian life style including transparency and  probity in office.

And it is the greatest breach of public trust and travesty of justice for a leader  to enrich himself with public funds, building private universities, setting up  multi-billion dollar empires while holding public office.

Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, after serving Britain meritoriously  had no home they could call their own. Harold Wilson in particular was allowed to  squat at 10 Downing Street for sometime before friends bought him a small council  flat. Lord Thatcher had to relocate his business empire to South Africa when his  wife- Margaret, became British Prime Minister. He did this to avoid rumours of  business advantages in Britain

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush  of America all started building their houses with bank loans after serving their  countries meritoriously. Tony Blair was reviled for taking a “fat” loan and the  British public wondered how he would service his loan even when they knew that Mrs.  Blair was a High Court Judge.

Even in Africa we can still remember Julius Nyerere (Nwalimu) of Tanzania, Dr.  Nkwame Nkruma of Ghana and even our own Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Chief  Obafemi Awolowo to mention but a few. And of course one of the greatest patriots of  all times – Dr. Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

It is unfortunately the greatest and most retrogressive descent into the Hades of  Nigeria’s political history that a former Nigerian Vice President for 8 years is now  coming through the backdoor to vie for the Nigerian Presidential ticket come 2011.

Rather than attack President Goodluck Jonathan on the economy, Alhaji Abubakar  should tell Nigerians what his cardinal campaign points are. He has to convince  Nigerians that he has the wisdom, mental (not academic) and psychological  empowerment to rule this great country – Nigeria. This is because his 8 years as  Vice President were spent mostly in court fighting one corruption charge or the  other. Alhaji Abubakar though a very intelligent former customs officer,  has  several personality inadequacies, chief of which are impatience and an ambiguous  trait to always impose his personality on everybody around him. For some of these  reasons Atiku is ready to move in and out of as many political parties that can  accommodate him. If his antecedents are anything to go by, Atiku will surely still  move out of the PDP after the party primaries.

Let every Nigerian be bold to tell Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that the era of Vice  Presidents building private universities while in office is over. Let us all be firm  and jointly confront him with the facts of the Hallibriton, Siemens, Wilibros and  privatization scandals and jointly affirm that verbal denials will not be acceptable  to us this time around.

All Nigerians know that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar wants to build more private  universities for himself with state funds. All Nigerians know that Atiku Abubakar is  a more difficult product to sell than IBB.

Oh no! This time Nigerians know who their leaders are -  not Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

—Ben Nanaghan writes from Lagos

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