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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