The gimmicks being used by political parties to achieve their selfish goals may continue to transcend the knowledge of the ordinary citizen as long as ethnic and religious sentiments and number-game remain inevitable determinants of electoral success or failure in Nigeria.
One of such gimmicks was the choice of the Katisna State Governor, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, as the flagbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2007 presidential election. His allegedly premeditated election at the party’s primary in Abuja on December 16 beat the imagination of the common citizens who did not expect the presidency to rotate back to the North so soon without any of the South eastern zones having its own turn.
Before the party’s presidential primary, there was a bitter controversy over an alleged pact on the zoning of the presidency between the North and South. Protagonists of the North-South zoning system claimed that the presidency should be the turn of the North after the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007. The controversy came at the wake of the agitations by political leaders in the South-East and South-South zones of the country for their own turn of the presidency after the expiration of the South-West’s turn in 2007.
The agitators attracted supports from all Nigerians that believed in political equity, natural justice and fair play. Governors Peter Odili of Rivers State, Donald Duke of Cross River State and Goodluck Jonathan of Beyelsa State were among the favourites. Political and economic marginalisation was, according to political observers, the bane of national unity and political harmony in Nigeria. They therefore suggested the rotation of the number one political office in the country among the three former regions in order to douse political tension in the country.
The fact also remains that three distinct and independent regions with different tribal and cultural heritage were amalgamated in 1914 to become a nation called Nigeria, with the understanding that they had common interests and equal opportunities in the federal set up. But the political maladies of the First Republic, the incursion of the military into national polity and the 30-month fratricidal civil war betrayed the lofty objectives of the amalgamation!
Specifically, the political face-off between the Yoruba’s of the West and the Hausa/Fulani of the North led to political annihilations in the Western region in 1965. The first military coup of 1966 led to counter-coups that compelled a prolonged civil war. These events caused distrust and suspicion among the three integral parts of Nigeria and jeopardized national unity and political harmony in the country!
The northern politicians were scared by the strong political mechanism of the Yoruba in the West and the secession bid of the Igbo in the East and felt that any moment the power slipped to West or East, the North would be politically doomed. Hence some coup plotters in the Nigerian Army monopolised powers in trust for the Northern politicians for more than 30 years at the expense of democracy. The twelve-two-thirds mathematical joker was allegedly adopted in 1979 to decide the winner of the presidential election in favour of Alhaji Shehu Shagari while annulment of the June 12, 1993. presidential election was also adopted to deny Basorun M.K.O Abiola of the presidency!
In the opinion of some Nigerians, Obasanjo was picked up from Gen. Sani Abacha’s dungeon by the PDP-controlled by the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy to contest the 1999 presidential election in order to douse the political tension caused by the June 12 annulment and Abiola’s controversial death in Abacha’s dungeon. He was allegedly expected to execute the Northern agenda that included the shifting of power back to the North immediately after his tenure.
Therefore, it is not unlikely that the Caliphate still dictates the political tunes in the country; or else the PDP would not have zoned the presidency back to the North so soon without the East having their own turn immediately after the West. The allegedly premeditated outcome of the party’s presidential primary apparently vindicated the northern politicians over their claim on the North-South zoning conditionality that gave the South-West a chance to taste the presidency in 1999, just as the sudden assassination of Gen. Murtala Mohammed allegedly enabled Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo to taste power in 1975.
In defence of the party’s action, some political observers claimed that the choice of Yar’adua was aimed at sustaining the supports of the northerners for the 2007 presidential election that it could not afford to loose. More so that the recent North-South zoning controversy and the current Obasanjo-Atiku face-off allegedly generated disaffection within the party especially in the North.
It was also claimed that the decision of as many as possible northerners to contest the presidential election on the party’s platform was a ploy to compel the return of the presidency to the North in 2007. Aspirants either withdraw from the race or stepped aside when they saw the handwriting on the wall that a fellow northerner had been favoured by the party’s hierarchy. Or else they would have deflected to another political party to enhance their presidential ambition or throw their supports behind another political party that picked a northerner as its presidential candidate. And the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) or Action Congress (AC) that chose Gen. Muhammad Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as their flagbearers respectively may have been favoured.
Nevertheless, the South-East and South-South zones have consolation in the choice of Governor Goodluck Jonathan as the presidential running mate. More so that half bread is better than nothing. But the fact remains that much as the vice-president ticket was given to the zones in order to restore normalcy to the Delta Region, the sincerity of the Igbo, Ibibio and Ijaw on national unity and federalism remained indicted by the atrocities of the militant youth that continued to rampage oil installations in the Delta Region.
In order to reassure the rest of the country that they are integral pasts of Nigeria that they are actually entitled to the presidency by rotation, they should be advised to jettison their secessionist tendency and give peace and industrial harmony a chance in the Delta Region. Or else, they will continue to play the second or third fiddle at the mercy of the Caliphate.
Omisore wrote in from Ile-Ife.