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2019: North And The Dilemma Of Choice

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Who becomes the choice of the North between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari (APC) and Atiku Abubakar (PDP) ahead of the 2019 Presidential election? EMAMEH GABRIEL x-rays the unfolding intrigues.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must have learned from the fatal mistake it made in 2014 when it jettisoned the  zoning arrangement and adopted former President Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate for the 2015 general elections.

The decision went against an alleged pact between Jonathan and Northern leaders that the erstwhile president had one term in office having completed Yar’Adua’s first term to allow the position return to the north in keeping with the North and South power rotation tradition that was embedded in the soul of the party.

The party was plunged into a crisis when Jonathan and some of the party’s oligarch orchestrated a power play that saw him return unopposed, leaving some aggrieved power brokers of the party including  former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and five  governors, Senators, House of Representatives member, states legislators and others with no choice than to turn their back on him and the party ahead of the 2015 polls.

With Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd)of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a Northerner as the major contender then, all the Northern leaders rallied behind him which ensured the massive votes he got in that region.

That huge mistake, most analysts have agreed, contributed largely to the PDP’s humiliation at the polls, particularly in the north where the narrative of short changing the region was one of the key talking points during the campaigns.

In 2019, the scenario is different. The two major political parties, APC and PDP, have settled for the north to produce the next president. While the ruling party has hinged its persistence to re-elect incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari on continuity mantra, the opposition is  trying to correct its past mistakes, calm frayed nerves and seek to harvest votes from the north which was Buhari’s major strong hold in 2015.

Although there are other presidential candidates from the region contesting on platform of other political parties, the race to the 2019 general elections, observers believe, will be mainly a battle between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.

Of course, as it has always been, the north leads with the number of registered voters, political analysts say this is where Buhari and Atiku (both Muslims, Fulani and septuagenarians) will have what many have described as their ‘field of honour’.

‘’It is a clever calculation by the opposition PDP who already have massive control both in the South east and South south, even as the ruling party continues to consolidate in some parts of these zones’’, said Elabor Mathew, an observer who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday.

‘’It is now left for the PDP to do its home work and harvest from the north to reduce Buhari’s bank in that region’’, advised Elabor.

“On a serious note, the decision of the PDP to zone the presidency to the north was very calculative but it will set the region against itself”, he said.

This will be the second time in the Fourth Republic when two major candidates from the north will be contesting a presidential election such that has placed the north in dilemma as to who should be their best bet.

Buhari, if re-elected, will be serving his second four year term, while Atiku on his part has promised to serve for one term.

At the height of the health challenge of the president, there were concerns that Buhari’s second term may be truncated which might provoke a repeat of the Jonathan scenario that threw up the debate over power rotation. However, this will not be a talking point as such cases may have been overtaken by time and circumstances.

The debate will however centre around how much support the candidates can muster from various zones in the north.

Recall that late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, (North west) Buhari (North west) and Atiku (North east) had in 2007 contested the presidential election and the results showed that most of the votes from the North east went in favour of the North western candidates, with Yar ‘Adua and Buhari, both from Katsina State emerging ahead of Atiku who came third behind Buhari in the election.

From records, North west had enjoyed the support of other northern blocks which Buhari and late Yar’ Adua remain major beneficiaries of. Although Buhari even with his declining popularity, there are however clear indications that the pendulum may likely swing this time for a North east candidate if the cards are cleverly played.

Recently, some northern leaders, under the auspice of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) have said they would not support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election, though, just like some socio political groups in the north, they have not come out clearly to announce their preferred presidential candidate in the elections but declared their support for one of their own from the list of presidential candidates contesting from north.

Asides Buhari, the only high profile candidate in the 2019 presidential election from the north is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who flies the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag. It therefore means Atiku might be their favourite.

Professor Ango Abdullahi, a former Ahmadu Bello University Vice Chancellor, who spoke on behalf of Northern Elders, said they arrived at the decision to dump Buhari for another northern presidential candidate because the president has failed to fulfil the basic conditions given to him in 2015 when they rejected former President Goodluck Jonathan and elected him.

“Two of the conditions we gave Buhari upon his assumption of office were that he should take concrete steps to address the abject poverty and underdevelopment in the north and he has woefully failed to marginally address any of them,” he said.

“Assuming that things are working in the north or in Nigeria as a whole, we would have taken a different position but everyone can see that things are not working under this government. Perhaps, as a prelude to where this government has taken this country, Buhari wasted six months before being able to set up his cabinet’’, he said.

The group further accused Buhari of bringing in aliens who had not added any value to governance into his government, saying recent remarks by the first lady have vindicated them and as such, it has decided to pass vote of no confidence on the president.

“As things stand today, we in the NEF do not believe that Nigeria’s cause will be helped by Buhari’s re-election in 2019. That is why we have decided to pick one of the other presidential candidates from the north for next year’s contest’’, he continued.

“It would be futile for anyone to blame anybody for the decision of the NEF against Buhari because his own wife has openly alluded to our position that some persons, who do not have the interest of Nigeria at heart, are running the Buhari administration without adding real value to the governance of Nigeria”.

In a response to Mr Abdullahi’s comments  the Secretary General of ACF, Anthony Sani, said The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), disassociated itself from the statement credited to the NEF kicking against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and its position that the administration has failed.

“It is Nigerians that will decide whether a president has failed or succeeded.”

Mr Sani said the ACF is “not a partisan organisation.”

“It is God that used the masses, citizens of the country in making Buhari a president and they are not in position to decide for the citizens,” he said of the statement by the NEF president.

“What I can tell you is that, we are not part of Northern Elders Forum’s position against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari. I read that even some members of the Northern Elders Forum distanced themselves from the position against Mr President.”

However three officials of NEF had distanced themselves from Abdullahi’s position, saying Buhari deserved a second term and they would leave no stone unturned to ensure that he gets re-elected next year.

The trio of Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura, in a statement, said there was no time NEF decided to reject Buhari whose performances they said have moved the country more steps ahead, insisting that replacing him would rather truncate the level of development currently going on in the country.

Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura who are pioneer members of NEF, said there was no justification for the north to reject Buhari in 2019, who they said has boldly confronted corruption and insecurity in the last three and half years.

“No one can deny the reality that the country was reaching a breaking point. With a committed leadership and sincerity, President Buhari has achieved immeasurable success in all fronts during the last three years.

“We sincerely believe that the Buhari administration is doing well and should be re-elected to consolidate on the foundation of progress which has been laid by it. President Buhari is on record as the leader who has taken the fight to the criminals. For the fight to continue to victory, President Buhari should be encouraged by all well-meaning Nigerians to stamp out the monster of corruption,” they had maintained in a statement.

“In view of the foregoing, the members of the NEF reiterate our solid support for the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari in the interest of peaceful co-existence, honest leadership, progress and continuity, come 2019 and beyond”, the statement further read.

Also a group under the auspices of North East Development Association (NEDA) has passed a vote of confidence on All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for re-election in 2019.

The group through its Secretary General, Bitako Abubakar Umar, in a recent press conference in Bauchi, said “In the history of governance in Nigeria, APC under President Buhari has done tremendously well in the sub-region hence the need to re-elect the party in 2019 polls.”

They argued that their ‘’decision was garnered through consultation with all the stakeholders in every sector of the sub region; influenced by brain cracking, argument and counter argument as well as careful researched efforts which form the basis that the Buhari-led administration be re-elected.

‘’This is because in the history of governance in Nigeria, APC under President Buhari has done tremendously well in the sub-region,” he said.

He explained that the group support was based on the president’s numerous achievements in the areas of security, corruption, agriculture and economy, among others in the region and the country in general.

‘’Buhari’s re-election would ensure continuity in the positive affairs of the country.

‘’We resolved that the region would remain committed to the unity of the entity called Nigeria despite the fact that we have our son, Atiku Abubakar, who is jostling for the same seat,” the group said.


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