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The implication(s) of the North not backing Tinubu

“I want to say that those of us from Northern Nigeria honour agreements. We do not violate unwritten political agreements and I will be the last person to lead in violating that agreement”. – Nasir El-Rufai, February 2023.

For Atiku Abubakar, the serial presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the 2023 election is definitely his last ditch effort to achieve his ambition to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which most political analysts believe he lost in 2003, due to his unbridled ambition. Just weeks into the first term of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Atiku Abubakar attempted forcing Obasanjo to adopt the Nelson Mandela option, which would have meant Obasanjo spending only one term.

That desperate move, rather than advance Atiku’s political career, seemed to have doomed it, considering the vicious campaign that Obasanjo has against him.

Since 2001, Obasanjo, had taken effective steps to ensure that Atiku will never achieve his presidential ambition, which dates back to the General Ibrahim Babangida 1993 unwinding transition. When eventually the election that Chief M. K. O. Abiola is widely believed to have won held, it was annulled by the military junta.

The North, most unfortunately, bore the brunt of Babangida’s self serving annulment of the election. The fear is real, that if per chance Atiku wins the election, after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari, that the formidable South-west would ensure that the country enjoys no peace. The grave implication is that the South-west might join the South-east agitations for independence. The South-east is already ungovernable.

Because it’s his last attempt, Atiku is throwing everything into the race, which was expected. The problem is his refusal to take into account the long term consequences of his actions on the fragile unity of the country.

To say the least, his “Na ka, na ka” campaign, which simply means, the North retaining power at whatever cost, is irresponsible and dangerous. And many well meaning northerners are rightly incensed by the utterly primordial campaign that Atiku is mounting, so as to achieve his life ambition.

Atiku’s albatross is the fact that he has never been a loyal party member; his loyalty is only to his ambition. When he lost the ticket in 2011, to Jonathan, he worked for Jonathan’s defeat. In 2015 he once again abandoned the PDP, with some governors, and aligned with the All Progressives Congress, APC, in an open rebellion against the southern Jonathan claiming that it was the North’s turn. He ensured that Jonathan was humiliated out of power. How can the South-south support such a slippery character?

The one problem with Atiku is that he doesn’t seem to learn from the past. So, the more he desperately plots to become the president, the more his past catches up with him.

Though Atiku managed to clinch the PDP ticket by subterfuge, he has in the process divided the party with the G-5, led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state burying whatever chance that he thought he had in the February 25 election.

Only a desperate Atiku will defeat his past arguments against Jonathan running in 2015, by insisting that power remains in the North after Bubari’s eight years.

The main anger of the Wike group is the blunt refusal of Atiku to respect the zoning of the presidency between the North and South. For Wike, an Atiku presidency after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari is a negation of the principle of rotation, which gives each section of the country a sense of belonging. Part of the reason Jonathan was defeated in 2015, was his refusal to respect the agreed zoning formula.

Clearly, Atiku believes in maintaining a winning formula, which explains why since he emerged as the PDP flag bearer he has mounted the highly dangerous and divisive “Na ka, Na Ka” campaign.

It is believed that Atiku has aligned with the same Villa forces which had vigorously pushed Senate President Ahmed Lawan for the presidency, but were roundly defeated by the governors, who saw the negative implication for national unity, which the Villa forces blinded by power didn’t see.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state, who since 2018 has remained consistent in his call for the APC to shift power in 2023 to the South, in a series of media engagements has frontally accused the cabal, which Aisha, the president’s wife, had once referred to as hyenas and not the president, of working towards the defeat of the APC. An allegation that Bola Tinubu had equally made.

For El-Rufai, no argument justifies the North holding on to power after the eight years of President Buhari, because it’s the perfect recipe for crisis, and not in tandem with equity, common reasoning and worse is that it will once again pitch the rest of the country against the North.

El-Rufai said, “I want to say that those of us from the North honour agreements. We do not violate unwritten political agreements and I will be the last person to lead in violating that agreement”.

But what’s the implication for the North, if Atiku and the Villa forces get away with this political treachery?

Being poor students of history, they seem to have forgotten how the rest of the country ganged up again against the North in 1993, after the annulment of the elections, believed to have been won by Chief Abiola. Every northerner was vicariously held responsible for the actions of Babangida and his group.

The other problem with the defeat of Tinubu is not simply the death of the first ever North- South-west political alliance, but the death of any future political alliance forever. It needs be stressed that since independence, the North and the South-west have never worked together politically, until 2015.

If Tinubu, who has shown himself to be a true friend of the North, is rudely betrayed, it will be extremely difficult for any southern politician to trust and work with the North. The Villa forces don’t understand that politics is an “I Owe You” (IOU). That the North can never go it alone.

In 2007, Tinubu had offered Atiku the presidential ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In 2011, he once again offered Nuhu Ribadu the ACN presidential ticket and in 2015 he wholeheartedly supported Buhari to win the presidency, by working for the merger of the ACN, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Without doubt Tinubu, popularly known as Jagaban, has proved himself a true and worthy friend of the North. Reason the North can’t afford to turn its back at him.

Luckily, the Villa forces opposed to Tinubu, who haven’t proffered any reasonable excuse, other than pure mischief, lack the political sophistication to pull it off. The fact that Tinubu picked the ticket in spite of their opposition ought to have “calmed” them down, but being political novices they seem determined to return the country to 1993.

Sadly, the power Atiku and his co- conspirators seek has never been for the advancement of their beloved Arewa. The North despite the eight years of Buhari continues to occupy the bottom in all the indexes of human development. The administration to its eternal shame hasn’t been able to complete the Kano-Kaduna-Abuja highway, nor tackle the security challenges confronting the region.

Buhari, who made a tragic mistake of not backing Yemi Osinbanjo, his vice, will be making a bigger one by not supporting Tinubu. It will be a mistake of historic proportion. It will not only be a betrayal of Tinubu who helped him to power, but a confirmation of whispers that he is a selfish person.

Like El-Rufai has often stated, the North respects gentleman’s agreement, especially as it was agreed upon by the leadership of the APC prior to the 2015 general elections. El-Rufai’s fears that the fate that befell the PDP might befall the APC, which he worked hard to birth, is not a wolf’s cry.

It’s common knowledge that the main reason the PDP was defeated in 2015 was its refusal to respect the power rotation agreement enshrined in its constitution. If only Jonathan had respected the zoning policy, the party wouldn’t have lost power to the APC.

Against this background, it is only logical for the APC not only to rotate the presidency to the South, in keeping with the 2015 agreement it reached with the South, but to ensure that Tinubu wins.

Thankfully, the solid support of the APC governors led by El-Rufai will save the North the embarrassment of betraying Tinubu, which would have gone down in history as a stupid political treachery of someone who has stood solidly with the North from 2007 to 2019.

El-Rufai’s vow that the North “will honour our agreement and keep its words on power shift” is not an empty boast. The governors have a history of having consistently defeated the Villa forces, who are political neophytes, unmindful of the implications of their actions.

If per chance the Villa forces and Atiku prevail, it would be a self-inflicted injury brought upon the APC by the president’s inner circle. Buhari should be mindful of his place in history. How does he want to be remembered? This is a question that the Villa forces ought to have been concerned with.

Musa writes from Kaduna



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