BY SUFUYAN OJEIFO
There is a burgeoning fallacy in the camp of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which seems to have gained traction in the permutations and calculations for the 2019 presidential power politics: that just anyone that is fielded as presidential candidate will defeat incumbent president and presumptive candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, in the scheduled February 16 election.
Such notion, perhaps, explicates the surfeit of presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP. About twelve aspirants, including those who do not have the grits, have thrown their hats in the ring for the party’s ticket. Each aspirant believes that it would be quite easy to upstage the applecart of Buhari’s presidential candidature.
Their assumption is that having unraveled as a below-the-average president, Buhari is now, more than ever, vulnerable and beatable; and, for that reason, every one of them is feeding his sense of entitlement to the plum position. I beg to disagree: not just anyone can defeat Buhari. It will take an unprecedented political alliance, alignment and realignment of forces, much more than the kind that produced Buhari in 2015, to defeat him.
The “anyone-but-Goodluck Jonathan” narrative that galvanised and sustained the nationwide approbation of and momentum behind the Buhari candidature in 2015 will be impotent this time round. The “anyone-but-Buhari” proposition in 2019 will boomerang with a dastardly impact and further collateral damage to the opposition flanks.
Therefore, those jostling for the PDP ticket should mortify the sense of entitlement to the plum position; otherwise it will feed the element of disruptiveness in the nomination process and pile intense pressure on internal party cohesion that is sine qua non of success in the forthcoming presidential election.
Except the PDP plays smartly and acts sagaciously, it may just lose what appears to be a golden opportunity to reclaim the presidential power that it lost to the APC in 2015. Playing smartly entails running a smart presidential election that is single-minded; and, this is possible only when all the aspirants come together to support whoever wins the ticket at the primary election.
However, talking about whoever wins the ticket appears somewhat open-ended. The mind-set throws up an apprehension: what if the individual that wins the presidential ticket does not have what it takes to win the presidential election against a candidate like Buhari who has a traditional base of fanatical supporters in the northern part of the country? His supporters talk about a repository of at least ten million votes in the north. That may be mythical though, yet the opposition should not treat it dismissively.
Responding to the scenario supra, it is worth restating the necessity for the PDP to be on top of its game of numbers. The PDP must, therefore, act sagaciously in the matter of who becomes its presidential standard bearer. Sagacity entails that, by now, the PDP and its leadership must have done their due diligence and have, close to their chest, a clear idea on the trajectory to victory in the presidential election.
That trajectory should point to and exemplify the most psychologically-prepared, intellectually-balanced, politically-cosmopolitan, economically- knowledgeable, religiously-liberal, ethnically-blind, apostolically-nationalistic, nationally-acceptable and ruggedly-courageous individual among the aspirants that can fight the presidential battle to the finish. Such individual should be quietly and consensually promoted and supported to win the ticket of the party so that once he emerges, the instrumentality of the party would be quickly deployed to assure and reassure the others to back him as the party’s battle axe.
It is also important that the individual passes all the critical tests, including having confidence in his conviction as to his specific aspiration without manipulating the party’s political process to deliberately secure fall back positions in terms of strategic positioning for other elective offices. That sure-footedness is an essential ingredient that is required in the race for the presidential position. I make this observation against the backdrop of feelers that some of the presidential aspirants had used proxies to hold down senatorial and governorship tickets.
That action simply speaks volumes about their desperate and insatiable appetites for power and/or elective offices. Besides, the attitude portrays them as individuals who probably are interested in power just for the sake of it. But for the individuals who have remained consistently focused with their eyes on the ball of the presidency, and have earned for themselves the moniker of serial presidential contestant(s), they should be the ones to deserve consideration that is circumscribed within the strategic politics and capacities to defeat Buhari.
Their ability to provide effective and competent leadership should be considered. Their motivation to genuinely serve can be located in their consistent and persistent aspiration and, to that extent; they cannot be deemed to be accidental president(s). And talking about strategic politics, for instance, the PDP will do itself in if a southerner emerges as its presidential candidate at the primary election, sancta simplicitas.
The PDP will make an egregious mistake if someone who has support base in only a region of the country becomes its candidate. To mitigate this potential disaster, someone who is well-known both in the north and in the south of Nigeria and has pervasive political structure countrywide should be the candidate.
There is a proposition that in order to defeat Buhari, the PDP should pick its candidate from Buhari’s northwest zone. That would have been a perfect strategy to adopt if there is an aspirant in the zone that satisfies all the requirements, especially of national acceptability and political cosmopolitanism. Whereas, significantly, Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso are from the zone, the popularity of Kwakwanso in the zone, especially in Kano with huge registered voter population, puts him ahead of Tambuwal. But then, the question is: does Kwakwanso have any support base in the South?
The presidential aspiration of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, looks appealing, especially to the elite and the business community in Nigeria, yet the fundamental question of ethnic identity, take it or leave it, discounts the magnitude of his aspiration. The question arises: how will the core north relate with the Yorubaness of Saraki, regardless of his aboriginal north central pedigree? His candidature will not be too difficult for the APC in the South and the entire north to attack. The core north will remind Saraki that he is not one of them.
Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe state suffers from similar nationwide popularity and acceptability deficit as Tambuwal and Kwakwanso. The same thing applies to former Jigawa governor, Sule Lamido; former Sokoto state governor, Attahiru Bafarawa and former minister of special duties, Tanimu Turaki, SAN, all from the north west. Former senate president, David Mark, is also caught up in a similar conflictual north central identity crisis as Saraki. Mark’s predicament is worsened by his northern Christian identity.
A dispassionate profiling will, in the circumstance, throw up former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, whose antecedents and pedigree in national politics are writ large. His nationwide popularity and political structures are matters of fact. He is very well known in the north just as he is in the south. He is well prepared for the job, with an organic economic blueprint to take the nation out of the woods.
Besides, he is reputed for his ability to take on political fights without being shy. To his credit, he has clearly defined a governance philosophy that will drive his administration: restructuring. That is his essential social contract with Nigerians and the people will have a yardstick by which to hold him to account. There are other considerations that should sway the PDP’s ticket in Atiku’s direction. This third party endorsement of Wazirin Adamawa is a part of my pro bono advice to the PDP. Overall, the point is, all the aspirants are good for the party’s ticket, but Atiku, from the northeast zone, arguably, appears the best in the circumstance.
- Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, writes via firstname.lastname@example.org