BY MAHMOON BABA-AHMED
Are Northern political leaders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that daft and naive as they are being branded by Southerners? They may be humble and accommodating, but are far from being stupid or inexperienced. They had been cooperating willfully with their Southern compatriots on exceptionally significant political matters, making concessions and sacrifices for the unity and well-being of their party. That explained why despite their political sophistication and numerical superiority in the party they have unpretentiously conceded power to the southerners who never reciprocated such gesture.
Such unbalanced relationship between Northern and Southern politicians begun in 1999 when Nigerians moved to extricate the persistent military rule in the country and, in its place, install a government of national unity. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a South-westerner, was once again entrusted with the responsibility of leading the nation with the tacit approval and explicit sanction of the Northern political elite. That was exclusively intended to re-establish the nation on the path of democracy with altruistic motive of allowing the south-westerners that had consistently cried over imaginary marginalization have a shot at power.
But before then an agreement had been reached between Chief Obasanjo and Northern PDP caucus which stipulated that he would stay in power for four years and after that revert it to the North. Many political pundits, especially non PDP members from the North, considered that proposition a calculated risk which may result in the Northern PDP permanently loosing the only political weapon it can always cling to in order to remain relevant in the scheme of things. The pundits were eventually proved right: Chief Obasanjo did not only reneged on the promise to stay in power for only four years, he had also treacherously bit the fingers that fed him by heartlessly trying to destroy the North politically.
That was not all. At the end of his second tenure, made possible by the support of nonconformist Northern PDP stalwarts who had not learnt previous lessons, Chief Obasanjo again devised secret, cunning schemes to achieve the goals of his frustrated third term ambition through the installation of a pawn he could cleverly manipulate. That was a superb master stroke that paid off in misleading the unwary Northern PDP supporters into believing that power had actually been restored to them.
The euphoria that greeted that grand trickery was short-lived; and with the eventual demise of his ailing puppet, Alhaji Umar Musa ‘Yar’adua, a two-time PDP governor from the North, Obasanjo secretly supported a political upstart from the South, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, as a new arrowhead for the actualization of his frightening dreams of ruining the Northern PDP and its sponsors.
Shortly after that, a stormy tenure controversy developed with the bunch of consistent Northern supporters of the PDP insisting that one of them should be allowed to run the remainder and subsequent second term which late President ‘Yar’adua should have enjoyed if he were alive, in accordance with the terms of the zoning principles which gave Obasanjo a leverage to spend eight years in power. Incidentally, the Southern elements within the PDP, inspired by Chief Obasanjo, denounced zoning policy which threw up ‘Yar’adua’s government and, by extension, that of his successor, Ebele Jonathan. They forcefully insisted that zoning was unknown in the PDP’s arrangements of nominating or electing a leader. In the same vein, President Jonathan who stood to be a major beneficiary of the rejection of the zoning pact vehemently disowned his signature appended to an agreement that had clearly predetermined the return of power to the North in 2003, signed by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum in 2002, when he was deputizing for Bayelsa State Governor. Many wondered how both Obasanjo and Jonathan had acted quite dishonourably, denying any knowledge or connection with zoning.
There was little wonder over that because President Jonathan is now frantically trying to shred similar watertight evidence flaunted by Governor Mu’azu Babangida in relation to President Jonathan’s 2011 covenant with Northern governors over single term tenure. The Northern PDP governors’ forum was particularly displeased with President Jonathan’s uncertainty about running for the second term. His body language betrays his underlying preparations for the 2015 contest. He had also dropped hints at many international fora about his vaulting ambition even as the PDP leaders in his locality are loudly vociferating unqualified support for his incontestable constitutional rights to contest. That has gone to clearly show that the issue of revisiting the revertible power arrangement, as canvassed by the northern PDP oligarchy, is a foregone conclusion as far as the Southern clique of the PDP is concerned. It goes without saying, therefore, that the Northern PDP governors have been hoodwinked and have once again lost out in the intricate PDP power game.
However, many Nigerian’s are not disappointed over this issue, for it concerned the PDP only. As far as other political parties are concerned, the PDP in the South-South zone can monopolise or rotate the presidency forever, and that may not deter the Northern PDP governors from reorganizing and presenting a more viable candidate from among themselves that can effortlessly beat Jonathan hands down.