With just two months to go for the opposition caucuses headhunting for a political figure who can beat an incumbent, who or with what list are they working? This is the key question in Nigerian politics especially as it relates to managing the deep division within the upper crust of the power elite and its implications for democracy. Are there any objective criteria really which determine the selection beyond the elements of kingmakers, time and space? What are the demands of time and space in Nigeria today in the eyes of the caucuses? Is it just to block the incumbent or the question of who can add value to democracy in Nigeria the way Stalin, for example, added value to the revolution by taking Russia from a backward country to a global power in ten years? Or is it something else?
Nobody is recommending Stalin for Nigeria. It is the comparison. When Lenin was on his death bed and there was debate about who should succeed him, he said there was no alternative to Stalin. His verdict was ‘the cook we have serves peppery soup, yet he is the best’ or words to that effect. It was a stunning pronouncement. Lenin knew that he and Stalin were the very opposite of each other. Unlike Lenin who would not do anything by the force of arm but by the logic of superior argument, Stalin was not in that intellectual mould. Still, Lenin chose him because Lenin was looking for that guy who would achieve the most fundamental aim of the revolution which was to take Russia out of Serfdom or backwardness relative to the rest of Europe. Did Lenin get what he was looking for in Stalin? Yes, he did. When Stalin was representing the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1925, he said Russia was behind the rest of Europe by 100 years and that it was either a success story or Russia would go under. By 1945, Russia was a world power, landing in the moon by 1960.
So, the question again: is this a quest for who can add value to democracy in Nigeria the way Stalin, for example, added value to the revolution by taking Russia from a backward country to a global power in ten years?
By current information, bits of which keeps shifting by the seconds, Intervention can report that any of the following political players can emerge. Each of them is working hard while the ‘kingmakers’ are also thinking hard and it is not clear if there has been a final full stop. The arrangement is in alphabetical order.
Atiku Abubakar: The former Vice-President is working hard on emerging but the strategic consideration that must have made the caucuses to create conditions for his emergence would be the projection that he can beat the incumbent. His name, national stature and dexterity in political footwork would be the key ingredients in such a contest. There are other factors but this potential to overwrite an incumbent would be the only one speaking for him. That would be followed by a chauvinism-free disposition, his Northeast origin at a time of subtle campaign for power shift from the Northwest in Northern Nigerian politics and the point that, so far, he is not known to be under EFCC investigation. He would be a big problem for the incumbent should he get nominated by any major political party but would he get nominated? That is problem number one. Problem number two is whether he would survive targeting in terms of disclosures by the incumbent although this could be a double edged sword since he too must also have his own information on people in government? A second dimension of this is why he is tagged as very corrupt even when he has not been mentioned in any corruption deals? Is this dirty politics, ill-luck or what? The question of his ideological conviction worries a lot of people. He believes in capitalism but Nigeria cannot survive free wheel capitalism. Whether he has got his hands on that is what people want to know about. At over 70, age might work against him at a time there is clamour for a younger person on the seat even as the guarantee of better performance by a younger person is not self-evident. Finally, have situation brought him and some of his enemies together at last? At his speech at Chatham House in London last week, he gave the impression of having been mentored by Chief Obasanjo, one of such political enemies to whom he served as Vice-President between 1999 and 2007. Might the reconciliation process that some go-between set in motion six months ago have finally worked?
Ibrahim Dankwambo: The governor of Gombe State has several strategic considerations working for him. One is experience, (several years as a Director in the Central Bank of Nigeria, then Accountant-General of the Federation, then governor now for 7 years). Two, he is just 55 years old. Three, he has a PhD, something one of the godfathers is reported to have been shocked to learn of only very recently. Beyond the PhD, he has attended two of Nigeria’s first generation universities. So, educationally, he is well heeled. Four, he has no EFCC case known to the public yet. That means he is not vulnerable to targeting should that come into play. Five is the fact that he worked under Obasanjo as AG of the Federation which could mean that Obasanjo may be supporting him. Both Obasanjo and IBB have been emphasising the youth factor. Lastly, like Atiku, his coming from the Northeast could work very well for him. That is the time and space factors! Add to these the fact that nobody can trace to him any controversial statements yet regarding religion or region although these are things that could come out during the campaign.
What might the debit side be? One, people would want to know how he has run Gombe State? Has he been transformative? What is his development strategy model? Why has he been so silent? Is that to suggest he is so satisfied with what exists in Nigeria today?
Jerry Gana: For whom might Chief Olu Falae have been shuttling between Obasanjo and IBB in consultation? Is it not possible that General Danjuma has eventually decided to request to be allowed to present a candidate, something he has never done? In that context, Prof Jerry Gana could emerge. If he does, what might he be bringing to the table? His main problem would be whether he can beat the incumbent and on what basis? His recent politics has centred on charges of unfair deal for northern minorities, a position that has not gone down well with his critics. He is in the fore front of the campaign for True Federalism which has a million meanings in Nigerian politics. Can he quickly weave a new banner or can the banner of True Federalism ferry him to power in an election in which he would be challenging an incumbent? Finally, Gana is well above 70. Wouldn’t that become an issue?
Other than those points, he packs so much. Forming and running a party from the scratch, experience in heading critical government departments such as social mobilisation, information, agriculture and Integration and Co-operation in Africa in ministerial capacity are all in his favour. So also is being an academic and, in fact, a Professor before he came into public office. So, he has the advantage of criss-crossing background that stretches to churning out development models. Being still relatively poor after so many years in government suggests that he must be corruption free, officially and otherwise. Above all, he belonged to the progressive politics formation in the Second Republic and has very personable attributes.
Ahmed Makarfi: If the former governor of Kaduna State gets the nod, the strategic consideration would be as reconciliation and stability maintenance leadership. As governor of Kaduna State for eight years, he came away with credit for innovative management of difference and diversity in the complex state. This is probably not surprising, having schooled at Federal Government College, a unity school. Makarfi is also assessed to be sensitive to maintaining the system, always making sure that there is no system overload. That might be his greatest positive point in terms of fairness, inclusivity and balance. It is said that he is not one of those who do not know or care about the implications of certain things they say or do to the stability of the system. Being governor for eight years and then a Senator for another eight years means he has experience. Lately, he can be credited with leading the PDP back to life. At 61, age is not against him at all. So far, there is no case against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) known to the public. All these are positive for him but can he beat Buhari, with whom he shares the same region of origin – Northwest?
David Mark: David Mark watchers say he has already made a chess move in relation to presidential power. They are referring to when he went to rededicate his life to God early April when he turned 70. Such observers could be right just as they could be widely off the mark. But they are also pointing at a strategic consideration which could land Mark in the race. The argument is that Mark will be coming in as an unintended beneficiary of appeasement of the Northcentral or Middle Belt region which has been the hotbed of killings by armed herdsmen. With strong links to each of the angry godfathers in the struggle for power in 2019, it is understood his representation as a shock absorber for the religious and regional sentiments triggered by such killings is receiving attention. In this process, his eight years as Senate President undergoes interpretation into the guy with the expertise to manage the querulous civilians.
Intervention recalls an unusual development recently involving an equally unusual voice arguing that if Mark were not a minority, he would have been slated for power. While it is true that the voice in question is a truly independent one, it is also true that General Mark’s close and distant sympathisers hardly confront a medium such as Intervention to correct what they perceive to be unfair criticism of him by the medium. The message is that the Senator must have been moving.
Mark definitely has got all the experience: military governor, minister, member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council and a legislator since 1999. The question, however, is whether Nigeria would take another retired General as president after Obasanjo and Buhari. Secondly, with what development ideology would Mark be arriving at power if he is chosen? He has not made any statement in that regard ever since. Third, would he scale through if EFCC opens fire although, just like Atiku Abubakar, he might also not be an easy game. He is 70 years old anyway! Lastly, can he beat President Buhari in 2019, assuming he gets the PDP ticket?
Rabiu Kwankwaso & Bukola Saraki: It is firmly understood that Nigeria has not heard the last of these two. They are put together because they have a same complication peculiar to them. Although they have the resources and the burning ambition to try, they are constrained and they have to decide to either forget about being president of Nigeria or contest now. To contest now would involve either challenging the incumbent with whom they are in the same party, which could be a wasted journey or they all move to different political parties, with all its complications too. They are bound to be more ferociously targeted than what exists should they attempt contesting under APC as it is presently constituted. If, however, they do not contest in 2019, they would just be too old to contest by the time the presidency returns to the North again in 12 years time from 2019, going by the logic of the rotation of power principle. It is instructive that both have had to deny certain statements recently. While Kwankwaso denied a particular meeting with Obasanjo, the Senate-President denied a press insinuation that he was in the presidential race. It might not be too long before Nigeria hears from these two gentlemen in terms of on-going manoeuvres at various levels.
If Intervention’s information and inferences are correct, this is the list still making the rounds. Whether there would be a dramatic concession to labour or to radicals or to someone from the Diaspora is not ruled out but very, very unlikely. It is still a waiting game.