Earlier today, Intervention ran a story titled “North East Unfolds as Atiku and Buhari’s Decisive Battlespace”. It itemised a number of pronouncements and activities interpreted to amount to the Northeast unfolding as the ultimate battlespace between Atiku Abubakar of the PDP who is from the region and President Muhammadu Buhari who is from the Northwest. Now, Mallam Yakubu Aliyu, a student as well as a long time critical observer of the two geo-cultural spaces has written a rejoinder to say that the ‘son of the soil’ –Atiku Abubakar -would be no match for the non-son of the soil – Buhari. His rejoinder is reproduced below without editing – editor
The Northeast political elite, unlike the Northwest, has not been able to develop a common identity, as a geopolitical block. This is perhaps due to its relative ethnic and cultural heterogeneity. As such, the Northeast hasn’t got the advantage of religious and ethnic homogeneity that the Northwest has. In Adamawa, Taraba, and parts of Gombe, for instance, the politics of the “minorities” has been influenced more by the political currents in the core Middle Belt.
Secondly, with the exception of Borno and Yobe, which were historically under Kanem Borno Empire, the Emirates in the remaining four states were creations of the Sokoto Caliphate. To a large extent, therefore, their politics had been influenced more by the dynamics of politics in the Northwest than within the Northeast. In 1999, quite significantly, Borno and Yobe dropped their historical oppositional posture to the Sokoto caliphate and went to ANPP, like most of the Northwestern states. Gombe too was ANPP while Bauchi and Adamawa were PDP with difficulty. Among all the Northeastern states, only Taraba has remained consistent since 1999, perhaps due to sheer financial and political clout of TY Danjuma.
Third, within the overall context of Northern politics, the Northwest, may be as it’s stratagem of solidifying the Northern elite consensus, always defer to the Northeast political elite, a development that robs the Northeast from forging a distinct political identity. Hence, right from Ahmed Talib as pioneer NNDC boss through to Adamu and Liman Ciroma, Dr. Mahmoud Tukur and Ibrahim Tahir, the intellectual power house of the Kaduna Mafia, the Northeast political elite are at the centre of capital accumulation and political power in the North.
Fourth, in many ways, Atiku himself was a creation of Northwest (the Gen. Yaradu’a connection) and despite his enormous wealth and political clout, he was not able to reproduce himself in the Northeast as to be an ideological or political symbol in the region. Also, he has not been able to build an organic connection with the people by championing some of the issues close to the hearts of the people such as self determination, infrastructure development, federal appointments, for instances. That is issues that would have enabled the forging of a common identity.
Incidentally, Buhari who just had a stint as Military Governor of the region in 1975/76 has captured popular imagination right across the geopolitical zone that he is politically unrivalled till date. Part of the explanation might be that through trade, commerce and cultural ties, states like Bauchi, Yobe and even Gombe derive a great deal of political inspiration and direction from the Kano and Kaduna political elite. Moreover, the Emiral Adamawa and Taraba are more intellectually and ideologically inclined that they don’t get any inspiration nor feel any affinity with a businessman cum politician that Atiku is.
These are some of the variables and nuances that are likely to determine the direction of Northeast political support for each of the two candidates, Buhari and Atiku and not some declaration that the Northeast will not abandon its own. Hence, it would be overstretching the political arithmetic to imagine that the Northeast will be a battle ground when, technically, only Taraba State is more than likely to vote for Atiku due to the influence of TY Danjuma. Borno and Yobe never voted PDP since 1999. Bauchi is the safest for Buhari in the region. Gombe always voted Buhari in the presidential election and then turn to PDP in the governorship while Adamawa has since weaned itself from Atiku grip since 2011.
Atiku is yet to develop a message for the Northeast region. The ‘son of the soil’ mantra is not likely to go far. This is my take as the ‘son of the soil.