As the All Progressives Congress (APC) prepares for its ward, state and national congresses, the media have been awash with speculations that the party may have settled on retired General Muhammadu Buhari and former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, as its presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively. A number of the country’s leading newspapers, citing ‘usually reliable sources’ within APC, claimed that in zeroing in on Buhari and Tinubu, the party’s strategists relied on the calculations that Buhari, who remains very popular at the grassroots level in most parts of the North-west and North-East, will be banking on an estimated 44,848,911 registered voters (accounting for 61 per cent of total registered voters of 73,528,040 in the 2011 election). In contrast, the North-central, South-south and the South-east zone combined (seen as Jonathan’s strongholds) has only 27,735,678 registered voters. Throw onto this 2,941,214 votes cast for Jonathan in the South-west and Edo State in 2011- the bulk of which in this calculation, will now be re-directed to Tinubu and the APC will be coasting home to an easy victory!
Let me say immediately that I do not believe in this media speculation. Politicians are masters of decoy, filibuster and selling dummies. They rarely show their hands, and when they do, it will be necessary to closely inspect what they are offering. APC is peopled with many politically smart operatives to make the mistake of fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket. My instinct therefore tells me that the story was deliberately planted as a decoy so that when the party chooses its presidential candidate and running mate, they will come as a surprise to Nigerians. They may be calculating on giving Nigerians something to keep them busy – as Babangida did with the political class with his transition to nowhere – to give the party the peace of mind to prepare for its ward, state and national congresses.
But assuming that the party merely wants to fly a kite, I believe there are a number of fallacies in that permutation. For instance while Buhari remains very popular in the North West and North- east, it will be simplistic to assume that the preponderance of voters in the North West and North east will give him such a lead as to cancel out whatever deficits he may have from other zones. Experiences from the 2011 elections do not support such an argument. Similarly such a permutation may not have factored in the possibility of votes from the two zones and other zones in the country being divided by the emergence of a third relatively strong party, which also fields a Northern Muslim as a presidential candidate. The truth is that APC is an aggregation of political parties, groupings and tendencies. To its credit, the party has so far held together – much to the surprise of most people who did not give it a chance. However because of its nature, it is much easier for disaffected groupings within the party to move into any of the existing briefcase parties and overnight turn such a party into relatively formidable force.
People who use the Muslim-Muslim ticket of MKO Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe as an example that Nigerians may not mind about such a ticket miss the point. True, the Abiola-Kingibe ticket won but there were several reasons for this: One, Abiola, a Yoruba was the top of the ticket, meaning that at a time of a clamour for power shift to the south, he was seen more in the South as a Southerner, while his religious faith was also mollifying to some in the North. Two, that the Abiola-Kingibe ticket won does not necessarily mean that they would have ruled successfully if the election was not annulled. No one should under-rate the power of ethnic and religious watchers. For instance even though the Buhari coup was very popularly received, with some like the late Dele Giwa even calling for the overthrown politicians to be shot, ethnic watchers quickly went to work and very gradually succeeded in turning sentiments against the regime. Maverick Arthur Nzeribe for instance, in his book, Nigeria Another Hope Betrayed (1984), tried to ‘show’ that Buhari was favouring Muslims and the North and was against the South and Christians. Though from all indications it was an unfair allegation, the ethnic and religious watchers helped in no small ways in engulfing the regime with legitimacy crisis. One of the consequences of this was that all the politicians from the south who were herded into long prison terms for corruption by the Buhari Idiagbo regime came out of prison as heroes.
In essence the Buhari-Idiagbo regime was the first time in the country’s political history we had someone from the same region (North) and the same religion (Muslim) rule the country. Whatever unfair religious labeling Buhari is tarred with today probably stemmed from the activities of ethnic/religious watchers during his regime. And this was despite the fact that the regime was one of the most determined regimes in the country to get things right and that Buhari himself uttered one of the most patriotic sentiments ever expressed by any Nigerian leader when he said: ‘This generation of Nigerians, and indeed future generations, have no other country but Nigeria. We must remain here and salvage it together’.
Before Buhari made the mistake of having a fellow Muslim and Northerner as his second in command, the late Chief Awolowo, a Christian Yoruba, made a similar mistake in 1979 when he chose the late Philip Umeadi, a Christian Igbo as his running mate. It is sometimes tempting to speculate on what would have happened if Awolowo has emerged the President of the country in 1979.
It must not be forgotten that though religion – just like ethnicity- is only politicized in the context of the struggle for the scarce socioeconomic resources by the different ethnic and regional factions of the elites, over time, it has acquired an objective character such that it now becomes, so to speak, an objective reality. In other words, while it is true that being of the same faith or ethnicity as the President or Vice President of the country does not add an extra cup of garri to the shopping basket of the average Nigerian, however the hurrah effect of feeling that one of one’s own is there could be salutary to development. This means that citizens that feel that ‘their own’ is there are more likely to accept the explanations of why a regime is performing sub-optimally or to believe that a regime is performing even when such is not backed by objective data. I believe this is what Nigerian politicians mean when they talk of giving ‘Nigerians a sense of belonging’. Additionally, tolerance cannot happen in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society without sensitivity to the feelings of others. Given the current crisis in the country’s nation-building – and the increasing politicization of religion – a Muslim-Muslim, or Christian-Christian ticket will not be seen as being sensitive enough.
Urgent task for the new CBN Governor
Congratulations to Godwin Emefiele, whose appointment as CBN Governor was recently confirmed by the Senate. It seems that we currently have three CBN Governors – the suspended Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) whose tenure expires in June this year, the Acting CBN Governor Mrs Sarah Alade and of course Mr Emefiele, whose tenure formally starts when that of SLS ends.
I believe that both Chukwuma Soludo and SLS met different challenges at the CBN during their times and rose to the task. They were both successful, in my opinion, as CBN governors, but also contributed to the problems of the CBN as an institution. While Soludo’s bank consolidation helped to give our banks confidence by raising their profiles, his style also turned the position of CBN Governor to that of a celebrity. In the same vein while Sanusi was successful in cleaning up the post-merger blues from Soludo’s consolidation exercise, he brought unnecessary political activism and ‘roforofo’ to the job. A key challenge therefore for Emefiele is to return the position of CBN Governor to what it should be – a non-celebrity position, where the incumbent of the position should be seen more than he is heard and where he completely eschews political activism.
Congratulations to Bishop Matthew Kukah
Congratulations to Bishop Matthew Kukah who was appointed Chairman of the Governing Council of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi. The Council will be inaugurated in Lafia on Monday April 7, 2014 after which the inaugural Council Meeting will hold in Keffi later the same day.