Nigeria: A TIME-BOMB, By Kassim Afegbua

NIGERIA’s two dominant political parties are not having the best of times. They are contending with undercurrent squabbles that may swing votes away from them. There are strong indications that some power oligarchs in the presidency want to back Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, since the president couldn’t deliver Ahmed Lawan, at the primaries. There are other indications also, that President Buhari’s tribalism may not allow him to remove his eyes from his fellow Fulani brother, Atiku, to succeed him; and will use backroom methods to sail the deal. The Governors of APC who pulled the rug from under the feet of President Buhari before the convention, are also trying to build themselves into another cabal and trade with any presidential candidate that is ready to do their bidding. There are underground grumbles, murmurs and complainants that the APC candidate is not reaching out to people enough; to instill a feeling of togetherness and solidarity. Those who played the real politics of politicking suddenly feel “abandoned”.  Asiwaju, they reasoned, has a good heart, and has paid his dues politically, but needs to come down from his high horse to make his project more enduring and attractive to his real and genuine supporters. As it stands, there are issues everywhere which need to be resolved to create the right atmosphere for proper campaigning to take off, once the set date comes.

President Buhari and his colony of advisers and political lieutenants may not see the danger in another Northerner succeeding him, but the larger interest of stabilizing the country along the path of equity, fairness and justice cannot be compromised on any exigency that would decimate the larger political interest of the country. It bears no repetition to bring to the mind of any reasonable being, that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder; a time bomb waiting to explode. At the slightest prompting, this country can embark on a conflagration of several explosions like the Arab spring scenario. Nigerians are getting fed up by the day. The gulf between the north and the south is getting wider by the hour; without any deliberate attempt to provoke a discourse that will halt the drift. We are watching the downward slide to anarchy of a system that dwells so much on tribalism, ethnic chauvinism, favoritism and selective amnesia than any patriotic motive that can stimulate national enterprise. What we see everyday is a skewed federalist structure that is steep in corruption and prebendalism. Under a heavily polarized system and nation, it is often difficult to get elitist consensus on issues that can deepen our democracy and balance our power equation. If Atiku Abubakar truly loves Nigeria and her unity, his ambition to preside over the country should have taken the back seat to allow equity and fairness prevail in the South. What Atiku has done, reveals that he surreptitiously usurped the powers of the party and turned the rotary in anti-clockwise direction. And that, in all ramifications, is a recipe for disaster.

Nigeria is a work in progress; so they say. A heavily pluralized country like Nigeria cannot be exorcised on the altar of the personal ambition of desperate, power-seeking contenders, who love themselves more than the nation. A truly nationalist politician would put the greater interest of the nation far and above his own personal interest. Patriots are those persons who work for the overwhelming interest of the nation by burying their own self-serving ambitions. If the PDP were to be altruistic in its dealings and political engagements, it ought to define the template for the 2023 election with an eye for the South. When dishonest men take the centre-stage of politics and power acquisition process, they end up throwing up curious scenarios to justify their self-serving interest. The opposition,  PDP had no business jettisoning its zoning formula ab-initio, when the article of its national leadership composition was structured on the pillars of zoning. The Ayu-led executives came into being on the basis of zoning to allow room for the Southern axis to produce the next presidential candidate; in reciprocity for what the South did in 2019 for the Northern aspirants. When the Ayu-led executives got into office, and realized that it might jettison the zoning principle, Ayu announced to the whole world that he would graciously resign if a candidate from the North emerged; wool pulling at play. That was the beginning of the PDP hiatus. And it will dig deeper into the mould like an albatross that defines its insincerity.

Nigeria is a time-bomb; yes, and instructively so. Those who are toying with the creed of Northern domination of the power composition had better slow down before it snowballs into an irredeemable consequence. Nigeria’s already fragile political walls can capitulate at the slightest prompting if the right political decisions are not consciously negotiated and taken, to rescue the country from its present cul-de-sac direction. It is the turn of the South in Nigeria’s political calculation, balancing and equation. Pretending all is well when indeed we are not is a pathway to avoidable crisis. After President Buhari would have finished his eight years as a Nigerian president of Northern extraction, it will be politically sacrilegious to have another Northerner succeed him. Those who are presently working on that thesis had better slow down, take a deep reflection on the fragility of our situation, before dragging this country along the slope of destruction. Sixteen unbroken years of power in the Northern protectorate in a country whose plurality is second to none in the world, is a time bomb. It may be convenient for the power players to advance reasons to justify their ambition, but the concomitant impact of this skewed arrangement will further serate the chord of unity and cohesion when they should work on how to stimulate national consensus. Governance thrives better under an atmosphere of political stability. When there are legitimate agitations across the land, they distort the flow of dialogue and national conversation, and the ability to generate ideas for leadership equilibrium will be impaired.

The position taken by Governors of the APC from the North to cede the APC ticket to the South has been the best altruistic, patriotic and utility-driven decision I have seen in a long while. That singular decision helped in no small measure to douse the tension and political conflagration that was imminent in the APC, pre-convention. If the party had done the wishes of President Buhari , who desired Ahmed Lawan to emerge, APC would have by now, been counting its own losses. Those Northern Governors saved the day by their nationalistic intervention at a time of indecision. The Governors should sustain this nationalistic ideal to work in solidarity with all the factors of this contest to ensure the APC comes out victorious at the election. The president should also play his role as a leader of the party to put APC on a smooth ride to victory. The candidate of the APC has the capacity to rally round the country for a robust national conversation that will put paid to all the acrimonies that presently dominate the landscape. The APC candidate, as a pro-democracy activist, who was part of the struggle to birth this democracy, understands the urgency to unite the country and confront head-on, the challenges facing us presently. Dialogue, constructive engagement, and collective bargaining would help to throw up solutions to our endemic problems. The ability to interrogate our differences and challenges in a holistic manner would go a long way towards building a national consensus that is based on equity, fairness and justice.

That Nigeria is at crossroads is no longer news, what will be news is that genuine efforts are being made to generate a new paradigm that will respond to the urgent needs of the country. A strong, result-driven leadership is not only required; a balancing of the levers of power is most urgently required at this time. That is why an Atiku presidency would put spanners in the works of a stronger desire to have balance of political power between the North and the South. To sustain a laudable argument for continued existence of Nigeria, deliberate actions must be taken to douse the tension in the land. It is therefore instructive to note that an Atiku presidency is against the run of play and could deepen the gulf of mistrust that is already evident between northern and southern players. We need to balance the algorithms of power first before talking about growth and development. The growing schism in the land is an indication of the lack of satisfaction from the different geopolitical zones. Agitations upon agitations will only lead to political vibrations across the land. Every zone has its peculiarity in terms of expectations but the greater need to allow the South produce the next president is more compelling than any other consideration at this time. Once tempers are down, the atmosphere for robust engagement will become propitious.

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