By Salisu Suleiman
At a time when many Northerners feel the region has been deprived of power for too long, any call for a Southerner to contest the presidency may be seen as heresy. Already, elders like Junaid Mohammed and Ango Abdullahi have suggested that the North must produce the next president of Nigeria.
But considering existing socio-economic and political realities, what is the point of barking, when there is little substance behind the posturing?
Since the Northern political elite badly miscalculated by gambling on a seemingly pliable Olusegun Obasanjo, they have been on a retreat — a retreat that may turn into outright surrender if Goodluck Jonathan retains office in 2015. If that scenario plays out, power and the privileges that come with it would have slipped from their grasp forever — as will the prerogative of choosing, and therefore controlling the levers of power in Nigeria.
Now that the elite’s political blunder has come to haunt them in the form of a president that is bent on destroying the very last vestiges of unity in the north by deliberately playing ethnicity and stoking up religious sentiments, they have forgotten that it was the quest to protect their selfish interests that has led us to the brink of the current political and economic disasters.
Has the northern elite forgotten that in 1999, they supported the ‘amenable’ Obasanjo over the ‘upstart’ Olu Falae; in 2003, they helped Obasanjo to rig out Buhari; in 2007, they rode roughshod over their people’s choice to impose a fatally flawed Umaru Yar’adua and in 2011, helped Jonathan’s rigging machinery.
In every instance, they had their wish and took their share of the loot, but ignored growing poverty, which in turn has led to social dislocations, economic fractures and political amputations. Now that the Jonathan gambit is proving to be a catastrophe, they are complaining.
Who has forgotten the various roles played by such northerners as Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Gusau, Atiku Abubakar, Adamu Ciroma, Barnabas Gemade, Solomon Lar, Bello Mohammed Halliru, Samaila Sambawa, Olusola Saraki, Hassan Wakilin Adamawa, Sule Lamido, Modu Ali Sheriff, Ibrahim Mantu, David Mark, Ahmed Makarfi, Jerry Gana, Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, Jonathan Zwingina, Mukhtari Shagari and many others in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011?
Who can deny that the likes of Ahmed Gulak, Labaran Maku, Ibrahim Shekarau, Attahiru Bafarawa, Jonah Jang, Gabriel Suswam, Isa Yuguda are only copying their more illustrious Northern forbears towards 2015?
In truth, it is a measure of their hypocrisy that if Buhari were to indicate interest in the presidential race and actually picks the APC ticket, most of the Northern elite would scramble to line up behind Jonathan.
So the question is; are they fighting for the North or just for their political and economic relevance, or it is that Buhari is not the ‘right’ Northerner, simply because he cannot be manipulated or persuaded to throw them the keys to the public treasury?
The point is, the clamour for a Northern president is not about regional representation or political balance as much as the need to have access to the levers of power. Knowing that a Buhari presidency would probably shut them out of the privileges they have come to assume as birthrights, they consistently supported his opponents.
In the same way, if another uncompromising and ‘stubborn’ Northerner, in the mould of say, former FCT minister, Nasir el-Rufai, were to emerge as a candidate to challenge Jonathan, many of these so-called ‘protectors’ of Northern interests would find themselves immediately converted to the party of Jonathan.
Clearly, it is not about the North. It is about and privilege — for a select few. Which is why thinkers and other well-meaning Nigerians must seek another way of sacking Jonathan, who seems to take perverse pleasure in smiling while rubbing mud on the face of Nigerians.
Why not neutralize all the arguments that Jonathan has marshaled to divide Nigeria simply to further his ambition? Why not think out of the boringly predictable Nigerian political box?
Thinking outside the box may include going against all odds and against all political permutations to agree that the overall interest of the country is greater than any regional aspirations to the presidency. This means coming together to back a candidate from the same zone, religion and background as Jonathan.
Would any forfeiture that would sack the current government not be worthwhile, given that there may not much left to scramble for if Jonathan and his lieutenants remain in office until 2019?
What if, for instance, the opposition, with Northern support, backs Rivers State governor Rotimi Ameachi for president and he not only succeeds in holding Nigeria together from the disintegration hinted by Jonathan’s camp, but successfully tackles insecurity, corruption, unemployment, economic decline and other challenges confronting not just in the North, but all of Nigeria?
Would Nigeria not be better off?
This article was first published on the author's blog.