25 February 2011

Nigeria: The Men Who May Be President (1)

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The battle for who occupies Aso Rock as from May 29 2011 is getting very interesting indeed with the picking of presidential running mates by the major contenders. The man who would be vice president can also be president; remember the incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, benefitted from the passing of his boss, Umaru Yar'Adua.

I am inclined, by reason of political structure, antecedents and popularity, to take the candidacy of three of the contenders seriously. Goodluck Jonathan got to where he is today by divine fiat and uncanny stroke of good luck, that makes all of us pray "oh Lord, may my fate be like that of Goodluck, let the lines fall unto me in pleasant places". Our lot as citizens may not have been bettered under Jonathan, but we are still a nation that hopes for change, for a better tomorrow, for divine intervention.

Muhammadu Buhari is almost making a career of being a presidential candidate. Once a military head of state, the slim, tall and smart general (Rtd.) whipped everyone into line with his War Against Indiscipline in the early 80s. He did other things, too that you would not put past a military dictator.

Nuhu Ribadu was a cop. I am not sure if he retired as a Deputy Commissioner (DC) or Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, but one thing is certain, many Nigerians think highly of him. Many Nigerians, especially the politicians and their cronies also loathe him. He was the fearless chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who jailed his boss, the former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun. He was also accused of going after the enemies of Olusegun Obasanjo, the president who gave him the job. The press has dubbed him the anti corruption czar.

A lot of Nigerians and outsiders who are interested in the politics of the most populous Black Country on earth have said that we need a unifying leader. It is debateable that we have never had one just as it debateable that the man who has come closest to being that unifying factor was Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election. The other face on that Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket was the articulate diplomat, Babagana Kingibe, and they both awed us with their campaign slogans and personal style; they both understood the use of language, they both had good understanding of the country they wanted to rule, they both were amiable and personable. You would be surprised how these things count during electioneering campaign. Abiola personally knew how to use proverbs and one-liners to finish off a conversation like he did during that debate that his opposite number, Bashir Tofa, of the National Republican Convention (NRC) bungled to the chagrin of Doyin Okupe. Abiola had said when asked about paying foreign debts and how it will weigh the country down economically that "you cannot draw blood from an anaemic person". That settled the matter.

For a diplomat, Kingibe was direct and he also delivered a killer punch that settled the election in their favour. Sylvester Ugo was the man that had been chosen by the NRC and during the running mates' debate, Kingibe's joker was the Biafran currency signed by Ugo as the governor of the Central Bank of Biafra. It spoke volumes.

During the SDP/NRC period, the parties were equal. One party was not bigger than another. That has changed remarkably with the PDP claiming to be the biggest political party in Africa and no formidable opposition to wrestle power from it. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has used the courts to claim their mandates in most of the states in the west, whiles parties like All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) have also gained some notoriety as possible spoilers.

Lets us return to the topic of the vice presidential candidates, the men who could be president in case anything happens. Goodluck Jonathan's running mate by default is Namadi Sambo, architect and former governor of Kaduna State handpicked by the president after he left Aguda House as VP. There is nothing quite interesting to look forward to in Namadi Sambo. He seems to be on the same level with his boss. I once attempted to read his CV but dumped it half way; there was nothing other than he was a government contractor who had money to contest a gubernatorial election and won. He also got lucky he was appointed VP to an equally lucky president. In a party like PDP, if you do not rock the boat, your place is secured.

The two interesting vice presidential candidates for me are Tunde Bakare and Fola Adeola.

Bakare, charismatic pastor and founder of the Latter Rain Assembly, runs with the ex-soldier, Buhari. Pastor Bakare is obviously a born again Christian, while General Buhari is a devout Moslem. If you have followed him these many years that he has become a national figure and public commentator both from his pulpit and in the many interviews in the press, you would know that he has very strong views about what he believes as someone who professes Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Bakare and Buhari have one thing in common; both have served at the highest levels of institutions that downplay democracy. If you have served in the church or the military you will get my drift. By the way, was it too difficult to decipher that TBaks, as I love to call him, was making an incursion into politics with his Save Nigeria Group?

Fola Adeola is best described as a banker. He was the Managing Director/CEO of Guarantee Trust Bank for 12 years before he retired voluntarily. He is the man that Ribadu has picked to run with him on the ACN platform. Both men are Moslems.

Next week, we will look at candidates closely and see how they might be able to sway votes in their favour or otherwise.

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