Leadership (Abuja)

20 February 2013

Nigeria: Lord of the Aspirings

opinion

Unless one has been living under a meteor for the past couple of months, it is clear to every Nigerian that the political race for 2015 has well and truly begun. And if anyone wanted a lesson on how power is the ultimate corruptible aphrodisiac, they need only look at the power struggle igniting in the PDP.

As the race takes off, we have a series of claims and accusations in the PDP from the president and governors, with each repeatedly denying the other's accusations. An ambitious president, an agreement that nobody told us Nigerians about, and a cluster of equally ambitious governors on the last leg of their second terms get a few nice shout-outs but nothing is yet fully exposed.

And so it began a couple of days ago in the vibrant city of Abuja during a live radio broadcast when Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State spoke of President Goodluck's one-term pact. An agreement was made, we were told, by the president to run only for one term in 2011 and the rumoured interest of President Jonathan in aspiring for a second term in 2015 should be taken as mere speculation.

At first, the president's camp met this exposure with an almost stupefied taciturnity. And instead of a categorical address or some sort of press release to the nation to clear up the matter, the president did what all ill-starred leaders do when they want to express a position that they may need to deny in future. He sent his aide to wax lyrical about his commitment to Nigeria and deny committing to any agreement not to run for the presidency in 2015. All the while resurrecting nothing short of a sum speech of the president's assumed aspiration, which essentially translated as, "Yes folks, I am aspiring for a second term... Don't mind these darn governors and their premature aspirations."

So did he, or didn't he sign a pact to run for only one term? And if he did, does it really matter? Although one's intuition says that the president is being less than truthful on the matter, with so many of the key players giving so many variant accounts of the same topic, we may have to wait for WikiLeaks, which will, no doubt, tell us what really happened in a couple of months.

As the mud gets slung around, we the spectators are being led to believe that the supposed collaborative agreement was predicated upon the desire of our leaders to uphold national character and stand up for the rights of their regions. One begs to differ! Let's not get it twisted: this impasse has absolutely nothing to do with regional power shift or a need to protect a people's interest but everything to do with a formula where everyone is feverishly angling for the best position to make their imagined target of taking power for themselves come true.

And it begs the question, really, if the governors arguing for the turn of the north were in earnest trying to protect the interest of the north, what on earth happened to them in 2011? And was it not their fault that the initial power rotation of the PDP which gave power to President Obasanjo for eight years and then President Yar'Adua for eight years was not enforced in accordance with that initial agreement in 2011? Since they had an opportunity and audience with President Jonathan to negotiate power back then, why did they not claim the position for the north in the aftermath of President Yar'Adua's death? Why, one may also ask, did they not support Atiku Abubakar or any of the other northerners that put themselves up for election in 2011? Their ferocious campaign against anyone that was northern in 2011 and in support of President Jonathan is a clear indication that the only interest they are truly out to protect is their own. Now that they are finishing their second terms and may have the aspiration to elevate themselves to the presidency in 2015, it's difficult to take their crusade for the north sincerely. Seriously, if anyone is begging to not be taken seriously on the issue of trying to protect regional interest, it's the northern governors who were in office in 2011 and their approach. There's approach and strategy and then there's freaking exasperating!

But despite the dodgy objective of the governors, President Jonathan does not and should not get a pass. Though his pledge of ignorance is coming furiously through his aide, the fact of the matter is that it goes to the root of revealing President Jonathan's true character as a person. At a time when the presidency is openly being accused of telling barefaced lies, it would be untoward for the president to expose himself as a fibber. Already, in the past he was caught in a lie in 2010 when he denied that PDP had an agreement for rotational presidency even though he was a beneficiary of that agreement. And when he denied the involvement of MEND in the October 1, 2010, Eagle Square bombing, his nose might have grown a few inches. If he did indeed agree to run only once and has subsequently changed his mind, Nigerians would respect him, not only as a leader but as a man if he admitted it. He still has a constitutional right to seek re-election despite any agreement and if he wants to be the lord of those aspiring, then, he should own it.

The region that the 2015 aspirants come from shouldn't matter. The native language and native dress they wear shouldn't be a factor. If they came from Mars, as long as they are Nigerian and have a constitutional right to run for the presidency, no agreement can bypass that. Nobody should get to hide behind an agreement which has, at best, outrun its purpose and is unconstitutional.

Something new is happening across Nigeria and it has nothing to do with an insulated agreement that PDP made or with the towering zombie of ethnic dichotomy that has been manufactured for us to absorb and align with. The discourse with the vast majority of Nigerians has shifted. People are desperate for change -- a sustained incremental change. A change that will be carried forward by ordinary people, ordinary men and women, not by governors or presidents or anyone who worships an unconstitutional agreement fashioned to take away the choice of the Nigerian people. And this is something that those in the ruling party should probably be remembering as the next two years go by. Nigerians will be on the edge of their seats to see whether it's the governors or the president that emerge as the "Lord of the aspiRings".

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