Can Northern Elders’ Consensus Plan Stop Buhari?
By NASIR DAMBATTA
As the 2019 general elections are fast approaching, a series of alignments and re-alignment of forces is fast shaping the main game with Northern elders staging a comeback like it did in 2015
Fresh facts have emerged suggesting that the latest moves by Northern elders Coalition to produce a consensus presidential candidate for 2019 is unlikely to sail smoothly. Findings by Politics Today indicate that the thinking that Northern elders could decide Nigeria’s president for 2019 will be challenged by young political gladiators from the region.
Investigations revealed that while the coalition of Northern elders and political leaders are gradually pushing for action, the young turks are waiting in wings to tell them off, as was the case in 2015, when Malam Adamu Ciroma team chose Atiku Abubakar as consensus presidential candidate against General Ali Gusau, General Ibrahim Babangida, Bukola Saraki and others. It would be recalled that the 2015 Northern elder’s consensus did not succeed, as President Muhammadu Buhari had a walk-over during the presidential election.
Elders within the Northern political space reportedly met on February 10th in Abuja to brainstorm on strategies for picking a “consensus candidate” from the region, ahead of the 2019 presidential election. The elders, under the auspices of Northern elders and stakeholders, claimed that their goal was to get “the most acceptable” man to fly the region’s presidential flag in next year’s polls.
The doubt of young Northern political gladiators is that the consensus choice of Malam Adamu Ciroma who turned out to be Alhaji Tiku Abubakar wayback in 2015 was a failed strategy that should not be allowed to repeat itself in 2019. Proponents of this cynical point of view are also worried that the same faces that prevailed in the unsuccessful bids of the past are still the ones in the forefront, notably a former National PDP Chairman – Dr. Bello Mohammed, a former Deputy Senate President – Ibrahim Mantu and Senator Paul Zaman.
Also worrisome to cynics are the active participation of prominent PDP men in the past, like former Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu and one time military governor of Nasarawa State, Colonel Bala Mande. More prominent among the past key players that have mainly been associated with controversial political standpoints, according to the cynics, were people like Alhaji Tanko Yakasai – considered as yet another PDP apologist. It was he who chaired the Abuja coalition of Northern elders meeting. In the coalition are the traditional power-brokers that held sway before the failed 2015 consensus candidate agenda, namely the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF) amongst others. Critics of the efforts by the coalition of Northern elders see the new thinking as gerontocracy through the back-door under a democratic atmosphere and therefore unacceptable.
On the sidelines, some analysts think the new Northern elders’ coalition has some minuses regarding firebrand Northern politicians within the progressive belt, like Hajiya Naja’atu Bala Mohammed and PRP top-shots like Balarabe Musa – who is also the National Chairman of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP). The duo of progressive elements like Hajiya Naja’atu and Balarabe Musa are missing in the new movement and this is being seen in some quarters as a political miscalculation by the new elders’ coalition. Many of the young, emerging political gladiators from the North have also not been visible in the new movement, in era of not-too-young-to rule campaigns; and this has raised questions about the risk of exclusion of the young turks in a democratic decision expected to be the final stand of the region ahead of 2019. Some observers are also uncomfortable about the gale of mass decampments into the All Progressives Congress (APC) in recent months, across four States of the federation in one piece in support of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. On the other hand, some pundits believe that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to change the minds of voters from the northeast, who consider Buhari their messiah in terms of the insurgency that ravaged the region.
The recent groundswell of opposition in the Southeast to any candidate other than Buhari could also up the ante for the Daura-born general and the Northern enclave would just fill in the remaining electoral vacuum for his candidacy, if the governors who started the calls for him to re-contest in 2019 succeed in getting him accede to their demand. It is this kind of conviction that has led some Buhari die-hards to challenge those opposed to his 2019 bid to tell the world who they think would make a better replacement of the current Nigerian President.
But those who do not share this view insist that with not-so-remarkable records of infrastructural and empowerment achievements, 2019 could be tasking for Buhari’s comeback bid as championed by the APC governors.
However, proponents of the interventionist role of Northern elders’ coalition believe that it is now time for the North to speak with one voice on the choice of the next president in the forthcoming presidential and other elections. They also argued that any society that would want to succeed must rely on the wisdom of its elders. The second layer of their argument is that the elders are now doing a different thing in comparison to the 2015 experience because their five sub-committees would expectedly look into other concerns of the region, notably the farmers/herders conflict, though it is yet unclear if they have a blueprint on the biting poverty and raging drug abuse situation among the productive segment of the society. Be that as it may, the fans of the new Northern elders’ coalition are hopeful the region’s populace would have cause to smile after the replacement of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari with a yet-to-be known candidate in 2019, for which there fears it could be Atiku Abubakar again. They insist that, on this premise, the move of the elders cannot be faulted.
A cross-section of respondents who spoke to Politics Today in Kaduna argued however, that there are more worrisome challenges confronting the region and requiring of urgent attention than candidates for election. Those who hold this view also have the conviction that despite the new forum – now known as Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) and its five sub-committees, may not be able to produce a candidate for the 2019 presidency from the region that could effectively challenge the candidacy of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari if the Daura-born-general makes up his mind to run after his first term of four years.