The race to 2011 presidential election is becoming hotter with high-wired politics, intrigues, manoeuvring and horse-trading at the peak. And, if push comes to shove, ‘political konfo’ may come into play. The three principal actors are: the North, President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP.
President Goodluck Jonathan had gone through a long journey via the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to be the Acting President and by the ‘doctrine of reality’ to be the President of Nigeria. The President has started another knotty political-journey on a pot-hole-riddled-road with many sharp, sloppy and hilly bends.
The President has to apply the techniques of a patient driver. He has to be alert; learn to slow down and not tailgate. This is logical, because it will give him the ample time to get around ‘rickety’ and slow moving vehicle as well as be able to observe road signs, potholes, open car doors and cars coming towards him . Dr. Goodluck has to be wary of some passengers in his vehicle, they may be obstructive; he has to also strictly observe lane ends signs; give big trucks some rooms and shouldn’t try to beat trains- they can’t stop.
If President Goodluck adheres strictly to these driving tips, he will get through the rough political road effortlessly. However, if the President chooses to be a reckless driver, his vehicle will plunge from the start.
President Goodluck has three groups to face in the north: the political elites; the Talakawas and a unique emerging group of advocates of new approach to north’s political and development direction.
President Goodluck can use ten ways to persuade these three groups to support his presidential ambition. Of these ten ways, he can use four development policies to talk into the masses, one ‘politico-developmental’ agenda to convince the unique emerging group and whopping five political games to persuade the northern political elites.
President Goodluck Jonathan has found himself in a situation that both politics and policies may determine his political future. To see him through, he has to take careful and intelligent political steps. To gain the support of the Talakawas of the north, he has to design speedy but feasible policies that will break the poverty cycle in the north through economically empowering the poor; introduce agricultural programs that will reach real farmers as well as make them feel ownership and involvement in the programs; implement an education policy that will tackle the Almajiri phenomenon through workable integration of Quranic schools with formal schools and promotion of girl child education; and above all, be a fair leader. The leadership in the north has woefully failed in these regards. If President Goodluck can show a little sign of providing practical solutions to problems in these areas, the Talakawas of the north will definitely give him their votes. On the election day; he can just sit and cross his legs, sip a steaming cup of tea prepared by madam first lady. This is because the north has never voted based on regional or ethnic sentiments; but on candidates’ personal integrity and ability to free the people from the prison of poverty. The 1979; 1983; 1992 and 1999 elections were clear examples.
There is a group of young educated people springing in the north; this group see the hullaballoo about power rotation between the north and south, as undemocratic and also an offshoot of the never-ending ploy by the Nigerian political elites to continue to hold on to power. Moreover, they are strongly advocating a paradigm shift in the north’s development and political direction in such a way that the region will only vote for a leader with a vision; someone who listens to new ideas; accept new ways of doing things, as well as has a clear, vivid picture of what success looks like and how to achieve it. Not someone who hides behind regionalism to consolidate on cronyism and ‘stockpiles’ his pocket. The old days are gone, so to speak! President Goodluck can win the heart of this group if he can move with a speed commensurate with their expectations; in bringing new thinking and synergy to the public sector through feasible ideas that would trigger development in all spheres of the Nigerian economy- putting in place systems that would eradicate poverty by uplifting individuals, fight crimes with employments and opportunities rather than guns, axes, bows and arrows; fight official corruption the ways it ought to be and bring dynamism into governance, as well as provide broad variety of services to Nigerians, ranging from health and social programs, defence, electricity, police protection, maintain a sound legal system, and the provision of physical infrastructure including the reinvigoration of the education system, build small scale industries and farms, roads construction and human capital development. These groups of young educated northerners are looking for a Nigerian that will lead Nigeria like a CEO; not someone who will bombard their ears with gobbledygook.
The biggest hurdle President Goodluck Jonathan has to cross is winning his party’s presidential ticket. And the truth is, winning the hearts of the above mentioned two groups, is just a scratch on the back when it comes to winning the PDP’s ticket. Support from the Nigerian bigwig politicians is very paramount. As earlier mentioned, for President Goodluck to win over northern political elites, he can use five ways to do so. There are five groups of political elites in the north: the 19 northern governors; those seeking elective offices; career politicians; traditional and religious class as well as those who want to be President. Let’s look at the five political-games that the President can use to persuade these groups.
The process of seeking political offices in the north was built on the principle and foundation of negotiations. Politics, they say, is all about give and take. This is the first of the five ways President Goodluck can use to persuade the northern political elites, especially the 19 northern governors.
Immediately after the death of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, political gladiators in the north became busy putting their political machinery to action by building networks and strategising for the 2011 presidential election. Strategising and building formidable political network is technique number two, which is very crucial for President Goodluck in winning over the political elites in the north, especially the traditional and religious class.
As earlier mentioned, there are career politicians among the category of the north political elites. This group have started what they know best- politicking, by forming pro and anti Jonathan groups and associations in addition to shouting their voices at any given opportunity. They are the easiest group to be won over. The President knows better than anybody on how to win over this group- political patronage is their price.
There is strong feeling within another category of the political class in the north that the region must hold on to power till 2015 based on the unwritten power rotation agreement. Even some people outside the north hold such view. Professor Tam David West in his interview with The Spectator Newspaper of Saturday, July 10-July 16, 2010, page 12-13, he said: “Jonathan should honourably obey what he signed”. The Prof. went further and said that he will not support a southern President by becoming President on the platform of a Northern President. Most observers are quick to remind the political elites from the north and those supporting them, that during the 2003 elections which was the turn of the south to complete their eight years in power, the same north fielded candidates to seek the office of the President. For President Goodluck to win the support of this group; concession, honest engagement and collective bargaining are his only keys.
The fifth technique for President Goodluck Jonathan to use to win over the political elites in the north is the most interesting one; and the most fascinating, it’s Dr. Goodluck’s only weapon in facing the most difficult and formidable group- those also aspiring to the President. The technique is nothing but sheer high-wired politics full of scheming, manoeuvres and horse-trading. In dealing with this group, President Goodluck should always put in his mind that any slight error will be a huge political suicide, because Nigerian politics is all about secrecy and openness. He shouldn’t also forget that sometimes one needs more than just good luck, because the future is not something that happens; it is something that you make happen.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, firstname.lastname@example.org, 08036070980