Is the North in Good Company in APC? By Garba Shehu

Garba-Shehu1-580x340The posturing by the Action Progressives Congress, APC that they will field a Northern candidate for the Presidency in 2015 should hold the opposition party in a good stead.
In contrast to this posture, itself consistent with the unwritten tradition of power rotation between the North and South, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP appears unrelenting in making the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck its sole candidate.
In a democracy, there must be ample freedom to choose, reject, discuss and debate. This is what the PDP continues to miss.
In line with this principle, the PDP and its powerful ethnic Ijaw high-command have every right to present the incumbent in 2015, and Nigerians of other persuasions have a right to reject him.
Lest we forget, the romance between the APC, or let’s say the Yoruba South-West and the North is a uniquely new phenomenon. If it works out, this would be the first time in the annals of Nigerian politics that these two vote banks would work together. There are two reasons why this is unique. First is that this kind of political union was not at all permitted under colonial rule. The British had contempt of the more enlightened and politically aggressive Yoruba. The Northern Hausa were mostly acquiescent if not down-right pliant. The British allowed accommodation between the North and the Igbos who then, and even now did not have state craft but their lives largely governed by commercial ethos.
In the post-independence era, the Yoruba were designated – or chose for themselves – the place of the permanent opposition in Nigerian politics. Awolowo’s Action Group, AG in the Western Region never voted with the North in national elections. Beyond this, the AG actually nurtured and sustained opposition to the ruling Northern Peoples Congress, NPC in the North by lavishly funding political Christianity and the Middle-Belt Movement. Two prominent Northern opposition leaders in the Middle-Belt were paid cabinet-level salaries by the Western Regional government.
The Second Republic was no different with the South-West continuing with its knee-jerk response to Northern politics and politicians, inventing and provocating communal feelings and the Northern elite leading a government of corrupt politicians and manipulative bureaucrats. It is hard to pin-point the exact reason and juncture at which the disenchantment set in between the traditional alliance partners, i.e. the North and the old East but it suffices to say that this has not been helped by the frequent ethno-religious violence in the North, of which the more prosperous Igbos had become a regular target.
The North has three difficulties with the East, and Igbos in particular. First is that the scales have turned against the more conservative elements in the region; those that see value in the relationship with the North have lost politically to those who see the North as the enemy. All the current South-East governors, except Imo’s Okorocha fall into this category.
What is however most decisive is that Igbos have found a strong foothold in the current federal administration. A Guardian newspaper analyst, Samson Ezea, presumably an Igbo, reported two weeks ago that Igbos are beneficiaries of 36 percent of all appointments made by President Jonathan. They also have a strategic hold on the army. With a sprinkling of the South-South, the Igbos control all strategic positions in the Army. Where Northern officers are found in any sensitive positions, they know that they are walking a thin, red-line and may fall by the way-side from booby-traps as laid for a retired infantry General in Jaji. No doubt, Igbos see politics in the present dispensation as a zero-sum game and the North as a material enemy that is out to challenge the comfort zone in which they thrive.
Don’t also forget that while the North is like in auto-gear going into the new partnership with the APC, the South-South and South-East are watching and entrenching their opposition through the sponsorship of all manner of communal and fascists organizations pursuing nefarious agenda and activities contrary to the secular and democratic fundamentals of our constitution.
The important question to confront at this point is does North have reason, other than sticking against Jonathan, for going into the ground-breaking alliance with the South-West? Is this alliance driven by interest or just power grab?
On another hand, given the historical antagonism that has characterized the relationship between the North and the South-West political elite, can the Yoruba be trusted to rescue the North from the combined assault of the South-South and South-East?
The South-West have voted strategically in 2003, 2007 and 2011, casting their ballots for candidates other than those of their party. They voted for PDP candidates and left their party’s candidates stranded. Can they be trusted to stay with an APC candidate if he happens to be a Northerner?
To the Northerners who are clamoring for the APC ticket, what do they have that they are bringing to the table, beyond sentiment and emotional charge? Do they have money to bring to the party or are they going to fold their arms, watching Governor Tinubu, who is sitting on the controls to operate all the levers? Again, what do the Northerners want in the APC? Are they promoting a candidate or promoting interests? If it is a candidate, a contestant can be negotiated away or compromised. Can you negotiate away your interest?
Are they united in the pursuit of what they want?
Where are their negotiation cards? How do they protect their own backyard to ensure that the PDP, which is expert in thuggery, does not embarrass them by buying off or stealing their votes?
The new party has a lot of loud-mouthed, tough-speaking leaders who are famous as “strategists”. They have suffered past defeats in the hands of the PDP and yet have not learnt anything. Instead, they go on talking as if they have something new to teach us. Do they have answers to the government’s control of the army, the police, the INEC and the huge war-chest they are putting in place for 2015? If they don’t have these answers, do they expect anyone to take them seriously? Finally, would the North look before it jumps?

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