- Category: Politics
- Published on Sunday, 22 August 2010 04:30
- Written by Next
- Hits: 1868
Political intrigue and speculation heightened last week after two political stalwarts publicly declared their presidential aspirations within 24 hours of each other. Constantly vilified, Ibrahim Babangida was all over the media, proclaiming that he has learned from his past mistakes and deserved another shot at ruling the country. Atiku Abubukar, whose presidential ambitions have percolated for many years, also launched his campaign by promising to “clean up the mess left for the next generation.”
The PDP contenders
Mr Babangida, who turned 69 on Tuesday, has come out with both guns blazing. However, despite his touted presidential experience, he failed to put forward any clearly defined policies, admitting that this was not his strongest point. He also failed to use the opportunity to apologise for his annulment of the June 12, 1993, elections, widely considered one of the fairest in the nation’s history. He made spirited defence to the charges of financial impropriety levelled against his regime in the Okigbo report, and again denied having anything to do with the murder of Dele Giwa. Although his candidacy comes with a lot of baggage, as an extremely wealthy candidate who claimed his concern is to improve his legacy, Mr Babangida remains a force to be reckoned with.
Mr Abubakar, unlike his opponent, put forward five critical areas which he promised to give urgent attention; Employment generation and wealth creation; power generation and infrastructural development; security, good governance and war against corruption; education, health and social services; and the Niger Delta. However he failed to prescribe exactly how he will solve the problems. This is not the first time the former vice president is running for the top seat. Unfortunately, Mr Abubakar has spent more time talking about his relationship with former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, than on articulating his policies. He faces a rather inanimate adversary this time around in the form of a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) waiver - without which he cannot contest. Murtala Nyako, the Admamawa state governor, has also been telling everyone who is willing to listen that Mr. Abubakar is not a bona fide PDP member. The candidate also refused to speak about the 330-page report released in February by the U.S. Senate’s permanent sub-committee on investigations which indicted him on allegations of money laundering.
Mr Babangida has said that he too will be contesting on the PDP platform. There is yet another serious hurdle for the two veterans. The incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, who is himself preparing to announce his bid for the job, is also a dye-in-the wool PDP man.
Only last week, the ruling party attempted to clear up the zoning issue whilst simultaneously muddying the waters further. On the one hand, it upheld zoning and on the other gave Mr. Jonathan, a Southerner, a clear path to run for office next year. The party leadership stopped short, however, of an outright endorsement of Mr. Jonathan’s candidacy which allowed Messrs Babangida and Abubakar to quickly capitalize on that by saying anyone was free to contest.
Since the current president came to power, he has worked quickly to consolidate his position, firing disloyal ministers and setting anti-corruption agencies against noncompliant godfathers like former governor James Ibori and ex-PDP chairman Vincent Ogbulafor. However, elections are less than five months away and the incumbent has yet to declare his candidacy. Last month, NEXT reported that Mr. Jonathan’s supporters had hired election consultants to help him map out a winning campaign strategy. Last week, a Reuters story implied that the president was considering not running at all – a charge his advisors promptly and vigorously denied.
Despite a flurry of activity by the president’s aides, Mr. Jonathan’s renowned caution and frequent dithering may prove his undoing and turn him into a casualty of the machinations of more seasoned political players.
In terms of credible opposition to the PDP, no one from a major party has really stuck their neck out save Ibrahim Shekarau who, on July 27th, declared his intention to run. The Kano State governor will be contesting as an All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) candidate. His immediate challenge is to amass support outside of the ANPP’s dwindling Northern stronghold. The party came to prominence under Muhammadu Buhari who left under acrimonious circumstances to join the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Since the former general’s departure, however, the ANPP has struggled to maintain relevance even in the few states where it dominates such as Kano, Yobe and Borno. Mr Shekarau has served two terms as governor and opinion is divided on his achievements. He has introduced ideas for improved rail and road systems but none have materialized. Under his watch, crime and poverty have gone unchecked. His healthcare programmes have received some praise although the debacle over polio vaccines has not endeared him to many.
Mr Buhari, who generated enormous goodwill amongst Northern supporters during his time with the ANPP, has not officially declared his intentions but as a serial contender it can only be a matter of time. The former military ruler’s regime was generally considered efficient although quite draconian. He is known to be disciplined and rigorously ethical, but his inability to form alliances has been the bane of his political career. He left the ANPP in February this year and, according to analysts, effectively gutted the party in the process. His withdrawal from the proposed Mega Party earlier in the year also left it dead in the water. While he may emerge as the presidential candidate of the CPC during the 2011 elections, he has found it difficult to remain under an umbrella for too long.
Another person poised to run for president is Nuhu Ribadu - just as soon as he can find a political party. The former anti-corruption boss is a populist choice but a significant run for the presidency may still be four years away. A campaign office is currently being set up in Abuja but there is no real organization under him just yet. Mr. Ribadu initially timed his return to the country to coincide with an appointment into Mr. Jonathan’s new cabinet, but that was nixed by powerful forces within the administration. He has since been courted by several parties including the new Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), PDP, ANPP and CPC. His original silence was broken this week when his media aide said that he would run for office after he “decides which political platform fits into his plans and visions.”
The dark horses
Donald Duke, the former Cross River State governor, has long harboured ambitions for higher office. He declared his intentions as far back as May and will contest under the Labour Party platform. Mr. Duke governed Cross River for eight years, and though he did little for the state in general, he is credited with turning the Obudu Cattle Ranch and The Tinapa Resort into international tourism centres. While his candidacy is a long shot – he is known for an autocratic leadership style and when he dumped the PDP for the Labour Party earlier this year, he created powerful enemies in the process – Mr. Duke may just spring a surprise. He recently spoke candidly about how rigging takes place in elections – a move which may have further ostracized him from some political blocks.
Another individual whose political star has dimmed somewhat is Bukola Saraki, the Kwara State governor. An early contender for a 2011 run, he seems to be stuck in limbo. There will undoubtedly be many shake-ups in the coming months and the younger Saraki is unlikely to find himself empty-handed this time next year. The chances that he will be twirling the keys to Aso Rock, however, appear remote.
Mohammed Aliyu Gusau is an old warhorse who’s position as National Security Adviser has been the subject of recent speculation. If he were to openly declare his candidature, he would be going up against both his current boss, Jonathan, and his old one, Babangida. At 68, his time may have passed after narrowly losing out to Yar’Adua in 2007.
The Lagos based pastor and chairman of the Fresh Democratic Party, Chris Okotie has also said he will like a chance to lead the country. This is the second time that the pastor has run for the office but, outside of his congregation, his ambitions are seen as lacking any real merit.
Politics without policies
Even at this stage, it is clear that the 2011 elections will be personality driven rather than guided by policies that will improve the nation’s fortunes. Even the incumbent president has failed to outline a blueprint for improved power generation in spite of promises made during his inauguration. Mr Babangida admitted during his declaration that he was an “old military head” and would leave the policy making to a “trusted team of experts.” Mr Atiku came a bit closer to announcing a manifesto by identifying five critical areas that needed attention yet failed to say exactly how he would address the key issues. Mr Shekarau’s declaration ceremony was more noteworthy in terms of attempt at examining policies.
As the season of horse-trading commences, Nigerians will go to the polls with a poor cast of options as to who can take the country forward. Most of the names are familiar but there is no one with a claim so compelling as to inject much needed energy into an apathetic electorate.