Hardly could Atiku have realised that Saraki saw the Senate Presidency as the gateway to Aso Rock in 2019. As it happened, Atiku shattered Saraki’s dream.
As was in the American presidential election of 2018, the recent Nigeria’s opposition PDP national convention to pick the party’s 2019 presidential election candidate was preceded by a series of predictions for the outcome. In fact, Nigerians were virtually choked either by individual self-overestimation or the dirty job was done for some of the projected by over-excited but naïve enthusiasts.
With about 14 presidential aspirants, if not more, it was PDP’s internal affair and the result, quite unusually, was acclaimed by the losers as free and fair. All the same, just like in the 2016 American presidential election, the result was against general expectations, such that, after the US election, the defeated candidate, Hillary Clinton, wrote a book to account herself for her supporters and history by providing answers for ‘what happened and what went wrong’.
It is most unlikely that the defeated aspirants at the PDP convention will give such account even now in their sober moments, bother for self-examination. There was no rival party to be accused
of rigging. From PDP’s list of almost anybody as an aspirant, the initial worry was the assessment or value of Nigerian presidency, such that no attention was paid to or demand made for the maturity, administrative capability from any past experience or national base of many of them, largely political sophomores.
While others might be deemed inconsequential anyway, about four of the losers could not escape posers on why, how they suffered their fate. What could have gone wrong for Rabiu Kwankwaso, projected all along as a very successful and memorable two-term elected governor of Kano State, almost in the mould of Abubakar Rimi, for extending infrastructural development to the masses in rural areas? Kwankwaso, therefore, carried to the PDP convention the image of a cult hero in parts of the core North, which normally determines success or failure in a general election. Yet Kwankwaso did not go far in the PDP primaries.
Kwankwaso’s fate is another proof that Nigerians are their worst enemies. Instead of looking forward to good administration, delegates at the convention fell for money. It must of course be conceded that modern-day politics in most parts of the world is cost-intensive.
At its most refined, if provocative, the name is mobilisation, which must be condemned at its most obscene. Delegates from Zungeru, Malumfashi, Ipokia, Abigi waterside, Ozubulu, Mbaise, Agbor, Barkin Ladi, etc, all to Port-Harcourt for a party’s convention? Candidates must pay for transport, accommodation, food, etc. As Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would put it, add them together and give us the answer – vote buying, the legitimacy of which will always be debated at every general election.
Another pitiable loser at the PDP convention was the Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal. That was one loser with age on his side and bright political prospects. Even though he came second, the fact remains that he unnecessarily crashed in his presidential ambition at least for now and years to come. These guys are not truthful to one another. Drawback to 2011, after the general election, there was this strange alliance between former Lagos State governor Bola Tinubu and a PDP member of House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal.
Majority ruling party, the PDP, had zoned House speakership to Mulikat Akande, South-West. But, with Tinubu’s collaboration, ACN’s members in the House conspired with PDP dissidents to install Tambuwal as Speaker. What Tinubu and Tambuwal were to make of their emergency alliance was not clear.
But in time, with Tinubu’s South-West, he was politically strong to fuse with Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, geared towards the 2015 presidential election. Suddenly, without a strong political base like Tinubu and Buhari, House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal emerged as a potential presidential candidate on the same party, APC, along with Buhari. In fact, Tambuwal’s friends reportedly bought for him interest form for the APC presidential election.
On his part, Tinubu only lost the vice presidential ticket on religious ground to Yemi Osinbajo.
Therefore, how Tambuwal ever over-estimated himself to vie with Buhari for the APC presidential ticket was a disastrous political miscalculation. Eventually, Tambuwal stepped down and contested for the governorship of Sokoto State, obviously on the impression that Buhari was to run for only one term. Even then, it would have been a fight to finish with Tinubu who was also waiting to succeed Buhari. That was not to happen, since the APC, in responding to PDP’s fear-mongering among northerners that Buhari would run for only one term, had committed Buhari to two full terms if he won the 2015 election. Obviously their forgotten APC commitment to Buhari for two terms frustrated other aspirants. Among the lot was Tambuwal, who commenced switching back to his old party, the PDP, where he lost the bid for the 2019 presidential election.
In a way, his loss was more of a saving grace. There was no way Tambuwal as PDP candidate could ever have defeated Buhari in the North generally and North-West in particular. To worsen matters, Tambuwal stranded himself in 2011 by enlisting ACN support to emerge House Speaker, rather than the party’s preferred choice, Malikat Akande. PDP never forgave him. Tambuwal further ran into troubled waters in 2015 when he, against APC’s and Tinubu’s preference for Ahmed Lawan, endorsed Bukunola’s clandestine assumption of office as Senate President.
Again, like Atiku Abubakar, it was most unlikely that, in embracing Saraki as Senate President, Tambuwal ever imagined Saraki’s real ambition to contest the presidency in 2019. By the time Tambuwal realised events from Saraki’s camp, it was too late. The only possible self-consolation was that he, Tambuwal, doubled Saraki’s votes to emerge second.
What fate befell Senate President Bukola Saraki? in summary and apology to Kwame Nkrumah, Saraki was the victim of a system he did not understand. Until the eve of the PDP primaries, obviously, Saraki all alone must have assumed that in Nigerian politics, the sky was the limit for him. Nigerian politics? PDP invoked the necessary check. Before the PDP convention, there were wild (yes wild) speculations on Saraki’s ambition without reckoning with his chances, if such ever existed. He too obviously overrated his chances, perhaps still relying on sneaking to the Senate Presidency.
In politics, two plus two may not automatically add up to four, not just in Nigeria but throughout democracies. A potential Nigerian presidential candidate must be broad-based and possibly with support from most parts of the country. Saraki did not seem to reckon with such basic requirements. In the end, all efforts and resources were wasted.
Political prospects in the future? Saraki is young and legitimate to aspire to political office, including the presidency but he seems to be impatient.
He must, therefore, adopt “suru l’ere” as a personal motto. Also, he is not facing political reality to assume he (Saraki) would defeat Atiku Abubakar at party primaries or most ridiculously President Buhari in general election.
In Nigerian politics, origin matters, a reality discarded at personal electoral peril. A candidate from the North will always have numerical advantage in votes. From the North? What part of the North has
the numbers? Surely not Kwara. Hence, even, if grudgingly, the need for zoning to coalesce substantial voting strength. Ignore the arrogant and short-sighted in votes pessimists who claimed that zoning would create mediocrity.
This is the second time a Kwaran, and a Saraki for that matter, would miss a presidential bid. In the past, the late Dr. Olusola Saraki (Senate President’s father) lost a presidential bid also at the candidate selection level mainly because he could not muster the necessary votes on the platform of the defunct National Party is Nigeria (NPN). Sneaking, confrontation, bulldozing or self-exaggeration of electoral prospects will never gather the necessary votes.
Instead, meticulous planning, patience, humility, deliberate courting of electoral support based on acceptability would have yielded better results.
By the way, the PDP showdown marked the end of the political collaboration between Saraki and Atiku Abubakar. In 2015, after Saraki sneaked into the Senate Presidency in total disregard of APC’s choice of Ahmed Lawan for the post, the first official visitor to Saraki in his residence was Atiku Abubakar, obviously in the belief that he was courting Saraki’s support for his (Atiku’s) next shot at the presidency in 2019. Hardly could Atiku have realised that Saraki saw the Senate Presidency as the gateway to Aso Rock in 2019. As it happened, the same Atiku Abubakar shattered that Saraki dream.
One loser the PDP nomination of Atiku Abubakar produced was former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Atiku triumphed despite Obasanjo’s consistent personalised attacks on him. Apart from that, the implication is that the PDP rebuffed Obasanjo by opting for Obasanjo’s pet political hate. Whether Obasanjo likes it or not, Nigerians in 2019 will either re-elect President Buhari or elect Atiku Abubakar. Obasanjo opposes the two. After the 2019 elections, will Obasanjo, therefore, go into exile outside Nigeria?
Meanwhile, Nigerians must heave a sigh of relief that campaigns for the 2019 elections will not feature malicious and inciting religions animosity. Both candidates, Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, practice the same religion.