If all politics is local, there must be an exception in Nigeria. Here, all politics is selfish, especially southern Nigeria politics. If President Muhammadu Buhari wins another four year term, it wouldn’t be because of any stellar performances; it would be because of southern Nigeria politicians. Buhari has always won large in the North East and North West until the 2015 momentum thrust victory into his hands largely because he teamed up with Tinubu the strong man of the South West.
Just a few months ago the Senate President Saraki confirmed my earlier suspicion that Tinubu’s aggressive support for Buhari for 2019 after a lull in their relationship was essentially because he hoped for Buhari to handover to him in 2023. Tinubu is quoted by Saraki as saying that he would support Mr. President for 2019 even if he Buhari was on a stretcher because it was the surest way to guaranteeing his own 2023 ambition of being president. In other words even if we have another four years of trial and error, even if the government continues to misuse state apparatuses, even if court orders continue to be flouted, and even if we continue to dismiss the marauding herdsmen terrorism as herders/farmers’ clashes and blood flow continues to be the new normal, we would wait for another four full years for these to be over before Tinubu comes in 2023 and makes all things perfect in Nigeria ! While the Igbos continue to live in their delusion of producing a president in 2023 conditioned upon supporting Buhari for 2019, deals have been struck. For truth is exposed when friends quarrel.
What is obvious now is that if there is any hope for an Igbo presidency in the next nine years, that hope may come through PDP rather than APC, because Atiku Abubakar has picked an Igbo man as vice presidential candidate. Unfortunately, like all Igbo matters, the rancour within their camps may even give the victory away to Buhari in spite of the good showing of the PDP aspirants. Whereas in our political tradition, you either win or you blow up the bridge, surprisingly the PDP aspirants kept the bridge intact, and now some people in the South East are trying to add to Buhari’s natural advantage.
Buhari has the advantage of remaining popular in the North West and North East. Buhari is seen as the one strong enough to sustain the regional agenda. For eight years Obasanjo held sway with an interruption of two and a half years by Y’Ardua, followed by nearly six years of Jonathan. For a region that normally wouldn’t accept that anyone else be in the leadership, those were the years of the locusts. Buhari is seen therefore as the strong man that has reinstated the primacy of the north as a region and with no apologies.
Traditionally northern politicians may not be as individualistic and materialistic as their counterparts in the South. They have a commonality with their southern counterparts of amassing from the public till and not looking at problems from their roots but they are more generous with tokenisms that grant immediate relief to the grateful common citizen from the north. In addition, the predominant religion and culture of the North East and North West make the populace subservient to their elites and to accept their dominance as a divine imperative. Even when the elites have nothing to show for years of sitting atop massive resources, the populace revere them and believe that if God wanted it otherwise God would do something about it.
The South South, South East and South West and to a large extent the North Central politicians have to struggle harder to maintain their hold on their people. The easy systems of rigging elections that were instituted in the Obasanjo days ensured that all they had to do was accumulate enough funds to bribe officials of their political parties and INEC, pay lawyers, bribe judges and maintain an army of thugs. The people didn’t matter in the equation. At least northern politicians would feed the hungry poor on occasion and if money was budgeted for infrastructure, they would do their ‘Nigerian’ best to meet up. Southern politicians on the other hand are winners take it all. Their cousins are southern university vice chancellors who feast on TETFUND and leave universities in the south perpetually starved of needed infrastructure and equipment. The legacy of southern politicians is that they have made political office a coveted prize and such a ‘miraculous’ transformer from poverty to riches that aspirants are ready to sacrifice anything to attain it.
If money cannot buy a southern politician, more money would buy his conscience – with apologies to Senator Akpabio. Compare on the other hand the consensus that existed among northern politicians in 2015 for Buhari, where even high party officials were reportedly working for the defeat of their own candidate, according to reports. On the other hand, for the slightest selfish reason, southern politicians would betray their own blood.
With the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) becoming more stringent in its processes and the ordinary citizen becoming more relevant in the equation, southern politicians would need a lot more money to purchase the latest political item in the market, the vote. This development in the future gives advantage more to northern interests, as southerners are more likely to sell their consciences than northerners, who have a real stake in a regional agenda. INEC’s threat to deal with vote buying would continue to fall on deaf ears as Nigerians are innovative in devising ways and means.
Maybe there is something we don’t know about politicians. They may be magicians. Whereas poor folks like us have just one vote, people like Tinubu, Ganduje, Akpabio, Wike, Saraki, Oshiomole, surely must have a way of conjuring millions of votes to always have their way in spite of what INEC and the citizens say. Otherwise the blandness in governance, the overzealousness of state instruments of violence, the scandals, the rampant deaths of innocent citizens and their forced displacements, the hunger, the poverty in the land even if these weren’t directly caused by the government in power, would naturally give advantage to the opposition. But we all know that Nigeria operates at a level beyond phenomena. What could cause electoral failure in other lands may be the very reason for victory in Nigeria. After all as everything turns to cyberspace we will not be privy to the hidden data battles that would swing things one way or another.
As the campaigns towards 2019 begin, I am realistic enough to expect any outcome, knowing full well that not everyone is as ‘foolish’ as Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. So let the noise begin…
***Evaristus Bassey is Abuja-based Catholic Priest