Tam­buwal will be the nightmare sce­nario for PDP

Daily Trust - - SPORT REPORT -

Ihad a tough ar­gu­ment with a reader who had a very dim view of my last week’s ar­ti­cle in which I opined that APC would be mak­ing a mis­take if it opts for a Mus­lim-Mus­lim ticket as was be­ing spec­u­lated in the me­dia. Af­ter fend­ing off his charge that my sup­posed bias against APC be­clouded my judg­ment in the said ar­ti­cle, I also put him on the spot by charg­ing that his ob­vi­ous un­crit­i­cal APC sym­pa­thy made it dif­fi­cult for him to see the party’s po­ten­tial mis­steps, in­clud­ing those that could lit­er­ally amount to the party dig­ging its own grave. We even­tu­ally agreed to dis­agree on a num­ber of is­sues. On his sug­ges­tion that I should rec­om­mend a ‘win­ning’ ticket for the APC, I de­murred, ar­gu­ing that it would be un­eth­i­cal for a colum­nist to try to force the hand of a party on its choice of can­di­dates or in­flu­ence vot­ers’ pref­er­ences. The way I see it, our duty as pub­lic in­tel­lec­tu­als, is to pro­vide enough an­a­lyt­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and clar­ify the is­sues at stake suf­fi­ciently enough for pol­icy mak­ers or vot­ers to make their own choices.

Based on the above, my ze­ro­ing in on a pu­ta­tive Tam­buwal pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy does not amount to an en­dorse­ment or forc­ing the hands of APC. My in­ter­est is to show the likely im­pli­ca­tions of his can­di­dacy in the 2015 race against Pres­i­dent Jonathan, who is yet to for­mally throw his hat into the ring. This will of course be with­out prej­u­dice to other po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in the party, sev­eral of whom are em­i­nently qual­i­fied for the job.

There are rea­sons I be­lieve that a Tam­buwal pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy will bring un­usual ex­cite­ment to the cam­paigns and will val­orise the base of both par­ties. In say­ing this, I am as­sum­ing that Tam­buwal, who was helped to the Speak­er­ship with op­po­si­tion votes and has re­mained ‘grate­ful’ ever since, is ei­ther a closet APC chief­tain or could be eas­ily co-opted into the party. He is young and boy­ish - only 48 years old. He is also coura­geous, charis­matic, speaks well and has been able to hold the House to­gether for some three years. His great­est strength is that while he has a na­tional namere­cog­ni­tion by virtue of be­ing the Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, he does not have the bag­gage that other po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, who have held high pub­lic of­fices in the past, have. The PDP will there­fore strug­gle to find a ma­jor at­tack line against him that can stick.

If Tam­buwal, who is from the North-west is en­dorsed by Buhari and Atiku, chooses as his run­ning mate an older Chris­tian with the req­ui­site gov­ern­men­tal ex­pe­ri­ence (to make up for his lack of real ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and to al­lay the anx­i­ety of those who may be wor­ried about his rel­a­tive youth), then the cam­paign for 2015 will get re­ally ex­cit­ing. He may not win but such a ticket will ef­fec­tively fore­stall the emer­gence of a third rel­a­tively strong party in the North. My in­stinct tells me that any ma­jor mis­step by APC, (which must be given credit for hold­ing to­gether for so long against all odds and pre­dic­tions), will lead to mass de­fec­tions, not of in­di­vid­u­als as hap­pened to the PDP but of the var­i­ous group­ings and ten­den­cies that came to­gether to form the party and give its cur­rent swag­ger. De­fec­tions of such group­ings are un­likely to be back to the PDP – as it will amount to one swal­low­ing one’s vomit. If such dis­af­fected group­ings move to any party, es­pe­cially if the de­fec­tions in­clude one or two gov­er­nors who will bring with them a good war chest, the ben­e­fi­ciary po­lit­i­cal party will be­come bol­stered overnight.

Tam­buwal will be the PDP’s nightmare not only be­cause of the afore­men­tioned fac­tors go­ing for him, but also be­cause he can tap on sen­ti­ments to har­vest boun­ti­fully from the rich votes in the North-west and North­east with­out his can­di­dacy gen­er­at­ing neg­a­tiv­i­ties in other parts of the coun­try.

But even a Tam­buwal can­di­dacy will face an up­hill, but not in­sur­mount­able, task in try­ing to de­feat a likely Jonathan can­di­dacy. The PDP has the ad­van­tage of in­cum­bency and with it tremen­dous lever­ages, in­clud­ing the koboko (EFCC, ICPC etc.) to whip some politi­cians into line and also pieces of the ‘na­tional cake’ to co-opt oth­ers. Be­sides, Jonathan can match Tam­buwal youth-for-youth and fea­ture for fea­ture. He may not be the most in­spir­ing speaker in the world but at 56 he is quite young for a man of his po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and the of­fice he oc­cu­pies. In the rare oc­ca­sions he dresses in suits or T-shirts, his good and boy­ish looks come to the fore (one some­times won­ders why his han­dlers do not ex­ploit such symbolisms fre­quently enough). In sev­eral coun­tries these days, a can­di­date’s age and looks are all part of the like­abil­ity fac­tors that sway vot­ers. This is an­other point those push­ing for Buhari-Tin­ubu ticket should be sen­si­tive to (Buhari is 71 while Tin­ubu is 62, which means that the ticket is also not gen­er­a­tionally sen­si­tive).

It must be pointed out that re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the coun­try’s macroe­co­nomic en­vi­ron­ment and other spheres of na­tional life are al­ready mak­ing some people re­vise their im­pres­sions of Jonathan as an un­der­per­form­ing Pres­i­dent: whether by luck or de­sign, un­der his watch Nigeria re­placed South Korea in the MIKT economies to change the acro­nym to MINT (Mex­ico, In­done­sia, Nigeria and Turkey). Un­der him the coun­try won the African Cup of Na­tions and also won the World Cup in the un­der 17 cat­e­gory. In the same vein, the in­flow of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment un­der him in three years is more than all that Obasanjo achieved in eight years. These are in ad­di­tion to the im­pacts of the re­cent re-bas­ing of the coun­try’s GDP. True, you can­not eat GDP and the size of the econ­omy does not equate to the eco­nomic well­be­ing of a coun­try. Yet, it is the G8 coun­tries, (made up of the eight largest economies in the world) that rule the world – not the rich­est coun­tries in the world

S(mea­sured by GDP per capita where lit­tle known coun­tries like Qatar. Lux­em­bourg and Switzer­land hold sway). If the Ea­gles do well in the World Cup in Brazil, Jonathan’s cor­rup­tion and un­em­ploy­ment per­cep­tion flanks will re­main vul­ner­a­ble but the wind will cer­tainly be on his back and the mo­men­tum on his side as the race for 2015 heats up.

Let me say that a voter’s pref­er­ence for one can­di­date over oth­ers of­ten de­pends on the per­son’s anal­y­sis of the ma­jor chal­lenges fac­ing the coun­try. Across all democ­ra­cies – emerg­ing or ma­ture - sen­ti­ments play a big role in vot­ers’ pref­er­ences but such sen­ti­ments of­ten in­ter­face with other ob­jec­tive is­sues in de­ter­min­ing the ag­gre­gate sup­port a can­di­date gets. In essence, sen­ti­ments alone, es­pe­cially in the face of ac­tive po­lit­i­cal mar­ket­ing and rub­bish­ing by the par­ties dur­ing cam­paigns, can­not be suf­fi­cient to win elec­tions. A can­di­date sup­ported on sen­ti­men­tal grounds alone can be so rub­bished by good op­po­si­tion strate­gists that the can­di­date’s ini­tial en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers will have a buyer’s re­morse just be­fore the elec­tions.

Sev­eral vot­ers will em­brace a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date based on their as­sess­ment of what they con­sider to be the most ur­gent task fac­ing the coun­try. Those who be­lieve that cor­rup­tion is the ma­jor prob­lem of the coun­try (I see cor­rup­tion as only the symp­tom of a more fun­da­men­tal so­ci­etal malaise) and who ad­mire a sol­dier-like bat­tle against the ail­ment ( a wrong strat­egy in my opin­ion), will con­tinue to nurse a nos­tal­gia for Buhari’s War Against In­dis­ci­pline and Ribadu’s EFCC. On the other hand, those who be­lieve that the coun­try’s prob­lem is hav­ing a vi­sion­ary leader may not mind voting for a leader who may have been ac­cused (rightly or wrongly) of cor­rup­tion in the past if they be­lieve the can­di­date has that vi­sion thing. In the same vein, those who be­lieve that the coun­try’s ma­jor chal­lenge at this point is the cri­sis in its na­tion-build­ing (I be­long to this cat­e­gory) will be look­ing for a non-di­vi­sive, states­man­like fa­ther- fig­ure who can rec­on­cile a frac­tious na­tion. Both Tam­buwal and Jonathan can lay claim that they are uni­fy­ing per­son­al­i­ties – Jonathan has a hum­ble, non-ag­gres­sive per­son­al­ity while Tam­buwal, by hold­ing the House well in three years and be­ing suc­cess­ful in net­work­ing across the fault lines, has also proved he is a uni­fy­ing per­son­al­ity. This is why I see a con­test be­tween the two per­son­al­i­ties as likely to be very ex­cit­ing.

Killjoys and the Re-bas­ing of the Nige­rian econ­omy

For too long, our coun­try, which daubed it­self the ‘gi­ant of Africa’, has been the butt of jokes: we have been called ‘Sleep­ing gi­ant’; ‘Gi­ant with feet of clay’ and a coun­try of ‘419ers’. Now that we have an op­por­tu­nity of a counter nar­ra­tive we should be al­lowed to en­joy it a bit be­fore the fun is spoilt by naysay­ers and ‘on the other hand’ an­a­lysts. The truth is that with these de­vel­op­ments, and de­spite con­tin­u­ing chal­lenges in other sec­tors of life such as se­cu­rity, poverty and un­em­ploy­ment, no one can look the coun­try in the face again and call it ‘sleep­ing gi­ant’. It would also help the coun­try’s quest for a per­ma­nent seat in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of the United Na­tions, blunt the pulls of the cen­trifu­gal forces in the coun­try and fur­ther the at­trac­tion of the coun­try to for­eign in­vestors. Just like any na­tion that won a ma­jor foot­ball tour­na­ment, we shall re­turn to the weak­nesses of the team de­spite the vic­tory – but only af­ter we have been given some time to savour the ‘vic­tory’.

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