Contrary to the excitations and preferences of many, he was chosen as the north’s consensus candidate in a four way contest. In spite of suspicions that backdoor deals had been used to weigh in on the consensus committee’s choice of Atiku, rivals, including former President Ibrahim Babangida conceded victory and pledged support for Atiku.
Notwithstanding the colour of desperation for power presented by those who see his rapidly changing political experimentation with various political structures, including the opposition Action Congress; Atiku’s bid for PDP’s presidential ticket within months of returning speaks volumes about the depth of his ambition. The activities of the Northern Political Leaders’ Forum (NPLF) led by Malam Adamu Ciroma steered Arewa sentiments towards the anti-Jonathan and pro-Atiku camps, stoking the possibility of ethno-religious crises.
At the convention venue where governors and delegates, including those who feel deeply angered by the way Atiku pilloried their political party before his return, all listened to contestants’ speeches, to make up their minds before voting. Surprisingly, antagonism, disdain, primordial sentiments and the spirit of negativity dominated the speech of one of the contestants while another focussed on what he has been doing and his future plans for the Nigerian project.
The state-by-state arrangement of ballot boxes said to have been invented as a tactical intra-party political weapon by Atiku was used. Today, that same arrangement that has been used by the party over the years has become a subject of vilification by those who expected nothing but victory in a contest where there can only be one winner.
Even though it appeared transparent, Atiku’s loss has been turned into an instrument for whipping up hatred against President Jonathan. In reality, it demonstrated the low enthusiasm of Northerners for those thrown up as four “northern consensus” candidates. The choice of Atiku, along with his baggage of critical issues only yielded the result that many, including the Jonathan campaign team had long foreseen. Nonetheless, those who should know the truth, and those who need advice the most tend to be the one rejecting such.
In 2003, Atiku was said to be showing covert interest in taking President Obasanjo’s job and the two fell out in 2007, shortly before Atiku’s exit from a party he described as People-Deceiving Party. On January 19, 2009, Nigerians were amazed to hear that Atiku found his way to Obasanjo’s home in Otta. He eventually left the Action Congress, describing it as a party that cannot play its role as a viable opposition party. In 2010, he returned to the PDP and by November 2010, he equally altered the situation within the Northern Political Leaders’ Forum towards being chosen as the north’s ‘consensus candidate’.
Writing in the New York Times of January 15, 2011, Chinua Achebe noted a very unrealistic divide between sections of Nigerian elite and the ordinary citizens whom they claim to be, as they say, “our people”.
“After the civil war, we saw a ‘unified’ Nigeria saddled with an even more insidious reality. We were plagued by a home-grown enemy; the political ineptitude, mediocrity, indiscipline, ethnic bigotry and corruption of the ruling class,” Achebe noted in the piece titled “Nigeria’s Promise, Africa’s Hope”. Few rational minds would doubt the extent to which such observations apply to some sections of Nigeria today. Years of northern elite’ presence in the corridors of power has not translated into appreciable human resource or infrastructural development. Luckily, longstanding challenges in development, including decaying infrastructure are now among deficiencies that Nigeria’s current President identify as priorities to be addressed during the next four years once he gets Nigerian citizens’ mandate.
In their full-page congratulatory message published in the Daily Trust of Thursday, January 20, 2010, the G-20 Northern PoliticalSummit, a group led by the Wakilin of Adamawa, Alhaji Hassan Adamu and others stressed the need for proactive efforts to complement President Jonathan’s positive disposition towards the north and other parts of the country
“In furtherance of these objectives, we are pleased to announce that arrangements have been made by the G-20 to convene a Northern Economic Summit, designed to address the core issues of fundamental economic Transformation of Northern Nigeria. The Summit shall focus on vital matters of wealth creation, poverty reduction, employment generation, agricultural transformation and restoration of core values,” they stated.
While President Jonathan has continued to work closely with Vice President Namadi Sambo, he has consistently indicated a connection with the developmental challenges that requires to move the north forward.
For instance, in July last year, President Jonathan reiterated the Federal Government’s determination to combat desertification and reclaim lost land in the north.
In addition to that, he emphasized the need to rehabilitate and construct roads in the entire federation, including northern states.
The prompt nature with which President Jonathan approved the release of N1 billion and another N750 million to Sokoto and Kebbi states respectively in September last year underlined his personal concern to alleviate the sufferings of victims of the flood disaster that ravaged the two states.
While visiting the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero on October 26 last year, President Jonathan reassured all Nigerians that the era of epileptic power supply in the country is fast fading away, as a result of his administration’s consistent investments in power infrastructure across the nation. The $3.5billion national super grid that is now under construction and the FG’s new Power Roadmap attest to his seriousness. So does the 2600 megawatts Mambilla hydro power project in Gembu, Taraba State, the Zungeru power plant and so on.
Today, educational development has become a priority. Hitherto, only about 30 per cent of school leavers have access to university admission in the country. On November 22 last year, the Jonathan/Sambo administration’s approved the establishment of six additional federal universities in states which do not currently have federal universities. In December 2010, three additional new universities were approved and President Jonathan directed the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to release N14.5 billion to the new universities at N1.5 billion each to enable them to take off in the coming academic session. The nine new universities are to be located Taraba, Gombe, Katsina, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Kogi State, Nasarawa and Jigawa States.
Furthermore, the Jonathan/Sambo administration still continues to reflect energetic commitment towards actualizing development across the entire federation.
Abubakar writes from Abuja