Atiku’s Romance with Obasanjo Heightens Fear of One-Party State Plot, with the Attendant Danger in the Polity

No Comments » January 23rd, 2009 posted by // Categories: Nigeriawatch


Ominous signs
• Atiku’s Romance with Obasanjo Heightens Fear of One-Party State Plot, with the Attendant Danger in the Polity


Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Monday, January 19, the lid was lifted on the rumoured plan of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party he left amid bickering in 2007 after he fell out with his former boss and ex-president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

The trouble between the Atiku and Obasanjo, who called the shots at the apex of government for close to eight years, as good allies, was about the denial of the former vice president of the ticket to run as president on the platform of the PDP.

Atiku, a hard fighter, was in and out court for as many times as could be counted and until he secured a judgment allowing him to contest on the platform of the Action Congress (AC).

Following this, Atiku became typical arch political enemies that went a full circle in rubbishing each other in public. However, the story was different on Monday when many received with shock the news of Atiku’s visit to Abeokuta, Obasanjo’s hometown, to see the ex-president at the behest of Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who picked Atiku from his Ikoyi home, in Lagos, to attend the parley.

The meeting is, indeed, pregnant with intentions and meanings, which Nigerians understand very well. It is suspected that the bottom line of that shady re-union is a plan by Atiku to return to PDP. Or put another way, it would have been the culmination of a long project of the PDP to make sure Atiku swallows the bait and returns to PDP.

In a reaction on Monday, the leader of the Coalition of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, described the visit as symbolic of the tradition of greed and self-interest on Atiku’s side, which he said remains the hallmark of Nigeria’s politics.

Many Nigerians have already concluded, and maybe rightly, that the re-union is one to prepare Atiku to run as president on the platform of the PDP in 2011, as fears mount that President Umar Yar’Adua may consider his health and decide not to run for a second term in the next general elections.
“Obasanjo, being the guardian angel of northern domination of the nation’s polity, for his personal interest, conscripted himself into the task of watering the grounds for another northerner to peacefully take over from Yar’Adua. And since there are no principles or shame in Nigeria’s politics, he thought Atiku as the best alternative. The two had to bury their shame to forge this new alliance,” a source told Saturday Sun.

Agenda for one-party state

The national Chairman of the PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor once said that his party would be in power, at the apex of government, for nothing less than 60 years. At present, the PDP has been in government for close to 10 years. Ogbulafor was, therefore, indirectly saying that the party would still be in power in the next 50 years. Although many Nigerians dismissed Ogbulafor as a big dreamer, the reality is dawning on discernible minds that this could just come to pass. At present, the PDP is controlling close to 30 states and politicians of note daily defect to the party, the latest being the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Shinkafi.

One observer said: “What PDP plans is to actually rule forever as its chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor has severally said, and the way to attain this odd feat is to do away with opposition. They plan a one-party state here. But I tell you that they plan suicide. By the time they wipe out opposition, they must have succeeded in giving so much weight to PDP. The same thing that happened earlier would repeat. It is the same greedy people in old alliances. They have not sold or thrown away their crooked traits. So we have it coming again.”

With Atiku being wooed to return to the PDP, the one-party state plot has gone full circle. If this succeeds, it certainly would mean the PDP is going to be an overloaded calling the shots almost unhindered. The implication is that there would be no alternative viewpoint or choice. This would be a bad omen for the country, whose democracy is still fledgling.

The thought of a one-party state is indeed, as the run of play, as it were. In developed democracies, multi-party system is entrenched and power alternates among the parties. In the United States, there are two dominant political parties – the Democratic Party and Republican Party. These parties have been taking turns to manage the affairs of the country at the federal level.

Apart from the two parties, there are other smaller political parties, which do not, most of the time, aspire to occupy the presidency.
In Britain, two dominant political parties – Labour Party and Conservative Party are in place. In the history of the country’s political development this political parties have been alternating, depending on the choice of the voters, the occupation of 10 Downing Street, London.

Coup against opposition

Political watchers fears that the PDP may succeed in imposing a one-party state on the country, believing that the party would be fishing in troubled waters by so doing. Analysts fear that there would likely be a crash within the party. They say that there will be an implosion and self-destruction, like a comet or star that internally heats up and expires.

Political observers know that what had been sustaining the PDP is the presence of other parties, where its disgruntled members would nest and carry on. By the time Atiku returns to the PDP would mean an end to formidable opposition. He led the anti-PDP forces in the 2007 elections. Among the prominent persons who are in opposition, Atiku has been a major ex-insider who understands how PDP cooks and serves its dishes. Since he knows the game inside out, he also knows how to stand against them. Moreover, Atiku has the financial muscle to bully his way through. With his ouster from the opposition side, the force of opposition will terribly deflate.

Another key opposition factor has been Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor. He has stood up against the PDP and the last Federal Government, to the extent that Obasanjo seized allocation to Lagos local governments, at one time. Tinubu is the backbone of the Ac in the South West and made effort to expand the party’s influence in the zone.

However, in the absence of Atiku, the AC would just be a sectional political, without national appeal. In any case, Tinubu’s continued membership of the AC is still suspect. Rumours have it that but for disagreement or unfavourable bargaining terms Tinubu would have long joined the PDP. The conditions allegedly put forward by Tinubu, according to our findings, may be hard to realize given the zoning formula. After Obasanjo’s eight years, it looks like a distant longing to grant Tinubu the quest of being the running mate to any PDP presidential candidate in 2011. Atiku is Tinubu’s political ally and since it is suspected that he may deserted AC, there may arise a situation where either Tinubu shifts grounds or PDP obliges him his bargain to take him.

PDP’s internal forces

PDP is a full house when it comes to internal squabbles and factionalization. There are at least five of such major factions or households inside the same party – all too formidable and unrelenting in the bid to control the entire house.

The Obasanjo faction or bloc is there strong and daring with bullish Ota Farm instincts. This faction, which Nigerians think has been vanquished, is very much strong and influential. Made up of politicians and businessmen, who were empowered to riches when Obasanjo was in office, this group cannot be dismissed. Its members are in the millionaire and billionaire clubs and since politics is about money, the group is a force to be reckoned with.

The Yar’Adua faction is at the centre and turns the wheel with Turai Yar’Adua, First Lady, and Vincent Ogbulafor as the drivers. There is the awesome G21 faction led by General Ibrahim Babangida and populated by some other mega forces, like Ken Nnamani sticking out their necks for a day at the theatre. Although Babangida said he pulled out of the 2007 presidential race because he had promised Yar’Adua’s father that he would never be in contention with any of his sons, it is believed that the G21/IBB group still has its eyes on the pie, especially with the thinking that Yar’Adua would not seek a second term.

The group may likely float Gen Babangida, who may likely run with Ken Nnamani.

The Atiku factor, even without Atiku never faded, and if he returns to the fold, he would fortify his ranks. Atiku has never pretended that he would still contest for the presidency. Back in the PDP, he would re-energise his group, especially the real Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) elements in the party. Mallam Adamu Ciroma leads the fifth and last rank, known as the old school, which has the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) tendencies. The faction may not boast of bags of money but the old breed politicians, who make it up, are as shrewd in political gaming as they are experienced.

These factions are mere amalgams. Bringing them to yield to each other is like welding metal to wood. The groups are centrifugal and merging them is impossibility.

Fate of opposition parties

The next party to PDP in spread and popularity used to be the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). However, the political party’s ranks have been diminished by the antics of Obasanjo and his PDP. In 2007, former Governor Adamu Aliero, for fear of the unknown, was blackmailed into dumping the ANPP, on whose platform he served eight years as governor. Before him, Attahiru Bafarawa, ex-Sokoto State governor, had formed his own political party, the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP). His erstwhile deputy, Aliyu Wamakko (now Sokoto governor), left ANPP and joined PDP. The last was the jumping of ship by Mahmoud Shinkafi, ANPP governor of Zamfara State, who joined PDP weeks ago. Even Isa Yuguda (ANPP), governor of Bauchi State, who is getting married to Yar’Adua’s daughter today, may return to PDP.

Indeed, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara, which used to be ANPP states, have all gone to PDP. Bauchi and Borno still stagger to an unknown direction.

With Atiku out of AC, and Tinubu too close to call, it may just be nunc dimities for the AC, which controls two states – Lagos and Edo.

The combination of the activities of Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke in ANPP and the possible exit of former head of state and its two-time presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, may just sound a death kneel on the party. Speculations point that Buhari may likely join Labour or Liberty Party. Without stupendous resources and many influential friends and associates, Buhari would certainly fizzle out of the political scene. Indeed, with all these realities, the opposition may have received a dirge in midday.

Orji Kalu and PPA as likely opposition

Because nature would never allow vacuum, the exit and death of AC and ANPP would likely create an avenue for the birth of a strong opposition in the South East. The zone, which never benefited from Obasanjo, notwithstanding the massive support for him and PDP, may benefit from formidable opposition if the factors at last favour the birth of great opposition in former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.

At the birth of Kalu’s party, after he fell out with Obasanjo and evaded his vengeance, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) swayed the political equation in South East and captured two states – Abia and Imo. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) had taken Anambra in 2006. And there are strong feelers that APGA and PPA are on the verge of forging an alliance. Already, the like of Austin Ndigwe and Prof. Ilochi Okafor (SAN), former Vice Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka already formed the intellectual base of that planned alliance that is very likely going to succeed before the 2011 duel.

Some factors favour Kalu to fill this vacancy, including good experience in the politics of the nation, good contacts and personal alliances, an existing structure and popularity among the people of the South East. Also his consistency has endeared him to the people. If he would add financial clout to these strong points and with an absolute ‘no’ stance to a return to the PDP, Kalu may be on the road to climbing the podium of the next major political principality to stand the PDP train, having been an insider in the past.

Atiku walks into landmine?

While Atiku was in Abeokuta parleying with Obasanjo, It was gathered that his associates were not aware of his move. The former vice president was said to have kept the meeting a guarded secret, not knowing that his host had told his own associates and the media of the visit.

One of the strategists of Atiku’s strategists, who was contacted when the news that his boss was with Obasanjo, expressed ignorance of the meeting. In tones that signified sincerity, he said that the development was news to him and promised to crosscheck. His checks showed that he and others have were left in the lurch on that plan by Atiku.

Saturday Sun gathered that Atiku and Obasanjo had agreed to keep the meet between them. But in his usual way, Obasanjo, though always denying having any contact or relationship with Nigeria media, through his men arranged for pressmen to ambush Atiku. He walked embarrassingly into their waiting trap.

“Before leaving for that meet arranged by Oyinlola, Atiku never informed any of confidants in AC. He literally sneaked out to broker that return to PDP, but he was caught in his act. He walked into a battery of media crowd that startled him and you can see when they asked him questions he was at sea on what to say because he never expected that. Even in the meeting, Obasanjo had almost a full house to receive Atiku, who was really the reason for the weird excitement he (Obasanjo) displayed if you watched the visit on TV,” one politician said.

Real danger: The military challenge

The emasculation of the opposition, would give the PDP the edge, for the realization of its one-party state agenda. However, the fear is that this would create an alternative opposition, which, though unpopular, but wields enormous and awesome power. History has shown that in one-party states, the military has always been the alternative opposition. The fear is that if there is no real opposition, at last after the death of AC, ANPP and others, democracy would be at risk, with the ever-restless and nosy military in place.

Recently, there was a coup in Guinea and no less a person than general Babangida has justified the putsch. Some other Nigerians have said that the former military president was right. With such development, couple with the fact that the country’s politicians are bad losers, the fear of the military would be the beginning of wisdom.

With the kind of hatred Nigerians appear to have for the PDP and the with the real opposition elements almost losing faith in the political system, the military, having tasted power and the goodies in it, may face the temptation of taking the scene to arrest the unchallenged misrule of the PDP. The tiny opposition may likely cheer such intervention or contravention and it would spell doom for the nation returning to the old unfortunate order.

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