By Obinna Ezugwu
When yesterday, I read The Sun’s interview with Dr Bashir Kurfi, one time Chairman of defunct Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) and lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in which he claimed, among other things, that President Goodluck Jonathan’s former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), alongside himself with a few others, was part a core team of political figures that negotiated the alliance between the President Muhammadu Buhari led Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu led Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) leading to the birth of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2013, my eyes popped out a little. Dasuki was, at the time, an integral part of the Jonathan administration as his NSA. In fact, he was Jonathan’s key aide, his eyes and ears to the critical matter of security.
Yet, if the claim by Kurfi, who was interestingly, Director of Research and Strategy in the CPC, is anything to go by, Dasuki was, while holding that coveted office, still making effort, as it were, to ensure that power returned to the North in 2015 at the detriment of his employer, Jonathan who is from the South South. Kurfi did not stop there, he went on to inform his interviewee that the fact of the matter was that “Sambo Dasuki was the one who even introduced us to Tinubu because they were in exile together when Abacha was after them.” And that he (Dasuki) was the one who “made the arrangements and when we fly to Lagos it was Sambo who will make the necessary arrangements.” Kurfi went on to suggest that the reason Buhari chose to jail him after he took power may have had to do with their relationship in the military.
Jonathan appointed Dasuki as NSA in June 2012. This means that while this arrangement was going on, he was most probably already serving in the Jonathan government. Making arrangement, of course, implies funding; funding an opposition movement. That revelation, is not, however, entirely surprising. It only goes to confirm a fact any careful observer of Nigerian politics would have noticed: When it comes to protecting its regional political interests, the North puts aside party affiliation. This is one hard lesson Southern politicians must learn if they are to put an end to playing second fiddle to the North.
Of course, in the 2015 contest between Jonathan and Buhari, most Northerners, whether in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), APC or any other party, worked actively for Buhari. It is an established fact that a number of PDP chieftains, including then chairman of the party and those in the inner circle of the government, volunteered information to the Buhari campaign, as well as contributed funds when necessary.
Granted that by 2015, the North had become agitated and wanted power by all means, and it had become a kind of rallying cry for the region, no Southern politician will do this for a Southern candidate while serving in a government headed by a Northerner. Indeed, this Northern penchant for uniting behind its interest also played out in 2019, even though it was a contest between two Northern candidates, Buhari in the APC and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the PDP. In the presidential election, it was not even a contest between the duo in most of the North, particularly in the Northwest, but also in large part of the Northeast. Buhari simply carried the day.
Now, the question would be, why so? It is simple. Atiku ran his campaign on the planks of restructuring and free market, which were not popular in the North. The region saw him as a threat to the status quo and came together for Buhari who they know favours state control and would never give a single thought about restructuring. Notice that while the president swept votes in places like Kano, Sokoto and so on in the presidential election, turning out apparently bogus figures, the governorship election that followed days after became a real contest between the APC and the PDP in the region. Kano governor, Abdullahi Ganduje almost lost his seat to the PDP, while Sokoto governor, Aminu Tambuwal retained his seat as PDP governor.
But why is this lesson important? It would be handy for Southern politicians positioning for power as the next election cycle in 2023 approaches. I have argued time and time again that the North is most likely to retain power, not just in 2023, but for the foreseeable future, and this is just one of the reasons. Of course, as it stands at the moment, Tinubu, a Southwesterner is the most prominent potential Southern presidential candidate going into the election. This, on the basis of the APC alliance. Evidently, Tinubu and by extension, the Southwest expects that by then, the North will reciprocate their support for Buhari. But it’s largely a baseless, if not a lost hope; one already affirmed by recent events in the APC which has seen the North practically take over the party, leaving Tinubu hanging and dangling.
By 2023, the North would have no opposition from the South. I had reasoned that Tinubu might push ahead to emerge APC candidate ahead of the polls, but that possibility has largely vanished into thin air with the take over of the party’s structure by Buhari. Indeed, in 2023, it would be a contest between which Northern candidate in PDP or APC would take over from Buhari. Tinubu won’t be much of a factor because in pushing for Buhari, he damaged whatever was left of Southern and Middle Belt political alliance.
Obviously, the present political configuration doesn’t favour a Southeast president. And I’m quite convinced that the PDP won’t contemplate a Southeast candidate in 2023. Atiku is still likely to fly its flag, with the Southeast producing his running mate. Whether the North will back him then will depend on how much they have realised the need for restructuring and the heavy cost of maintaining the president status quo, especially keeping in view, the escalating security challenges in the country, particularly in the region.