North, South poll intrigues threaten Nigeria cohesion
With Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan effectively harangued out of the 2023 presidential race, 75-year-old Atiku Abubakar, two-time vice president and now a frontrunner, will run against any of the 23 candidates vying to be flag bearer for the All Progressives Congress (APC.
The subtle withdrawal of Jonathan has placed Abubakar, the influential and billionaire candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, comfortably ahead.
Abubakar will know this June 8, who APC will pick after many postponements of the party primaries which have sent the ruling party into disarray, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s plea to party leaders to allow him decide his successor. There was an uproar in and outside the party, with suspicions that Buhari would have picked a northerner just like the PDP, giving voters no option but to vote but to return leadership the north after Buhari’s eight years which end on May 29, 2023.
However, notable among the APC heavyweights Buhari is considering are from the South, including his vice president of seven years, Yemi Osinbajo, and Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the party who was responsible for the election of Buhari in 2015 and 2019.
Alabi Shonubi, the chairman of Justice Union of Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation however dismissed the suspicions and fears of some APC saying anyone from any ethnic group can win the election.
He cited ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, from Southwest, who had two terms with the support of all Nigerians, just like Jonathan from the South, who won the 2011 presidential race.
An apparent secret plan by the two major political parties to field two northerners has angered many elite from the South, who argue that the unity and peace of Nigeria can only be guaranteed if the presidency revolves to a southerner. This is on the premise that the challenges almost crippling and making Nigeria almost a failed state emanate from the North. That terrorism, extremism and banditry have festered and taken their toll on the 19 northern states whose leaders are hapless.
Prof Sam Smah, a sociologist, said the entire south and minority groups in the north talk of marginalisation, generating hate that has put the nation on edge.
On top of the violent secession activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB, a group in the southeast, some other groups are also calling for secession of the southwest.
Although President Buhari was not emphatic on the ethnicity of the APC candidate, pundits say he is being guided by his kinsmen who insist power must remain in the north.
Dr Abraham Sampson, a political scientist said: “It is not clear whom Buhari will select, but there is a strong lobby in the North to retain the presidency. One of the excuses was that since the PDP has selected a candidate from the North, the APC has no option but to follow suit.’’