By Farouk Martins
The choice of presidential candidates might be narrower and closer than the last election. The way it is going, there will be a runoff also between two of the candidates because of their running mates. The probabilities are these: Buhari will run again and Tinubu will be his running mate. So will Jonathan with a Northern running mate. The surprise candidate will be Fashola with a Northern running mate. Write these down. After the first run, there will be no sure winner but Jonathan will drop out as the last one with the least votes. The reason for this scenario will be most votes for Buhari in the Northwest and Northeast but very little in the South as in 2011.
Jonathan will get the votes of the South-south and the South-east. Fashola and his Northern running mate will get votes from the Southwest and the North-central. Going into the second run, there will be some re-alliance and negotiations. While Buhari will get most of the votes in the East, Fashola will split them considerably. Most of the votes from the South-south will go to Fashola while vote in South-west and most of the North-central will be retained by him. By and large, Fashola may win the Presidency.
The irony of this permutation is Fashola as a dark horse that will be prevailed upon to run even when South-west is not supposed to contest. The split between Fashola and Tinubu in opposite parties will become obvious as they go for each other’s jugular. Tinubu will become an albatross on Buhari, as if he did not have enough to worry about. The election will be close but Fashola will prevail. Personally, this writer does not think Fashola is what is needed in Nigeria right now. But in a country where everyone is blind, a one eye man is the king. Nigerians see Fashola as the most successful governor and many across the land will be willing to give him the benefit of doubt. Unless there is a revolution, the next best alternative the people will go for is the least of all the devils.
Unfortunately, Fashola is part and parcel of the process and he now understands the game after enough training from Tinubu. Anyone that thinks a righteous man will rise up and rule in Nigeria short of revolution is fooling himself. Fashola will qualify, not because he is the best the country can offer but because he has “distinguished” himself as a Political animal that has “delivered” in Lagos. This is a cold calculation not because the writer is a fan of Fashola but by well-educated permutations based on history and statistics of the last election. However, in spite of his shortcomings in Lagos precipitated by his unholy association with Tinubu, Fashola can and will do better if not constricted by some or an elephant in the room.
Indeed, the reasonable question may be that if Tinubu prevailed on him, who knows who else will during his negotiations with the Northern and Southern powers? One would hope that he may have learnt something from his association with Tinubu. If he is guided by that experience, he will be more cautious and leave himself enough flexibility to move Nigeria forward. Well, the projections above have so many political, economic, intricate and ethnic considerations. The process by which each of the candidates comes out, will as always determine the future of Nigeria. The North can change this equation with an attractive candidate to the South like Ribadu. But Ribadu has soiled himself by associating and pandering to Tinubu and Babangida. These are Nigeria’s two greatest crooks still alive.
The first obvious consideration for the presidency is Ndi-Igbo. The only acceptable Igbo candidates right now beyond the sphere of the South-east are Alex Ekweme and Pat Utomi. Whether there is enough fire in Ekweme to contest again is a matter of personal choice. As for Pat Utomi, he will be the last resort because he is not from the hinder land. As minor as this may be, the candidacy of Jonathan may cancel him out. Like the North, South-east has a joker as well to change the equation. Jonathan has already positioned himself as an Igbo relative and he has acted in favor of Ndi-gbo. But any attempt to contest against him will be damaging because it will divide Ndi-Igbo. Jonathan is bent on going for another term and if he wins, very doubtful in view of above the above projections, he will remain loyal to, but cannot be the real Ndi-Igbo.
In fairness, the real problem here is why all Nigerians cannot settle on Igbo presidential candidate. Bluntly put, Ndi-Igbo still suffer from vestiges of lack of trust from the Hausa and Fulani as a result of the war. Ndi-Igbo remind Nigerians that their mission is not complete and they still abhor some suspicions themselves. So it is a mutual distrust of the part of Ndi-Igbo and the rest of Nigeria. They have to learn how to get along. If that is the case, Yoruba that claim they are free thinkers should be able to vote for Ndi-Igbo without any reservation. However, the Igbo have opposed every position in the political arena that should have gone to Yoruba.
Both lost the Speakership by the same infighting that has divided them for ages. It is almost as if Nigerians have not learnt from the war. The same problems are reinforced by those that will not let go past misfortune. Before anyone thinks that Fashola will be sworn in as the next President, we must wait and wonder if the narrow margins and closeness of the next election will be acceptable to each region. It may call for a revolution in Nigeria that will either break the country into pieces or unite the country by giving more power to the regional governments and equally powerful but not a stronger central government.
We are not moving forward, if anything we are being left behind by the rest of the world including other African countries. Those hoping Ebele would settle Nigeria into true confederation of states are already disappointed. Yet, it is the only solution the North and the South agree on. What would it take.