Jonathan’s $2bn Inducement Budget and the 400 Northerners By Hakeem Baba Ahmed
When Governor of Niger State, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu said he had information that 400 Northerners have been listed for inducement to support President Jonathan’s 2015 ambition, many people thought it was part of the propaganda repertoire. After all, the same Governor had said he had documented evidence that President Jonathan had committed himself not to run after 2011, a document Jonathan’s people had dared him to make public. He has not.
Although not inconceivable, the idea that 400 of the most influential Northerners have been meticulously listed for inducement (a polite term for bribery) by President Jonathan’s people was still difficult to believe. While such a document could exist, the timing of the release of the information made the relevation by the Governor slightly less credible. The Governor was, after all, still engaged in his hide-and-seek with the Bamanga’s PDP, and the propaganda war was at its fiercest.
Just when Governor Babangida is reteating back to Jonathan’s PDP, we hear another source say he has also seen the same list of eminent Northerners being targeted for inducement. The chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) Alhaji Aliko Mohammed released a statement last week, saying he had personally seen the list containing some of the most respected people in Northern Nigeria to be induced. The list was allegedly prepared by people working for President Goodluck’s re-election in 2015.
The ACF chairman said they have made inquiries within the government, and have spoken with many people whose names are on the list and they confirmed that they know nothing whatsoever about it. “No one has met them”, he said, “nor are they interested in meeting any one on the issue.”
For a man used to letting the ACF’s multi-talented spokesman, Mr Anthony Sani speak for the organization, the act of signing his own statement and the language he employed suggest that this is an issue that touches the Dan Iyan Misau in more than one place.
Note the strong language on a sensitive issue: “Those seeking or advising the president to offer inducements in exchange for support are clearly taking the matter of the President’s re-election away from the performance in office to something else. If that is the case, they will be well-advised to leave Northern leaders out of it, because the so called list which we have seen indeed contains names of some of the most respected people in Northern Nigeria.”
So we know one thing for certain: a list exists, allegedly drawn up by Jonathan’s campaigners and some Northern elders. What no one can say with any certainty is that it is indeed the product of a meticulous sifting by Jonathan’s people, of all the influentials in the North who are primarily predisposed to being bribed to support Jonathan become President again in 2015, presumably against another Northen candidate. It is basic wisdom in Nigerian politics to suspect everything, and to believe that anything is possible.
If only to satisfy curiosity, it would be useful if someone, somewhere, could publish that list. It is almost certainly likely to exclude General Muhammadu Buhari, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, Professor Ango Abdullahi and about ten or so sworn opponents of the presidential ambitions of Jonathan.
But it will be safe to assume that it will contain an assortment of the most senior traditional/religious rulers, clerics with millions of followers, elders who think they still command considerable political following, ethnic champions who have reputations for causing havoc when they play to ethno-religious galleries; women of substance; women without substance who can be used by men of substance; retired, tired, expired and indigent politicians who have lost track of political trends; influence peddlers who hobnob with politicians; professional fixers, election riggers and crowd-renters; politicians who are in danger of being totally marginalized;
beneficiaries of Jonathan’s patronage who have always known that they will pay back; and an assortment of professionals and businessmen who are still poor enough to be induced.
On the other hand, it may not be a good idea to publish this list, because even if it is entirely a work of fiction, it can cause serious disaffection.
First, at individual levels, persons who think they qualify to be listed among the 400 most influential Northerners available for inducement will lose many nights of sleep if they find their names missing. It will only mean that they are not as important as they thought. Then you would have people who will start going around offering to swear that it is only their worst enemies who will put their names in that list, particularly if they prefer to think that their loyalties are firmly registered against a Jonathan presidency in 2015.
There will also be many whose integrity or livelihood will be in serious danger merely for being on that list. Others will have their prestige undeservedly boosted for being on a list of 400 who are amenable to being influenced, because they are the type who will lose elections with only their immediate families as voters.
Most of the people on that list, however, will lose credibility, integrity and respect (if they have any), not because they are listed as potential campaigners for Jonathan, but because of the suggestion that they have to be induced to play the role.
It will be unfair to concede any credibility on a list any one could have drawn up. Jonathan’s enemies could have drawn up the list to distance him from most people on the list who may otherwise feel an inclination to campaign for him, secretly or openly. To suggest that a distinguished Northerner has had to be induced before (s)he campaigns for Jonathan will offend both the Northerner and Jonathan’s ambition.
Most people will stay away from the Jonathan train because it has been polluted with the stench of bribery and other inducements. The list could also be the handiwork of Jonathan’s people to portray some Northern leaders as political prostitutes, and then leaked very carefully so that it causes massive disaffection between those on the list and those not on it. The uproar it will generate will conceivably polarize Northern elite along all lines, and weaken a potential pan-Northern resistance against a Jonathan presidency in 2015. There are also many other possible explanations behind the list.
Jonathan’s opponents may be involved in a pre-emptive strike to prevent collaboration by influential Northerners in a 2015 project. Some people close to the Jonathan campaign strategists may be smiling all the way to the bank with huge amounts which they will collect in the name of inducing the high and mighty in the North.
There is of course a very serious issue which this enigmatic list raises. In a way it forces the question why anyone should assume that the North is instinctively and comprehensively against Jonathan’s 2015 ambition. If the assumption is that Northerners are against another term for Jonathan in 2015, the question to ask is why?
The answer cannot lie in his being a non-Northerner because in spite of the yawning gaps in the credibility of 2011 elections in many parts of the North, many Northerners did vote for him. It cannot be that he is a Christian, because millions of Northern Christians feel the same way as Muslim Northerners about another four years under Jonathan.
The real question to ask, in fact, is why is President Jonathan so spectacularly unpopular, not just in the North, but all over the nation? Do those who manage his campaign pause to ask how they can overcome such massive deficits in performance from a President who fought tooth and nail to get another four years in 2011?
Tired excuses have long worn thin: Yoruba dislike him because they have created their own ethnic party; Muslim Northerners dislike him because he defeated Buhari; Igbos dislike him because he is Ijaw; South-South communities envy Ijaws e.t.c. If Jonathan’s handlers think they can go to 2015 with a long list of grievances against every Nigerian community and lists of influential people to compromise, they are in for a major surprise.
Now that the chairman of the ACF has also seen the famous Arewa 400, we may hear of a strong denial from the presidency that it has anything to do with it. Then people will begin to believe that it is indeed Jonathan’s people’s handiwork. That will do even more damage to his prospects for support from the North in 2015.
The defection of 4 PDP Governors from the North with their supporters as well as the illusion that he has to buy his way using the facilitation of 400 influential Northerners will virtually seal off the North from Jonathan in 2015.
The Arewa 400 could all turn out to be a gimmick in the end. But it points to one thing: the Northern voter will substantially determine who becomes President in 2015, and Northern elite will be watched very closely by Northern voters.