2007: The Battle Begins


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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2007: The Battle Begins


culled from THIS DAY December 14, 2003

The struggle for the Nigerian Presidency has never been a tea party. And its outcome has always defied the trained instincts of bookmakers. The reason: the dissonance in Nigeria's political system has left it without an organised power structure. And without that an absence of an orderly and predictable succession regime. To boil it down, Nigeria has never had an uninterrupted practice of democracy. Each time, the country tried, the military intervened. Thus, every intervention has resulted in a fresh transition programme. Which means new people, new faces and new groups. Whereas, it was clear that Thabo Mbeki would succeed Nelson Mandela in South Africa, that has never been clear here. This is about the first time, the country achieved a seemingly successful civilian-to-civilian transition. For that, there is a delicious excitement and calculation about what happens when President Olusegun Obasanjo ends his second term in 2007. And because Obasanjo has not made it clear, in word or deed, that his vice president Atiku Abubakar would have his blessing to succeed him all manner of candidates calculations are entering the race. Ordinarily, it will not be until 2005 before the President becomes a lame duck. Elsewhere, it is only at that time that his prospective successors will begin a subtle campaign for their party's(ies) presidential ticket at the late 2006 convention for the 2007 presidency. But Nigerian politicians will not wait. The stakes are high. And the spoils are prodigious, that nobody whose mind is trained on occupying the Nigerian presidency can afford to obey the conventional rules of decency which in clear terms is to wait for this administration, which is barely seven-months old, to reach the mid-term. The campaign began in earnest, even before the President was inaugurated on May 29. Those in office have literally abandoned governance for the hustings. Those outside of it, have programmed all activities to, even when they do not state so, send signals that they will be on the hustings in 2007. The parties, themselves, are on the boil. Party rules and regulations are being re-drawn. Except a few, many can hardly achieve a cohesion. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is split into many and if you like innumerable parties. None of those quarters are leaving anything to chance, which leaves many to wonder which is more important - a ticket without a strong platform or a strong platform, with a consensus on who should hold it. But nobody needs blame them. The Nigerian presidency is, perhaps, one of the strongest in the world. The man who holds it has awesome powers under the constitution, that he does not even require the consent of the people or parliament to govern. Even more, he has such huge patronage to dispense, enough to make emperors green with envy. For instance, beside the appointments which he can decide to offer anybody, even without deference to the party or the people that installed him, his field of perks of patronage range from contracts, to oil blocs, to franchises and licences. Resources and values which have very serious implications for the socio-economic and political make-up of the country. The 1999 constitution made these very easy. Naturally, therefore, the urge to control this awesome power, has touched off a gritty campaign, which will end in 2007. It does not seem that the prospective candidates have thought about it, but the country, and the polity and even the candidates and the groups are in for a costly, exhaustive campaign. It will task their resources, their patience, and perhaps further constrain the government of President Obasanjo. Who are the men? What are the permutations and calculations? What are the issues that will dominate the campaigns? How will these impact on the internal health of the parties? There is no one answer to these questions. But we present a preliminary guide to understanding the shape of the unravelling battle to come. Eziuche Ubani reports.


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Despite his intellectual short comings, Orji Uzor Kalu, Governor of Abia State, is blessed with uncommon business and political instincts. He has a gift to predict future political events. If we go by prediction, in a chat with reporters in Umuahia Wednesday, there may not be much substance to the rising campaigns for the 2007 presidency. But there will be grit, grudge and suspense.

Using the Obasanjo administration as a benchmark, Kalu said soldiers, serving or retired, have no business in politics because of their contempt for the democratic process. Giving an insight into the shape of the race in the build up to 2007, he said the major responsibility in the campaigns is to ensure that no soldier becomes president again. "We are going to match them naira for naira, " he said. "We would stake everything (it would take) to assume full control of civilian control of civilian governance as that is the only way democracy can thrive."

Kalu's harsh words for possible retired military officers interested in the presidency may at once appear to lace the politics of 2007 presidency with some ideology. That is the first indication, but there are others: the threat to "match naira for naira" (the unspoken "power-for-power") gives a clear insight into the nature of the race to come.

The governor did not say, who the "we" are. But information available shows the political class is divided down the middle about the interests and gamesmanship of the army of retired generals, who following the Obasanjo lead, want to win the Presidency in 2007. They are Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, retired military President, who is 62, Former Head of State and ANPP presidential candidate in. 2003, Major Genenal Muhammadu Buhari, Babangida arch rival is also preparing to do battle again. And there is retired Brigadier General Buba Marwa, 50, the former governor of Lagos and Borno states, who is among the ambitious young officers retired by Obasanjo in 1999. Marwa has since set up a thriving airline business - Albarka Airlines.

But there are bigger issues, because it remains to be seen how this sentiment can be sustained, even though its basis is flawless. The reason is that Nigerian politics and response to issues that arise from it, are basically regional. Which means that what people consider is not the background but the regional affiliation of the would-be president.

At this point, the predominant question is who President Olusegun Obasanjo will annoint as successor. In the PDP, that is the ultimate factor. A few people have broached the matter with the President, and he was at best, evasive. About three weeks ago, editors were invited to dinner in his Ota farm house. The question was raised during the after dinner banters and discussions. He said his successor is only known to God. That is standard evasive tactics, in a country where people make up their minds and refer to God for pretentious piety.

All said, the question of Obasanjo's successor is dominating discourse and action within the parties. Even though he has not named a successor, he, in typical Babangida-speak appears to know those who will not succeed him. But what the president has done, or not said, appear to embolden the campaigners. Once he berated those who are campaigning for the 2007 presidency. Mr. Audu Ogbeh, the chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where the scramble is reaching dizzying heights, weighed in with a threat to dissuade the persuaders of the candidates. But that did not do much to deter them. Rather than slow down, the campaigners are intensifying their scheming.

The field is being crowded by all sorts of names - from the serious, to the unserious and to clear jesters. There is a feeling that more will join, because running for president, whether as prince or vagabond, attracts invaluable media attention.

At the last count, the PDP has vice president Atiku Abubakar, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Brigadier-Gen. Buba Marwa, chairman of Defence Industries Corporation (DIC) and founder of Albarka Airlines. There is also a rump of governors - Orji Kalu (Abia), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Abdullahi Adamu (Nassarawa), Adamu Muazu (Bauchi), Peter Odili (Rivers) Sam Egwu (Ebonyi) and others.

Some pundits inject some comical turns to what ought to be a serious issue by mentioning deputy senate President Ibrahim Mantu, and other fringe players.

In the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) there is a determination to pursue to its logical conclusion, the case against the victory of the PDP in the elections. And it is bolstered by some recent gains in the senatorial seat of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and Borno North, where the election petition tribunals have ordered a re-run. The party is too consumed in that to contemplate a campaign. Rather, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, appears in the aftermath of the death of his deputy, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, to assume his role as proper opposition leader. But from the way matters stand, it does not appear that he will run again. And he is quietly putting structres to make that possible. And it does not appear too that he will be challenged when the nominations begin, regardless of the ambivalence of some of the ANPP governors, who are more pre-occupied with securing their political future than worrying about how to be in opposition. And candidates like Attahiru Bafarawa and Mr. John Nnia Nwodo may be waiting in the wings.

In the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the party is still nursing the sore of the big and devastating shot it fired on its two legs in the 2003 elections. Its deal with Obasanjo backfired and it lost ground. The crisis within the party is both about that and the serious doubts - arising from a loss of confidence from its humiliation in the election - about whether it wants to be a party. Or an appendage of another. It is worrying about how to organise a crisis-free convention, than presidential election of 2007. If it will remain alive, its only chance will be from how much of it Obasanjo will allow to exist beginning from the conventions which kick-off on December 16.

In the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), there is a pre-occupation with the campaign for the retrieval of victories it claim to have won in many places in the South-East. APGA like the ANPP, its close ally is in court with the PDP in Anambra, Enugu and Imo States. APGA calculates that it will win the case of at least one state, particularly Anambra. Right now, Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, its presidential candidate has authority. And Chekwas Okorie, the chairman retains the next line of the pecking orders.

For the National Conscience Party (NCP), it is certain that Chief Gani Fawehinmi will run the elections in 2007. Unless something happens, there is no reason to suggest that the Ondo High Chief and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) will step down from his crusade for good governance and rule of law. Even then, the proposed entry of Babangida may be for him, a red cloth before a bull in the ring.

New and Old Conspiracies
Nigeria's democracy is in infancy. And so is its party system. In a mature democracy, it is difficult for a leader to stay in power without a line of successors. A source told of how President Obasanjo had very serious simple meetings with a friendly western government leader, who out of the blue, asked him for his successor. The President could not answer the question, a source said. Even now, the question remains unanswered. That is why there is an emerging crowded field, which may create a problem at the next convention. It is a simple question, but why it would not be answered is spite and bad faith.

There is a chasm between the President and his vice-president. It began a long time ago, over policy differences. Both camps underplay the depth of the differences, but it is there. Many political players say it is the one thing that will determine the campaign for 2007 presidency. In very close circles, the President is said to have sworn that he would not be succeeded by his deputy. Discountenancing that Atiku led the PDM to draft him for the presidency in 1999, Obasanjo is said to have told them that Atiku's foot dragging to support him at the 2003 convention of the PDP amounted to betrayal. For a president with the memory of a dinnosaur, that is everything.

At the soul of the intrigues in the party, National Assembly, and among the governors is this problem. The presidential project of many is being built on the calculation that Atiku may not have official backing in 2007. Therefore, they reason, if he does not benefit from that somebody else would be positioned too.

Babangida's mainstay is the subtle hint of support he may have got from Obasanjo. Obasanjo was reported to have told Babangida off the cuff :"Ibrahim, I hear you are now running for the presidency (2007).If you are,run on PDP." Obasanjo quipped and changed the subject. Babangida on his own has raised a dual strategy, which merge at one point. If it becomes too difficult, then somebody else, Marwa will be drafted to join the race. This is the reason for Marwa's statement that he would not run, if his boss was running. Read also that Babangida said that of Obasanjo. He will not run if Obasanjo was running.

For those in PDP, these conspiracies are the cause of everything. Recently, for instance, the party decided to amend its constitution. The president was said to have invited the party executives led by Ogbeh and tongue-lashed them, accusing them of working for someone. He was said to have accused Ogbeh of working for Atiku and asked him to resign. A few weeks later, the chairman of the PDP in Nassarawa state was suspended from the party. His offence which was not mentioned by the party officials, was that he was collecting signatures for the removal of Ogbeh as party chairman.

The state of affairs in the PDP is the consolidation of old and new conspiracies. It is not clear how the volte-face was made but of late, the PDP has been issuing counter policy statements on the 2007 presidency. Audu Ogbeh, the chairman said the party had zoned the presidency to the North in 2007, but he was swiftly contradicted by his vice-chairman, Chief Fidelis Ozichukwu Chukwu. He said the party did not decide on that, and infact, that rather than North/South zoning pattern, the presidency will rotate in zones. Echoes of this policy was earlier heard in Minna. Babangida had fiercely criticised the policy of zoning and urged the party to abolish it in favour of merit. The materialisation of that call was through the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) led by Chief Kanu Agabi, the president's special adviser on Ethics. Other members are Chimaroke Nnamani, Tony Anenih, Yohanna Madaki and other supporters of the President.

A Sword at the Heart of PDP
The 2007 presidency project is like a sword, whose sharp edge is suspended a few inches from the soul of the party. Either way, analysts say, the PDP would be worse off from the current development. Right now, for instance, there is a clear division in the party. Right from the party's secretariat, it is easy to see who is in what camp. Audu Ogbeh leads the mainstream party a machine sympathetic to Atiku while Ozichukwu has turned out the hatchet man of groups in support of Obasanjo/IBB camp.

At the National Assembly, the story is the same. In the House of Representatives, the pro-Babangida group is coordinated by the Chief Whip, Hon. Abubakar Bwari. Atiku's men are led by Dr. Usman Bugaje; the former Special adviser to the Vice-president. It is not clear where the Speaker, Aminu Masari, stands but he used to belong to the PDM.

At the Senate, both Mantu and Senate President Adolphus Wabara are Obasanjo's men. Infact, Mantu is said to have been given specific assignments by the President as far as the 2007 presidency goes. And is already putting togethera campaign organisation for launch in January 2004.

Among the governors, there is also a sharp division. Orji Kalu, James Ibori, George Akume, Jolly Nyame, Boni Haruna, Sherif Ali Sherif (Borno), Muhammed Ailerio (Kebbi), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Chris Ngige (Anambra),Lucky Igbinedion (Edo) Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), among others are said to be in tacit support of Atiku. Those rooting for the President and Babangida include Abdullahi Adamu (Nassarawa), Nnamani (Enugu), Odili (Rivers), Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), Mohammed Makarfi (Kaduna), Abdullahi Kure (Niger) etc. Odili (Rivers) Duke (Cross River) are pro Obasanjo and not necessarily pro IBB.

The 2007 project responsible for the growing rate of indiscipline in the PDP. Matters are weighed and decisions are taken based on the position of the camps. Take the Anambra crisis for instance, the party has found it difficult to resolve it, because of the hardened position of the groups on the matter. Whereas Ogbeh talks of disciplining the culprits, the President allows more policemen for Chris Uba and his group. The Anambra matter began in the first instance, because it was calculated that the governor shifted his allegiance to Atiku after he was sworn-in.

That is the example of the kind of mind set and consideration, which is coloured by grudge that will shape the battle for the PDP ticket. Pundits say that the 2007 presidential race will make or break the octopus called the PDP.

The Permutations
The stakes are so high in PDP and it is spinning a rash of calculations. The Babangida camp, bolstered by whatever hint of support from the President, is aware of where its trouble might come from. It reckons that because of June 12, 1993 politics, Yorubas may cause a lot of problem for its campaigns. To get about that, the Babangida camp went down to Ekiti state to raise a flag, recruiting a group within the AD.

Sharp strategy, because emboldened by their structures on the ground, they have tested the waters with their pro-IBB campaigns. The belief is that Ekiti is full of professors and elite work force, who known for their litigation, and petition writing, will become the bridge for the spread of the IBB campaign.

Babangida has also flown another kite. At a point, it looked as if he would join the AD and run on the platform. That touched off a mixed bag of reactions in AD. But nerves cooled when IBB, in his characteristic manner, emerged to declare that he was a member of the PDP. after the signal from Obasanjo.

For Vice-president Atiku Abubakar, he is no stranger to intrigue and conspiracies. He does not, in any way under-estimate the role of IBB. Afterall, it was Babangida who disqualified him in 1991, in a head-to-head contest with Dr. Bala Takaya, in a race he was favoured to win to be governor of Adamawa State under the SDP. Atiku's men are not fazed either by the talk that he would not be backed by Obasanjo.

What his camp concentrates on is to engineer an adept strategy that will deliver the PDP ticket to him. He is recruiting professionals and sympathisers to his side. With over 15 years in the high-end of the political market, Atiku should know what is required. He too, has a dual strategy. If he is going to run on tthe ticket of PDP, the objective is to, ensure he wins enough votes to secure the ticket at the 2007 convention.

But sources say Atiku has another plan to deflect any untoward outcome at the convention. He and others, are likely to strike a blow and leave the PDP a liability in the hands of whoever wins the nomination. A group made up of former members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) are regrouping. But that regrouping was set to have been aborted by Atiku when he noted that it will alienate more PDP members who are not SDP in his support base.

From the South-west, Atiku is rallying Governor Bola Tinubu (Lagos) Governor Rasheed Ladoja (Oyo),Governor Gbenga Daniel (Ogun) and Ayo Fayose (Ekiti),.

From the South-east are Orji Kalu (Abia), Ngige (Anambra) and a lot of others. The plan would see even some ANPP governors, linking with the PDP counterparts to provide a wide platform for Atiku to run.

Those loyal to the President also think of another option. Some are asking Obasanjo to think harder about handing over to only successors who can protect his legacy - whatever they are. Those who push this view cite the precedent of probe of Abacha's family, which could be borrowed by a hostile successor. The argument ends with a plea to the President to choose his successor from among this field - Odili, Nnamani, Mantu or Marwa. It would appear that the proposal is not entirely lost on the president. It is the reason, a source said, why the platform, known as the Grand Alliance, is witnessing a revival. The plan is also a reverse of the Atiku plan. It is suggested that if the PDP falls into the hands of an enemy, the Grand Alliance will gobble Obasanjo Solidarity Forum (OSF) and such other sychophantic groups and transform into a party. It is said that a minister has been placed in charge of the project.

Likely Shape of Race in 2007
In politics, it is a common saying that 24 hours is a long time. Going by that parameters, 2007 is like a century from now. So much would happen to change these permutations, and significantly alter the balance of forces.

However, from facts and trends available, 2007 may produce a three-way race among Babangida-Buhari and Atiku. The matrix could be re-arranged in anybody's favour, inside or outside of PDP, for Atiku and Babangida. The two, wherever they may be have to contend with the growing profile of Buhari at the grassroots, especially in the North. It is a tough choice, especially if the ANPP drafts him to contest in 2003.

Again, whatever emerges does not leave us with much choice in terms of altering the substance of the campaigns. Our preliminary prediction is that 2007 will be a grudge fight. It is only the matrix that emerges that can reduce the intensity of the grudge. It is politics alright but there is so much personal animosity between Buhari and Babangida, and Atiku and Babangida. Of late Buhari has spoken of Babangida's failure to support him at the last election. It is possible to roll that back a bit to include how he betrayed, overthrew and detained him in 1985. For Atiku, he will remember 1991, as well as the Abacha years, when Babangida supported Abacha while he was hounding Yar'Adua's men.

It may well turnout a race where the issues that trouble Nigeria now will be overtaken by the need to settle personal scores. The country does not appear to have much choice. Social and historical forces, which do not move in ordered lines, often foist choices on the society. Barring any hitches, it is from this field that the choice of who leads the critical phase of Nigeria's transition will be made.

The Field
The field of likely contenders for the 2007 presidency is large. As we approach 2004, a clear three years before the primaries, the list is likely to get longer. As the permutations change more contenders are likely to join the fray. Some serious, but many unserious, jokers who wish to appear at their party convention, then bargain for vice-presidency, ministerial or other appointments. All things being equal, the likely and prominent contenders will be.

Atiku Abubakar
Currently, the vice-president, Atiku Abubakar has never hidden his interest in the Presidency. Of all the contenders, he has had the longest chase. He cut his teeth in politics under the legendary Shehu Musa Yar'Adua. Determined to realize his ambition to rule Nigeria, Yar'Adua set up the Peoples Front (PF) during the Babangida Administration. PF, became one of the main blocs in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which won the annulled June 12, 1993 polls. Atiku was one of the closest people to Yar'Adua, so much that when Yar'Adua was barred from the presidency, Atiku was the dark horse the group thrust in the ring against Chief Moshood Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe. Atiku gave a respectable showing, in the first ballot, forcing a run-off. His alliance with Abiola swung the victory to Abiola at the expense of Kingibe.

Since then Atiku has not looked back. He was a member of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), before the death of Gen. Sani Abacha. This was shortly after representing his constituency at the 1995 constitutional conference. When Yar'Adua died, it fell on Atiku to keep together his political machine, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). When the PDP was formed, PDM was ready, organised and poised to clinch the presidency. Atiku led the delegation to Ota that drafted Obasanjo into the 1999 presidential race.

Atiku, and his colleagues in the PDM, provided the resources and platform that delivered the presidency to Obasanjo in 1999. Logically, Atiku, having been vice-president thus far, could be considered as successor to Obasanjo which means that by now, it would have been clear that Obasanjo would be standing behind him, if for nothing else, to ensure a continuity of his legacy. If that will ultimately happen is left in the bowels of time, but Atiku is forging ahead on his own.

As vice-president, Atiku has responsibility under the constitution for the economy. He chairs the National Economic Council, and also the chairman of the National Council on Privatization (NCP), which sets privatization policy and supervises the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE). This has given him immense advantages. With his position, he has dispensed reasonable patronage, which means he has built-up a network of goodwill especially in the private sector, which would want a continuation of the privatization programme. Also, presiding over the liberalization of the economy, has put Atiku up as a pro-market politician, a fact that will be music to investors and institutions all over the world.

The trouble is how to handle the grudge politics within the PDP. He has powerful "enemies" within. But Atiku is no stranger to intrigues. He is pulling his group together to face what they calculate will be a gritty battle, especially with the entrance of Gen. Babangida into the fray.

Ibrahim Babangida
Has been dissembling for long about his intention to run for the Presidency. But from all indications, it appears the wait is over.Ten years after he "stepped aside "as Head of State,IBB may have sent the signal to his close associates that he may well have been persuaded to throw his hat in the ring and bite the bullet.But the strategy is that he won't formally announce his candidacy until mid -2005.

Babangida has been a fixture in Nigerian politics, even before he seized power in a palace coup in 1985. He ruled Nigeria for a straight eight years. That regime ended in a haze in 1993, shortly after the regime he led annulled the result of the presidential election it organized, supervised and funded. The storm that followed swept Babangida out of office, and unleashed a great upheaval that set the country back. That crises consumed Yar'Adua, Abiola and only ended with death of Abacha in 1998.

Babangida's regime scored some positive gains. His regime agreed to the economic policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Babangida called the cocktail of policies advised by the IMF, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). On the positive side, the policy sought to liberalize the economy, a lot of banks and financial institutions were licenced, price regulation was abolished in many sectors. More, the current privatization programme was initiated by Babangida. He also gave a greater impetus to the development of Abuja, the capital city and he built the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. But while the economy opened up, the gains of the new economy, created a huge colony of poor people. Whatever gains made then were wiped out by crisis that trailed Babangida's subterranean design to transform to civilian President.

His ambition to return to power has some foundation as that of President Obasanjo. Babangida is driven by a sense of nostalgia, propped by a messianic disposition which is reinforced by the army of admirers and courtiers. Thus, he is returning to put right, what his successors could not.

More than anything else, Babangida is bolstered by his support for Obasanjo, and expected support from the President. As Pundits say Babangida held his ambition on leash because of a pact with Obasanjo that he will be his successor. If that is true, it is clear where that puts Atiku, which means we can expect a gritty and grudge fight, if Babangida was in PDP with Obasanjo's support.

Babangida has goodwill, although the strength of that remains to be seen. His main stay for now is the army of generals who he made rich during his regime. It is no surprise that the campaign so far is led by non-politicians like Major-General Abdulkarim Adisa, Major-Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju, Major-General Chris Garuba, Brig.-Gen. Haliru Akilu, and many others.

Whatever the outcome of this venture, Babangida's entry will open a delicious twist to the race. Nevertheless, he is likely to have a hard time in the hands of civil rights groups. Babangida may also have to worry about his military background. The Obasanjo experience has led to growing outrage against soldier-politicians. However, Nigerian politics have always been about personalities rather than issues, which means these may not matter in the end.

Buba Marwa
A retired Brigadier-General, Marwa has tried to mask his ambition for higher office. But his venture, although measured and pretentious, has a ring of the prophetic to it. A certain man of God prophesied a few years ago that Nigeria's salvation lay on the shoulders of a certain young soldier from Adamawa state. The description many said sat well on Marwa. Interestingly, the prophesy was given by a Christian cleric and not an alfa or imam, but it caught on.

Marwa, the founder of Albarka Airlines and chairman of Defence Industries Corporation, the federal government's supposed flagship defence systems manufacturing concern began to take steps to test the waters. He turned 50 recently, and revealed on that occasion he was under pressure to join the presidential race.

Normal talk in politics, you may say but that occasion, touched off an avalanche of activities, which indicate a great effort to position him for the job. His handlers got the University of Nigeria Nsukka to honour him with a doctorate degree. A traditional ruler in Nsukka gave him a chieftaincy title. He had earlier been given titles in Ikorodu and another in Osun state. He called his friends together for a lavish celebration, where he announced the award of 600 scholarships. He says a certain Buba Marwa Foundation had been doing so in the last 10 years. The world heard because he wanted everybody to know. Next Wednesday, his wife is organising another birthday bash in Abuja.

It is hard to fault Marwa's sense of entitlement. A brilliant officer, he has a postgraduate degree from Harvard University in the United States. He was military governor of Borno and Lagos States. It was in Lagos that he distinguished himself as administrator. He cleared up the mess left by Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who could not fix roads, clear refuse, or check security. Marwa made the difference, built housing estates, roads and improved security with Operation Sweep, a multiforce anti-crime outfit. In Lagos, the hotbed of opposition against the Abacha regime, Marwa kept a cool, uncommon among soldiers. He has a lot to point to should he decide to join the husting.

But politics is not about qualifications, or youth. He comes from Adamawa state like Atiku. He also has to contend with his former boss, Babangida. How will Marwa, without experience in politics, no group or network deal with Atiku's awesome profile? For Babangida, he said he will not run, if Babangida joins. Marwa's increasing boldness appear to run as a conspiracy. Certain forces appear to be propping him against Atiku. Some point to Babangida and the calculation appear to be if the field gets too hot, Babangida and Obasanjo's men would throw in Marwa, if it can help to checkmate Atiku. There's talk of a Marwa/Chimaroke Nnamani tickets, which must be reason for the doctorate at Nsukka (Nnamani was honoured same day) and he packaged the chieftaincy title for Marwa in his state.

How these will be resolved is difficult to see, but if he joins, he has a herculean task ahead. But since this is politics, anything can happen.

Abdullahi Adamu
A former minister and lawyer, he is the governor of the small but mineral rich state of Nassarawa. He is the chairman of conference of governors. He has a warm relationship with President Obasanjo. Apparently that is the rising board of this ambition.

He has not declared yet, but the calculation is that he may be nudged to join the race, from the North central zone. Events will however reveal who is behind the impetus for this ambition.

Adamu Muazu
An architect, Muazu is governor of Bauchi State. He is widely admired for his simplicity. Muazu is close to Atiku. It was he who provided the platform, for the North-east zonal victory party of the PDP. On that occasion, Atiku nudged by the support of the politicians from that zone, made clear he would run. On that day, tasks were given to people from that zone to work hard to ensure that the North-east which has never produced a president, realized that project.

Lately, Muazu's name has reoccurred in political circles as a likely contender. While we await a clear statement from him, he has begun to position himself. Last week, the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University of Technology in Bauchi honoured him with a doctorate degree alongside President Sam Nujoma of Namibia among others.

However, it is not clear if he has severed links to Atiku. Last week, Muazu's special assistant on inter-government affairs told a press conference that the North-east zonal congress of the PDP, did not endorse Atiku. Time will tell what that portends.

Chimaroke Nnamani
A neo- feotal surgeon, Nnamani is the governor of Enugu State. He joined politics during the Abacha transition, pricked by what he said, is the neglect of development of his state. He joined the UNCP, but became a member of the PDP in 1998. Since then, his profile has risen. His focus has been the development of infrastructure, especially roads and housing. Nnamani's success has spurred a higher ambition. His style and strategy is somewhat different. While others collect chieftaincy titles, he prefers to deliver lectures, in a self-given mission to restore to politics, the culture of robust debates. It is not clear who he is debating, because he delivers lectures. He has talked on June 12, National conference, the pernicious effect of godfathers, and on the evils of globalisation. These lectures have taken him to Sokoto, Kaduna, Jos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Kano and more. The effort is getting required attention.

His ambition will only be meaningful if the PDP zones the presidency to the South-east in 2007. If not, Nnamani may settle for another office, probably the vice-presidency. But Nnamani, the lion heart, is not a vice presidency material. He has said to friends and colleagues that if the presidency is not available then he will retire to community and NGO leadership and wait his turn.

Meanwhile, he is also fortifying himself for the race. Sources, say he is about to begin a radio and television station in Enugu. It is also said that he is contemplating starting a private university to train quality manpower, which he believes is the critical factor in governance and development. Whatever he settles for, he will have to contend with competition from the Orji Kalu camp. This will determine the place of the South-east zone in 2007 politics. While Nnamani is close to Obasanjo, Kalu is close to Atiku.

Peter Odili
A medical doctor, and governor of Rivers State, since 1999, Odili is a tested politician. He was one-time deputy governor under the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC). He later became the secretary of the defunct Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN).

Odili's name is being prominently mentioned as one of the likely contenders.

He is described as one of the leading lights in the PDP. Since its inception in 1998, the PDP has benefitted from Odili's fund-raising skills. Said to be close to Obasanjo, Odili is even regarded as one of the few that have the ears of Aso Rock. He was rewarded with the offices of deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and minister of transport positions given by the President to Odili's boys.

The governor has not said a thing yet, but his network is busy, and expanding. Close to Chief Tony Anenih, Odili's concern right now is to subtly position himself and wait. He was honoured with a doctorate degree his alma-mater, the UNN and then the university of Port Harcourt yesterday Recently, he has taken more chieftaincy titles. He is working on his contacts in the South-east zone, where it is said that he is widely accepted because they (Igbos) also see him as their candidate given Ohanaeze's decision to zone the Treasurer of the group to Rivers State. One thing is clear, Odili a shrewd operator will not do a thing unless he is drafted by Obasanjo as far as the Presidency is concerned. Events will decide which way Odili will move. But look out for him.

Muhammadu Buhari
Former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired major-general was the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the last election. Buhari's entry into politics and entry into the presidential race, brought a focus to the party.

In the election, he put up a respectable showing. But his party fell victim to the irregularities and massive rigging that marred the elections. Not in politics, as he said, for immediate and personal advantages, he headed for the court to seek justice.

Similarly, he encouraged candidates across the country to do the same. The effect has been encouraging. In the FCT, the court has ordered a re-run of the senatorial election. The same applies to Borno North.

Buhari is using the court proceedings to reinvigorate his opposition to the government of President Obasanjo.

Buhari was head of state between 1983 and 1985. He led the overthrow of the Shagari administration, citing massive corruption, rigging of the 1983 polls and the threat to the stability of the country. In a palace coup in August 1985, Gen. Babangida and others overthrew him.

During the Abacha regime, he headed the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), which invested a chunk of tax on petroleum massive rehabilitation of infrastructure.

Not cut out for the shenanigans of politicians, Buhari says his foray into politics is driven by a sense of duty. He could no longer have a good conscience just living quietly while the country continues to slide.. His message seems to have resonated in many parts of the country, especially the North. Feared by the elite, he is largely followed and trusted by the ordinary people, who called him Mai Gaskiya (Mr. Truth).

If he decides to run again, he is likely to make an improved showing. Easily, he is the leader to beat in the 2007 race. One reason is that he is certain to force certain critical issues on the agenda of the election.

The problem Buhari may face is money and the ambivalence of some of the ANPP governors whose hearts are already in PDP.

Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
He was the candidate of the APGA in the last elections. With little in organisation and resources, Ojukwu's charisma drove the party. There was profound interest in the party, designed as a regional response of the old east, to national politics. In places like Anambra, Enugu, Imo and others, APGA mounted a spirited challenge for power and it almost paid off.

The party is still in court, pushing for a reversal of the victories of the PDP in those areas. But Ojukwu has contained to push the issues on which the party fought the elections.

Ojukwu was the leader of Biafra, since his return from exile, he has been vocal, pushing for the integration of the south-east into the power equation at the centre.

As things stand now, Ojukwu is still the undisputable leader of the party. Without a successor in his shadows, it does not appear he will not run again. If he wins, he will likely be the oldest candidate. At 70 now, he would be 74 in 2007.

Gani Fawehinmi
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Fawehinmi has since 1966 been in the vanguard of the crusade for Justice, human rights and good governance in Nigeria. He has been for a long time, the scourge of military rulers. Using his prodigous knowledge of the law, Fawehinmi has made equal use of the media, the street and the court for his campaigns. Several detention and intimidations did not stop him.

His NCP went to court to force the INEC to register more parties, thereby opening up the political space. Allowed to participate in the elections, just a few weeks to the polls, the party hardly had time to mobilize men and resources for the elections. But the party is moving on.

Aware of his passion for change, it is not unlikely that Gani, as he is popularly called, will fold his flag in the next elections. The likely entry of Babangida, an old foe into the race, may provide additional fillip for him to stand in 2007. If Gani runs, the camp of Babangida should expect additional trouble, for the range of issues he will bring to the campaign. With Gani, those issues will not be complimentary.

Add this to the Permutation
For the ANPP, there is no subject of strategy to enable it win the 2007 polls. One of those, is an alliance with APGA in the South-east. Some in ANPP suggest that the party choose its vice-presidential candidate for the polls from APGA. The calculation is that APGA's profile in the South-east will deliver the votes of the zone to the ANPP. In ANPP circles, that is on the drawing board, but the two parties are cooperating in their opposition to the PDP government. That relationship is being oiled by the chemistry between Ojukwu and Buhari.

However, the only way APGA will become stronger is if the PDP experiences a melt down. Some analysts suggest that many South-east politicians may head for APGA if they are disatisfied by the outcome of the PDP convention in 2005 and 2007.

Any Role for Regional Blocs?
The issues that, drive Nigerian politics are regional in character. For the Afenifere, the Pan-Yoruba platform, the most passionate question is the restructuring of the country via the Sovereign National Conference. For the Ohanaeze, the mantra is marginalisation in appointments and infrastructure. The groups in the South-south zone decry the neglect of area in the allocation of resources. The pre-occupation of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) is the marginalisatioin of the North.

These blocs flex their muscles in pressing these issues which correct at one knot, need for good governance.

However, their anger has never been constructively expressed at the polls. Strong as their influence may seem, it only translates to symbolism. When it comes to the presidential electionl who wins depends on the strength of the cabal that is propping him. For instance in 1999, the Afenifere voted against Obasanjo, but he won. In 2003, the Yoruba spoke in one voice. As it claims now, the Afenifere was beguiled by Obasanjo to vote for him. Whether that is true or not, what emerged is that Obasanjo seized the opportunity to get hold of political control of Yoruba land and this for him is a life-long ambition which was at the heart of his quarrels with Chief Obafemi Awolowo. With the PDP in control of Yorubaland, it remains to be seen how Afenifere can be more influential than Obasanjo and his henchmen, politically speaking.

For the Ohanaeze, its influence has been loose. In 1999, it called on the Igbo to vote for Chief Olu Falae of the APP. Igbos voted massively for the PDP instead. In 2003, the Ohanaeze could not even sit down to contemplate backing a single candidate. Once the whistle was blown, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the chairman of its political committee accepted appointment as Obasanjo's campaign co-ordinator. The same fate fell on the ACF. M.D. Yusufu, its chairman, was at the same time, the candidate of the Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ). The body, unlike in 1999, could not achieve a consensus.

The bodies have begun the process of re-engineering. The Afenifere contemplates pulling out of the AD. The Ohanaeze has a new leadership under Prof Joe Irukwu.

As for the groups in the South south, achieving a consensus is a future dream. They prefer to battle each other than achieving a synergy that will make them influence the direction of power in 2007. Family, every group insists it is their turn to produce the president. To hazard a prediction, the blocs will not influence much.


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