It is not today that governors started jockeying to replace a sitting vice president in Nigeria.
When he was in office as Vice President in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, Atiku Abubakar faced the same challenge. It was not a hidden secret the supporters of two governors, talking about Governors Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State and late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (May God bless his soul) or directly by themselves, had come before President Obasanjo as potential substitutes to the vice president in the 2003 elections.
The reader will recall that when President Obasanjo came to the International Conference Centre, Abuja to make a formal declaration for second term, he spoke in “I” terms only and made no reference to the person who would run with him. Instructively, the programme of the event distributed on the occasion had the President’s picture only and no vice presidential candidate was indicated. It must have been very clear to Atiku at that time that he wasn’t going to be on that ticket. How and why he fought to be back on it is a story told and retold by journalists and contemporary historians.
That Namadi Sambo faces a similar threat today should not surprise anyone. If Nigerian politicians are proficient in one thing, it is the so-called PHD – Pull Him Down Syndrome. When the Presidency of the Nigerian Senate was zoned to the South-East geo-political region, politicians in that region turned it into a revolving door. Some called it a warrant chieftaincy. To make sure that every state had a ‘taste’ of the ‘juicy’ office, the South-East Senators by themselves moved and effected the removal through impeachment of each one of them put in that office, to the point that this country was almost having a Senate President per year.
What is happening with Vice President Sambo that might become the game-changer is that while in the past, the executioners of these plots played hide and seek games and concocted their treacherous plans inside dark rooms in hidden locations only to storm the public space when they are sure they had a done deal, these ones are brazenly open in all that they do. While those in the past fought one another with civility and decorum, these ones fight dirty. They are proving themselves as masters at washing their dirty linens in public.
What shocked many in Katsina was the treatment given to Vice President Namadi Sambo who went to the state to witness the conferment of the traditional title of Sarkin Fulani on the Governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema. It is not a hidden fact that the governor and a handful of other northern governors still remaining in the PDP have been scheming to do one of two things: to unseat the president at the primaries, given his low level of performance, thereby denying him a shot at a second term or where this fails, which is the second option, to negotiate their support for the President’s reelection by positioning themselves as the choice for the Vice Presidency slot by evicting the incumbent Sambo.
As reported by the Vanguard Newspaper two Saturdays back, Governor Shema revealed himself more fully when his supporters treated Vice President very rudely and contemptuously by interrupting his speech with shouts of “sai Shema”, “Nigeria sai Shema”. Many people at that gathering were disappointed by this because you don’t treat your guest, a leader who has come to honour you with attacks through an orchestrated “alawada”. This was not only morally wrong but enough to be described as the most brazen attack on Northern political culture. Traditionally, the North is always impressed by the one who turns his back to power or retreats from it as did Atiku in 2003 when the PDP governors pushed him into unseating President Obasanjo but he declined.
In India for example, your classic example of “power of not seeking power” to borrow fromBajpai is in Mahatma Ghandi and lately Sonia Ghandi who led the Congress Party to election victory but declined to take the office of Prime Minister. In Nigeria, the late Sardauna declined to proceed to take power at the centre after leading the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC into election victory. He, instead chose to send his deputy, the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. This set of governors who are relentlessly, ruthlessly and deliciously seeking power should learn a thing from these historical figures. The rejection of power has a way of generating power. Rejection has a way of drawing a politician particularly in the North, to the people. That is when they will beckon upon you and say “you, go forward”.
This incident has become instructive to two events that happened in quick succession in the previous week, one, the formation of a brand new ‘Northern Elders’ Council owned and controlled by Vice President Sambo under the veteran politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai. Yakasai will supposedly now use his bountiful energy, oratory and skills to intervene for Sambo in these situations. The second of course is the solidarity visit to the Vice President by Bayelsa State’s political leaders who came to praise Sambo for his support to the President.
To have a sitting Vice President visiting a state and officiating at an event is a big thing. To have the supporters of a governor shout him down as being unfit for the job and that their man is the better one for it does not accord with, not only Northern political culture but the good taste of Fulani traditions encapsulated in the PULAKU (restraint, shyness) habits, a basic tenet that any man aspiring to take the title of “Sarkin (Chief) Fulani” should imbibe.
But the Ibrahim Shema I know will by now have tendered an unreserved apology to Vice President Sambo for the embarrassment caused him, and the over-zealous supporters cautioned to avoid a future incident.