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2011: Will Buhari, Atiku alliance work?

According to the report, the former Presidential candidates have agreed to align forces ahead of the next general elections in 2011 in order to confront…

According to the report, the former Presidential candidates have agreed to align forces ahead of the next general elections in 2011 in order to confront President Umaru Musa Yar’adua at the polls. The alliance is said to have been prompted by the need to salvage the chance given to Northern Nigeria for the presidency through zoning which they feel is currently being “wasted”. To show the weighty nature of the meeting, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), reacted in a jiffy. Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP said there is no basis for the PDP to be jittery over the proposed alliance because such a collaboration is not likely to succeed.”We are going to continue with the efforts to consolidate our control. We are going to reach out. With the recent Special National Convention where we made major amendment to our constitution, you can be sure that people are now willing to work for the PDP nationwide,” Rufai emphasised.

If at the end of the day Buhari and Atiku are able to pull through this alliance, then it will be the biggest boost to democracy in Nigeria in view of the capacities of the two political giants and 2011 promises to be a titanic battle. Some analysts are of the opinion that the failure of the two former presidential aspirants to put their acts together in 2007 was responsible for the way and manner the PDP rode roughshod over all other political parties in the country.

General Buhari is a grassroot mobiliser with a lot of die-hard supporters who are always willing to be his foot soldiers. He equally enjoys a lot of support from a silent majority of the middle class who regard him as an incorruptible and focused leader determined to pull Nigeria out of underdevelopment and social decay. His popularity, especially in the north, cannot be overemphasised. One just needs to recollect the massive turnout at his rallies in 2003 and 2007 to understand this point.

Atiku Abubakar on the other hand, is a thorough bred politician with a lot of financial clout and contact spread across the country which can win elections any day. His current party, the AC, has emerged as the party to beat in the south west come 2011.The disenchantment with the performance of the PDP in the last 10 years should be a plus for a Buhari/Atiku alliance.

Likely Obstacle

For now, there is no clue on how the alliance will likely unfold. One fundamental issue is who is going to surrender his presidential ambition for the other? What is going to be the nature of the alliance in terms of sharing political offices? It would be recalled that similar attempts to reach an alliance between Buhari and Atiku on the eve of the 2007 general election failed because they could not reach an agreement. This alliance talk may also be a sign that Atiku has jettisoned his plan to return to the PDP because earlier in the year, he was bombarded with complaints over his visit to Obasanjo purportedly to lobby him so that he could return to the PDP. Many observers believe that since the door of the PDP has been effectively shut against Atiku, the rational thing to do is to look for an alternative platform to better his political fortunes.

Weekly Trust asked Alhaji Sule Hamma if the proposed alliance will not collapse like that of 2007? He said the two scenarios are not the same.”No two situations generally speaking are the same. As much as they may be similar, they can never be the same for sure. So, definitely the situation in 2007 and now are not in any way similar. The variable and the circumstances are in many ways different. In 2007, the attempt for an alliance was not just between Gen. Buhari and Atiku. It was an attempt between the ANPP, AC and even the PPA. It was an attempt at a marriage between three political parties. So, it was bound to be more difficult, tortuous and subject to various interpretations.”

Hamma further explained that “In 2009, Buhari and Atiku are sitting down to talk to each other as individuals in terms of the way they look at events in Nigeria, the challenges they think they will be facing as political leaders with a view to determine whether the issues and the challenges are of the nature which can provide a collaborative basis for them to work together.”

On whether the meeting between Gen. Buhari and Atiku has anything to do with a proposed mega party, Hamman said this is a different issue entirely. “The mega party issue was started by Chief Anthony Enahoro and supported by Chief Olu Falae. Then they invited other political parties like the ANPP and the AC. But this latest effort is first aimed at developing an understanding between political leaders in the country and reaching a consensus with regards to the imperatives of coming together in order to rationalise political competitions as well as capture political effort in terms of balancing major party actors in the country in a way that power can change hands from the PDP to others,” he explained.

On the question of salvaging the north which was also muted at the meeting, Hamma said though the north is their primary constituency, Nigeria is their focus. “We are not like the PDP who are bent on interpreting history from the perspective of rotation between the north and south. We are interpreting event in terms of the incompetence of the present government in the management of scarce resources and its utilisation for sustainable development. Ofcourse, we are not unmindful of the north as our own constituency. But we examine the position of the north vis-à-vis the south in terms of the impoverishment of the north which is capable of disturbing the peace and stability of Nigeria if not properly addressed by both the northern leaders and the government.”

Commenting on the controversial new political party that Gen. Buhari is said to be floating, the Director-General of TBO said Buhari never told anybody that he is floating a new party.” The crux of the matter is that if we are unable to find compromise and reconciliation within our party, the ANPP as a result of ideological split between us, we will have no other option than to organise and find an ideological political organisation which we will use to achieve our objective.”

All attempts by our correspondent to speak to Dr. Usman Bugaje, Garba Shehu and Lai Muhammed of the AC proved unsuccessful. Dr. Bugaje did not reply the text message sent to him and did not pick his calls Garba Shehu sent a text message that the person to comment on the alliance is Dr. Bugaje while Lai Muhammad   picked his call but hung up.

The political landscape promises to be interesting as events leading to the 2011 general elections unfolds. Nigeria’s democracy will surely benefit from a viable alternative from the PDP behemoth if Gen. Buhari/Atiku pull this proposed alliance through.