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    THE NORTH IN NATIONAL POLITICS: FROM DOMINATION TO MARGINALIZATION

    Shehu Shagari

     EVEN as results began to trickle in from the April 16 presidential election and early figures indicated that the PDP candidate President Goodluck Jonathan was on his way to win the presidential election with a wide margin, riots broke out in several far Northern states. Worst affected were Kaduna, Kano and Bauchi, where many people were killed or injured; the houses of many top and middle-level PDP chieftains were torched, and many cars and offices were burnt.
    There were lesser riots in Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger, Gombe and Adamawa States, where mayhem was also visited on many houses and offices. One of the most publicized aspects of the mayhem was the attack on the Youth Corpers' lodge at Alkaleri in Bauchi State, where 10 youth corpers were killed. The other most amazing aspect of the riots was the houses of some prominent traditional rulers were attacked in Kano and Kaduna. At some point the riots became inter-communal, with the burning of many churches in Kano, Funtua, Zaria and Kaduna, quickly followed by “reprisal" attacks in southern Kaduna State that led to the deaths of an estimated 500 people.
    Bhuari
    Violence and carnages are not strange occurrences in the North in the last four decades, but this one was very different as the first region-wide riot over a strictly political matter. Many reasons were later advanced to explain the episode, including that royal fathers sold out to the government, that the ruling PDP rigged the ballot, that lNEC collaborated with PDP, that computers rigged up some election figures, that some states returned outrageous figures of voter turnout, etc. The bottom line however was that the man that most far Northerners voted for in the presidential election, Congress for Progressive Change [CPC] candidate General Muhammadu Buhari, did not win the election.
    Umar Yar'Adua
    The shell shock could be understood, perhaps, because this was the first time since Independence th~t the far North ever lost an election. In the elections pre- Independence of 1959, the dominant party in the North, the Northern Peoples Congress [NPC] emerged as the largest party and went on to form a ruling coalition with the Igbo dominated NCNC. Despite the acrimony of the 1964 election, the same pattern emerged and the same ruling coalition was maintained, with the North at the heart of it. The Prime Minister Sir Abubalkar Tafawa Balewa was the First Deputy President of the NPC, and all Nigeria knew that the Big Man who called the biggest shots was the NPC President Sir Ahmadu Bello, from his base in Kaduna. Throughout the First Republic years, the NPN sat the centre of an alliance with the NCNC, Chief Akintola's NNDP and Chief Melford Okilo's Niger Delta Congress.
    The presidential system of government that was adopted in the run up to the 1979 elections forced a metamorphosis in national politics, but with little substantive change. Elements of the old NPC simply built upon their alliance with the NNDP and NDC and together they unrolled the very powerful National Party of Nigeria [NPN], which went on to control the Federal Government throughout the Second Republic. NPN officially zoned the presidency to the North, recognition that the old NPC elements formed the party's core.
    The first presidential elections since the collapse of the Second Republic in 1983 were the ill-fated June 12, 1993 elections, which the SDP candidate. Chief Moshood Abiola won but which were annulled by the military government. In the alliance that elected Abiola, the North was not marginal, because key Northern states such as Kano, Kastina, Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Benue and Kwara all voted for Abiola.
    In 1999 presidential elections, Northern political sagacity was equally manifest, because though the region's political leaders agreed to cede the presidency to Yorubaland to atone for the June12 disaster, they still instead on installing a Yoruba man of their own choice. The Yoruba didn't like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo one bit, rabid anti-Awoist that he was, and they overwhelmingly voted against him, but Northern votes, together with Igbo and Niger Delta votes; .swept him into the presidency with a wide margin.
    Obasanjo
    After 4 years of Obasanjo, things changed in 2003. By then most Northerners had soured of Obasanjo, but the Yoruba had warmed up to him and to his party. PDP was by then very strong and re-established its hold over the majority of Northern states. ANPP's fielding of General Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate that year helped many ANPP governors to retain their seats, but it made a little dent in the South, a pointer to things to come.

    In 2007, Northern voters had a sweet problem because the two major presidential candidates, PDP's Umaru Musa Yar'adua and ANPP's General Buhari, were both from Katsina State. Most of the Northern states stayed in the PDP column, though the fairness of the polls was seriously questioned by' international observers. It was in 2011, for the first time ever, that 12 far Northern states solidly voted for the candidate who lost.
    The situation in which the North found itself in 2011 was a very familiar one to the Yoruba, who had solidly voted for the losing candidates in 1959, in 1964, in 1979, in 1983, and again in 1999. On two occasions, in 1964 and in 1983, the Yoruba rioted, killing many supporters of the NNA and NPN and torching their houses and cars. In 1979 there were no riots in Yoruba land, but for the next four years there was seeth¬ing anger at the loss by UPN's presidential candidate Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the die-hard Awoist Tai Solarin coined the phrase "the stolen presidency" TO DESCRIBE Alhaji Shehu Shagari's victory [he didn't coin it, actually; it was a 19th century American coinage].
    MKO Abiola
    The Awoists were convinced that there man had won the 1097 election; most other Nigerians could not see how Awo could have won the election, when he had almost zero support in the North, the East and among the Southern minorities. This time around, many Northerners are convinced that General Buhari won the 2011 elections, but most other Nigerians cannot see how that could be, with scant support throughout the South and the North Central. Roles have been exchanged.
    A region once roundly accused of dominating' Nigeria is now crying of marginalization. Where does the North go from here, politically? The far North has put all its presidential eggs in the CPC basket. It remains to be seen if this party will one day replication or surpass the magic of the NPC and NPN, or whether the North is destined to go down a long, lonely political tunnel in the years to come.
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