Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, cautions the North against seeking to perpetuate itself in power in 2023. She rails against statements made by proponents of a Northern presidency in four years time; asserting that in the interest of fair play, other geopolitical zones should be allowed to lead.
Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Mohammed, opened up a can of cankerworms last week when he effectively stated that zoning and rotation of power has collapsed and that the North would provide a presidential candidate in 2023.
Mohammed would go on to blame the south-east for casting its lot with Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election; but not before stating that any region with political strength can claim the nation’s top political position in 2023.
In the same vein, a former secretary to the federal government, Babachir Lawal, stated that the issue of zoning should not arise in 2023. According to him, every part of Nigeria can produce a president in the next elections – even the North, again.
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Now, to be clear, there is a reason why zoning has become of such paramount importance in Nigeria.
With a population of about 190 million people belonging to over 250 ethnic groups, it is only natural that there would be agitation for political leadership by these various peoples – hence the need to rotate power.
However, I should state that among the three dominant ethnic groups – Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba - power has tended to rotate mainly between the Yorubas and Hausas, as the Igbos have usually gotten the shorter end of the stick.
Anyway, that’s a subject for another day; back to the matter at hand…
If we clamour for Federal Character in political appointments in order to reflect Nigeria’s multi-ethnic composition, there is no reason why we shouldn’t also clamour for a rotation of leadership in a way that accommodates various geopolitical zones.
After the sudden death of General Sani Abacha in 1998, there was a reason the military administration of General Abdulasalami Abubakar ensured that there were only two Yoruba men on the ballot for the 1999 presidential election – Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae.
The rationale was that ensuring the emergence of a Yoruba man as president would be a way to placate the south-west, following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election that saw the late MKO Abiola being denied his mandate.
Abubakar realized that it was only fair and in the interest of justice that the south-west should be allowed to lead, following the June 12 saga.
Again, following the demise of President Umaru Yar’Adua, one of the key reasons ex president Olusegun Obasanjo had for a substantive Jonathan presidency, was that it would answer the question of minority agitation- that a south-south Ijaw man being president would ensure that minority tribes also got a shot at the presidency.
Back to today…
It is morally wrong and politically cunning for the North, which relied on support from the south-west in 2015 and 2019; and tried to bamboozle the south-east with talk of an Igbo presidency after the expiration of the Buhari government, to suddenly turn around and start talking of a furtherance of northern rule in 2023.
Now, it is no secret that since independence, the North has viewed itself as perpetual leader of the country and has found a way to perpetuate itself in power. And to achieve this, it constantly seeks out strategic partnerships that suit its purpose.
So, whether it was the NPC aligning with the NCNC and later, the Samuel Akintola faction of the AG in the Western Region during the First Republic; or Buhari’s CPC aligning with Bola Tinubu’s ACN (and three other parties) to form the APC and win the 2015 presidency, the North has always known how to get itself in the top spot.
Hence, when Junaid Mohammed talks about the region with political strength claiming the presidency, he is speaking with the haughtiness that only a northerner can. And by so doing, he insults others who are now effectively relegated to the background because even though they are competent enough to lead, do not possess the political savviness needed to get to the top.
But being politically shrewd does not mean that one should become a bully and effectively marginalize other parts of the country.
In my opinion, statements like those made by Mohammed and Lawal just show that this country is in serious trouble. They also expose the problematic nature – and wickedness - of the British colonial experiment. We probably should never have been merged together!
However, we are where we are…
Now, we need to find a way to move forward in a manner that makes room for all of us. If not, a day may come when the center will no longer hold…and it will be disastrous!
Ethnic manipulation and ‘power hogging’ never bodes well for any nation. Just ask Rwanda or Iraq. It will only give room for squabbles which would lead to catastrophe.
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Any region is capable of leading this country and it is in the interest of justice, that we let each one take a shot at the top. Nigeria is not the birthright of any one group of people…it is the possession of the whole.
By the way, northern rule has not always translated into effective leadership. One only needs to take a look at the Buhari government to see that knowing how to get to the top does not necessarily mean actual preparedness for leadership which would translate into positive change for the people and development for the nation.
So, people need to stop talking as though their tribe is the best thing to happen to Nigeria. In 2023, the North needs to move aside…let another region lead!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.
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