Any person or group waiting for the seal on activities for 2023 politics to be officially lifted may not be in the race after all. It has all started, technically. Politics is a unique engagement, one in which a day seems like a year and vice versa. In it, the orthodox and unorthodox find a mix. When the Chinese say that a journey of 1,000 kilometers starts with a step, it is eloquently expressed in politics. It is a game where the driving force is self-interest expressed in power contestation.
The daring outing by the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, and the prompt interjection by the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, clearly indicate the agenda of the South-West and the North in the imminent scramble for the 2023 presidency. Akeredolu, chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, took the first kick. At a recent meeting of the body in Enugu, the governors resolved that it is a southern President in 2023 or nothing. Akeredolu drove the point home later that the leaders of his All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-West were waiting for former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, to return from London and decide whether he will be vying for the presidency in the 2023 general election or not. Baba-Ahmed fired back, asserting that the North was not for sale and that the heavens would not fall if a northerner is again elected the next President of Nigeria.
Give it to the two and, by extension, the North and South-West, which they represent. They have tasted power and know the gains, hence, they are unwilling to give up.
Edmond Burke, the 18th Century Irish statesman, was right that “those who have been once intoxicated with power and have derived any kind of emoluments from it, even though but for one year, can never willingly abandon it.”
The late American senator, Edward Kennedy, amplified it that no one rides on a convoy and willingly gives up. That is why sophisticated political systems insert term limits to some offices, especially the executive. Others find ways to manage the temptation of staying put by fashioning out loose arrangements that ensure equity to the component units. This is where power rotation principle finds accommodation.
But in our system, where politics is not driven by identifiable ethos, everything is sacrificed, including agreements by the players. It is a matter of everyone working for his interest or, as expressed in street lingo, ‘I Before Others (IBO’.
You may need to interpret the outings by Akeredolu and Baba-Ahmed from this standpoint to appreciate their bigger pictures. It was the late Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, who said that, if you do not blow your trumpet, nobody will, as others would be busy blowing theirs. The governor and the NEF spokesman understand the game.
It is the East, in this case, the South-East that is, ironically, pushing out itself from the calculations of 2023, no thanks to the timidity of its political elite. Curiously, the zone has been shouting and lamenting marginalisation in all aspects of national life, particularly political leadership. And rightly so! Since the commencement of the present dispensation in 1999, the West has had a shot at the presidency through Olusegun Obasanjo, the North through the late Umar Yar’Adua and President Muhammadu Buhari. The South-South had Goodluck Jonathan. Earlier, the North had produced Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the first and second republics, respectively. In the days of the military, the North had Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammad, Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and the West had Obasanjo. Except the breezy six-month era of General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, the East has not had any taste of the office.
Coming also against the backdrop of the crushing defeat at the 1967-1970 civil war and the poor management of the attendant reconciliation programme, the zone has been at the receiving end of the unfair political system in the country. This is even when the people have exhibited greater commitment in the unity of the country through their expansive interactions and investments in all the geo-political units.
You would expect a people with such history of deprivations to be in the vanguard of power shift to their area. But this, unfortunately, is not the case. Rather, the politicians from the East are further retreating into their cocoons in sheer timorous mode as the 2023 date draws closer. Neither those in the ruling APC nor the opposition PDP are offering any hope. How, for example, can it be explained that in the last Southern Governors’ meeting that took place in Enugu, only the governor of the host state was present, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, sent deputies? Anambra was completely absent! The day the Senate voted on electronic transmission of results in the Electoral Bill, only Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe and Orji Kalu (Abia), were at the chambers. Others from the zone stayed away.
As it stands, less than a year and half to the 2023 presidential election, there is no particular individual or group of politicians from the East that can be looked upon as the arrowheads of the area in the contest. They lean on chance and are not consistent, wanting to reap without struggling. Such characters, according to Benjamin Disraeli, 19th Century British Prime Minister, do not have a date with destiny.
Bestselling author, Anthony Robbins, reflects their lethargy in his book, ‘Awaken the Giant Within’, thus: “At one time in our lives, we all had a vision for the quality of life that we desire and deserve. Yet, for many of us, those dreams have become so shrouded in the frustrations and routine of daily life that we no longer even make an effort to accomplish them.”
South-East politicians have the desire for the high office of the President but lack the courage to dare.
If they think that the efforts of Governor Akeredolu and his South-West colleagues is to wrest power from the North and hand to their zone, they are making the mistake of their life. Power is not given, it is taken.
The politicians from the East are the problem of the zone. It is their failure to provide genuine leadership to the people that has created grounds for elements parading on the fringes of lunacy to assume positions of influence and act as champions of the masses in the area. Because of their docility, the East may, again, lose out in 2023.