In this op-ed, I will like to focus on the issue of merit, competence and demerits of rotational presidency in 2023 as recently amplified by Alhaji Mamman Daura, a nephew and close confidante of President Muhammadu Buhari. All the issues raised by Daura is worth exploring not because of its complete wrongness but because of its half completeness. Though not cast in stone, Nigeria has practised rotational presidency having managed to alternate power between the North and the South since 1999. So, as we debate 2023, Nigerians and all those interested in equity and justice must be ready for emotional roller coaster and more bizarre theories promoted by persons who before now never gave a thought to merit and competence in filling all leadership positions in Nigeria including ordinary admission of students into colleges. There will be more bizarre theories of Igbo being conquered people, Igbo not being loyal, Igbo wanting Biafra, Igbo not voting Buhari, Igbo not being born to rule and Igbo not having the numbers. That’s the game. We must be prepared for it as we get close to 2023.
If merit has anything to do with Nigeria’s leadership from 1999 to date, maybe, we wouldn’t have ended up in the hole we are in today, where our unity as a country is totally destroyed. Today, we are in a situation where the best from the administration is not good enough to end official corruption , where we are down with general insecurity and mass killings, mindless borrowings from predator nations, broken politics and faced with uncertain future.
Since 1999, the North has held power for two consecutive periods in the persons of Late President Umaru Yar’Adua and now incumbent President Buhari. The North had also occupied the post of Vice President twice in the person of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Arc Namadi Sambo. The South on the other hand had occupied the presidency twice in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from South West and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan from the South-South. Both the South West and South – South had also occupied the position of Vice President at different times to the complete exclusion of the South East which has neither produced a President nor Vice President from 1999 to date. The purpose of rotational presidency is to allow power shift with the hope of engendering the stability, peace and unity of Nigeria’s fragile federation. This novelty is not without its own peculiar problems. Worse of it is the promotion of mediocrity over merit and competence. What has failed the nation is not rotation per se , but our inability to enthrone merit and competence in rotational leadership.
The political oligarchy decides on who can be controlled and not who will do the job of running the country efficiently and effectively. The state of the nation due to bad governance and incompetent leadership is better summed in the words of Arch Bishop Anthony Okojie where he likened Nigeria’s uncertain future to a sinking ship navigated by pirates.
Nigeria’s uncertainty he bemoaned “is compounded by the disturbing conduct of Nigeria’s political elites. At this point in time, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between politics and criminality in Nigeria.” According to Junaid Mohammad , “we have tried rotational presidency and it has not worked and is not working. Let’s try merit and competence.”
It is difficult to debate against merit and competence-based leadership. A good leader must have the competence and capacity to lead and inspire. When you see what is happening to Nigeria today you cannot but wish for visionary leadership down the line up to the civil service where we must eradicate quota system but reflect federal character based on merit and competence.
Except we hate this country and want to destroy it, we definitely don’t need mediocre leaders anymore that will be overwhelmed by the job or enter into contracts and bilateral agreement without reading and understanding the contents of the contract or agreement.
If the full realization that mediocre leadership has failed Nigeria informed Alhaji Daura’s current position on merit and competence post Buhari, then I agree and align myself with his position. I wholly accept that our very best should lead a post Buhari presidency so as to unite the country and fix Nigeria’s broken politics. What I don’t agree with is jettisoning rotation completely. Jettisoning rotation at this time will further ruin our fragile peace and unity. As a people, we can consciously find merit and competence in rotational presidency by first settling on the kind of leader we want and then shop for the right person that fits the description from within the zone.
The South East is not averse to merit and competence. We have an array of very competent hands. However, Nigeria needs to deliberately show the South East region that they are part of Nigeria. We have intellectuals, educated and ingenious people with the capacity to provide good governance and visionary leadership for Nigeria. It is not in the interest of Nigeria’s unity for us to continue with Igbo phobia 54 years after the civil war.
No tribe loves this country like the Igbo. Despite being marginalized in the scheme of affairs in Nigeria, we live in all nooks and crannies contributing so much to the GDP of this country. If you remove the Igbo from Nigeria, the country may remain but will not be the same because the vibrant and positive Igbo energy will be missing. It is the discriminatory attitude towards us as a result of the civil war that makes us aggrieved . If you cannot aspire to the topmost job in your country, what hope do you have to claim citizenship right of that country?
Power needs to be shared in a manner that we shall see ourselves as one people. Merit and competence should not be used as a smokescreen to deny the Igbo of their rightful place in Nigeria. This is why I personally consider Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s aspiration for President in 2023 as not just obscene and insensitive but clear injustice to a political zone that has not taken a turn where turn by turn is the norm and order.
I will conclude this opinion with the words of Senator Victor Umeh that, “the idea of trying to take the prejudices of the war and hand it over to the younger generation and they grow with it that these people are this, these people are that, is postponing the doomsday. I don’t know how it would be achieved but I think that all the political parties in Nigeria should give their presidential tickets to somebody from the South East on the basis of equity and fairness. And then from among them Nigeria can elect the very best for the job. Once that happens, we will now have a new Nigeria.”
I firmly believe that a president of Nigeria carefully chosen from the South East of Nigeria on merit and competence will be a presidency that will unite Nigeria and put an end to the prejudices of the past. 2023 presents an opportunity for us to show that really, we want Nigeria to be one country.
It is not going to be done by force, it is going to be done by conscious reasoning and utmost sacrifice for people to come to the realization that this is something that is worth doing and that once it is done there will be peace and concord in Nigeria.