As the year and consequent bitterness of the 2019 elections recede into history, the next instalment should, ordinarily, be between the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Rather, it appears neither party need bother itself extraordinarily to retain or snatch power as self-destruction on either side, but particularly in APC, seems to be making the job effortless for the rival. Indeed, powerful and highly-paid marabouts must be at work.
For the APC, the major weapon for self-destruction is the continued stay or dropping of zoning system specifically in future selection of the party’s presidential candidate. No matter how distasteful was the annulment of the 1999 presidential election result, the saving grace from the threatening disintegration of the Nigerian federation was sudden, even if unwritten, concession to the South, specifically South West, to produce the President in 1999. Of course, that seeming concession was still circumscribed by imposing a candidate totally rejected at the polls by south-westerners. Even at that, it henceforth became an unwritten convention, indeed imperative in and for Nigerian political system to be alternating presidential tickets. Hence, for the erstwhile ruling PDP, after Olusegun Obasanjo at Aso Rock (1999-2007) came Umaru Yar’Adua (2007-2010) followed by a southerner Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015), who was defeated by a northerner Muhammadu Buhari of the APC in 2019.
As it might seem to have been deliberately innovated, there could be no doubt about the massive impact of alternate presidential ticket on Nigeria’s political stability or even in established democraces like the United States and United Kingdom. In such places, the emphasis is on quality of candidates and prospects of the party’s victory rather than group monopoly of power.
In the United States, there is no written or special provision for zoning of presidential ticket in the constitution of any political party. Yet, national interests ensure total consideration for inclusiveness of any part of the country to produce the President, subject to any deliberate exclusion of one section. Hence the smoothness and indeed universal excitement for American presidential elections every four years. Put in another way, even each genuinely democratic country operates unwritten zoning system.
United Staes offers a good example. In 1952, General Dwight Eisenhower from Texas (southern part of the country), won the presidential election with Richard Nixon from California (north-western part of the country) as running mate. Both served two terms till 1960 on the platform of Republican party, when the baton changed to the Democratic party with John Fitzgerald Kennedy from Masachusets (north-eastern part of the country) as new President and Lyndon Johnson from Texas (southern part of the country) as vice president. John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 in Texas (southern home state) of vice president Lyndon Johnson who succeeded him. After serving another term, which ended in 1968, Johnson decided not contest, thereby leaving the way for vice president Hubert Humphery (from South Dakota state in the mid-west). On the Republican ticket was former Vice President Richard Nixon again from California (north-western part of the country) who won the election.
By !973, President Nixon’s misdemeanour in office was so gross to warrant his resignation and he was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford from Nebraska (in the mid-west). President Ford’s attempt at re-election in 1976 was shattered by events leading to Richard Nixon’s forced exit three years earlier, and ensured victory for Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter (from Georgia in the south). Back in White House as another Republican President was Ronald Reagan (again from California in the north-west) with George Bush Snr. from Texas in the south as vice president. At the end of Ronald Reagan’s two terms in 1988, Vice President George Bush easily won the presidential election to retain the presidency for the Republicans. Unfortunately, his tenure was limited to one term, ending in 1992 when he lost the presidential election youthful Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton from Arkansas (in the southern part of the country). Noticeably, the two contestants were southerners.
At the end of Bill Clinton’s tenure in 2000, he was succeeded by a fellow southerner, George Bush jnr. (from Texas). In 2008, the American presidency shifted to the mid-western state of Illinois in the person of Barack Obama on the platform of the Democrats. By 2016, a north-easterner, Donald Trump, from New York, regained the presidency for the Republicans. There is no provision for zoning of presidential ticket in the constitutions of the two American parties. Yet it’s been amazing how, over many decades, the two parties, till today, allow every part of the country to enjoy inclusiveness. The most populous state in United States is California. Yet, this has not, in any way conferred on the north-western state any political/electoral advantage over the others, especially the south and Bill Clinton’s tiny state of Arkansas or John Kennedy’s Massachusets. Instead, conscious effort is made by both parties to pick presidential candidates from all parts, north-west, mid-west, the south and north-east.
Crying for development in Nigeria, if it can ever develop, is politics of nationalism. Instead, emphasis is placed on ethnic background. This may not necessarily win elections for a political party. Are we ignoring the shocking protest votes in various parts of the country against APC, the ruling party? There is also the wrong assumption that just any candidate from the North can win election for a political party in Nigeria. Muhammadu Buhari who won presidential election in 2015 was not an ordinary northerner. Before then, he lost in 2003, 2007 and 2010. At least, so he was declared on each occasion by the Supreme Court.
And that was despite Buhari’s widely acknowledged integrity and cult followership in the North. Does the APC today have any 2023 aspirant (from the north or south) with such qualities? What is more, after three defeats, Buhari extended his potential power/electoral base by reaching to the south. This is the solid political strength the 2023 warriors in APC are eroding with their resort to disturbing ethnic/regional jingoism.
This may be unpleasant but the bitter truth of the past 25 years of our politics is that Nigerians can no longer be taken for granted. Alternating Aso Rock tenancy has produced two for the South (Obasanjo and Jonathan) and two for the North (Yar’Adua and Buhari). It is a case for blunt argumentation.