From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Nigeria Equity Group (NEG) has said that the best way to ensure balance, equity and to check the escalating ethnoreligious crises in Nigeria will be to ensure the emergence of a Christian as a consensus president in the 2023 presidential election.
Addressing a world press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the Conveners, Dr Emeka Nwosu and Mubarak Muhammed, argued that electing a Christian president is the best way forward to manage the worsening fault lines in the country, warning that Nigeria may not survive the next round of crises that would emerge as a result.
The group maintained that by their calculations, there is a near-zero chance of a Christian emerging as President when power again shifts to the North as the northern population is overwhelmingly Muslim.
‘For now, we strongly believe there should be a consensus on a Christian being President in 2023 in order to ensure balance and equity and to not further aggravate our ethnoreligious crises that are already getting out of hand. This clarion call is anchored on the need for fairness and equity, which are necessary ingredients for nation-building,” the group noted.
Speaking further, the NEG explained that ‘the purpose of this event is to state strongly our position in respect of the 2023 presidential election. We are aware that various groups and interests have started positioning for the next election cycle.
‘We wish to note that there is nothing wrong with this as humans are essentially ‘political animals’ who are wired to play politics.
‘But our concern is that with the deterioration of relations among Nigeria’s multifarious ethnic groups and the heightened tension in the country today if we do not care and wisely manage the journey towards 2023, the visible cracks of our country would get worse, and Nigeria may not survive the next round of crises that would emerge as a result.
‘We have observed that in the last six years, Nigeria has faced a high and intolerable level of disunity as inter and intra-ethnic crises have increased ten-fold. Our political environment is now governed by mutual suspicion, hatred and lack of empathy.
‘Our natural fault lines have been so widened that it may soon be difficult to bridge them. This situation has led to frequent crises and violence, which have made Nigeria one of the most terrorized countries in the world.
‘We strongly believe the failure of government at all levels, especially at the Centre, to properly manage our diversity and ensure inclusiveness, fairness and federal character in key appointments, and selection for offices have heightened the mutual distrust and discontent in the polity.
‘We do not want to belabour the issue but hope that 2023 will provide us with another opportunity to reset, to get things right again. We are particularly concerned about presidential election politics and its ability to restore confidence, stability and order in the polity.
‘Or, God forbid, to do the opposite and set the tinderbox on fire. We believe God loves this country and will not allow that to happen. But people of good conscience must rise up to the occasion. And that is why we are here today.
‘The position of our organization is that for the sake of equity and fairness the next President of our country should be a Christian. We believe that the template that the country has adopted since 1999 with the return of democratic rule in which the position of President rotates between the two major faiths of Christianity and Islam, and between the two main regions of North and South is ideal.
‘As a reminder, when Olusegun Obasanjo completed his tenure, he handed over to Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, a Northern Muslim. After the untimely and unfortunate death of Yar’adua, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, a Southern Christian took over as President.
‘After his tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari took over and has been on the presidential saddle for more than five years. We believe that it is essential that after the tenure of President Buhari, the next president should be a Southern Christian, in order for us to maintain this balance and not to further aggravate the ethnoreligious issues that have bedevilled our country lately. We need to heal and not rupture further.
‘Anything short of the above template will not be acceptable to us. It would in fact mean a systematic and deliberate disenfranchisement of the Christian population that makes up about half of the Nigerian state, and who need assurance that they are still major stakeholders in the Nigerian project. It would also mean that there will not be a Christian President in the foreseeable future and perhaps in the lifetime of every Nigerian adult living today.
‘Our calculation is that there is a near-zero chance of a Christian emerging as President when power again shifts to the North as the northern population is overwhelmingly Islamic.
‘So, for the sake of fairness and equity, we are appealing to all the political parties and party stakeholders in Nigeria to concede the presidency to a southern Christian. Forming a consensus on the critical national issue is essential for the growth, peace and stability of our union.
‘It would also not be strange as we have reached such agreements in the past; the most recent being in 1999 when the presidency was conceded to the Southwest to assuage the unjust annulment of the June 12, 1993 election which Chief MKO Abiola was set to win.
‘We wish to state clearly, that we will mobilize the patriotic Nigerians against any political party that goes against this template and does not lead its presidential ticket with a Christian candidate. Our organization in partnership with other similar groups will mobilize all fair-minded Nigerians in every nook and cranny of this country, from the marshy plains of the Delta to the grasslands of the North, to vote against such a political party.
‘We are, however, hopeful and confident that it won’t get to the point of conflict; that after the eight-year rule of a Northern Muslim, good sense will prevail and the political parties will do the right thing by ensuring that power moves into the hands of a competent Southern Christian.
‘We should however state that our group is not a Christian organisation or even a religious one for that matter. The primary focus of the NEG is to promote inclusion and equity in our body polity. And, so, we would fight for the rights of Muslims or any other interest group in Nigeria if we believe there is a danger of those rights being abridged in any way,’ he noted.