Barely four weeks after the 2019 elections for which winners are yet to be sworn in and for which dust in several places is yet to settle, northern leaders, through their usual forerunners, have rather very prematurely and inconsiderately started overheating the polity again. They are trying to sell the idea that the presidency of the nation would remain in the North in 2023 despite the region having completed two terms of four years each through President Muhammadu Buhari (or Atiku Abubakar, should the courts declare him winner following his petition on the matter).
First, it was Yari Shettima, president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, who was being clever by half in an interview with a newspaper. He had declared that Buhari had failed as president and, therefore, his presidency does not represent the North. According to him, based on that, the North would put forward a candidate that would represent its interests in the 2023 presidential election despite the conventional rotation of the presidency between North and South for the purpose of equity, fairness and justice without which there can never be peace.
Following that was the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, who also echoed Shettima’s stance by saying that it was not compulsory that the North must cede power to the South in 2023. This is also in spite of the need for every region to have a sense of belonging in the leadership of the nation and respect the principles of zoning and rotation, which made both leading parties zone their presidency to the North, an action that was fully respected by other eminently qualified personalities from other zones by not contesting in the presidential primaries of the two leading parties.
As if taking a cue from these two northern leaders and betraying the suspicion that they must have been sent by the organised leadership of the North to test the waters by selling this preposterous idea at this time, Junaid Mohammed, Second Republic legislator, added his voice to the controversial call by making far-reaching, spurious accusations against the South East, blaming them for voting for Atiku at the last election, as if Atiku was no longer a northerner like Buhari, and that the Igbo were left with a choice between two northerners. Mohammed should have known that having been presented with two choices by the North, they would certainly go one way or the other, and whichever way, the Igbo would still have pitched their tent with a northerner, be it Buhari or Atiku.
This narrative of always trying to futilely crucify the Igbo for their political choices has to stop. This is democracy and it is the best form of government because it is based on the freedom of people to express their political choices freely without facing a backlash for it. The same Igbo the Mohammeds of the North like to condemn for not following a particular pattern of voting during elections voted for Atiku, a northerner, despite the presence of another eminently qualified Igbo son, Kingsley Moghalu, on the platform of the Young Peoples Party (YPP), just so the principles of rotation and zoning of the presidency, especially between the two leading parties in the country, are not only respected but also preserved.
Rather than being vilified for this, the Igbo should be applauded for their respect and love for the nation, which, more than any other ethnic group, have shown greatest dedication and commitment to nation-building.
However, that is not the crux of this piece. It is how northern leaders are so shameless in canvassing for the 2023 presidency when their region is on fire and ravaged by the worst insecurity since the civil war era. How could any responsible set of leaders be talking about a 2023 presidency that is so far away when their men are now daily being kidnapped, randomly killed on a regular basis, their women raped, maimed, abducted, forcefully married out to strangers in distant lands by their abductors, and most of them brutally killed? What manner of irresponsibility and heartlessness make these leaders turn their focus on politics when their children have become endangered species and a waste to the world because of the social malaise of crime and criminality, including drug abuse, bedevilling them?
So what is the essence of shouting northern presidency in 2023 when the North has remained the most poverty-stricken, the most illiterate and the most backward in every indices of human development, even when the North has had the largest share of the presidency from Independence till date? What is the benefit of the presidency to the North that it keeps insisting on holding on to power when facts have shown that the country, especially the North, suffers the most whenever they have one of their own in power? It is not that these northern leaders do not know what to do actually. Their problem is knowing how to do it. Pray, how can you be expending billions of naira in a vain search for oil in the North when that amount could have been channelled to agriculture, where the zone has its comparative advantage over other regions, and employ thousands of youths in the process while turning Nigeria to a major export country for agriculture and agro-allied products?
These northern leaders should know that the people of the South East are not too interested in the presidency other than voting. If the presidency comes to them, fine. If it does not, the Igbo care less because the great and modern cities of Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha, etc, were built by the efforts of the Igbo with little or no federal government assistance. Today, about 1,000 shops and still counting at the humongous Ariaria International Market, Aba, enjoy 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply to boost the entrepreneurship output of the people. How many cities in the entire North can boast of the infrastructure development and facilities of Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha, Ohafia, Abiriba, Enugu, Abakaliki, etc? All these cities have been built by the Igbo spirit, which travels far and wide and brings home its experience and wealth to bear on the people and immediate society with or without federal government intervention.
The only international airport in the entire South East was the creation and construction of the Igbo people. Whatever the Igbo have built by themselves today was built under the assumption that if they do not take care of themselves, nobody will do it for them, hence, the thriving spirit driving them.
The Igbo talk of marginalisation only as humans who feel cheated about a system deliberately skewed against them in order to keep them down. But since after the civil war, despite the paltry £20 given to each of their fathers to start life again after the civil war, and despite their property seized, the Igbo have risen from the ashes of life like the ancient Phoenix to overtake other zones of the country in terms of development.
The fact is that, even if the nation is run based on self-government for each region and Abuja, as beautiful a city as it is, is given to the North as part of their land to manage, Abuja would deteriorate. Rather than keep clamouring for a presidency that has brought more curses than blessings to the North and arrogantly talk down on others, the North should look inwards and see how it can turn the misfortunes of its children roaming the streets aimlessly and hopelessly into something beneficial to them and the nation.
A situation where the North produces the President, SGF, ministers of Defence, Interior, Petroleum, heads of the Army, Air Force, Police, Civil Defence, Customs, Immigration, Prisons, NSA, EFCC, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives and so many others, yet have grown worst in insecurity, economy, education, etc, compared to other regions, speaks volumes.
•Ndukwe can be reached on [email protected]; Twitter: @StJudeNdukwe