Eminent Igbo leaders, politicians and intellectuals in Nigeria and in the Diaspora recently made a case for legal backing of rotational presidency among Nigerian political parties. The leaders, who made the call at the end of the sixth World Igbo Summit held at Gregory University Uturu, Abia State, want an enabling law that will make it compulsory for all political parties in the country to insert rotation of presidency clause in their constitutions. The summit was attended by former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd), Senator Ike Nwachukwu, Prof. George Obiozor, Prof. Greg Ibe, Mrs. Josephine Anenih amd Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, among others. In a communique issued at the end of the summit, the participants called on Igbo legislators in the National Assembly “to seek collaboration with members from other zones to amend the Electoral Act that accommodate a provision that compels INEC to ensure rotation clause in parties’ constitution, as a requirement for registration.” Before the call, there has been a power rotation arrangement for the presidency between the North and South since 1999 when the present political dispensation started.
Although this arrangement has no force of law, Nigerian politicians have come to live with it since 1999. It has also enhanced the political stability of the country. And in a bid to legalise the power rotation arrangement and avoid the undue tension that characterise each presidential election and to allow for political inclusion, Igbo leaders have widened the political debate by calling for a legal backing of the power rotation clause among all Nigerian political parties. This call is also coming at a time the quest for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is gaining momentum. We believe that the call for legal backing for power rotation among the political parties is well made. At the same time, we hasten to add that it should also be better if it is included in the nation’s constitutional. In a diverse country like Nigeria, political inclusion through power rotation will ensure peace and progress. Apart from reducing tensions that characterise our politics, power rotation will make our democracy to thrive and endure. It will also bring the best among Nigerians in terms of leadership. In a democracy, power rotation is a way of reassuring the people that they are also an integral part of the country. One of the biggest issues the nation is grappling with, apart from insecurity and systemic corruption, is the perennial struggle for power amongst the diverse ethnic groups that make up the country. The fact that there has not been an equitable distribution of power since the nation gained independence in 1960 makes rotational presidency more compelling. On geo-political basis, the North Central has ruled thrice, North East once and North West four times. On the other hand, the South East, and South South have tasted power only once each, while the South West has ruled thrice.
The power imbalance is at the root of the current agitation by the South East to produce the nation’s president in 2023. Since the end of the Nigerian civil war, no Igbo man has become the president of the country or ruled as a military head of state. Without doubt, the Igbo have been deliberately excluded from the central power probably because of their involvement in the civil war, a war that ended on a “No victor, no vanquished” note in 1970. Although there is an argument in some quarters that rotational presidency will lead to mediocrity, the deficit of good leaders so far punctures that argument. Enshrining rotational presidency in the constitution will end political marginalisation and unify the country the more. Since every politics is local, Nigerians should fashion a form of democracy that suits its socio-economic peculiarities. Therefore, let us design a system which guarantees political stability. We believe that giving constitutional backing to rotational presidency will reduce friction in the polity.
We urge Igbo leaders not to relent in the quest for rotational presidency and the bid to have it as clause in the constitution. However, they should begin to build bridges of friendship across other geo-political zones to actualize it. Uniting the nation can be achieved by giving legal backing to rotational presidency. The National Assembly through the Ad-hoc Committee on constitution review should address this quest for rotational presidency in the on-going exercise. Giving legal backing to power rotation will ensure national integration, credible elections and political inclusion.