In order to avoid the confusion that usually trails the power rotation arrangement between the North and the South and ensure equity and fairness in the polity, the Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has recommended the inclusion of the rotation of the presidency among the six geo-political zones in the constitution. The Chairman of the council, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, who read the communiqué at the end of its recent meeting in Abuja, argued that limiting the zoning of the country’s presidency to the North and South divide is vague and should be discouraged.
The recommendation of the Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo came on the heels of the recently concluded presidential primaries of the two leading political parties in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), in which candidates from the South East region were schemed out.
While the PDP nominated former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as its presidential candidate at its May 29 convention, the APC settled for the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at its June 8 special presidential convention. On both occasions, the South East lost out.
Before the primaries, South East leaders had moved to convince South West and South South leaders and leaders of other zones of the need for the zone to produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023. Other regional leaders and groups had also agreed that it was the turn of the South East region, and even made public statements to support the agitation for Igbo president in 2023. Among the ethnic organisations that championed the campaign were the Yoruba apex socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
Leaders of the groups – Pa Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere), Dr. Bitrus Pogu (MBF) and Chief Edwin Clarke (PANDEF) – insisted that it was the turn of the South East to produce the next president at the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023. However, the political class took a contrary decision and denied the zone the opportunity to produce their standard-bearers.
We agree with the Elders Council of Ohanaeze that henceforth the power rotation arrangement, which would be on the basis of the six geo-political zones, must be included in the constitution. Giving power rotation arrangement a constitutional backing will end the unnecessary agitation over which zone will produce it at each election season. Zoning of political offices has been practised in some states of the federation and has proved beneficial to the people. Though not constitutional, it has produced a measure of equity in those states and has afforded the different components a sense of belonging. Making the presidency go round the regions will guarantee equity and justice as well as promote political inclusion in a diverse nation as Nigeria. Apart from these considerations, there are equally historical and empirical imperatives that make the Ohanaeze Elders’ demand legitimate. Since the commencement of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, some other regions have had shots at the office. The South West had it through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the North West through the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and President Muhammadu Buhari. The South South had it through Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The North had earlier produced Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the First and Second Republics, respectively.
In the years of the military rule, the North had Generals Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar, while the West had Olusegun Obasanjo. The South East had Gen. Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi for six months. The zone has not had a taste of the highest office in the country under democracy.
Therefore, the recommendation of the Elders Council of Ohanaeze is worth considering. So far, the power rotation arrangement has been more of a North West and South West affair, except the brief interlude of the South South through Jonathan.
Nigeria was founded on a tripod arrangement – the East, North and West. The North and West had regularly had shots at the presidency while the East has been sidelined in the power equation. There is need for an arrangement to accommodate zoning principle in the constitution. No doubt, zoning will bring out the best in each of the component parts and allows each region to have a say in the running of the country. Rotating the presidency among the six regions will address the issues of marginalisation and exclusion of some regions from the presidency. The suggestion by the Elders Council of Ohanaeze is therefore a step in the right direction. The configuration of Nigeria demands that there should be ways of carrying all the constituent units along.
The Federal Character principle in the constitution is intended to give all parts of the country a sense of belonging. Such consideration should be extended to rotational presidency. We urge legislators from the South East region and others to promote a bill in the National Assembly for the inclusion of rotational presidency among the six geo-political zones in the constitution.