The seeming rancour between the northern governors and their southern counterparts, over power shift to the South in 2023, is uncalled for. It is a political issue that requires political solution. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic country that will adapt an arrangement that will carry all segments along. It is not in dispute that the rotation of power between the North and South will guarantee peace and harmony in the country.
Governors, under the aegis of Southern Governors Forum, had, in their recent meeting in Lagos, reinstated their demand for power rotation between the North and South and enjoined all the major political parties to field politicians from the South as their presidential candidates in the 2023 general election as it was done in 1999.
The stand of the governors is in line with the thinking of concerned individuals and socio-cultural groups, such as Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) of the South South, Ohanaeze Ndigbo of the South East and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), who have called for the rotation of power between the North and the South. Some northerners, including the Borno State governor, Prof. Babgana Zulum, have equally expressed support for power to shift to South in 2023. They have strongly argued that power will shift to the South in 2023 for the sake of decency, justice and equity.
However, in their meeting in Kaduna, the northern governors, in what could pass for a veiled disagreement with their southern counterparts, argued that the demand for power shift was contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. “The Forum unanimously condemn the statement by the Southern Governor’s Forum that the presidency must go to the South. The statement is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999),” the Northern governors said in a communique read by their chairman and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong.
The quest for power shift to the South by governors from the South and concerned socio-cultural groups is a step in the right direction. Despite the divergent views on the issue, we believe that power shift, which will ensure equity, fairness and justice in the polity, is ideal in a diverse country as Nigeria.
Although the 1999 Constitution did not expressly provide for power rotation between the North and the South, the political culture in the country since the return to democratic rule in 1999 has reflected the power rotation principle between the North and the South. In other words, the presidency has rotated between the two regions and given the country some measure of political stability. For instance, President Olusegun Obasanjo (South) handed over to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (North), who died in office. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (South), who was Yar’Adua’s deputy, took the seat until he conceded to Muhammadu Buhari (North) after the 2015 poll. In spite of its imperfections, the power sharing arrangement has helped to cement the unity of the country.
Allowing a particular section of the country to hold power perpetually, as some people are advocating, cannot guarantee peace and unity. The mood of the nation now demands that there should be power rotation among the federating six geo-political zones or regions under a carefully worked out arrangement. Power shift will give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians and considerably reduce the current secession and self-determination agitations. Any group that wants the unity of the country should encourage power shift. One of the ways to ensure the continued existence of the country is for us to evolve a seamless power sharing formula between the North and the South.
Good enough, the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, has clarified the position of northern governors over the power shift controversy, saying his colleagues in the North never opposed the presidency going to the South in 2023, but were only against the language used by their southern colleagues.
Their different interpretations notwithstanding, we think that the politicians should strive to reach a consensus on the matter without heating the polity unduly. There is need for all the parties to see the need to unify the country. The time calls for serious and thoughtful engagements on the issue.
We call on the political parties to respect the power sharing principle. Anything short of allowing power to shift to the South in 2023 would amount to breach of trust and confidence. It is common knowledge that no region on its own can produce the president of the country. That constitutional provision which makes it difficult for one region to produce the president makes power sharing inevitable.
However, the South should be diplomatic in its quest for power to shift to it in 2023 and reach out to the North in the spirit of give and take. While the South deserves the presidency in 2023, we suggest that the slot should be zoned to the South East region to ensure justice, equity and fairness.