It is barely one and half months to the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term in office, but people are already talking about what would happen at the conclusion of his second term, which starts on May 29, 2019. People are talking about the 2023 presidency as if it is coming next year.
As it concerns the All Progressives Congress (APC), some prominent northerners have stirred the hornet’s nest over the 2023 presidency. At a time when Nigerians are expecting that, in the spirit of the rotation of the presidency between the North and the South of Nigeria, political power would revert to the South after President Buhari completes his second term in 2023, some northerners are saying otherwise. For them, the North has the right to retain the presidency beyond Buhari’s second term.
Leader of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Yari Yerima, who, it must be recalled, led northern youths, sometime ago, to ask Igbo to vacate the North, had said the North would bid for the presidency after Buhari. Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, also added his voice to it, declaring that the South should forget the 2023 presidency. The controversial Junaid Mohammed, who said the Buhari government has not done well, also declared that the North should not relinquish power to the South in 2023.
Looking at the position of these northerners, it is tempting to say they can’t be serious, but they are going somewhere. Their reasons may be as ridiculous as they are funny, but it is obvious they are flying a kite as well as preparing the minds of Nigerians for what could happen in 2023. I have no doubt that we will see more of such audacity as the clock ticks to 2023, including those who may call for the amendment of the Constitution for President Buhari to have another term.
Agreed, there is nowhere rotation of power between the North and the South is written, but the PDP consciously adopted it. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, from the South, did eight years in office (from 1999-2007) and handed over to a northerner, Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Yar’Adua died in office after three years and Goodluck Jonathan, his southern deputy, took over. Jonathan completed Yar’Adua’s tenure and did one term. He lost to President Buhari, a northerner, in his relection bid. If Yar’Adua had not died in office, there would not have been a disruption. It also follows that had Jonathan won the 2015 election, political power would be returning to the North next month as the PDP would, most certainly, have fielded a northern presidential candidate.
With President Buhari, a northerner, in the saddle at present, Nigerians still believe that the unwritten rotation arrangement would apply after the completion of his second term. Such belief is anchored on equity and fairness. If Buhari does two terms in office, it is fair for the South, in general, and the South East, in particular, to take over power after him. When this happens, nobody would feel like a spectator in the Nigerian political project. This should have nothing to do with population, neither should it be based on voting strength or pattern. To hope that the North, under the APC, will be in power beyond 2023 is covetousness. It is nothing other than power greed. If the South West also wants the 2023 presidency, the zone will also be guilty of power greed.
It is becoming apparent that some northern politicians are carried away by the illusion that the North could actually produce the president alone, without the support of other zones in the country. Granted that the North has more states than the South, with 19 states to the South’s 17, the fact still remains that, irrespective of population or voting strength, the North, or any zone for that matter, cannot produce the president single-handedly. There must be a North (this is assuming that we have a monolithic North) alliance with the South West, the South East or the South South to produce the president. The impossibility of the North alone producing the president was manifest in the three times President Buhari failed in his quest to be elected president. In those three outings, Buhari got his votes majorly in the North. If he had even won the popular vote, he would still have failed, as he never met the constitutional requirement of 25 per cent votes in two-third states of the federation. It only took the North-South West alliance in 2015 for President Buhari to win. This year, it took the North/South West/South East partial alliance for him to be reelected.
Northerners who are talking in such a manner as to suggest that the North could dare the rest of the county and run roughshod on everybody to prove its political manliness had better think twice. The alienation of the South in general will not augur well for the country. It will dangerously polarise the nation. When inequity and cheating become a national issue, there will certainly be a problem. If the North believes that the South West will continue the alliance that gave it power in 2015 and renewed this year, beyond 2023, I believe that it is in for some shocker. If it thinks the South East and South South will support it to perpetuate itself in power, it will be disappointed. Nobody would take a situation where the rules are changed midway in the game or where there is a display of crass arrogance.
No doubt, there will be southerners who would support a setup where the South would be perpetually subservient to the North, you can be sure that there will also be general resistance, including in the North Central.
It is not that there is really a huge benefit for any zone that produces the president in Nigeria. We know that the number of years and number of presidents from a particular zone have not made better the lot of their people. For the avoidance of doubt, the North has produced the highest number of heads of state and presidents in the country. The North has also occupied the presidency for the highest number of years. Irrespective of these, poverty still ravages the North. The zone is backward in development. It is also still lagging behind in literacy.
We also know that Obasanjo’s eight years in office did not accord the South West any advantage. Even to grant Lagos special status as not only the former capital of Nigeria but also an important commercial hub was not possible under Obasanjo. Likewise, Jonathan’s five years as president did not change the fortunes of the Niger Delta as a zone and as a people. Jonathan could not even complete the all-important East-West expressway, the Port Harcourt International Airport terminal or the revival of the seaports in the Niger Delta. These are facts. However, there is a sense of belonging for any zone that produces the president, even when there is no special benefit. No zone should be deprived of this special feeling and accomplishment. Nobody should tell me about merit because there is no zone in the country that cannot produce a good and competent president.
The South East has a special case for the 2023 presidency under the APC or the PDP. Those who believe that the zone should not get the presidency under the APC are being mischievous. Whether the majority of the Igbo voted against APC or not, this does not deny the fact that they are Nigerians, entitled to aspire and become president. Their political and voting choice should not deny them what they should get in Nigeria.