The nephew of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Mamman Daura, recently jolted the polity with his BBC Hausa Service comments that the race for Nigerian presidency is to be based on competency and not power rotation or turn by turn sharing of power between the North and South which began in 1999 with President Olusegun Obasanjo taking the first shot. Daura was quoted as saying that the 2023 presidential contest will be open to all qualified Nigerians irrespective of their geography. In other words, Daura is of the view that rotational presidency has been discarded ahead of the 2023 presidential poll which going by our power rotation arrangement, whether put in the constitution or not, will go to the South.
The position of Daura on 2023 election is not quite different from those of some politicians from the North who still feel that the North should retain power come 2023 in total disregard to the power rotation agreement between the North and the South in 1999.
There is even power rotation clause in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) constitution. It is also worth noting that some Northerners have made it clear that power should shift to the South in 2023 in honour of that gentleman power rotation principle. Some Northerners and other Nigerians have said that power should go to the South East.
I do not know if Mallam Daura is speaking for himself, the government or the part of the country he comes from. But the presidency has distanced itself from Daura’s comments even though it insisted that Daura is free to air his views on Nigerian political issues as an experienced journalist and an elder statesman. If what the presidency said is anything to go by, then Mallam Daura can be said to be on his own. However, some Nigerians believe that Daura is flying a kite and perhaps testing the ground for 2023 which politics has commenced in earnest. Perhaps, Daura is speaking for his part of the country.
To Mamman Daura and those toeing his line of argument, the power rotation which began in 1999 between the North and the South is a product of history. It was not given on a platter. It came out of the June 12 struggle. After the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election believed to have been won by a Southerner, Chief MKO Abiola, By Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the pro-democracy groups and political activists across the country made the country almost ungovernable for the military junta that cancelled the poll against the will of Nigerians. Not even the installment of the Interim National Government by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime could salvage the situation.
The sacking of the ING headed by Ernest Shonekan by Gen. Sani Abacha even worsened the situation. Under Abacha’s rule, Nigeria almost become a pariah state. Following the demise of Abacha and Abiola, the clamour for the actualization of June 12 intensified. It was in the midst of the political uncertainty that the power shift or power rotation arrangement between the North and South was reached. And to placate the South West region over the death of the arrowhead of the June 12 struggle, Chief Abiola and his truncated electoral victory, all the then political parties were asked to field presidential candidates from the region.
It was solely based on this arrangement that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became Nigeria’s president On May 29, 1999. He held power for eight years before power came back to the North in 2007 when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua emerged as the president. Unfortunately, he died before he could finish his first term and his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, took over from him to finish the remaining year of their first term. This turn of events did not go down well with some people in the North. Jonathan went ahead to contest for election in 2011 and won. But his attempt to have his second term bid in 2015 did not succeed. It did not succeed because the North insisted that power must shift to the zone. It did not work because other parts of the country other than the North aligned with it to clinch power.
Muhammadi Buhari emerged the president of the country in 2015 based on this power rotation agreement. He retained power in 2019 so that he can complete the eight-year power cycle. Therefore, it is expected that based on this power rotation principle, power should shift to the South, particularly the South East that has not produced the Nigerian president since 1999. I do think that the North will see the South East be denied of the presidential slot in 2023. I do not think that other regions will not allow the South East get it this time around. There is every need to ensure that the diversity of the country is respected, especially on the issue of power rotation between the North and the South.
To avoid the unnecessary comments that emanate from politicians from time to time over which side will get the presidency, there is urgent need to legalize the power rotation clause and put it in the constitution like that of the federal character clause. It is paradoxical to have the federal character clause in the constitution and yet jettison power rotation principle. On the issue of electing a Nigerian president based on competence, the polity must be restructured and the federal character clause removed from the constitution to give every zone equal representation in government. The qualification for certain political positions such as governor, president must, of necessity, be raised to the possession of HND or first degree certificate.
Until this is done, power rotation still remains the best political option between the North and the South. It is still the best way to manage our fragile unity. And it is the best way to manage our diversity. To jettison power rotation simply because some people feel they can do it alone will cause more problems for Nigerians and impede our socio-economic development. We should not shift the goal post in the middle of any political game simply because it will favour the geography of those advocating such a change.
Although, Daura is entitled to his views, I do not think that such views will advance our democracy at this point in time. Power remaining in a particular region of the country perpetually will never augur well for the nation’s socio-economic development and social cohesion. It will do the opposite. It will definitely lead to more agitations for separatism. Our leaders, especially the elderly ones, should refrain from comments that will overheat the polity and divide the country the more.
Beneficiaries of federal character and power rotation must not work against them. We have come a long way as a nation, from pre-colonial, colonial, independence, civil war and other experiences. Let all us resolve to work for things that will bind us together rather than things that will tear us apart. In our own peculiar case, power rotation principle must be coveted and embraced. I should not be demonized or jettisoned so soon.