By Chiedu Uche Okoye
Democracy, which originated in ancient Greece, was defined as the government of the people by the people and for the people by Abraham Lincoln, a former president of America.
But the caucasoid imperialists, who overran Africa and carved it up into many countries for colonial rule brought democracy to the peoples of Africa. It was not that the peoples of Africa had no systems of government before the white people came to Africa. Hadn’t the kingdoms of Benin, Oyo, Bornu, Ashanti , and others existed before the coming of the white people to Africa?
But the white colonialists replaced our pre-colonial governments with democracy because they thought our pre-colonial systems of government to be primitive, crude, and unrepresentative of the people. Now, all over the world, democracy, as a system of government, is the in-thing. Most countries of the world practice either American model of presidential system of government or the parliamentary system of government, which has characterized the Great Britain. Since Nigeria’s attainment of political sovereignty in 1960, she has been practising representative government save the period when the military held sway in the geographical space called Nigeria.
After we had experienced political lull for a long while in Nigeria owing to the military interventions in our politics, democratic governance birthed in Nigeria again in 1999 with the political kingmakers ceding the presidential seat to the Southwest.
Although rotational presidency is not included in our constitution, it has been used to restore peace and unity as well as political stability to Nigeria. It was used to appease the Yoruba people, who were indignant, because the 1993 presidential election, which was supposedly won by Chief MKO Abiola, was annulled.
Since the dawn of the Fourth Republic, the presidential post has been swinging between the South and the North with some geopolitical zones producing the president of Nigeria at different periods. Although it is not inserted in our country’s constitution, it is a democratic measure, if sustained, that will guarantee us peace and unity in Nigeria and accelerate our national development. But zoning of political offices to regions in the country is among the laws and norms, which is operational in Nigeria’s two leading political parties namely, PDP and APC.
But as Nigeria is a peculiarly unique country, where top politicians are ethnic chauvinists and religious bigots, who are swayed by ethnic and religious sentiments and prejudice, the political big cheese will always champion the use of rotational presidency for electing the president of Nigeria when it will benefit them; however, they will vociferously call for its abandonment when they are disadvantaged by it in their pursuit of political power at the centre.
So tweaking the constitution of Nigeria to include the principle of rotational presidency in it will serve our collective interests as Nigerians and engender peace and progress in our dear country. But then, some countries of the world, which have political stability are governed by unwritten constitutions. They are governed by judicial precedents, case laws, conventions, and others. In this regard, the Great Britain readily comes to mind; yet, the peoples of Great Britain have not taken up arms to fight one another. They are not living acrimoniously with one another, either.
However, today, it is saddening to note that the people(s) of Nigeria, who hail from diverse ethnic groups have acrimonious relationships with one another. Regarding politics and politicking, do the Yoruba people repose trust in the Hausa/Fulani people? And the Hausa/Fulani people’s distrust of the Igbo people is legendary. They have disdain and contempt for the Igbo people, and feel that if a person of Igbo stock becomes the president of Nigeria, he or she will use the massive presidential power at his or her disposal to bring about the dismemberment of Nigeria.
But that theory or conjecture is misplaced. It has no basis in either reality or truth. Their prognostication that Nigeria will split up into many nations if an Igbo man becomes the president of Nigeria is not supported by evidential facts. Chief Emeka Ojukwu’s separatist misadventure in 1967 was sparked off by circumstances and events that compelled the Igbo people to acquiesced in Lt. Col Ojukwu’s secessionist war for the creation of the state of Biafra.
However, now, the story is different. The gregarious nature of the Igbo people is the reason they have dispersed to every nook and cranny of Nigeria where they eke out their livelihoods through honest labour. Their marrying people who belong to ethnic groups other than the Igbo ethnic group is a proof that they believe in one united and indissoluble Nigeria.
And since the colonial era when such freedom fighters of Igbo extraction as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nwafor Orizu, Osita Agwuna, and others fought valiantly for the political emancipation of Nigeria, Igbo people have been contributing their quota for the development of Nigeria.
But it is incredible that the Igbo people are not requited for their efforts to remake Nigeria and take her to the acme of economic and technological development.
They are marginalized in our country’s scheme of things. President Buhari shunted the Igbo people out of the top positions in our country’s security architecture.
And the Southeast, which is the ancestral homeland of the Igbo people, trail behind other geopolitical zones in Nigeria in the area of infrastructural development. Are most of Nigeria’s military establishments not located in Kaduna, which is in the North? More so, Nigeria has a discriminatory and unfair admission policy for pupils, who want to enter our unity schools. The policy favours the North at the expense of the South.
So against the background of the injustices, which are being meted out to the Igbo people, and the political inequities they have been experiencing, the IPOB’s agitation for the creation of the sovereign state of Biafra is understandable, and not misplaced. But IPOB’s methodology of fighting for the political emancipation of the Southeast is not acceptable to all Nigerians. The attainment of political sovereignty by IPOB is not worth the spilled blood of any Nigerian, however.
But the bloody rumblings in the Southeast and the violent enforcement of the sit-at-home order on every Monday will cease if the two leading political parties in Nigeria, PDP and APC, cede the presidential post to the Southeast. The emergence of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023 will assuage the hurt feelings of the Igbo people and convince them that they are truly wanted in Nigeria.
Based on Nigeria’s political history, political equity as well as fairness demands that the Igbo people should produce Nigeria’s next president. Of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria namely, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, only the Igbo ethnic group has not produced the president of Nigeria since the inception of this political dispensation. Until now, our adherence to the principle of rotational presidency has made it possible for the presidential power to oscillate between the North and the South, which has saved Nigeria from descending into an anarchic and dystopian situation.
Though rotational presidency is not inserted in our constitution, it has become a desideratum in that our abiding by it will continue to allay the fears of members of the minority ethnic groups, who feel that they are being dominated by the ethnic groups that have large populations. Without using the principle of rotational presidency to produce the political parties’ presidential standard bearers, some geopolitical zones in the country cannot produce the president of Nigeria as they lack the demographic and numerical strength to do that. We all know that the factors of ethnicity and religion play a chief role in determining the occupants of top political posts in the country.
But I suggest that we tweak and revise our constitution to ensure the inclusion of the principle of rotational presidency in it. Doing that is in tandem with fashioning out a variant of democratic culture that will solve our problems of ethnic disharmony and religious differences.
In conclusion, we should know that the greatness of Nigeria lies in her ethnic and religious diversities, and her possession of humungous population, large arable land mass, many waters (rivers, seas, ponds, lakes), and equable weather conditions.
*Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State