With just a year and some months to the 2023 election season, Nigerian politicians are already overheating the polity with their reckless and sometimes provocative and inflammable rhetoric. Although there is a zoning or power shift arrangement between the North and South which commenced in 1999 with the election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria, it lacks constitutional power or legal force. Since 1999 till date, presidential power has rotated between the North and South. The power shift plan was the internal arrangement of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But over time, other parties have toed the same path in selecting their flag bearers. Some states also embraced the practice which has ensured some level of stability in the polity. The beneficiaries of the power sharing arrangement include, Obasanjo, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, whose tenure will end on May 2023. It must be recalled that Buhari became president in 2015 because of the power shift principle. However, recent events in the country are showing that some people from the North are working to go against the power rotation plan. They have argued that it is unconstitutional.
Some have even boasted that with their population, real and imagined, they can take the presidency again and nothing will happen. For instance, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) was quoted to have recently vowed that the zone will not play second fiddle in Nigeria come 2023. It said that the North has the population to contest the presidency and win. The spokesman of the NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, had at an event at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, stated that heaven would not fall if a northerner emerged President in 2023. Since that statement has not been refuted by Baba-Ahmed, it will be taken that he did not see anything wrong with a northerner succeeding Buhari after eight long years of insecurity, poverty, unemployment and great deprivation.
While Baba-Ahmed is entitled to his opinion, it must be stated that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. And those who are in the know should not deliberately stoke fire for no just reason. Power is good and those who aspire to have power should not throw away the accepted procedures even when such rules are not backed by law. Seeking power for its sake is never enough, what is more important and relevant in our own case is the use of that power to ensure the general good of the greater number of people and never the good of the people of one’s tribe or ethnic group. It is also good that some groups and notable Nigerians have lampooned Baba-Ahmed for such a reckless and incendiary statement on 2023.
The Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SaMBA),Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and others have vehemently kicked against the NEF’s stand on 2023. The spokesman of SaMBA, Prince Rwang Pam Jnr.,described the NEF’s statement as ‘reckless and careless.’ The group also faulted the concept of ‘one north,’ which to many people in the region, no longer exists. In the same vein, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonna, said that ‘those with such views were definitely in the minority.’ His position is that based on justice, equity and fairness, ‘power must rotate to the South East in 2023.’ The National President of MBF, Pogu Bitrus, argued that ‘power shift is determined by political parties and not northern elders.’ According to Bitrus, ‘It is not for northern elders to determine what happens in PDP, APC or any political party for that matter. It is what the parties want to do that will carry the day. So, they are just making a political statement that is neither here nor there.’ There are other views on zoning which show that it is one issue that Nigerian politicians can hardly agree because of selfish and clannish interests.
The dilemma of power shift is that the matter is being overtly politicized because it suits politicians to politicize any issue under the sun and not so much because such views have merit. If our politicians practice politics with a sense of duty and responsibility, the issue of which part of the country the president will emerge cannot be contentious since it has become a settled matter since 1999.
I have argued on this column that come 2023, it is the South East that will produce the president of the country based on equity and justice. But some people will not like to hear that because the South East is involved. More so, the South East politicians are not united and can never be united on this score. If some South East governors cannot physically attend a meeting of Southern Governors in Enugu, how can they work together? Is it every meeting they will send their deputies? It is sad that some of the South East politicians will rather work with the ‘enemies’ of the region to deny the zone of its share in our nascent democratic dispensation. The 2023 election cycle is both far and near. Let South East politicians start making moves to show enough seriousness for the presidency. It is not yet late. They cannot achieve it without being united. It does not matter their party affiliations, let them strive to get the major parties zone the presidency to the region the way it was given to the South West in 1999 following the death of the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Chief MKO Abiola. Those who are trying to cause confusion over 2023 zoning must desist from such unpatriotic act. Nigeria can only exist if our diversity is respected in the choice of the presidency and sharing of political offices. Power rotation or power shift is a democratic process. There is nothing undemocratic about it. Democracy is not only about the so-called majority, whether false or real, democracy is about others, the minorities, and the marginalized and politically excluded people.
It is sad that 51 years after the Nigerian civil war, no Igbo person is considered good enough to be the president of the country. It is odious that those who control Nigeria since the war and after have placed a glass ceiling on Igbo political aspiration. Is that the way to unite a people? In our 61 years of nationhood, let us play politics of inclusion and not exclusion. Those who want the North to still retain the presidency after Buhari do not wish the country well. They want the country to disintegrate so fast. It is worth reminding such fellows that Nigeria’s salvation does not lie in power remaining in one region even for eternity as some people would like it to happen.
I sincerely believe that Nigeria’s liberation lies so much in power shift or power rotation among the zones than in one group acting as an imperial master over the others. It will be quite incestuous and immoral for power to remain in the North after eight long years of Buhari’s inept and uneventful administration.