Since the advent of democracy in 1999, it has been an acceptable political tradition. Though it is not expressly written in our Constitution, it has become a convention, just like the unwritten British Constitution
By John Araka
It is disturbing that some top politicians, for obvious selfish reasons, are trying to jettison the much- desired rotation of the Presidency between the north and the south.
Since the advent of democracy in 1999, it has been an acceptable political tradition. Though it is not expressly written in our Constitution, it has become a convention, just like the unwritten British Constitution.
• Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
• Former President Goodluck Jonathan
• Chief E. K. Clark
The nearest constitutional provision is the federal character clause. It was meant to give all parts of our highly diverse country, a sense of belonging.
It was the same rationale that informed the decision to zone the Presidency to the southwest in 1999. In 1993, Chief M.K.O Abiola won the presidential election very convincingly. He was unjustly denied the trophy. This infuriated most Nigerians, particularly the Yoruba, his ethnic group. In order to assuage their anger, two of their kinsmen, General Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falaye, were deliberately given the tickets of the major political parties. The former won.
At the expiration of his tenure, it rotated to the north. Musa Yar’adua became the president. He died after two years.
The Presidency then moved back to the south. Goodluck Jonathan, who was his Vice, became president with the adoption of the now popular “Doctrine of Necessity”. After completing the tenure of his boss, he contested and won the presidential election in 2011. At the end of his tour of duty, the position again went back to the north. And the current incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, took over.
This beautiful narrative is what the two major political parties, APC and PDP, are trying to change in 2023. The problem actually emanated from the latter, the main opposition party. It set up a committee, headed by the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, to work out its zoning formula. After allocating all the key offices, it dubiously left out that of the president. In fact, when it zoned the Chairmanship to the north, it was generally believed that the Presidency would automatically come to the south. But that was not to be. Rather it was thrown open. This was in compliance with the position canvassed by the Northern Elders Forum, NEF.
Most people believed that the warped decision was engineered by those who were bent on satisfying the obsessive yearning of the former Vice President, Abubabar Atiku for the presidential slot. He has contested as a candidate in every presidential election since 2007. He is being seen as the aspirant who may eventually win the PDP 2023 presidential primaries.
What the party is doing is a deliberate ploy to turn the presidential election to a straight fight between the north and south. This is so because, the ruling party APC, has initially zoned its presidential slot to the south.
The PDP is, therefore, banking on the usually primordial voting pattern to snatch power from the ruling party. Its calculation is that the Northwest and the Northeast, which have the largest voters, may be inclined to elect one of their own than a southerner.
APC fully understands the game that its opponent is playing. In order to checkmate it, APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu said a few days ago that his party has not decided on where its presidential candidate would come from. Call it tit for tat, if you like.
It is true that the pronouncement of the Chairman contradicts the well known position of his party. Its prominent stalwart , the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasri El Rufai, has categorically stated that all the party positions in the north would move to the south and vice versa. To be fair to the APC, they kept their promise. All their presidential aspirants were from the south. All that is about to change because of the dishonorable and divisive role that PDP is playing.
It is pertinent to sound a note of warning that retaining the Presidency in the north will have catastrophic consequences for this country. The leader of Afenifere, the umbrella sociocultural group of the Yoruba, Pa Ayo Adebajo, said that the return of the Presidency to the north in 2023 may lead to the disintegration of the country. A similar view was also expressed by Chief E.K Clark, who is the leader of the Pan- Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF. He said: “it will be calamitous if the major political parties should zone their presidential tickets to the north”. He added that “Nigerians would be mobilised to protest against plans by the north to perpetuate itself in office after the incumbent, President Buhari”. The Ohanaeze and Middle Belt Forum, the sociocultural and political umbrella groups of the Igbos and Middle Belt respectively, have also seriously opposed the position of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, that the race for the 2023 presidency should be thrown open for the north to participate.
Interestingly, the four zones – the Southwest, Southeast, South-South and North Central – have vowed to work against any party that fields a northern presidential candidate.
The unity of Nigeria has never been so threatened as it is now. That is the more reason the politicians must be careful in taking decisions that would further weaken our bonds of unity. There have been strident complaints over the years in the South and the Middle Belt about the Hausa/Fulani domination of the country. It has even degenerated to an abysmal level that Nnamdi Kanu, an Igbo activist, and Sunday Igboho, a Yoruba irredentist, have, respectively, been spearheading the agitation for the secession of their ethnic groups from Nigeria. That the fate of Nigeria, as a united entity, is hanging precariously on the balance, should be of serious concern to us all.
We should not forget that the National Intelligence Council of the United States predicted on March 5, 2005, that Nigeria would breakup in 2015. President Obasanjo took it very seriously. He therefore, sent the document to the Senate to study and to serve as a guide in its operations.
Although John Campbell, a former US ambassador to Nigeria, who was a part of the prediction later exonerated his country, we should only thank God for our resilience.
That Nigeria survived 2015 is not enough reason to totally discountenance the factors threatening our unity.
Only recently, another release by the United States Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard Kennedy School painted a very gloomy picture of Nigeria. It said that Nigeria is now a failed state. The organisation said that their conclusion was not based on emotion, but on “a body of political theories developed at the turn of the century and elaborated upon, case by case, ever since”.
In the paper signed by its Senior Research Fellow and former Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell and Robert Rotberg, a founding Director of the Harvard Kennedy School and President Emeritus of Word Peace Foundation, it was stated that “Nigeria has long teetered on the precipice of failure. But now, it is unable to keep its citizens safe and secure. Nigeria has become a fully failed state of critical geographical concern”.
These are very wrong signals that all discernable and patriotic Nigerians should be worried about. It is very disheartening that most Nigerian politicians are only interested in what they can loot from our common patrimony.
They are not bothered about the survival of the country as a united entity.
The 2023 presidential election will serve as the litmus test. The rotation of the office of the president between the north and the south must be held sacrosanct. It should not be unduly politicised. If we do, we will unwittingly give credence to the doomsday predictions of the breaking up of Nigeria.