Controversy is raging over the issue of power shift to the South at the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
There are frills, thrills and hard talks, especially considering that zoning is alien to the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
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The polity is twitching sequel to 17 Southern governors’ demand at their meeting last Monday in Lagos, that the South should be allowed to take a shot at the presidency in 2023.
Tongues are wagging over the issue as many political bigwigs from the North see it as a way of shutting them out of the presidential race.
Pundits have argued that zoning can only be guaranteed by political parties which field candidates for various political offices.
While the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has recognised and enshrined in its constitution that there shall be power rotation between the North and the South, the Constitution of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has no such provision.
But some political bigwigs in the APC have argued that there was an unwritten pact among the key political actors that the South would take the presidential ticket of the party at the expiration of Buhari’s tenure.
In the PDP, stakeholders have argued that the North would take the ticket.
A former Vice President of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA), Professor Kamilu Sani Fage, said such call for rotation by the Southern governors is unconstitutional.
He explained that power rotation is not part of the Nigeria’s constitution but only part of the constitution of the PDP.
“Secondly, this will not necessarily be democratic because democracy is about numbers, about people’s will. So, whether it is from South or North, the whole idea should be who the people want,” he said.
He cautioned that the position of the Southern governors should not be taken to the level it will create disharmony.
A former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmad Sani Yarima, told newsmen a few days ago in Abuja, that the North has the constitutional right to contest presidency in 2023.
Yarima argued that it was wrong for anyone to agitate for power shift to his or her region.
A chieftain of the APC, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, who spoke with Daily Trust in a telephone interview reently, said the 17 Southern governors’ demand is not realisable in 2023.
“It is laughable. It is the biggest joke of the millennium. They are just being deceptive to themselves. It is laughable because they can’t achieve this in 2023.
“Even if two big political parties zone their tickets to the South, these people will not meet up. Ethnic sentiments will set in and scatter everything.”
“We don’t have a single South. We have South-West, South-South and South-East. And from each of these geo-political zones, I know some persons that are bent on taking presidency at all cost.
“Similarly, in the APC, there are many political blocks, which will not agree to submit themselves to anybody. We equally have that in the PDP.”
“So, the unity you are seeing among the Southern governors now is an emergency unity which has no roots. They are just deceiving themselves. It is unity without roots and it will collapse with any little breath.”
“If YPP brings a candidate from the North, the APC and the PDP fields their candidates from the South, the YPP candidate will have it because the Northern voters will not vote based on the political party, but they will vote based on ethnicity and religion,” he said.
But an elder statesman and former presidential candidate, Chief Chekwas Okorie, told Daily Trust Saturday that the move by the governors promises a very interesting political and democratic encounter going forward.
“It is unprecedented really to take a common stand on an issue that is usually within the domain of political parties. It simply shows that the value attached to presidency is more important to them than the value attached to individual parties.
“In this circumstance, the immediate take away is that there will be more commitment on where the president comes from than what the party actually decides to do.”
“But the burden is more on the APC where President Muhammadu Buhari will be completing by the grace of God, his eight years in office.
“It will be a little more burden for the APC to under any guise throw up a presidential candidate from the North,” he said.
He said lobby is an important part of politics and should be used by Southern politicians in order to get the support of Northern politicians.
A lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano, Dr. Aminu Hayatu, however, said politics is about negotiation as much as it is about interest.
“In a democratic structure where everyone is allowed to vote and be voted for and all political parties have the same level ground for politicking, there cannot be calls for shifting (rotation) of position between regions or states. It should be on the basis of bargaining and negotiation between and among political parties.
He said leaders of regions should not resort to violence or threats of violence to attract sympathy or strategise to be given the opportunity for electoral positions.
He said zoning can only be a political party arrangement, adding that the constitution provides that all citizens who are qualified have the right to contest for electoral positions.
“So instead of regions to engage in this war of words and threat of violence, it is better they bring these issues to the table for discussion and they can negotiate and possibly get what they want,” he said.
Efforts to get comments from Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Simon Boko Lalong, were unsuccessful.
However, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Adamu Maina Waziri, who is also a former Police Affairs Minister, told one of our reporters that the North should produce the next president in 2023.
He argued that from 1999 to 2015, the PDP produced three presidents; two from the South and one from the North, adding that the South spent 14 years while the North spent only two years.
Recall that President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South spent eight years and left power on completion of his second tenure in 2007. Another general election was held and President Umaru Musa Yar’adua emerged. Unfortunately, he died in 2010, while the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan took over.
Jonathan later contested in 2011, and was voted for another 4 years, but lost in 2015, to Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the APC.
Waziri said, “Therefore, within the context of my political affiliation and identity, which is the PDP, the presidency in 2023 should start from the Northern part of the country.
“Zoning is never in the constitution of Nigeria, because those who drafted the constitution have found out that if you entrench zoning, it is going to strangulate the political development and political coalition of the country.”
“Therefore, they left it at the discretion of party and politicians to put up the coalition and the structure and the resources to support a candidate that can win an election.”
“So, the Southern governors’ resolution can be taken as a freedom of expression that has no compelling power on the political parties.”
‘How we can redeem the situation’
The security experts submitted that Nigeria had solutions to present attacks on military personnel, either by terrorists or other criminals.
According to them, their involvement in maintaining the internal security of the country should be reduced and restricted to the security of territorial integrity.
They stressed that other security agencies like the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) should be well funded to maintain internal security in the country.
Ume further said, “We can address these killings from two perspectives – short term and long term. In the long term, we need to begin to engage locally.
“For example, we need to enhance the productive level of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) and related agencies of the government to produce these things locally. That is the long term. We need to begin to look inward in order to produce some of the basic hard wares.
“In the short term, we need to increase our international relations. We need to increase our level of play at the world system levels so that some of these things can be given to us as we need them. We need to move away from arm-chair diplomacy.”
On his part, Adamu also urged military authorities to look at those highlighted reasons the soldiers are being killed critically and proffer immediate solutions.
Give Special incentives to troops, deceased’ families
On whether the government should go beyond what is in the condition of service for the families of slain personnel, the two experts submitted that it should first implement what the provisions stated properly so as to encourage other personnel on the field.
Another security expert, Salihu Bakhari, urged the federal government to build houses to families of soldiers killed in the line of duty.
“Their families should live a dignified life after the death of their loved ones. It is very common to see wives and children of fallen heroes going back to the village because they have nothing in the cities to support them after they leave the barracks unceremoniously.
“Government should also as a matter of policy give their children automatic scholarship because this is a common intervention in other climes,” he said.
Daily Trust reports that the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, said on Thursday that old tools and military might alone cannot defeat asymmetric warfare like banditry, kidnapping and the Boko Haram insurgency.
Speaking at the Regimental Dinner organised in honour of the graduating students of Senior Course 43 of Armed Forces Command and Staff College, the CDS said the military had resolved to acquire new platforms and capability to address the nation’s security challenges.
In March this year, the Presidency through Malam Garba Shehu announced that 6 of the 12 super Tucano fighter aircraft earlier ordered by the federal government are set to arrive in the country by mid-July 2021, with the remaining 6 to come in shortly after.
This followed the November 2018 award of a $329 million Foreign Military Sales contract to SNC through the US government to build 12 A-29s for the Nigerian Air Force.
We need weapons – Troops
Officers of the Nigerian Army who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity said they were always ready to be in the battlefront.
They urged military authorities to fast-track the provision of good, super and new weapons, including drones and the Super Tucano.
One of the officers said, “Nigerian soldiers are gallant. We are not afraid of war, and Insha Allah, we shall win this insurgency and other wars we are currently facing.
“We are only appealing to our superiors to always meet our demands. We need weapons that are superior to the ones those criminals are holding.
“We are well trained while they (terrorists) are not trained. I don’t see why we can’t defeat them within the shortest possible time.
“But I think the only things we are lacking are just two: weapons and motivation. If these two things are provided, insurgency will become a thing of the past.
Another soldier the struggle by many youths to join the army is an indication that they have the love of Nigeria at heart.
“Our leaders should reciprocate by making the job more attractive,” he said.
Saawua Terzungwe, Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Abuja), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano), Ado Abubakar Musa (Jos)