By Donald Ugwu
For a long time now the polity has been awash with the annual rehash of agitations for political inclusion of the country’s geo-political divides on whose turn it is to produce the country’s president in 2023.
In the past days, prominent politicians have been declaring their intentions to run for their party’s tickets for the exulted Presidency of Nigeria.
- 132 Nigerians die of Lassa fever within 4 months
- NIGERIA DAILY: “Tremor” In Tinubu’s Camp As Osinbajo Runs For Presidency
Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President under Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years administration and the 2019 presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently formally declared his intention to be the party’s presidential candidate.
Barely three days after his declaration, precisely, March 24, his running mate in the 2019 polls and former Anambra governor, Peter Obi, also indicated interest to seek the party’s nod for the presidential ticket.
On Jan. 24, no fewer than 1,000 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) besieged the secretariats of the two domineering political parties, the APC and the PDP demanding that the nation’s next president should be a southerner.
Protesting under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Society Groups (CCSG) its president Bassey Williams demanded that both parties should nominate southern candidates as their flag bearers in the 2023 presidential elections.
A political school of thought argues that the ceding of the slots would engender national peace and integration and save the country from instability. They also posited that the idea would engender fairness.
Some of the placards the group displayed read: “please respect power rotation; power rotation is not negotiable”; “we support a united Nigeria, one nation great people”, “southern president now; and southern president for national unity”.
The question of who occupies the presidency hits an all time high whenever a major national election is around the corner. Curiously, the 1999 Constitution, now in use, did not in any way mention power rotation in any of its provisions.
The constitution, giving credence to the choice of democracy as the preferred system of government, would pinion itself if it jettisons the very tenets of democracy, which is equal opportunities, to take in rotation as an issue.
The constitution says that to lead Nigeria one only needs to be a citizen, attain 35 years of age, obtain a minimum of secondary school certificate or its equivalent and belong to a political party and such party must sponsor him or her. However, Nigerians knowing full well the need for accommodation, devised an unofficial, but nifty, way of making electoral offices move round by introducing the rotation principle.
The late second republic Vice-President Dr Alex Ekwueme, while leading the design for a national political movement called G34, which metamorphosed into the PDP created what is today known as the six geo-political zones.
Ekwueme had postulated then the nation was carved into two predominant North and South, with each having three distinct zones of North East, North West and North Central on the one hand and South East, South West and South-South on the other.
Ekwueme’s idea, accepted by his team, was that power should rotate between the North and South each time there was transition and that on each occasion the part that has not produced one should have a slot when it returns to its primary zone.
PDP demonstrated leadership of the new arrangement after the late Umaru Ya’Adua from the north emerged President after President Olusegun Obasanjo of South had completed his two tenures of four years each. By design rather than default, for each administration, the Vice-Presidential slot went to the other zone.
After Yar’Aduah’s death, his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, mounted the saddle to complete his four years after which he did another one term for the South South zone. Although Jonathan ran for a second term, he lost, incidentally, to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner.
If the rotation principle is maintained, experts say the next Nigerian president who will emerge in 2023 at the end of Buhari’s eight years rule should come from the South.
But there are fears that for personal and ethno-centric gains, some politicians are scheming to truncate the rotation policy in order to promote their political and somewhat ethno-centric interests even as many aspirants have shown up to grab the presidential tickets of their various parties.
Some other candidates even have their posters dotted in major Nigerian cities unchallenged by them, thus creating the impression that they might have interest. In the PDP the aspiration of Atiku Abubakar is being orchestrated by his loyalists ahead of his formal declaration.
There are speculations that Atiku’s candidacy may not sell while his loyalists will thereafter back his running mate in the 2019 race, former Gov. Obi for the ticket. At an event for his declaration in Enugu in the first week of January some PDP leaders agreed to support Anyim for his party’s ticket.
A 10-point resolution issued at the end of the meeting appealed to the PDP “in the interest of equity, justice and harmonious national cohesion to zone the presidential ticket to the Southern zones of the country and the South East in particular.
Such is the case with consultative meetings midwifed recently by former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto governor. Aminu Tambuwal and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed. It is their contention that the 2023 presidency should be zoned to the North.
In spite of the permutations, observers say the crux of the matter remains “where does the pendulum swing that will appease the yearnings of no fewer than 200 million citizens“?
Some protagonists of rotation often mention the use of `quota system’, `disadvantaged area’ and sundry legislations supporting balancing in Federal Government employments and appointments. Antagonists argue that the zoning arrangement does not reflect a true spirit of give and take, insisting that every political office must be fought for through the ballot box.
Nigerians in 1993 looked at the pedigree of the then presidential candidacy of Bashorun MKO Abiola when they voted massively for him and his fellow Muslim running mate Amb. Babagana Kingibe.
For some electorate, a 2023 presidential poll should be a contest between candidates from the South East, irrespective of the parties they come from. For others the best candidate, irrespective of region, should be allowed.
With such posturing many stakeholders argue that Nigeria still has a long way to go in eliminating ethnicity, nepotism from its polity.