by Senator Ihenyen
The battle between the North and the South-south over 2015 presidency has started. Many northern elders have been agitating for the return of power to the North in 2015. The grounds for this agitation are not unreasonable though. The northern leaders and elders strongly feel that they were short-changed when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who became President in 2007, could not complete his tenure before his death. The current President, Goodluck Jonathan, who was his deputy from the South-South, had to eventually step into the office of president after northern interests gave in to pressure largely from the Nigerian people.
The role of Prof. Dora Akunyili, who was the Minister of Information at the time, won’t be forgotten in a hurry. It was in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting she raised the issue, pointing out the need to allow the deputy be sworn-in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who had completed his eight years in office also made a remark to the effect that the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, due to his worsening health condition, should be honourable enough to resign and allow his deputy take charge. Jonathan did not only take charge and completed his late boss’ tenure as president but also contested and won the 2011 presidential election. The rest, they say, is history.
But as the presidential election draws closer, the north is determined to produce the next President. They have contended that President Jonathan has no business proceeding on second term in 2015 as power must revert to the north.
I remember that it was Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State who first claimed that there was a “gentleman agreement” with the North that Jonathan will not serve beyond a single tenure. This, according to him, was to ensure that in 2015, power returned to the north who were still entitled to another four-year term in office.
Interestingly, it is not the first time such “agreement” has been allegedly made between a benefiting Southern candidate and northern interests. The former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had also disclosed to Nigerians in the events that followed Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo’s re-election campaign for second term in 2003 that the South-western candidate from Otta was acting in breach of the agreement he had signed to return power to the north in 2003.
Obviously, the north now feels that since the South-west had occupied the presidency from May 29, 1999 and eventually served for eight years, the North under the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua was also entitled to eight years. The South-south, represented by President Jonathan, is therefore at best seen as an interruption of a conventional rotational system that must stop in 2015 to enable the north start from where they stopped. In the opinion of northern leaders and elders, it is only fair that power be returned to the region come 2015; anything short of that would be tantamount to injustice and they are prepared to resist it.
Although zoning is not constitutional but a political party arrangement which the ruling party, PDP, adopted to promote equity and fairness, it may have caught the fancy of the opposition as well. Of course, the election of Goodluck Jonathan as President in 2011 greatly defeated the zoning system of the PDP, a political development that did not go down well with northern interests. While majority of the Nigerian electorates saw it as a victory for true democracy, not a few northern leaders and elders strongly believed it was a violation of the zoning system that had been entrenched in the ruling party. Many northern leaders and elders are now simply saying, “enough is enough”.
With the wave of pressure from the north, it is not surprising therefore that even the opposition appears to have chosen to play safe as far as the agitation for a northern presidential candidate is concerned.
Thus, it is no longer news that the opposition mega alliance under the aegis of All Progressives Congress (APC) has decided to zone the presidential slot to the North ahead of the 2015 elections. Interestingly, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had fielded Nuhu Ribadu from the north as its candidate in the 2011 presidential elections in an attempt to win the minds of the northern voters.
Even a politically naïve observer of Nigerian politics would not have expected the north to give its blessings to Jonathan’s re-election. Apart from the controversial “gentleman agreement” Goodluck Jonathan allegedly had with the north, northern leaders have been of the view that the economic and social conditions of Nigerians particularly in the north have worsened under the Jonathan administration.
But should there be zoning in the first place? Should it be encouraged? A brief chat with a friend about zoning had brought up very crucial issues that we seem to neglect whenever we choose to go with zoning. Zoning appears to be the case as a matter of political convenience towards accommodating sectional and ethnic interests. What about good governance? What about merit? Are we not going to be eventually compromising opportunities for high performance in government for geo-ethno-political considerations.
Conceding that it helps to assuage certain agitations from various interests in our polity, but from experience, such compromises also largely end up bottling-up violent agitations and threats to national security.
How long shall we continue like this? Is it not a mere cosmetic make-up masking the ugliness of our political differences beneath. Is that not why an incapacitated President Umaru Musa Yar’adua with his political aides would rather leave the country in crisis than honourably resign and allow his deputy take charge, no matter which part of the country he came from? Is that not why a Buhari can wake up from the wrong side of his bed one morning and threaten violence if a South-South President is declared as winner of the presidential elections in 2011? Is that not why an Asari Dokubo can boast of holding the whole country to ransom if his Ijaw brother is not returned as president in 2015?
That must be why there are northern leaders and elders today who still see the fight against Boko Haram as an anti-northern campaign. That must be why our leaders compromise national interest and national security to save their greedy personal political ambitions and sectional interests. That must be why the PDP would rather engage in a policy of political intimidation of its state governors rather than promote internal democratic values that strengthen democratic institutions to discipline Wammako and Amaechi over “anti-party” activities. That has to be why rather than championing a national discourse on good governance, sustainable development, a corruption-free political system, transformational leadership and infrastructural development, we are here engaged in a game of political wit on how to eat the “national cake” and take the rest to our ethnic base.
For all I care, it could be Aminu Tambuwal, Sule Lamido, Nuhu Ribadu, Raji Fashola (SAN), Rochas Okorocha, Pat Utomi or even Rotimi Amaechi! What should be our topmost priority is getting the right candidate for the office of the President. Perhaps, the qualifications stated on KickOut Siddon Look’s website would be instructive here: “…ahead of the 2015 general elections – to make a choice between having the choice(s) of selfish individuals imposed on them and ratified by a few of us in sham elections AND support for a candidate who has a history of standing on the side of the masses, has a proven track record of achievement and, also importantly, scores high on the 3 Es and I (namely Education, Exposure, Experience and Integrity).