James Freeman Clarke was certainly thinking of Nigeria when he made this statement – “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman, for that of his country. The statesman wishes to steer, while the politician is satisfied to drift”. The Nigerian nation is adrift and this calls for the intervention of statesmen if they are still to be found in the country. This is the time for patriots to stand to be counted.
It is in this perspective that one could understand the intervention by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), at their meeting held in Abuja on 30th May, 2021. Their Meeting exhaustively discussed various issues about the State of Affairs in the country, particularly insecurity, National Dialogue, Restructuring, and the preparations for the 2023 General Elections. However, of greatest importance is their position on Rotation of Presidential Power to South Nigeria in 2023 and the urgent need for the Federal Government to heed the national outcry for restructuring to bring back equitable harmony to the Country.
There is certainly a nexus between the nation’s escalating insecurity and social injustice. Non-state actors have grown so bold and rendering more and more spaces ungovernable. The skewed nature of the Nigerian federation and the leadership deficit to address it is the foundation of the nation’s problems. This is self-evident. One side of the country, through the inequitable manner that states and local government creations have been carried, is now positioned to produce the nation’s President in perpetuity. This has made Rotation/Zoning of Presidential Power the only way to rebalance the country before the general election or universal adult suffrage can make sense in Nigeria. Those who argue otherwise do not wish Nigeria well.
It was the realization of this inequitable configuration of the country that led the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to write Zoning within Rotation into the party’s Constitution in 2009. Hence Article 7(2c) of the PDP constitution states: ‘In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.’
It will therefore be quite unjustifiable and insensitive for the North to retain power in 2023 and all patriots and men and women of goodwill in all parts of the country need to ensure that Rotation/Zoning of Presidential Power in 2023 by electing a President from the Southern part of Nigeria.
With the 2023 Presidential Election looming large in the horizon, the quest for rotation of presidential power is predictably receiving a renewed impetus. Like the Southern and Middle Belt Forum has rightly observed, the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, rests in fair and even sharing of power. What this foreshadows is that since the Northern part of the country would have fully enjoyed the office of the President for the full statutory period of 8 years by 2023, presidential power ought to be yielded to the South for the sake of unity and equity.
History beckons on the Southern and Middle Belt politicians in the two leading political parties – APC and PDP – and indeed other political parties to zone their Presidential tickets to the South in 2023. Since the PDP has already written Rotation/Zoning into their own Constitution, it remains to urge the once ruling Party to obey their own rule and for the APC to be as patriotic by zoning their Presidential ticket to the South as well. This moment in the nation’s life demands the eternal prayer by Josiah Gilbert Holland: “GOD, give us men! A time like this demands; Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands…” Nigeria now needs more men like Chief E. K. Clark(leader of South South), Chief Ayo Adebanjo (leader of Afenifere/South West), Amb. Prof George Obiozor(leader of Ohanaeze/Ndigbo), Dr. Pogu Bitrus (leader of Middle Belt) and the likes. Rebirth of a united Nigeria is still possible with such men remaining the statesmen they are and speaking truth to power.
The problem however remains with the political class of the 4 zones who have remained too selfish and without any sense of collective interest. Most of them are prepared to trade off the collective interest of their people to advance and protect their political dynasties. This has been the bane of South Nigerian politics and has led to the failure of their past attempts to form political alliances, especially in the days of Zik and Awo.
Now that the Southern and the Middle Belt have declared their support for Nigerian President of Southern extraction, the rest is now left for the political class. Typical of Nigerian politicians without scruples, there are surreptitious moves to lure Southern political leaders to accept their Parties’ positions of National Chairman and Vice President, especially in the main political parties. Those tempted by such Greek gifts need to be reminded that accepting would foreclose the South producing Nigeria’s President in 2023 and therefore a fact of betrayal that would undermine the collective quest. History will not be kind to such persons and posterity will certainly judge them harshly.
It has been rumored also that the presidential materials from the South are positioning themselves for the office of the Vice President or even for party chairman. In other words, if the resolve of the Southern and Middle Belt leaders will succeed or fail, it is in the hands of their political class.
Going by the Nigerian Constitution, 4 zones (or 24 States) can produce the President. What this means is that the South and Middle Belt can produce the nation’s President and restructure the country by amending the 1999 Constitution if they work conscientiously together, but the question is: can they? Will they be able to surmount the usual subterfuges and divide and rule this time around? Can Southern politicians for once put the interest of South Nigeria above their selfish and sometimes inordinate ambitions? Time shall tell if the present attempt will be different and not fizzle out like previous ones.
Dr. Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, writes from Abuja. Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: [email protected]; follow me on tweeter:@LawMefor1.