Early this year, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, threw a political bombshell that vibrated throughout Nigeria. He said that Competence must henceforth by the yardstick for picking the President for the country. He urged, without pretension, that the power rotation arrangement between the North and the South should be abandoned for his new cheery idea that made many suspect that the North is out with an agenda to remain in power after the second term of President Mohammadu Buhari. Ironically, the incumbent President is a beneficiary of the power rotation agreement.
Neither power rotation nor competence is a factor written in the 1999 constitution as a criterium for picking the President. To the stakeholders, power rotation is a measure to foster a sense of belonging among Nigerian ethnic groups that spread across the 6 geo-political zones in the country.
The unwritten agreement is also to prevent the monopoly of power by any ethnic group or region in the country. The arrangement has a potential force to lower tension that could be spurred by grumbling and grievances over the share of office and the attendant benefits.
A poly-ethnic grouped country like Nigeria could ill-afford the monopoly of power by any group if the promotion of equity, fairness to foster a sense of belonging among all groups in the nation for peaceful co-existence is the objective.
That President Mohammed Buhari is the incumbent is a dividend of the undocumented rotational agreement. The present Republic took off came in 1999 when people voted Chief Olusegun Obasanjo a Southern, President to compensate the South-West for the annulment of June 12, 1993, presidential election won by the late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola.
In 2007, after Obasanjo’s two terms, a Northerner, the late President, Musa Yar’Adua came, but died in office, 2009 and state of necessity compelled the installation of the Vice President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, as president. The development upstaged the apple cart of the unwritten succession agreement. Dr Jonathan faced tough opposition from the North when he indicated an intention to contest the presidency in 2011 after running out the first term of his late boss, Yar’Adua. The North was loud in its protestation that Jonathan had used part of Northern tenure and should not be allowed to go for another term. Observers asserted that Jonathan used incumbency power to suppress opposition and had its way.
That, perhaps, was why ab-initio, the North insisted that it must be allowed to rule the country for 8-years even before Buhari completed his first term. Though the power rotation agreement is never written in the constitution, but major political parties that want to be seen as fair and promoters of equity and equality among Nigerians either put it in their party constitutions or firmly embrace it in their power-sharing scheme to promote Nigerianess of their parties.
Mostly, the parties that subscribed to the vision usually pick the National Chairman of their party from a particular geo-political zone of the country, while the presidential candidate is picked from another. In the recent general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) picked its presidential candidate, Buhari, who won the election, from the North, while Comrade Adams Oshiomhole from the South-South is the party National Chairman. To give room for the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the Presidential candidate, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) picked its National Chairman, from the South.
The practice, it should be stressed, did not start now. Recall that in the second republic, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that won the presidential election in 1979, introduced the zoning of political offices to foster unity among all the ethnic groups in the country. The late Chief Adisa Akinloye from the South-West was the National Chairman of the NPN, while the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari from the North West emerged the presidential candidate and won the election.
El-Rufai’s bombshell, however, deserves that appellation because from whatever perspective it is viewed, the objective is, undoubtedly, the creation of opportunity, political of chance, for those who would be the beneficiaries, while simultaneously reducing the opportunity for those who would be given the short end of the stick. In the extreme, the El-Rufa’s political bouquet is a determined effort to end the present political practice of power rotation in the policy that started in 1999.
The kite, competence as a criterium for picking presidential candidate, who, if he/she wins the election becomes the president, appears embedded in mischief to assert the predominance of the population as a determinant factor of who gets what in the sharing the socio-political and economic value in Nigeria. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the new idea coming from the far North has attracted a large army of supporters and antagonists.
To all purposes and intents, competence should be embraced in all spheres of life if the highest quality of service and goods deliverance is the objective. The service delivered by competence would undoubtedly redound in the highest living standard in a country where it is espoused.
No wonder, many supporters of El-Rufai’s benevolent idea as Nigerians and ready to give anything to ensure that their new political surmise is crowned the Midas Touch that would turn everything in the country to gold. They would want everybody to buy into it.
The glib and sweet to the ear sermon has, however, arouse the suspicion of those who claimed to have read between the lines and saw a diabolical scheming in the El-Rufai’s dogma. The contraption called Nigeria today was not a natural set up, but a British creation that coupled many ethnic groups that have diverse interests, religions, cultures and languages to boost and consolidate Britain’s economic and commercial interest in West Africa that gave birth to Amalgamation of the North and Southern Protectorate.
To ensure survival and success of the British Enterprise, recognition was given to differences in the people’s attitudes and perceptions of life.
Not less, the sophistication, knowledge and exposure to Western education features were factored into the drafting of what could be called memorandum of understanding and living among the diverse people called Nigerians. It was, therefore, not a surprise that the Nigerian constitution provides quota system and federal character that ensure that political offices, appointments are evenly spread across all the geo-political zones in the country.
Recruitment into many federal offices, ministries, corporations and institutions is strictly guided by a quota system and federal character. The military that boasts of unifying the nation, not to talk of other security agencies, is not immune to the quota system’s all-pervading influence. Its advocates asserted that it was to give opportunities and sense of belonging to all and sundry in the country especially people who claimed to be from educationally disadvantaged areas.
Those, who suspect that El-Rufai’s new kite of the Machiavellian stunt was coming from a Roman god, Janus, who had two faces accused the Kaduna governor of insensitivity and lack of consideration for the welfare of other people in Nigeria.
If competence is embraced in the political arena of picking the country, El-Rufai should go a step further to advocate it in all spheres of Nigerian life. What is good for the geese is good for the gender.
Groups, who are opposed to El-Rufal’s new political baby, called his bluff and told him not to hide behind a finger in his attempt to create an opportunity for politicians of Northern extraction as the zone is on its second term that ends in 2023.
This is to allow the South to produce the next President. Now, the march to Aso-Rock should not be all-comers affairs. Recall that the North yelled fire and brimstone to prevent former President Goodluck Jonathan from contesting the presidency in 2011, asserting that it was the turn of the North to produce the President.
Those, who could be regarded neutral in the controversy of competence stance of El-Rufai are, however, wondering which criterium would be used to measure the competency of aspirants. Would all presidential aspirants be given a test? Who or which institution would set the questions? Who would mark the papers? These, among other questions, were raised by observers who said El-Rufai was out with his new competence scheme to throw a spanner into the works of presidential aspirants from the South.
As the 2023 presidential election is expected to be a battle royale between the two major ethnic groups in the South, the Yoruba and the Igbo, a former Senator, Shehu Sani, is talking from both sides of his mouth. The former representative of the Kaduna Central Senatorial District warned President Muhammadu Buhari and leaders of the APC not to encourage any politician of Northern extraction to contest the presidential election in 2023. He asserted that it would be dangerous and a direct threat to Nigeria’s existence if the North continued to stay power beyond 2013 after using 8 years in the presidency.
Shehu Sani said people of good conscience should ignore and say ‘no’ to the evil machination of El-Rufai. In what appears to be Sani’s resolve to become adviser to Southern politicians and leaders to realise their ambition to install one of their own the next President, he called on the Igbo to consult the scribe of Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdulahi, Tanko Wakassai and other Northern stakeholders such as Kaduna Mafia for support in their efforts to put one of their own in Aso-Rock in 2023.
Sani told Edwin Ojukwu and Pastor Ejike Stephen Ajibo who led a delegation of Igbo leaders who are residents in the North on a courtesy visit to his Kaduna home, that Igbo leaders should at this point in time, must intensify consultation of relevant stakeholders to support their ambition of producing the next president. The Igbo leaders had told Senator Sani that the visit became necessary in their quest to have an Igbo either as President or Vice President in 2023.
Sani, who lauded the contributions and sacrifice of the Igbo to the development of Nigeria, urged them to foster a consensus on the quest to produce the next president. He pointed out that they should fashion a means to put an end to the historical divide between them and the Yoruba especially in the politics of 2023 presidential election. Their host charged the Igbo living in the North to lead the campaign for the rotational presidency. He warned that if the rotational presidency movement fails to fly, Sani said they should consider themselves as part of those who refused to do the needful, reminding them that they are ambassadors of the Igbo in the North.
Earlier on a different forum, Senator Sani had said that it would be unfair to deny the Yoruba the presidency in 2023. He said Yoruba leaders had done everything possible to ensure the survival of Nigeria as a corporate entity. Sani, who was a member of the 8th senate called on President Buhari to discourage politicians from the North from vying for President in 2023. Recall that the First Lady, Aisat Buhari had after the victory of her husband in the 2015 presidential election, acknowledged the contribution of the leader of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) to the success of Buhari at the polls.
Those who believe in the axiom that one good turn deserves another and the adage of: Rub my back and I rub yours in return said the titanic role of Senator Tinubu in ensuring the victory of Buhari at the APC’s primary election that made Buhari the standard-bearer of the APC in 2019 as the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar lost out and Buhari’s eventual victory at the presidential election were contributions that only an ingrate would ignore. Such gestures, it was suggested should be reciprocated.
If rotational presidency as advocated by Senator Sani and people of like minds in the North against the agenda of El-Rufai espousing what is ill-defined competence, the 2023 presidential election would be a straight fight between the Yoruba and Igbo as the ticket would have been zoned to the South. It is on record that in 1999, despite the recognition of injustice suffered by the Yoruba over the annulment of June 12 presidential election won by the business mogul, the late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, the presidency was zoned to the South. For the first time in the political history of Nigeria. The two presidential candidates, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the standard-bearer of the PDP and Chief Olufade who ran on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) are Yoruba.
It should, however, be noted that the former Vice President, the late Alex Ekweme contested the ticket of the PDP against Obasanjo but lost.
– Tajudeen Adigun