Posted by News Express | 1 November 2022 | 699 times
The argument around who should be or which geopolitical zone should produce the next president of Nigeria after Muhammadu Buhari in May 2023, is assuming a multidimensional shape as the February 2023 date for the election inches closer. It is as intense as the campaign and struggle for the exalted position is.
Interestingly, Nigerians have been advancing various arguments, ranging from the mundane to the reasonable, to validate their positions. The presidential candidates are equally not left out; some of them are actively in the fray, doing everything possible to convince Nigerians on why the cap best fits them.
However, there is a strong feeling in certain quarters that the arguments of the three leading candidates – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Mr. Peter Obi of a leading Third Force, the Labour Party (LP), on why each of them should be the chosen one, ought to be subjected to a critical and painstaking public scrutiny and analysis. At one time or the other, they have had the opportunity to tell Nigerians why they should be the right choice.
While Tinubu is known to have said that Nigerians should vote for him because it is the turn of the South West Yoruba and his personal turn when it comes to the South West, Atiku Abubakar was also quoted to have said that Nigerians should vote for him because who the northerners need as their next president is not a Yoruba or an Igbo, but a fellow northerner, which he aptly represents. Instructively, the two candidates were reported to have made the foregoing statements mostly while addressing people of their ethnic stock.
In a similar vein, Obi was also reported to have told Nigerians and his Igbo brethren that they should vote for him not because he is an Igbo man but because he has the competence, capacity, energy, sound health, and above all, the economic wizardry to unlock the country’s growth potential and transform Nigeria from a consuming nation to a productive one; a position he maintained was the only way out of the economic woods into which the current and previous administrations have put the country.
Apart from the discordant but persuasive political tunes coming from the candidates, Nigerians seem to have aligned their arguments along the same line. This is because there are those who have hinged their argument on the fact that it is their turn because they have sacrificed so much for the success of the ruling party. There are others who believe that since they come from the geopolitical zone with a presumed high voting population density, they should be given the chance at the presidency.
Yet, there are those who are saying that competence, compassion, empathy, integrity and sound health in body and soul should determine who the next president should be.
However, there is yet another group that is running with the mantra of equity, justice and fairness, as the major criteria to consider in the choice of who becomes the next president of Nigeria if unity, peace and progress are to be sustained.
Those mouthing equity, justice and fairness, as the most potent of all the reasons so far adduced by anybody, including the candidates, are hinging their argument on the fact that Nigeria is multi-ethnic, multilingual and multi-religious in nature, and cannot be allowed to be dominated by one ethnic, religious or lingual group, if there must be peace and progress in the polity. They also argued that the idea behind splitting Nigeria into six broad geopolitical divisions was to entrench and sustain the principle of equity, justice and fairness, couched in power rotation or what some may prefer to call the federal character, without which peace, economic growth and political development will remain a mirage.
Those on the side of equity, justice and fairness are of the opinion that considering the fact that Nigeria is historically built on the three tripods of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo, and considering the fact that the other two legs of the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba have both had a shot at the presidency, it would only be fair and proper for the entire Nigerians to support a South East candidate of Igbo extraction, which is the third leg of the tripods. The estimation of those in this equity, justice and fairness vanguard is that if an Igbo man from the South East is chosen by Nigerians to be the next president, it would unite the country and restore the peace that everybody is clamoring for. It is also their belief that the development if allowed to manifest would bring economic growth and development like never before as all agitations for an independent State of Biafra will go down, if not completely fizzle out.
Surprisingly, however, the chief protagonists of the equity, justice and fairness mantra are mainly members of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere. Leader of the group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and its Secretary General, Sola Ebiseni, among other members have consistently maintained that for equity, justice and fairness, the candidacy of Obi, an Igbo man from the South East, should be supported by all lovers of justice and peace.
Still standing on that platform of equity, justice and fairness, a former National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain, Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, is also pushing the narrative that the next president after Buhari should come from the South East. He questioned the rationale behind the quest by the Yoruba to aspire to become president after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has been president for eight years and Prof Yemi Osinbajo is also completing his eight years as vice president by May next year. He said: “Starting from 1999, we have had Obasanjo, a Southwesterner sit there for eight years; the later Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a northerner was there for three years having died on May 5, 2010 after assuming power on May 29, 2007; he spent 23 days short of four years. Former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, from the South-South zone spent five years – his own four years and Yar’Adua’s remaining one year. So, we had five years of South-South presidency before power went back to the North with Buhari on the saddle. Now that Buhari is about to complete eight years, it is only natural that power rotates back to the South. And if it gets to the South, equity, justice and fairness demand that the South East should have it since the other two groups in the zone have had it.
He lamented that the South East has been schemed out of the governance structure of the country, saying, “The number one position in the country is a Fulani; number two is a Yoruba, number three is a Fulani, number four is a Yoruba and number five is a Yoruba. So, if you mention number one to eight top positions in Nigeria, you will not find one Igbo man there. Are we not in the same country? And they are not happy. Were we (Yoruba) happy when the June 12 presidential election was annulled and it was our own son, Abiola? Did we not have some Igbo people who teamed up and fought injustice with us? In Ibadan, we had meetings with them in NADECO. Did we not have Sam Mbakwe, Ebitu Ukiwe and others? The truth is that if we (Yoruba) are going to say that it is our turn, then we are not different from the Fulani who have been saying that they have the eternal right to rule forever.”
But, for Alhaji Yerima Shettima of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), those pushing the equity, justice and fairness argument in support of the South East presidency are just trying to blackmail other sections of the country.
He argued that Nigeria practices democracy and the only equity, justice and fairness in it is to secure the highest number of votes in an election and be declared the winner. He insisted that Nigerians have not seen any good thing about the idea of sectional political arrangement of zoning. “So, let every Nigerian who desires to be president come out to contest, after all the South East also has the population. Let them canvas, lobby and get it. The idea of blackmailing people with equity, justice and fairness will not work. Was there any time anybody took over the mantle of leadership because he comes from a particular region without an election? It is all about the election; so let the people of the South East go to the field and contest. The idea of saying for equity, justice and fairness, power should go to one section of the country is nothing but blackmail. Let everybody go and showcase his best eleven, lobby, make friends outside his region, respect people so that he can get their support and contest. That is how it is done anywhere,” he stated.
However, president of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, is another apostle of the South East presidency based on equity, justice and fairness. He corrected what he termed a wrong impression in the minds of many who are saying the presidency should be given to the Igbo, saying it is not to the Igbo but the South East. He argued that after eight years of President Buhari who is a Northerner, presidential power should naturally rotate to the Southern part of the country and when it gets to the South, equity, justice and fairness demand that the South East should have it since it remains the only zone in the South that has not tasted the presidency.
He said: “The presidency should go to the South East because after eight years of President Buhari as a Northerner, the presidency should naturally go back to the South. And in the South by rational deduction, the South West has had eight years of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and another eight years of Prof Yemi Osinbajo as vice president. The South-South has had over five years of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as president. The only area that has not had it in the South geopolitical equation is the South East; so the president has to come from the South East if Nigerians are serious about equity, justice and fairness.”
Dr. Bitrus went further to say that his group, the MBF, has decided to throw its weight behind the candidacy of Obi because of the features they found in him. “Now we have many good candidates who can make good president from the South East, but we find in Peter Obi the characteristics or features or qualities we need in somebody who can administer Nigeria, pull it out of the woods and bring the rebirth we need for the Nigeria of tomorrow, where we can have equity, justice and fairness; a Nigeria where the economy can grow again, where there will be peace; and where the insurgents will be criminally dealt with so that there will be peace. And when there is peace, the economic growth and other indices will follow. So, this is our position and we believe that Nigerians will look passionately into the fact that we have in Obi the character of a true Nigerian president, who will take us out of the woods. And he is from the South East.” (Daily Sun)
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