I hold former Nigerian Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in high esteem. In 2019, I voted for him to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari. Many other Nigerians also campaigned and voted for him. Although many of our votes did not count, we believed that the former VP would have done far better than the incumbent President. He is more enlightened, more broadminded and understands the intricacies of handling a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria.
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Looking at the serious man-made challenges facing this country currently, it is tempting to support another northerner like Atiku to emerge as President in 2023. The idea is that it will be better for someone from the North to clean the mess made by the incumbent government before any other person from another region takes over the mantle of leadership. This is to avoid triggering any crisis in the North, if a President of southern extraction begins to right the wrongs already done, especially with regard to nepotism.
Unfortunately, the mood of the country is against the emergence of a northerner as President in 2023. Many individuals and groups have insisted that power should return to the South. Ethnic socio-political groups like Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum and many others want the presidency to move to the South. Even the southern governors are resolute in their demand that the 2023 presidency must go southwards.
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Atiku is aware of this clamour. He is, therefore, doing everything possible to counter the narrative in order to achieve his ambition of becoming President of Nigeria. Hence, it is not surprising that he recently expressed his opposition to the zoning principle, which has been in practice since 1999 when this current democracy took off. The pillar on which Atiku holds his argument is that zoning is not in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
“The Constitution has not barred anyone of us. There is no zoning in the Constitution. There is none,” he was quoted to have said.
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Atiku is not alone. Some other individuals and groups, especially in the North, hold a similar opinion. The Northern Elders Forum, the Arewa Consultative Forum and some others are typical examples. Their argument is that zoning is not in the Constitution. Some say the South has ruled more than the North in this democratic dispensation.
But these are self-serving arguments aimed at hoodwinking uninformed Nigerians. The Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SaMBA) hit the nail on the head when it reminded Atiku that his turnaround on zoning contradicted his previous postures as a statesman who had always demanded equity, fairness and justice in Nigeria. Atiku, SaMBA recalled, warned the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to respect the already existing zoning of the party at its National Stakeholders Conference in 2010. Also, he allegedly staged a public walkout together with some northern PDP leaders at the party’s national convention in 2015 immediately the then President Goodluck Jonathan indicated in his speech that he would go for a second term in 2015.
Nevertheless, the Constitution does not need to specifically mention zoning for us to implement what will engender equity, fairness and peace in a heterogeneous society like ours. Even at that, the Constitution, as many Nigerians have argued, has a clause called the federal character principle. That clause is aimed at ensuring that no zone or region lords it over others in the scheme of things. It ensures that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.
Section 43 (3) of the 1999 Constitution states, “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
Even if rotation is not in the Constitution of Nigeria, it is said to be in the constitution of both the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The former chairman and national secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, reportedly said recently that zoning was clearly stated in the PDP’s constitution. This, he said, was to give a sense of belonging to all members of the party and for all-inclusiveness.
Baraje said, “It was stated in the constitution in black and white. It was reviewed in the constitution sometime around 2011. Although before then it was an oral tradition of PDP and it was even as good as being written. I met it like that when I took over as party national secretary in 2008. Even when it was an oral tradition of the party, it was highly respected.”
That was why the two dominant parties in 1999 zoned the presidency to the South-West. Then, it was mostly to assuage the region over the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, which Moshood Abiola presumably won. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged the candidate of the PDP while Chief Olu Falae emerged that of the Alliance for Democracy/All Peoples Party. Both were from the South-West. Obasanjo won the election and became President. After eight years, he handed over to the late Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner. Yar’Adua died in office in 2010 paving the way for his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, from the South-South to emerge President. Jonathan handed over to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner. It is expected that, after Buhari, in 2023, power should go back to the South.
Those arguing that the South has occupied the seat of power at the centre more than the North are either mischievous or they have short memories. If one calculates the number of times the North has held onto power from 1960 when we gained independence until now, the North towers above the South. In our 61 years of existence as an independent country, the North has cumulatively ruled for over 41 years.
So, why will anybody come out now to say the presidency should be retained in the North? It is unfortunate that Atiku could not realize his ambition up until now. It is too late for him to occupy the seat of power. He lost his last chance in 2019. He should rather give his support to any of his acolytes in the South, especially the South-East. Major stakeholders in the nation should also rally round the South-East to produce the President of Nigeria in 2023. If that region fails to get this position in 2023, then there is no need mouthing equity and fairness or ‘One Nation, One Destiny.’ We should all get prepared to reap the fruit of the crisis that will definitely follow.
Your in-depth analysis depicts a near take-over of the South-East by drug addicts, bandits, kidnappers and unknown gunmen. Even policemen whose duty is to check the activities of these evil men have also become part of the hunted lot. By their acts of omission and commission, the South East governments have amply proved their inability to contend this hydra-headed problem. This malignant state of insecurity has gone beyond the stage of a mere ‘panadol application’. It requires a thorough, sincere and deep surgical operation by the federal authorities.
Dear Casy, the present anarchy in the South-East was part of the leadership failure across the board – political, religious, community, traditional and loss of our family cultural values and orientations at traditional zone. Some of our high chiefs have become Herods and Ahabs of our time with their leadership style. Our religious leaders at their pulpits have abandoned the preaching of salvation for mundane things of life because of tithe and offering. Most of them live in opulence and arrogance. With due respect to M.I. Okpara, Ibiam, Mbakwe, Nwobodo and Peter Obi, who among our political leaders made genuine efforts to develop South-East in the face of this present marginalisation from Abuja, what’s the current human development indices in Igbo land from LGs to the states? The political elites, the stakeholders, the traditional rulers have contributed a lot in this current anarchy in the South-East.
We believe the incoming governor of Anambra state, Prof. Charles Soludo, will follow the footsteps of Peter Obi and Obiano to tackle insecurity and other vices to move Anambra state forward. It is always difficult to build a state or nation in time of insecurity and vices. South-East governors should work as a team to tackle insecurity and other vices irrespective of party differences so that the South-East economy will not collapse.
Dear Casy, any goat jointly owned is prone to suffer much hunger and deprivation. Reason? Each of the co-owners of the goat pays fleeting attention to her welfare. The above allegory portrays the unfortunate security situation in the South East. The sixes and sevens relationship between the Governors in the South East which nourishes their political party affiliation and personal political ambition that kowtow to the interest of the arrowhead at the ‘Big Centre’ is a major drawback to the security situation. Can Ebube Agu be compared to Amotekun today? Where she exists at all, public space is awash with the news of her being used to hound political opponents. With this parlous situation, why wouldn’t anarchy loom? Solutions? 1. Supplant party affiliation and personal ambition with public interest. 2. Strong political will by the Governors is key.
Dear Casmir, crime will be over if we introduce the Anti Redundancy Bill. This promotes a manpower-based educational system as 6-3-1-3-5 scheme. After JSS 3 the student will spend one year on skill acquisition and the third year in the university and polytechnic should be declared Manpower Year. With this any Nigerian without economic end between the ages of 22 and 55 will lose litigious right.
Casmir, the security challenges in the South-East are the consequences of malfunctioning Buhari’s government. It’s the measure of the failure of the federal government to occupy the growing population of unemployed youths. It’s the measure of hopelessness, frustrations in different facets of life of the citizenry. Government’s failure to create enabling environment for survival has left so many youths with an option to survive through any available options. The failure of government to create effective jobs, provide support for those in need of funds to do their business and ensure the availability of basic amenities has triggered all the security challenges. To arrest the challenges, the government must ensure that all bottleneck towards the creation of enough jobs for the youths are removed without further delay. Restructuring of the country is the best option.
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