Whither Nigeria: Power shift or goal-post shift? – Vanguard
Corruption has been so endemic in Nigeria that many people feel it is the nation’s greatest challenge. Indeed, the realization that no sphere of life in the country is free of corrupt practices seems to validate the poetic statement that “if Nigeria does not kill corruption; corruption will kill Nigeria.”
Although corruption is regarded by many as the nation’s deadliest challenge, a different perspective canvassed a few days ago by one elder statesman suggests that in Nigeria,politics is more harmful than corruption.
The argument is premised on the possibility of finding within every field of endeavour, some few citizens who are not corrupt, whereas it is practically impossible to meet one straight-forward Nigerian politician who would not take advantage of any opportunity to either make several dishonest claims or argue his way through on any subject by brilliantly defending the indefensible.
The current debate on whether the next president should come from the South against the backdrop of a disputed convention of rotational presidency seems to confirm that whether or not Nigeria will survive over time is in the hands of her politicians.
One of the most difficult things in Nigeria is to hold any politician to a point. In 1999, the South was allowed to produce a president for the country. After 8 years, power shifted to the other divide – the North,not because the Northern candidate who became president in 2007 was necessarily the most viable aspirant at the time, but because the shift was expedient to dissuade one part of the country from seeking to dominate the other.
To some people, this established that we have a convention to rotate the presidency in Nigeria. But with 2023 around the corner, there are politicians who are now insisting that the1999 convention was internal to the then ruling party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
They are making the point and perhaps persuasively too that it is only the PDP that has rotational presidency in her party constitution and that no one should seek to foist it on the current ruling party – the All Progressives Congress (APC).
If the presidency was such a free for all, meaning that no convention was established on it for the country, why were some northerners angry that the North was unable to complete its turn of 8 years from 2007 to 2011?
Did it occur to such persons that they were holding-on to an unwritten convention and indeed preferring it to the constitutional provision that where a president for whatever reason was unable to continue in his office, the vice president shall automatically become president?
What about their southern counterparts who helped Jonathan to remain in office after completing the tenure of president Yar ‘Adua? Did such PDP politicians remember their party’s convention of rotational presidency when they assisted Jonathan to contest the 2011 presidential election while the turn of the North was yet to end thereby magically turning Bayelsa into a Northern state?
What an objective answer to any these questions would reveal is that in Nigeria, no one is assured of power shift, what we have is the shifting of the goal-post while the game is on.
Power shift makes ample sense to Nigerian politicians only when the shift is in favour of their region. But when it is not, they would remind us all that rotational presidency is not in the Nigerian Constitution. At that point they don’t remember that there is a popularly held opinion that the constitution in question is a huge fraud.
Put differently, people are prepared to recognize the exclusion of rotational presidency in our bogus constitution but they are not prepared to faithfully implement certain principles like ‘federal character’ in the same constitution.
Of course what is really bogus is nothing else but the average self-seeking Nigerian politician that would encourage the selective bending of rules without recourse to the adverse effects which such manipulation would have on the nation.
It is the self-seeking nature of politicians that makes us disregard a well-intentioned and constitutionally approved principle designed to create inclusiveness in governance in our clime.
For example, despite several press editorials, the Federal Character Commission has been unable to follow either the letter or the spirit of the principle within its own establishment. But why does the commission need reminders to observe the basis of its existence?
If in its management and administration, the federal character commission cannot follow the principle for which it was set up, how can it meet its mandate of monitoring and ensuring that the principle is observed elsewhere?
Which organizations would have faith in the commission? Perhaps Martins Oloja, famous Nigerian journalist and writer was answering these questions relating to the conduct of our federal character commission when he once described the entity as a “federal character commission without a federal character.”
What would have passed for a well-articulated argument about the irrelevance of where a president comes from at this point in time, loses its brilliance when the basis for leadership recruitment at the lower levels remains pedestrian.
We cannot claim to be ready to dispense with where a president hails from while retaining quota system and selective federal character principle which had been in force for a longer period. Indeed, we cannot suddenly jettison rotational presidency; it has to be planned and targeted.
The presidency left the South in 2015 for the North and must therefore return to the South in 2023 because the original unit of determination is yet to change from the North-South divide. For this reason, the North Central and North East, being part of the North,are technically ineligible for the presidency in 2023.
The shift MUST in good faith be to the South irrespective of the opposition to the word ‘must’ by some politicians.Whenever it gets to the region, a template of fairness and equity should be evolved for micro-managing it.
Accordingly, those of us from the South-South and South-West who have produced presidents between 1999 and today should be fair enough to allow the South-East to have the same chance we have had.
Considering the high level of cynicism in our clime coupled by mutual distrust and suspicion among our disparate groups, everyone needs to imbibe the same spirit of equity and fairness that people have been wishing for the federal level.
Those who have been criticizing the Hausa/Fulani for seeking to hold-on to power at the federal level must be seen to be practicing what they preach in their own states. The Tiv of Benue State for instance, cannot continue to produce their state governor without allowing the Idoma to have a chance and yet be part of those calling for power shift at the federal level.
All state governors who are in support of power shift cannot continue to emasculate the constitutionally approved system of local government in the country while demanding the democratization of Nigeria’s political structure.
One fear which remains isthe difficulty in getting politicians to give up their personal desires in the interest of the larger entity. The classification that the APC is likely to support southern presidency while the PDP may zone it to the North is patently simplistic. Even the two parties are themselves unsure of that.
For now, the PDP has zoned its national chairmanship to the North making it appear that it is likely to zone its presidency to the South. Who can vouch for that? Similarly, how much premium can be placed on last week’s Kaduna meeting of Northern leaders made up of governors and traditional rulers?
Did the communique capture the aspirations of some principal participants at the meeting? With so many unanswered questions, nothing is final until it is done. Right now in the horizon, we can see different politicians makingincongruent efforts to shift the goal-post. Whetherthat will end in power shift or not depends on time.