By Femi Aribisala
IF Nigeria survives the controversy provoked by the 2019 presidential election, one of the prerequisites would be that there cannot be a Yoruba president in the country for at least another 20 years. Otherwise, we would be further stoking the flames of disintegration.
The Yoruba have provided the president in eight of the last 20 years. They have also held the vice-presidency for another four years. That will do for the next 20 years.
Our country is the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not Oduduwa Republic of Nigeria. Neither is it the Federal Republic of the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba. Nigeria is bigger than the North-West and the South-West, no matter what the bogus population figures used for elections in these geopolitical regions indicate. Therefore, the choice of president cannot be reduced to a ding-dong between them.
During the 2019 election campaign, Vice-president Yemi Osibajo tried to seduce Yoruba votes for Buhari on the promise that their vote for him would be rewarded with the presidency in 2023. Since the election, a bogus group calling itself the Afenifere Renewal Group has also come out to say the Yoruba will produce the next president in 2023.
We have also witnessed already a lot of jockeying by self-styled Yoruba presidents-in-waiting for strategic positioning vis-à-vis the 2023 presidential election.
This is the height of deceit and irresponsibility.
What, if I may ask, did the Yoruba man-in-the-street get for having Obasanjo as president for eight years? The answer is nothing: Zilch! Nada! Niente!
The people who are already projecting a Yoruba president in Nigeria for 2023 are charlatans. They are up to no good and only hankering after juicy appointments for themselves or their godfathers, the better to rob the country blind. Believe me, they could not care less about the Yoruba.
Ask the Almajiri in the North what they have benefitted from the last four years of Buhari’s presidency. If they are sincere, they will tell you it is also zilch, nada, niente!
Moreover, I don’t remember Nigeria passing a constitutional amendment now zoning the presidency exclusively to the North-West and the South-West. These irresponsible people don’t mean Nigeria well. Their ethnic jingoism, greed and selfishness is part of what is killing Nigeria today.
Turn of Ndigbo
The democratic experiment has been ongoing now in this Fourth Republic in Nigeria for 20 years since 1999. In that period, the Yoruba have provided the president for eight years and the vice-president for four years. In the unlikely event that the results of the 2019 election are confirmed by the courts, by 2023, a Yoruba vice-president would have been in power for eight years.
Therefore, it is preposterous to still insist that the same Yoruba should simply transition from vice-president to president in 2023. What then is to happen to the other ethnic groups in Southern Nigeria? When did they become consigned to be only the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the Yoruba?
The Igbo, one of the three major tribes in Nigeria, have provided neither president nor vice-president in the Fourth Republic. An Igbo man has only ever been head of state in Nigeria for merely six months, after which he was assassinated with extreme prejudice. Nigeria then fought a civil war for three years during which the Igbo made an unsuccessful attempt to secede. In that calamity, over a million Igbo were slaughtered and killed.
Accordingly, even the blind must know that it is in the interest of national unity and cohesion for the presidency to go to the Igbo in 2023, after a denial of over 50 years. In the intervening period, the other two major ethnic groups of the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba have had their share.
If federal character is an indelible principle of the Nigerian Constitution, that principle must also find expression at the presidential level. If it does not, it is tantamount to consigning the Igbo to the status of second-class citizens in their own country of Nigeria.
That is why the statements already making the rounds about a Yoruba president in 2023 needs to be stopped immediately before even the mere expression does irreparable damage to the fragile Nigerian psyche.
There is an unwritten understanding in this fourth Nigerian republic that the presidency should rotate between North and South. We started with Obasanjo, a Yoruba man from the South in 1999. That election was a straight contest between two Yoruba candidates: Obasanjo and Olu Falae. Obasanjo won that election and was president for eight years.
Thereafter, it was the turn of the North and the 2007 election was essentially a Northern affair. Yar’Adua ran primarily against Buhari and Atiku. He won but, unfortunately, he died in office after barely two years. Goodluck Jonathan, his vice-president, then became president. However, he was from the South, so there was hue and cry in the North that he had usurped the Northern slot deemed to be for eight years.
Jonathan served for two years and was elected for another four years. Thereafter, the North cried enough and Buhari was elected to replace him.
The just-concluded 2019 election was also essentially a contest between two Northerners from the two major parties of the APC and the PDP: Buhari and Atiku. Whatever the conclusion of the tribunal about that election, a Northerner would nevertheless have served as president for eight years by 2023.
This means it will be the turn of a Southerner to be president again in 2023. That Southerner must, without controversy, be an Igbo man. Any right-thinking Nigerian must see that it is not only high time for this to happen, it is essential for our national integration. It will also signal to all intents and purposes that, after 50 years, the civil war is finally truly over.
So this is my reasoning. Before it can be the turn of a Yoruba man again, 20 years should elapse. This is the breakdown: 2015-2023: Northern president; 2023-2031: Igbo president; 2031-2038: Northern president. That is 20 years before you can get another Yoruba president from the South.
Even then, there is no guarantee that the 2038 president should be a Yoruba man. There are other tribes in the South that can also come into contention in that year. So, in the interest of national unity, 2023 is out of the question for the Yoruba.
Party of enemies
Even though we have yet to completely settle the matter of the 2019 presidency, the struggle for 2023 is already tearing the APC apart. The party is not and has never been cohesive. It is a collection of strange bedfellows who came together for the sole purpose of wresting the presidency from the PDP in 2015. Having done that, the party has been undergoing internal combustion; with its members at daggers-drawn ever since.
The only glue still holding APC together is the fact that the current president is from the party. Once Buhari goes, in 2023, that would be the end of APC. Already, the nPDP component of Atiku, Saraki and Tambuwaal have returned to the PDP. The ACN component, under the leadership of Bola Tinubu, is now at loggerheads with the North-West redoubt, now spearheaded by Nasir el-Rufai.
Everybody knows that the fight for speaker and president of the Senate is a fight for the soul of the APC with an eye to 2023. But the Yoruba are using the excuse that the Igbo did not vote for Buhari and the APC in 2019 to lay claim for the presidency again in 2023. The assumption, of course, is that whoever secures the APC presidential ticket in 2023 is a shoo-in for the presidency.
As a matter of fact, the Tinubu-led Yoruba faction in the APC is not only insisting on the 2023 presidency, it is also laying claim now to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019. This greed is so way out of control that Tinubu’s wife in the Senate also has her eyes firmly trained on the post of the Deputy Senate President.
The long and short of this inordinate ethnic monopolistic ambitions is the belief in some quarters that, because of current APC political supremacy, Nigeria now belongs to the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba and no one else. The rest of the people in the country are simply their political subalterns or houseboys. They are only useful at presidential election time to make up the number. Thereafter, they go off the political radar.
The question needs to be asked: are the Igbo Nigerians or are they not? If the answer is yes, as it must be, then we need to ask further: are the Igbo never to be president in Nigeria? The year 2023 is to answer this question once and for all. It is the year when it is so obviously the turn of Ndigbo. The Hausa-Fulani have had more than their fair share. The Yoruba have had their turn. Ditto for the Niger Delta. What excuse then can there be for denying the Igbo their turn in 2023? Only nonsensical and self-serving ones
Death of the godfathers
Those who insist there is some agreement between Buhari and Tinubu that will propel Tinubu to the presidency in 2023 must be dreaming. Just ask El-Rufai. He will tell you Nigerians will never accept Tinubu as national godfather or president. The template he has used to hold Lagos to ransom cannot be duplicated elsewhere, not even in the South-West.
Tinubu could only hold on to Lagos for Buhari in 2019. APC resorted to bribing voters with trailers filled with rice and garri, snatching ballot boxes in Igbo-dominated areas and suppressing opposition votes. If Tinubu can no longer hold the South-West without these shenanigans, he does not have a hope in hell in the rest of Nigeria come 2023.
The anti-Tinubu plotters in APC made sure Osinbajo lost his polling unit in Lagos. They ensured Fashola lost his local government. They double-dealed Akpabio by not rigging the election in his favour in Akwa Ibom. They buried Adams Oshiomhole in Edo. They refused to give a certificate of return to Okorocha in Imo. They could not help Rotimi Amaechi secure Rivers for the APC.
In effect, all the APC iroko trees in the South have been cut down. They no longer have to be seriously reckoned with.