THE recharged Southern Governors Forum under the chairmanship of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State again met in Enugu last week. Apart from reiterating their ban on open grazing and affirming the right of states to collect the Value Added Tax, VAT, they insisted that the South’s turn to produce the next president of the country must be actualised.
Power rotation was one of the principles that Nigerians debated at the Constitutional Conference convened by the late General Sani Abacha between 1994 and 1996 as a means of preventing future re-occurrence of the ugly fall-outs of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola.
Specifically, the Provisional Ruling Council, PRC, led by General Sani Abacha had approved that there shall be rotation of the presidency between North and South.
It was also seen as a panacea to unite the country and give every section a sense of belonging. Indeed, it was faithfully implemented in 1999 when all the three registered political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; the All Peoples Party, APP; and the Alliance for Democracy, AD – produced Southern presidential candidates from the South-West to assuage the June 12 election annulment.
Also, when President Olusegun Obasanjo completed his maximum eight years, all the major political parties – PDP, ANPP and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN – produced Northern candidates in the 2007 presidential election. However, the death of the winner of the election, President Umaru Yar’ Adua, necessitated the ascent of his Deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, to the presidency.
The completion of another eight years by a Northerner and Jonathan’s successor, Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, will provide another opportunity for this mechanism to be applied in favour of the South.
However, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has asserted that the region “will not play second fiddle” in 2023. This means that left to the NEF and its cohorts, the North will field candidates for the impending presidential election.
This will amount to a flagrant violation of a national pact which has served us well for 22 years so far. We wish to remind those who argue that the power rotation principle was an imposition by Abacha’s PRC that the 1999 Constitution was also a bigger imposition which we have lived with subject to serial amendments.
When we agree on an issue, we should stand by it until we, by consensus, change our minds.
We must respect our diversity and live by give and take. If the North forces its way through and produces another president after Buhari, the South may never produce presidents in future except through the Jonathan-like force majeure.
This will promote further ethno-religious imperialist tendencies of the North and increase separatist agitations in the South. Nigeria cannot afford to alienate the South which provides it with its economic sustenance.