By Asikason Jonathan
ACCORDING to Maitama Sule, “Behind every crisis anywhere in the world is injustice.” And the antidote to any crisis anywhere in the world, the late scion of the conservative northern political oligarchy noted, just few days before his transition to the yonder realm, is “justice.”
Sule’s gush over justice and enthronement of equity and fairness in the nation’s politics and government was the fulcrum of his message when he led members of the Northern Leaders’ Forum, NLF, to congratulate Muhammadu Buhari, the then president-elect.
Being a statesman, he understood that the 2015 presidential election put a knife on the things that held us together and thus grasped the opportunity to admonish the incoming administration on how to heal the wound and bring the country back on its feet.
Sule said: “The world itself can never be governed by force, never by fear, even never by power. In the end, what governs is the mind. What conquers is the spirit and the weapons of governing the mind and conquering the spirit are justice and fair play.
If you do justice to all and sundry – and I say all and sundry – because Allah says if you are going to judge between people, do justice, irrespective of their tribe, religion or even political inclination; justice must be done to whosoever deserves it.”
The extent to which the extant administration adhered to the above admonition and statesmanship is left for posterity to judge. But if there is time to pause and reflect on the gospel of justice according to Maitama Sule, 2023 presidential election offers that opportunity.
And the psychological moment is now that the mainstream political parties in the country are taking decisions on who gets what, when and how. Unarguably, the focus has been on who will secure the tenancy of Aso Villa when the rent of the Buhari led administration elapsed.
While southern governors have in series of their meetings laid claim, albeit on equity basis, their exclusive right to presidency come May 29, 2023, many northern leaders, as though ailed by born-to-rule syndrome, had dredged from river scum the “to zone or not to zone debate,” arguing that any qualified Nigerian can throw in their hats in the ring irrespective of the states of origin. That this is in direct opposition to the position they held in 2015 and 2019 makes their defence laughable.
However, a cursory foray into history reveals that the fear of domination and relegation to second class citizens has long been stitched into the fabrics of our political life and psychology.
As far back as 1957, the British colonial government set up a commission of inquiry, headed by Sir Henry Willink, to consider the fears of the minorities and possible ways of allaying them before Nigeria’s attainment of self-rule.
While the pressure then was on state creation, the commission stated in its 1958 Report that the minorities who have appeared before it had thought of separation as a remedy for their troubles. “But unity might have the same effect, and although unity cannot be manufactured by a commission, machinery can be devised which aims rather at holding the state together than dividing it. We believe that while the first object of out recommendations must be to allay fears, with this should be combined a second, to maintain the unity of Nigeria,” the committee reported.
Similarly, any analysis of Nigerian politics from 1960 to date, reveals that the struggle for inclusion in the use of resources and dispensation of patronage has been a product of high-wire politics. Succeeding administrations, even military regimes, have always tried to compromise between the centrifugal and centripetal forces of the federation.
Thus, realising that the election of the nation’s number one citizen has been a major source of political crises and upheaval, Abacha led Provisional Ruling Council maintained that rotational presidency would fashion out a constitutional arrangement that will be acceptable to the majority of Nigerians.
He was mindful of the need to avoid concentration of power in the hands of a few, or a sectional group, and the need to allay the fears in certain quarters that the position of the number one citizen of Nigeria is reserved for a particular area of the country.
However, the modality for the implementation was not concluded before the demise of General Abacha. General Abdulsalami who took over the mantle of leadership did not carry on with this issue but adopted the 1979 constitution which has no provision on rotational presidency and left the idea with the parties.
Though unconstitutional, zoning has become a conventional wisdom in the Nigerian politics – albeit since the return to civilian rule. Remember that the eight-year tenure of Obasanjo gave way for Yar’Adua’s administration which was truncated by ill-health and death.
This explains why northern leaders moved against the Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid. Their argument is that “power must return to North” to balance the equation. For northern leaders to think otherwise for 2023 is to cast aspersion on their fellow countrymen.
It is, therefore, fitting and pertinent for leaders of both APC and PDP to consider power shift to South. The argument that “the best should wear the crown” should be considered in light of the ethnic politics that pervade our electoral system. No matter the angle you view it, that argument simply portends that one area of the country shall continue to produce the occupants of the office of President.
The implication of the above is already with us. Nigeria is now a house divided against itself. To save the ship of the state from sinking, it needs to be anchored on consociational democray, where geopolitical zones shall be poles around which power shall rotate. The importance of this system cannot be overemphasised. It ensures governmental stability, power-sharing arrangement and, the survival of democracy.
Meanwhile, as the case for Nigerian president of southern extraction is gaining traction, leaders of the zone should also be guided by the principles of equity, justice and fairness when the fight is won. They should take cognisance of what Balarabe Musa said about the South-East not having “a fair-share since the civil war” and their “obvious marginalisation” in the scheme of things.
The South-west arm of the zone should not forget in a hurry that it was Igbo man that sacrificed his presidential ambition for Obasanjo to bury the vestiges of June 12 in 1999; the South-South arm, also, should remember that Ndigbo stood with Jonathan through hell and high waters throughout his five-year administration.
Thus, for all intent and purposes, South-West and South-South have no moral grounds to slug it out with Southeast for keys of Aso Villa if the pendulum finally tilt to the South.
Truth be told, zoning the presidential seat to Southeast will amount to a watershed moment in the country’s political history. Presumably, 2023 presents the opportunity to end the Biafran war. It presents a battleground on which IPOB and other secessionist groups in Southeast will be permanently defeated. But can true patriots of this country rise and take the right decision? Can they sacrifice personal interest in the alter of national interest?
That said, Ndigbo should always appreciate the fact that nowhere on earth is power served a la carte. Was it not Machiavelli that advised political leaders to embody the characteristics of a fox and a lion? Southeastern leaders should be shrewd enough to know that 2023 is an opportunity that should not be messed up!
Jonathan, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Enugwu-Ukwu Anambra State.