President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, in his recent BBC Hausa Service interview advocated that competence should be placed above power rotation or zoning in the 2023 presidential contest. Expectedly, many Nigerians were astonished by his comments. While the Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described it as unfortunate and unfair, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, opined that the country must continue with power rotation between the North and the South.
Interestingly, some prominent northerners also opposed Daura’s position. The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, pointed out that he would not support a northerner succeeding President Buhari in 2023 because it is the turn of the South. He also said: “In Nigerian politics, there is a system of rotation in which everyone agrees that if the North rules for eight years, the South will rule for eight years.” Elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, made a similar statement. According to him, it is the turn of the South-East to produce Nigeria’s next president. He advised the region to reach out to other sections of the country for votes.
It is commendable that the Presidency has also dissociated itself from Daura’s comments. Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, noted that it was his personal opinion and did not reflect the views of either President Buhari or his administration. Shehu said Daura at 80 and having served as editor and managing director of the New Nigerian newspaper did not need the permission or clearance of anyone to exercise his right.
The pertinent question is: Who determines the most competent candidate in a presidential contest and how? If the only criterion for the presidency is even competence, every group or region has competent people who can pilot the affairs of this nation satisfactorily.
Nevertheless, power rotation became entrenched in the country after the annulment of June 12 presidential election. Tension had arisen in the country when the Ibrahim Babangida regime annulled the election considered the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s history. The presumed winner of the poll, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, was later incarcerated for months. This led to his eventual death. To appease the South-West, the entire country conceded the presidential contest of 1999 to the region. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who emerged president in 1999, finished his second term in 2007. He quit the scene for the late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who represented the North. After Yar’Adua’s death came ex-President Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South, who completed the remaining part of Yar’Adua’s first and only term and went ahead to win election in 2011. The incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari from the North-West succeeded Jonathan in 2015 and is on his second term in office.
Arising from this scenario, it is obvious that the general understanding is that the presidency rotates between the North and the South. But it is unfortunate that whenever it comes to the South-East, some powers that be in Nigeria will start setting a different standard. Originally, this country was founded on a tripod: Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. The first two major ethnic groups have had different shots at the presidency except the Igbo. Therefore, equity and fairness demand that it is their turn to produce Nigeria’s next president in 2023.
Although power rotation is not enshrined in the constitution, it has come to stay in Nigeria. As a heterogonous society, Nigeria needs it to guarantee its survival, peace and stability. No matter how imperfect it is, it still caters for the interest of every group. It is for the same reason we have the Federal Character principle enshrined in the constitution.
We recommend that power rotation clause should be inserted in the constitution such that it will be binding on all the political parties. However, the parties should not do that at the expense of competence. Their major task should be to identify and project competent people from any zone whose turn it is to produce the president. We should emulate countries like Spain and Canada that have entrenched some unique ways to engender stability in their political systems.
It is worthy to note that every politics is local. Hence, ours should reflect the diversity of the country. And the best way to do that and ensure survival of our democracy is power rotation. Whether it is in the constitution or not, it is only fair that the presidency be rotated among the six geo-political zones. We believe that it will reduce the cry of marginalisation and fear of domination.
Power rotation will ensure political inclusion which is necessary for political stability. We urge the political parties to choose their candidates for the 2023 presidential election from the South-East. We cannot be calling for competence in the choice of political leaders when we operate quota system and federal character in other spheres. It is not good to change the rules in the middle of the game.