2023: President and burden of nationhood
The 2023 election no doubt will be a defining moment in the history of Nigeria, and we urge that a strong sense of national duty, equity, fairness and justice should be the guiding principle in any political permutation going forward. This is important to mitigate national tension. National interest cannot exist in a vacuum. For it to exist, the fundamental values of fair play, distribution of opportunities equally for all to be able to serve in the highest capacity must be in place. This, ceding the presidency to the Igbo in the southeast should be viewed as national duty to promote unity, peaceful co existence, justice, equity, fairness and inclusion. It will permanently erase the motion of perennial marginalisation of Ndigbo in the affairs of the nation. It will also foster a strong sense of belonging and national acceptance. This would help to dissolve the agitation by pro-Biafra agitators in the region. We, therefore, urge all Igbo presidential hopeful from across all parties to enter into nationwide twilight consultation and healthy discussion with parties’ leadership and regional and geopolitical leaders with a view to positively engaging for a seasoned power shift to the Southeast.
The conflicted state of the nation today calls for zoning of the presidency to the Southeast. Over the years Nigerians’ question for an inclusive statehood has been fraught with uncertainties that appear to defy solution.
The current state of affairs is a painful metaphor as captured by Charles Darwin’s concept of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. And that’s not healthy for Nigeria. This is because a good society cannot emerge from the survival of the fittest, but from the collective responsibility, compassion and social action, leading to shared national vision and common progress. It is imperative for political space or the social order to make way for equal opportunities for all citizens and groups in the country. Such equal opportunities should consist of equal economic and political opportunity for all. The contradiction plaguing Nigeria today has arisen from the fact that there appears to exist in this country a skewed political system that favours only the North, South West and even South-south since 1999. This state of affairs must be revisited in favour of a new system that promotes in all Nigerians a common sense of shared national destiny. The future of Nigeria, as depicted in the current struggle for stability against the background of contending forces trying to tear it apart, rest not just in politics but in politics with a human face, politics of inclusion. The polarisation of Nigeria along ethnic and religious fault lines witnessed in the last seven years reflects the gaps in leadership. Unfortunately, the current government’s communication channels seem to be widening the chasm in what ought to be the shared experiences of the citizens. This has provided a very fertile ground for the elite to game on the political system and exploit the current flawed order to protect their interest which they tend to masquerade as national interests. The current state of affairs is at the bottom of why the country appears to be sliding into a precipice of the nation. This has arisen from the present toxic political environment that seeks to silence critical voices. It goes without saying that this is antithetical to the ethos of democratic governance; and it calls for the immediate redirection of the political order toward inclusiveness.
Apparently, that the case of the sectional interest of a part of the country has been reduced to national interest. And this does not augur well for the country. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. Hence every group interest merits equal attention. With a great sense of forbearance, Nigerians have continued to stomach a situation where a special section elite interests have crossed to sectional privilege. It comes across as a national gridlock situation where the interest of the special can no longer be challenged. Ostensibly, since after the 2015 election, the government has fostered a condition where the interest of the said special sectional ethnic have been subsumed in national interests and this has contributed to the deepening of system polarisation in the country. This reflects a confusing social reality at odds with the constitutional principles of social justice and federal character that seek to abolish favouritism, nepotism and sectional dominance of one over others.
We believe that the nation still has a chance to remedy itself in the 2023 socio-politics and as part of the process for national healing, it must initiate action for re-balancing the foundation of Nigeria’s national existence and rescue the nation from the precipice. The failure of a comprehensively socio-political equilibrium in power shift that would domicile authority within all the geo -political zones that guarantee efficiency, addressing marginalisation, reduce nepotism will only leave Nigeria with threatening emergencies and insecurity. Shared national interest would also guarantee efficient resource exploitation, allocation and utilisation, thus, engendering rapid and articulate national development. A highly centralised political authority in the Northern Nigeria has had unwieldy, flabby and grossly weak reflections in terms of ethos of nationhood that must be addressed right now.
Year 2023 presents Nigeria with another golden opportunity to address the inadequacies of political marginalisation of the South East and birth inclusiveness in our nationhood. The political parties like the APC, PDP, ADC and others should not shy away from the moral obligations we owe ourselves as Nigerians and bequeath an enduring legacy of justice. In APC, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu stands distinctly tall amongst his peers. He has character and enjoy national acceptance to make a good candidate in the APC primaries. Mr. Peter Obi has demonstrated unprecedentedly managerial ability in governance with no liability to the state after eight years in Anambra State. Obi in the history of Nigeria remains the only governor that left legacy of billions of naira and millions of dollars in savings. What else would PDP want in her presidential candidature that is found wanting in Obi from the south east.
The profile of Prof. Kingsley Moghalu of ADC, the man that remains unmatched in human capital development armed with proven records in the United Nation and even in Central Bank of Nigeria . The name of Mazi Sam Ohuabuanwa, an enigma and accomplished technocrat also in PDP. Senator Anyim Pius Anyim also in PDP and many others from the South East.
With the 24 years advancement into our fourth republic in 2023, the political dynamics have favoured some geo political zones at the expenses of the others. The Northern Nigeria has produced 14 years of vice presidencies in the persons of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Arc. Namadi Sambo between 1999 to 2007 and 2009 to 2015 respectively.
The Southwest remains the greatest beneficiary of the fourth republic with the presidency of eight years of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 to 2007 and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s vice presidency of 2015 to 2023? The South-south is not left out too with two years of vice president and six years of president in the personage of Dr Jonathan Goodluck. The principle of fairness and justice demands that the president of Nigeria should go to the Southeast whether with or without magic of rotation. It has become categorically imperative that the southeast should be allowed to produce a president in 2023. Anything short of same is fait accompli that is to say the South East geo political zone is not part and parcel of the Nation, Nigeria.
Reference should be drawn to the fairness in 1999 after the ugly incident of June 12 , where the major political parties zoned the Presidential candidates to Southwest Nigeria . Onu of the APP relinquished his presidential candidature of the party to Chief Olu Falae and Dr Alex Ekwueme who led the formation of PDP sacrificed same for the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo‘s emergence in PDP who eventually became the President of Nigeria. Therefore, the magnanimity of the Nigerians based on the June 12 to the South West to produce presidential candidates in the major political parties also found a soft spot in the hearts of Nigerians for the South East for 2023. Nigerians…fraternitas !.
Onuakalusi is a lawyer and president, Millennium Centre for Leadership and Training, Lagos.