2023 Presidential Elections: Time to reverse decades of inequality in power-sharing in Nigeria

In about 310 days from now, the country will be going to the polls again to elect a new set of leaders to pilot the affairs of the country in the next four years. And as typical of Nigerian politicians promises made in campaigns are broken the moment they get hold of power.

As in other election cycles, Nigerians clamour to run politicians seeking public offices through a vetting process to gauge their level of competence. Presidential and Vice Presidential debates aired on national television stations have been the only visible effort that unfortunately produces near-zero impact relative to producing credible candidates for the offices. The problem is not the act but the system which is ridden with underlying flaws one of which is the manna politicians emerge as flagbearers of their various parties.

There are serious flaws embedded in our political system already which exacerbates the inequality felt by the federating units.

There is inherent suspicion and rivalry already among the various ethnoreligious groups in the country. The development has impacted as it were, relations, particularly between the north and the south, being the dominant divide already on the low.

Some privileged individuals particularly from the northern part of the country have argued that the presidential slot for 2023 should be left open for the entire regions of the country. This should ordinarily be the case if Nigeria were to be a monolithic country in every sense of the word.

I wonder why these oligarchs prefer playing the card of competency of the aspirant in defending their selfish position which they already know is indefensible given that all the regions in Nigeria have a sufficient array of qualified and competent persons to occupy Aso Rock.

Ideally, the practice of democracy as a form of government should not be straight-jacketed. The approach should be dynamic relative to the peculiarities of the countries adopting it. Nigeria has a very peculiar diversity on multiple sides which should be considered. In sum, the democracy we copied from the US should be domesticated while still maintaining its key principles like rule of law, separation of power, freedom of speech et cetera.

Democracy is not a state. It is an act that works well with consensus and cooperation. This should be the shared commitment of nationalities in the Nigerian federation to achieve inclusion. The inherent benefit of applying this model far outweighs the ‘sacrifices’.

The ‘majority mindset’ associated with democratic governance should be toned down to accommodate other interests, particularly those considered disadvantaged in numerical size. But contrary to the erroneous perception by some particularly from a section of the country that the southeast region has limited political value in influencing elections into national offices like the presidency, the two-third clause in the Nigerian constitution is sufficient to stall the declaration of a potential winner with an overwhelming majority of votes in a presidential election from being returned winner. They are as important and on equal terms as other regions in the country.

As a concerned Nigerian speaking from a dispassionate position, I strongly suggest Nigeria shops for a person of Igbo extraction as president in 2023 the reason being to even the imbalance of power in the country.

Aside from the ruling All Peoples Congress which has officially reserved the presidential ticket of the party for the south probably because of Buhari’s meddling, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party which owns the rotation formula decided to backtrack on the commitment.

I think in exceptional situations like this one, for Fairplay, equity, and justice, the Igbo race from the southeastern part of the country is justified more than any other time, to take a shot at the presidency because they have not produced any democratically elected executive president since Nigeria’s independence.

The suffocating injustice perpetrated by a few to massage their pecuniary interest has now brought more and more discerning voices to the table to speak truth to power. One of such voices is Chief Ayo Okpadokun, the Afenifere chieftain who is on the same page with my suggestion of an Igbo presidency to balance the power equation in the country.

This is something we really need to think about and act as a people because this is not only the right thing to do but the needful to enhance unity and progress the nation on the path of sustainable development. This indeed would produce a win-win stake at the end of the day for all the federating nationalities in the country.

And referencing a line from one of the signature tracks of late reggae icon Bob Marley: ” We don’t want no peace, we want equal right and justice,” there cannot be ideal peace anywhere without equal right and justice.

We have to even the imbalance of political power in the country. The situation if not addressed quickly will linger for longer which is bad and a slippery path to retrogression of the country into anarchy. The cases of Yemen, Syria, Libya, and others that are already fractured are ready examples we should learn from.

The political landscape in Nigeria even before our present state was grossly lopsided as the fault lines observed in the first republic though worsened now, are still visible and stirring us in the face in our journey toward nationhood.

The inherent inequalities in the polity is the main reason why sentiment is shifting toward tribe, race, or religious blocks. The agitation for instance of the erstwhile Republic of Biafra led by Odumegwu Ojukwu shortly after independence in 1966 and the protege movement, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of Nnamdi Kanu are manifestations of imbalances in the sharing of political power and national wealth.

The bland optimism by proponents in the indivisibility of Nigeria should reconsider and be more discerning in their optimism rather than playing to the gallery by dishonestly ignoring the visible fault lines which impinge on the variables that impact our unity. I think a concerted effort should be made by governments at all levels to address the problems which are intimately linked to the existing fault lines.

The EndSAARS incident in 2020 for instance was a protest against the already broken system. The Boko Haram, IPOB, Fulani cattle herdsmen, and other pockets of agitating groups in the country are indications of discontent with the system. It would be dangerous to wait until reality hits before responding as we may hypothetically not have a country thereafter.

The recent release by an international security group ranking Nigeria first as the most attacked country by terrorists overtaking Iraq is a reminder to the authorities of the dire and low state of security in the country. Nigeria is ravaged by multiple problems on multiple fronts. Everywhere, at least pockets in every region of the country, experience one form of security challenge or the other. In the northeast especially Boronu, signs of life are disrupted. The northwestern state of Kaduna as in others in the region, though disproportionately impacted, is replete almost on a daily basis by attacks on communities, kidnappings for ransom et cetera.

The scale of insecurity in Nigeria at the moment which is intimately tied as well to the faulty system is huge and the federal government whose responsibility it is to protect Nigerians is overwhelmed. Nigerians are now living dangerously from the edge of a precipice. On a daily basis, the media is enunciated with news of attacks, kidnappings, arson et cetera, and the lackluster response of the government all the time is condemnation devoid of tangible action. This pathetic security situation in the north recently drew the ire of the Northern Elders Forum which asked President Buhari to resign.

In addition, another recent backlash among several others is the comment by Nasir El Rufai, APC governor of Kaduna northwestern State who is irked by the suffocating and serial attacks on persons and communities in his domain, said he would engage the services of mercenaries to checkmate the worrisome trend.

Quite frankly oftentimes I wonder if these showbiz politicians even think sincerely of the right of everyday Nigerian men or women let alone connect with their interests. One of the cases among several others is the recent callous and reckless splashing of new Cardilac jeeps to traditional rulers in Zamfara by Governor Mattalawe. The state aside from being the last in the alphabetical arrangement is actually the least in infrastructural human, economic and other indices of development.

Meanwhile, the situation unfortunately is unlikely to change as long as authorities are unwilling to recalibrate the political architecture, relying instead on the orthodox method they are used to and which has not robbed off positively by way of the dividend of democracy on the country.

The reality in part for me to resolve this long-lasting discontent is to be pragmatic and walk the talk. I want to suggest an option alongside the already known two. The constitution should be tweaked to officially accommodate rotation or zoning among the six regions in the country but with caveats to graduate down the political ladder to states and local governments. I suppose this would effectively diminish politically motivated tensions since unlike in other climes, gentleman agreements are often declined by parties who make promises to curry immediate gains but only renege at the point of redeeming it.

The second option is to restructure the political system which may involve rejigging the entire system or adopting a hybrid of two or more types. Restructuring though already misconstrued, maligned, and politicized still remains a viable option to be explored.

The third option is consideration of the various conferences and official congregations of the national government, civil or military to discuss and finetune workable political path for the country. The 2015 National Constitutional Conference leads these past efforts of the national government to seek ways of abating the problem including how to devolve power between the federal government and the other tiers of government. The National Assembly collaborating with State Assemblies or ad hoc arrangement deemed representative of the people could be congregated to assess, review and recommend for adoption.

I think looking at these options dispassionately they provide a significant and viable threshold to exiting the present predicament the country is plagued with.

President Muhammadu Buhari has just summoned a meeting of the Council of State to deliberate on the issues of insecurity and the 2023 elections.

I sincerely wish the President and the APC-led federal government will show leadership by rising to the occasion and doing the needful to redress at least moderately the multiple challenges facing the country on multiple fronts.

 

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