The Nation (Nigeria)

How not to push for southern presidency

- Aliyu Sulaiman, Sokoto.

SIR: The governors of southern Nigeria are on the offensive. As if the powers they wield individual­ly are not enough, they have decided to combine to press home their very loud, bold and rightly selfish demands, for the second time in few months!

Their convergenc­e is not only tricky and curious because of the contents of their communiqu and the fact that they share the same geographic­al connection­s; it is more because they have decided to combine forces in spite of their obvious difference­s as politician­s and as individual­s.

This is far more different from the usual political mind games that are usually rolled out prior to the commenceme­nt of electionee­ring activities. I mean, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers does not seem to agree much with the villa-friendly Jide Sanwo-olu of Lagos State in all ramificati­ons. Or does he? But for them to agree that the next president must come from the south, in the spirit of fairness (a word which has highly subjective definition­s) raises some questions. Are they going to support a southern candidate no matter which party’s flag he flies, damning the implicatio­ns?

Are they going to demand that their respective parties present only southerner­s as candidates for presidenti­al primaries? The latter question, while more feasible, is also intriguing.

I am a northerner and I support the governors’ position on this. I have to, knowing my life was no way more or less fulfilled as a result of the region the previous and current presidents come from. A nation as heterogene­ous, multi-ethnic and multi-religious as Nigeria needs to make sure every region gets a fair share of the presidenti­al cake.

However, the approach by the governors in ‘demanding’ almost seems like a threat to non-southern

Nigerians. The fourth republic has had its fair share of southern presidents, From Chief Obasanjo’s eight years to Dr. Jonathan’s six. That’s more than half of the 22-year life span of the fourth republic! That’s far from being unfair. Presenting a demand such as this will only polarize the country, as if we could be more polarized than we already are.

Still, the south deserves to produce a president in 2023. The approach by the powerful governors to achieving this is not the way to go about this however. It seems as though in the long run, the unity of Nigeria is not the governors’ main concern, but just the 2023 polls.

Have we considered zoning as a constituti­onal requiremen­t for fielding presidenti­al candidates in an election to include all regions at agreed-upon intervals? Many political commentato­rs might have likely opined this, and the southern governors, in collaborat­ion with scores of senators and even more House of Representa­tives members in their states can actualize this. I doubt if any pragmatic lawmaker would oppose this idea.

Moreover, pockets of northern politician­s and indeed governors have come out openly to also canvass for a presidency headed by a southerner in 2023. With this communiqu , even those in support of this in the north of the Niger have retraced their position somewhat. Indeed, Governor Zulum of Borno State, who has on more than one occasion supported the return of the presidency to the south, has now stated that it is ‘not a must’ for the next president to come from the south. More like ‘you cannot bully us’.

In truth, the constituti­on of the country does not specify or limit any region to any term or duration to which they can produce a president. Obviously, competence and popularity have been accorded more priority as requiremen­t for the emergence of a president. This will not in any way contradict a constituti­onally backed zoning arrangemen­t, since each regions and indeed state can boast of more than a handful of competent and popular politician­s.

This country, more than ever, needs its leaders to dialogue instead of confront each other. The country’s problems are peculiar. No problems have ever been solved in isolation, or through secession. We cannot allow the emotions and tensions brought about by the challenges of today cloud our decisions or utterances.

Lest we forget, Nigeria is a going concern and we shall leave it for other generation­s, since we also met it in the hands of others. Books will be written on how we navigated the country to or away from disarray. What role would you want to be written for you, my dearest governors?

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