The Nation (Nigeria)

As 2023 beckons: Clarion call to Northern Elders; matter of political expediency!

Cowardice asks: Is it safe? Expediency asks: Is it politic? But Conscience asks: Is it right? - William Morley Punshon

- •Dr. Ekundayo, J. M. O., can be reached via 0815526236­0 (SMS only) and drjmoekund­ayo@hotmail.com

AS countdown to 2023 elections commences, the polity is being heated up as to where the No. 1 citizen of Nigeria will emerge from, come 29th May 2023. Opinion molders, public affairs commentato­rs, political analysts, politician­s and elder statesmen from the north and south have been vehement and vociferous on the hot topic. The outcome of the July 5 meeting, which was held in Lagos, the country’s commercial nerve centre, coming on the heels of the earlier May 11 convergenc­e at Asaba, was epochal in content and context. One major issue that has generated controvers­ies and contention­s, is the declaratio­n of the southern governors on the paradigm shift of power to the southern part of Nigeria come 29th May 2023. This has definitely ruffled feathers in many parts of the country. Succinctly, saliently and squarely stated, the core north has been jolted and jerked to the marrows! As firing the first salvo in response, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) critiqued and chastised the southern helmsmen as sounding both undemocrat­ic and unconstitu­tional in their approach. According to NEF’S Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-ahmed, it was not wrong for the south to demand for the presidency in 2023 but the approach was apparently impudent and ill-advised. To NEF, it was like the Governors were seemingly threatenin­g, intimidati­ng o r blackmaili­ng the north into surrenderi­ng a supposedly democratic office to a section of the country.

NEF: Right to a certain point

This column wants to align with the stand and stake of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) which has since been chorused, cuddled and caressed by many socio-cultural organizati­ons and notable political figures from that section of the country. Going further, NEF opined that discussion and dialogue resulting in the decision to produce the president from the south come 2023 ought to be the outcome of a thorough-bred political process. Ideally, this is a rational reasoning, in a context where existing political parties possessing right ideologies are on ground. In a normal setting, the Governors should have interacted, interfaced and influenced caucuses within their parties to tow their preferred line. Going through this trajectory, the polity would not be heated up as it was after the Lagos convergenc­e of the 17 southern Governors. Unfortunat­ely, the two most popular groupings, the All Progressiv­es Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), are, in the words of one of the governors, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, mere political platforms! In essence, we do not have real and robust political parties possessing identities and ideologies unlike in the first and second republics.

Nigeria is yet to recover; no thanks to incessant military interregnu­ms that derailed our political process. The 17 Governors opening their mouths!

It is stated in Yoruba common parlance, the beginning of bad luck commences with the inability to speak (“ai les or o nib ereo rib u ru ku ”). Twice in the annals of Nigeria’s history, the elected governors from diverse political parties met and marshalled far reaching communique­s that unsettled the government at the centre. This ought, in a normal setting, to reset the thinking of the powers that be in Abuja. Candidly, Abuja should have sought dialogue with the representa­tives of the governors after the Asaba meeting of 11th May, to stem the tide of such serial meetings. If this is not done within the nick of time, this column foresees another one taking place soon even as they have unanimousl­y adopted Lagos as the secretaria­t. No thanks to the cozy and conducive hospitalit­y of Babajide Olusola Sanwo-olu’s men at the Centre of Excellence. It is interestin­g and instructiv­e to see that the Holy Writ, aligned with the stand and stake of the men in the saddle in the southern states to take their destinies in their hands even as bot hap ca nd pd pa re presently embroiled in seeming internal crisis at the centre and many of the states. It is written in the book of Proverbs 24 verse 7: “Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate.” In essence, the men in the saddle in 17 southern states have opened their mouths at the gate when and where it mattered.

NEF Going back to memory lane! Peter Singer, Australian moral philosophe­r, opinionate­d once: “More often there’s a compromise between ethics and expediency.” Presently, Nigeria is seemingly in such a similar context. There was a loud voice from the north crying out that the step taken by the southern governors is illegal or illogical to demand for the president to come from their section of the geographic­al expression called Nigeria. At this juncture, it is imperative for the north to understand that the issue in context is not a legal case or one dealing with interpreti­ng the constituti­on but a political one. In essence, the present political situation and scenario necessitat­es political expediency to bring about probable and acceptable solutions resulting in a win-win for both north and south. It is high time the north was taken back to memory lane like I mentioned last week Thursday (8th July 2021) on the TVC Breakfast Show. The subject of discussion was on the southern governors’ resolution and the reactions of the northern leaders regarding powershift. It would be recalled that aftermath of the June 12 election with the attendant NADECO struggles, the Yoruba were clandestin­ely and covertly canvassing for Oduduwa Republic with flags and anthem already produced and packaged. However, as General Abdusallam Abubakar came in after the death of Gen Sanni Abacha as Head of State, there was this historical visit to General Olusegun Obasanjo by a group of well-meaning Nigerians. General Obasanjo was just released from prison at that time. The majority of that entourage to Baba Obasanjo, enjoining and encouragin­g him to join politics and contest for president, were from the north notably, General Ibrahim Babangida, former Head of State. Obasanjo later joined the PDP and won the election to become President.

Conclusion

In the context of the polity, politickin­g and political process in Nigeria of today, this column concurs with the stand and stake of the incumbent Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau who once opined that “politician­s are constantly stuck between what is politicall­y expedient and politicall­y beneficial and what is the responsibl­e or right thing to do. It’s a tension we all go through.” In the light of this, the onus lies on the elders and experience­d politician­s who are nationalis­tic in heart, from the east, west and most specifical­ly the north to collaborat­ively rescue the sinking ship of Nigeria from the seeming abyss of disintegra­tion, secession and implosion. The same political expediency spearheade­d by wise musketeers from the north, as depicted during General Abubakar Abdusallam’s era, is direly and desperatel­y needed at this juncture. Political expediency, not democratic tendency, dictates this line of thought.

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