The raucous clamour by a section of the Nigerian elite to control the Presidency is gathering dangerous momentum. While it is a fundamental right of any individual or group to aspire to high political office, the strident claim of these individuals and groups purporting to speak for “Northern Nigeria” has assumed proportions that are potentially destabilising to Nigeria’s corporate existence. But since their claims are not grounded on any sound constitutional or legal basis, it is about time every right thinking Nigerian insisted on constitutionalism.
The arrogance of these “turn-by-turn” claimants to the Presidency is matched only by the illogicality on which they base their “divine right” to the Presidency in 2015. When a small group of people arrogate to themselves the right to determine who becomes the president and for how long in a federation of over 400 ethnic nationalities, then the imperative of a sovereign national conference becomes all too glaring.
One of the power rotation advocates, Ango Abdullahi, was at it again a few days ago. “There is no going back on the Presidency returning to the North in 2015,” he declared with finality. Speaking on behalf of the Northern Elders Forum, he reiterated the irritating mantra that “the North magnanimously conceded power to the South in 1999” and now wants it (the Presidency) back. This is hogwash. Even the world’s banana republics have left this stage.
There is nowhere in the 1999 Constitution where rotation of power is mentioned or prescribed. Section 131 of the Constitution that spells out the qualifications of a person seeking election to the office of President does not stipulate rotation. Section 137 that lists disqualifications does not preclude anyone from seeking the job on account of place of origin in furtherance of rotation either. Successive constitution amendments since 1999 have also rejected the retrogressive rotation or turn-by-turn principle.
It need hardly be said that those claiming a mandatory turn at the Presidency therefore are operating outside the law and should be promptly told so, and strongly too. The insolence has gone far enough. No group, irrespective of social status, has the right to dictate to the rest of the country where the next president should come from, except through the free play of party nominations and the ballot box.
Those who believe the president should be an indigene of a particular area can use their votes at election time to actualise their agenda. That is the essence of democracy; the candidate that scores the highest number of votes and meets the constitutionally specified geographical spread in electoral support carries the day.
It is rude and totally unacceptable, as some have been doing, to demand that people from certain geopolitical zones should not aspire for the office, but stand down for persons from a particular zone. The claim that there is an agreement among some persons to rotate power is gratuitous, unconstitutional and irrelevant to the vast majority of Nigerians who were not party to such an agreement and never mandated anyone to represent them at private nocturnal meetings among some unrepresentative power brokers.
Isa Kaita, a former governor of old Kaduna State, put it this way: “…it is the turn of the North to produce the president. It was an agreement; it is our turn, our right and our time.” His perverse logic re-echoes what members of his faction have said anytime someone from the south of Nigeria becomes president: “…this gentleman’s agreement was reached between the North and South, that the North should have eight years and the South eight years.”
This is unequivocally awful. Who nominated the delegates to that forum if ever there was one? Under what law was the caucus convened? Surely, the conspiratorial plans of a group of unelected persons plotting their own interests cannot be binding or take precedence over the constitution in the 21st century.
Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, got it right when he said, “If we believe in turn-by-turn or (that) a president should come from a particular section of the country, it means we are promoting mediocrity. This is the time for us to retrace our steps and ask ourselves fundamental questions as to what kind of leaders we want. We need to promote transparency and credible elections; it is not just free and fair voting, but also free and fair elections.”
In any case, if some persons from some Northern states claim it is their turn to produce the President in 2015, when will it be the turn of the geopolitical zones that have not produced the country’s head of state or government since independence in 1960?
From 1960 to January 1966, the federal prime minister/head of government hailed from the current Bauchi State in the North-East. Between 1966 and May 1999, a 33-year period, one South-Easterner ruled for six months and a South-Westerner for three-and-a-half years. Northerners occupied the top post in succession for the remaining 29 years.
The agitators also conveniently forget that rotation was discussed only within a caucus of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. It is insulting to attempt to foist such internal party arrangements on the entire country. It is doubly deceitful when persons who are not even members of the party also join in clamouring for turn-by-turn on the basis of an alleged internal party agreement they were not privy to. This power arrogance should end. Nigerians have noted that those bent on violating the basic democratic tenet of free choice are the same people who stridently oppose a national conference where such issues can be amicably resolved.
Politics of appeasement must end. There is no alternative to constitutionality and the rule of law. All contests for political power must be in accordance with the basic law. Making threats and intimidating the majority in furtherance of an unsustainable claim of entitlement is counterproductive. Such mendacious claims make the sovereign national conference ever more imperative. Every Nigerian should now work for a national conference where the basis of our federation will be freely discussed and re-negotiated.
Source: The Punch
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