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How not to push for southern presidency

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By Aliyu Sulaiman

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 communiqué 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.

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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 communiqué, 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’.

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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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