2023 is still many months away but already its politics and the significance the year will hold for Nigeria and Nigerians is already gaining steam. The latest to be transfixed by a year far away yet so near was media mogul Mr. Raymond Dokpesi who as leader of the technical committee of the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign reportedly pledged that were his principal Mr. Atiku Abubakar to be elected in 2023, he would be president for only one term after which he would hand over to someone from the Southeast. Mr. Dokpesi made this pledge in Umuahia, Abia State.
It is like politicians and their mouthpieces to make promises in the heat of campaigns, promises that are swiftly given the shortest of shrifts when the accession of power is complete. Thus, between now and the general elections next year, Nigerians should brace up to watch the utterly impossible reduced to effusive promises by politicians and their megaphones in their quest to bamboozle their audiences and win votes. Nigerians can also expect political jackals to prowl seeking the flesh of opportunism and sensationalism without compunction for meat however rotten.
At this point in Nigeria`s history, it has become cliched that the question of a president of Igbo extraction can no longer wait. In the name of all that equity represents, it can no longer wait. Like an overdue pregnancy, every extra day that passes, poses a real mortal danger.
If since 1999, the baton of power at the highest levels in the Giant of Africa has changed hands among candidates from the Hausa, Yoruba and even the Ijaw ethnic group, it borders on the scandalous another major ethnic group -the Igbos- which counts itself among the key stakeholders in the Giant of Africa is yet to have a shot at the number one position or even number two.
Nigeria is not an ethnic state, and with the horrors of the Rwandan Genocide still so fresh in the collective African memory, ethnicism be promoted on any basis or under any guise. However, if the staggering diversity of one of the most diverse countries on earth is to serve it so well, then conscious efforts must be made to give every one a sense of belonging in the common destiny of the country.
This bid to bring inclusiveness to the politics of the country is not helped by the flippancy of many Nigerian politicians who switch their words as many times as the occasion demands without paying any heed to the sanctity of previous promises. So, it has become the lot of high-ranking politicians and party members to impugn the unwritten rotation policy ingrained in their parties when they deem convenient. At such times, they argue that rotation does not appear anywhere in their constitution.
Mr. Dokpesi is asking the Southeast to support Mr. Atiku and then bank on nothing but his honour to keep his word and hand over to someone from the region in 2027. Effectively, Mr. Dokpesi is asking the Southeast to take a shot in the dark and hope one of the wiliest veterans of Nigerian politics can keep his end of the bargain.
But who does not know just how mind bogglingly flippant Nigerian politicians can be? Who does not know that when Nigerian politicians say `white’, nine times out of ten, they actually mean ‘black’.
Also, given the particularly intoxicating trappings of power in Nigeria, who can expect one comfortably perched on Aso Rock to relinquish power for no reason but the sake of honour and past promises? Mr. Dokpesi is asking the Southeast to go out on an extremely feeble limb and his suggestion must be seen for what it is: the sugar-coated but ultimately empty promise of the archetypal Nigerian politician.
Many of the rumblings in the belly of Nigeria whose provenance can be traced to the Southeast today issue from the glaring lack of equity in Nigeria as presently constituted and the exclusionary tendencies of a presidency that is critically ill-equipped to coat political hostilities in diplomatic honey. There is no doubt that 2023 will give Nigerians another opportunity at arguably democracy`s most precious altar – the ballot box – an opportunity the country so gleefully relished in 2015.
If the Giant of Africa is to begin to address some of its existential challenges, the degree of homage paid to its diversity in 2023 will go a very long way. For now, the Southeast must be wary of the poisoned chalice held out by Mr. Dokpesi and his ilk.