By Charles Okoh
The rotational system of government which has gained so much currency under this dispensation is a necessary evil given the intricate state of affairs of the nation. It has become so desirable because more and more people and groups are becoming increasingly isolated in the scheme of things in Nigeria. This more than anything else, has given rise to the pockets of agitations and cries of marginalization that have polarized our national polity and national existence in recent times.
In fact, the rotational policy especially since 1999 became the only way out after the debacle that trailed the unjust, unwarranted and illogical annulment of the June 12, 1993 election won, without a shadow of doubt, by the late Chief Moshood Abiola.
The significance and historical importance of that election was completely lost on the General Ibrahim Babangida led military government. I think with the benefit of hindsight, the now retired General Babangida in the inner recess of his heart, must be regretting that action. For the first time in the country, Nigerians threw away long-held prejudices and voted for their choice and the outcome was a resounding victory of Abiola’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) even in Kano which is the home state of the National Republican Convention (NRC) presidential candidate late Bashir Tofa.
Nigerians did not bother whether Abiola, a Muslim was running with Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, another Muslim from the north. It did not matter to the voter in the south east that Sylvester Ugor, the running mate of Tofa was one of theirs, when they voted for the Abiola/Kingibe ticket. It did not matter to the voter in Kano that Tofa was their son, just as it did not matter to the Christian south that Abiola was running an all Muslims ticket.
Can that still happen now? Yes. I say that unequivocally. My caveat remains: let the vote of the people count. Let the election outcome reflect the mood, wishes and aspirations of the people of this country. That was what made the 1993 election unique. Since then, we have been having allocation of votes in our so-called phantom elections. President Muhammadu Buhari has been president of Nigeria for seven years, yet the northern region is worse hit by insecurity, poverty, deprivation and an ever-increasing population of out of school children.
Are we therefore going to jettison the marginalization cries from some regions, especially the south east, or do we pretend that these calls are not genuine and real? No. But we also must not forget that the overriding interests and principles propelling the ruling class and their cronies are not respecters of boundaries, religions or tribes. They cut across the regions and religions and most of these calls of marginalization are predominantly selfish and for the interests of the politicians.
However, we have never had cries of alienations as we have them now. The APC government of President Buhari has distressingly allowed cronyism, nepotism and religious sentiments take centre stage in his appointments and decision making.
We can’t mention it enough, because we have never had it this bad. How the government does this and expects the nation united and peaceful remains benumbing and mind-boggling. It would amount to stating the obvious if we say Buhari has single-handed polarized the nation with his skewed appointments and policies to favour one part of the nation at the expense of the others. Nowhere does this happen and peace still prevails.
So, 2023 offers Nigerians a golden opportunity to address this imbalance and grievances. We need to fix this anomaly or our nation is condemned to the abyss; God forbid.
It is the need to address this schism that is the driving force behind the call for the rotational presidency and the need to zone the plum job. For the APC it is a no brainer that power must return to the south after the eight years rule of President Buhari. Anything short of that could spell doom for the party. This more than anything else may have informed the decision to take the chairmanship position of the party to the north with Senator Abudullahi Adamu appointed as the new chairman of the party.
So what will be the chances of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State from the north central? He will have to overturn the party’s zoning arrangement to win the party’s ticket as its presidential candidate or he will have to try his luck under another party platform.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the plot may not be that easy. As a party, the south has enjoyed 13 years of the PDP’s reign between 1999 and 2015 and the north only three years. Some have also, validly argued that the north has ruled the nation more than the south since independence, therefore, the party must on the basis of that zone the presidency to the south.
However, realistically speaking, can the PDP that does not enjoy the luxury of power afford to ignore the candidate that gives them the brightest chance of winning the presidency, irrespective of where that candidate comes from? They need power and to achieve their goal it is only natural for them to shop for such a candidate from wherever they may find him or her. It can also be achieved through consensus, if the party thinks that would give them the best opportunity. That is realism as opposed to idealism.
So the needless flaks against the media by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and the Presidential zoning committee chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the media reported that his committee had thrown the presidential ticket open was unnecessary.
Ortom’s claim that the committee didn’t throw the presidential ticket open, but that they only reverted to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, is a mere game of buying time as the party would not zone the presidency since the party would primarily be preoccupied with wresting power from the APC.
Ortom had said, “It is wrong for anybody to say that we threw open the presidential ticket. We have to revert to NEC. It is wrong for the media to come up with a position, and the media were not members of the committee. During our discussion the media were not there.
“After the meeting, I came out to brief the media, so it was surprising to see the headlines on newspapers, televisions and radios. We have to correct that because it is wrong.
“I want to appeal to all Nigerians who are passionate because some of them have spoken to me; they want PDP to get it right. We are consciously ensuring that the right thing is done, so I believe that at the end, by the grace of God we will get it right but preempting the committee’s work and NEC’s decision is not right.”
For the APC and the PDP the primary concern is grabbing power and so zoning and the permutation around it is only a special purpose vehicle for achieving that objective. For the common man on the streets, this really does not mean much as long as their wishes and aspirations are reflected through the outcome of the ballots.
That is the contract that the Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC owes Nigerians; ensuring that the votes of the people would count at the end of the day. We need to be reassured that at the end that the power to determine who leads the country belongs to the people. Only then can our politics be issues-driven and the ability to deliver would be the only criterion for electing leaders. Only then can we put to rest the retrogressive and divisive politics that has only benefited our gluttonous clan of elite politicians who have over the years played this brand of politics to benefit themselves and their cronies. The leaders too would serve knowing that their stay in power would be at the behest of the people.