Elder statesman, Mamman Daura’s recent assertion that competence and not zoning should determine who rules Nigeria in 2023 has thrown the political space into an overdrive. In an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service, the former Editor of New Nigerian Newspapers in apparent opposition to zoning said: ”This turn-by-turn, it was done once, it was done twice, it was done trice… It is better for this country to be one…it should be for the most competent and not for someone who comes from somewhere.”
Expectedly, some ethnic champions jumped up in a frenzy and did not waste time in accusing Mamman Daura of flying a northern kite of retaining power in 2023. It beats our imagination how the view of one man is now tantamount to the view of the entire North. This is least expected from individuals and groups that we feel ought to know better how regional views are aggregated.
Granted, Mamman Daura is a power broker in the North and a nephew of President Muhammadu Buhari, but his views which he has every right to air should not be misconstrued as the position of the entire North. It is demeaning to think so. It is instructive to note that zoning was brought into our political lexicon with the clamour for the 1999 presidency after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election presumed to have been won by the late MKO Abiola. His death and the return to civilian rule in 1999 after a long period of military interregnum brought the clamour by the Southwest region to be compensated with the Presidency. Consequently, the two leading political parties: then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a coalition of All Peoples Party (APP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) presented Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae both from the Southwest respectively. However, the zoning of the PDP ticket to the Southwest in 1999 didn’t stop the late Abubakar Rimi from contesting for the party ticket. Even in subsequent elections, the main party’s ticket was usually open to all zones in spite of the fact that the rotational arrangement was enshrined in their constitutions. After Obasanjo’s eight-year rule, Umaru Yar’Adua was elected president but died in office which altered the North-South rotational arrangement.
This newspaper recalls that Goodluck Jonathan contested the 2011 and 2015 general elections in spite of the zoning agreement which ordinarily was in favour of the North at the time. That President Buhari won the 2015 presidential election was not because of zoning but because he was able to build a coalition between the North and South.
We admit that in a fragile political arrangement such as is obtainable in Nigeria, zoning was considered to be the magic wand that would give a sense of belonging to all regions in order to foster national unity However, that has not been the case as the Nigerian presidency is seen largely as the exclusive preserve of the three major tribes in Nigeria not minding that there are more than 300 tribes in Nigeria. Where is the place of the minorities in this? Jonathan’s emergence was based on a doctrine of necessity that was why it ended the way it did.
In our considered opinion, the uproar generated over Mamman Daura’s interview with BBC Hausa Service was unnecessary and pretentious. One, Mamman Daura’s accusers deliberately ignored the fact that the man granted the interview on his own behalf without any pretence to be speaking for any group, region or political interest. Two, the facts he stated are unassailable, except for the peculiar Nigerian situation. We doubt if any rational Nigerian would, in their inner recesses, wish to have an incompetent President if there was an opportunity for the reverse.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said that it was important that they state from the onset that as mentioned by the interviewee, the views expressed were personal to him and did not, in any way, reflect that of either the President or his administration. At age 80, having served as editor and managing director of one of this country’s most influential newspapers, the New Nigerian, certainly, Mallam Mamman Daura qualifies as an elder statesman with a national duty to hold perspectives and disseminate them as guaranteed under the constitution and other extant laws of the land. He does not need the permission or clearance of anyone to exercise this right.
Indeed, no one can win the presidential elections without winning at least four geopolitical zones in the country. Threats and counter threats are an ill wind that will blow no one any good. Come to think of it, what is wrong in advocating competence on the issue of who becomes the next president of Nigeria. In every tribe and zone in this country, there are competent and eminently qualified persons. Competence is not exclusive to any tribe or region. But those calling for Mamman Daura’s head tend to belittle the South by giving the impression that the North is the reservoir of leadership competence.
Interestingly, the debate has brought to the fore the arguments about restructuring. This Newspaper had severally supported some forms of restructuring like the creation of state police and devolution of powers which we strongly suggest can be done in phases. In our view, most of the proponents of restructuring now are using it as an instrument of blackmail.
Also, in our view, the current debate on who takes over from President Buhari in 2023 is coming too early. The President still has three years left of his second term mandate and distractions like this are unnecessary. Improving the economy, fighting banditry, kidnappings and other forms of criminalities besetting the country at the moment should be foremost on the minds of all political leaders and the citizens’ at all levels regardless of ethnic or party leanings. 2023 debates should take the back seat for now.