Nigeria is a work in progress. As a country, it is in the process of nation building, which obviously will continue as long as it remains one country.
To be stable, to develop peacefully, a country must first build trust amongst the various segments that make up that country. It must form a nation out of the diverse cultures and languages that make it up. That can never be achieved without first building and sustainable trust!
It is therefore a patriotic duty of leaders to ensure that mistrust is not promoted in any way, if Nigeria will thrive and overcome its current challenges. Furthermore, the framers of our constitution adopted policies that make sure that the various ethnic nationalities are given a sense of belonging.
This is usually achieved through rotation, quota, zoning and what have you! By whatever name it is called, whether it is called zoning or federal character, in practice, our constitution adopted inclusiveness.
We have a framework which in its simplest form means “work make I work or rule make I rule!”
By the principle of fairness and inclusiveness, power and offices are rotated around the country in a clearly defined manner. Indeed, it has become a convention.
The convention is that the top offices of the federal structure are rotated between the north/Muslim and the south/Christian. This convention has kept the country despite the many fault lines, it has kept the country fairly chugging along.
Clearly, it is imperative that come 2023, the presidency should, by fairness and equity head south. There is no alternative to that if trust building must continue. Indeed, when that is ensured most of those instigating disembowelment of Nigeria will be quelled and disarmed. Nobody can claim not to know the level of disenchantment and dismay by many segments of Nigeria who are made to feel like outsiders in their own country as a result of clearly unfair and partial access to power.
This writer was one of those who publicly castigated President Goodluck Jonathan for wanting to contest after finishing the tenure of Yar’Adua. My argument then was that it was the turn of the North. In the same token do I come out to say clearly today, that it is the turn of the South.
No one should deceive himself that the interest of Nigeria will be served by those who want to deny or abrogate the convention of rotation of power in Nigeria. Those who want power to remain in the north are largely doing so on account of personal interest and not national interest. Any zone in Nigeria seeking to hold on to power beyond two terms of four years each does not mean well for Nigeria.
You don’t build a nation by setting up tension, anger and mistrust. And that is what is being set up by those who are pushing that political no-show!
Nation building aims at the unification of the various peoples. Many people believe that nation-building is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, that it takes a long time and is a social process that cannot be jump-started from outside.
The evolution of the Italian city-states into a nation, the German city-states into the Zollverein customs union and later a nation, the multiple languages and cultural groups in France into the nation of France, the development of China from the warring kingdoms, took a very long time, and were the result, not only of political leadership, but of changes in technology and economic processes (the agricultural and then industrial revolutions), as well as communication, culture and civil society, and many other factors.
The first challenge in nation building is to shape a nation that is united, yet accommodative of the diversity in the society. Nigeria is a country with different cultures, religions, and languages. Nigerian leaders as part of the trust building process have – instituted programmes and policies to give everyone and every part of the country a sense of belonging. That is why the concept of quota system comes in.
Quota system in unity secondary schools and in the tertiary education admissions ensures that all the federating units that make up Nigeria are represented in the admission process. The concept of quota system is associated with other related concepts like; federal character system, zoning, and catchment area within Nigerian context.
The aim of these concepts is to ensure even distribution of social benefits to all the federating units of the Nigerian society. The position has always been that there is a wide educational gap between the South and the North. The South is educationally advantaged and the North is disadvantaged. This gives the South an edge over the North.
Quota system is aimed at narrowing the educational gap and ultimately closing it.
While the quota system came into being prior to Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the federal character principle became officially recognised in the 1979 constitution. These policies (quota system, federal character principle, zoning, catchment area) were aimed at addressing the issue of ethnic representation in the public sector, especially in the issues of admission, recruitment, promotion and appointment.
It is based on this quest for equity that it is in the best interest of the country to ensure the rotation of the highest office in the land between the North and the South, especially as the country moves closer to the 2023 general elections.
By May 29, 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari, a Northerner, would have served eight years as president of the country and for equity’s sake power naturally should shift to the South. This much has also been expressed by the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) that is insisting that the next president should come from the South.
By now it should have been a given that after a Southerner spends eight years as president, power should shift to the North and vice visa as part of the nation building process. That is why I am yet to grasp why the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) is saying that it does not agree with power shift to the South in 2023.
The spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed made this known while delivering a keynote address at the maiden Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series organised by the students’ wing of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, at the weekend. I thought that he was misquoted in the media, until I watched the video of his speech as aired by Channels TV.
“We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before, whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria. We have the majority of the votes and the democracy says vote whom you want. “Why should we accept second class position when we know we can buy form and contest for first class and we will win?” I disagree with the NEF spokesman that if North concedes power to the South in 2023 it would make the North second class citizens for eight years, unless if he is trying to say that the eight years of the Northern presidency from 2015-2023 has made Southerners second class citizens of Nigeria.
The issue of presidency rotation between North and South; quota system in unity school and universities admission as well as the federal character principle are all part of nation building process in Nigeria’s march to nationhood.
The ideal thing should be let the brightest students take up all the admission vacancies in unity schools and universities even if they come from one state or let the president come from only one section of the country because of its perceived high voting capacity but that is not how nations are built, especially at the early period of nation building.
When an emerging nation is plagued by cronyism; exclusion of all but friends, corruption; which erodes trust, and tribalism; rivalry between ethnic groups within the nation, this sometimes resulted in near-disintegration, such as the attempt by Biafra to secede from Nigeria in 1970, or the continuing demand of the Somali people in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia for complete independence. The Rwandan genocide as well as the recurrent nation building problems in the African continent and elsewhere are related to lack of ethnic, religious, or racial cohesion.