Again, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has reiterated his desire to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari after his tenure expires in 2023.
He said only ungrateful persons would fail to appreciate the sacrifices being made by the President to ensure that Nigeria remains united.
The governor said that Buhari remained the only President who does not have houses and bank accounts abroad, except his cattle.
Bello said this while receiving traditional, political leaders and stakeholders from Daura and other parts of Katsina State, led by Abba Daura, in his office.
The governor said what the President needed was for Nigerians and his followers to support him to succeed.
He said, “It will take an ingrate not to appreciate what President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing and is still doing for this country.
“President Buhari from history has been sacrificing and is still sacrificing for the unity, security, prosperity and for the emancipation of this country, right from his days in the military and now as a civilian.
“The President is the only President that, so far, doesn’t have a foreign account, any house abroad, or companies anywhere, rather than his cattle. Even when he was on the sick bed, he wished Nigeria well.
“The least we, as a people will do for him is to ensure that we do everything possible, whether in the open or secret, to support him to succeed. So, whatever we are doing today is to ensure that we support him to succeed.”
The political understanding to compensate the South West region of the country, following the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections, won by late Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, and his subsequent death in detention while insisting on actualizing his mandate, gave birth to the idea of rotational presidency between the North and the South of the country.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a beneficiary of that understanding, completed his two terms in 2007 and handed over to a northerner, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who died in office while his Vice from the south, Goodluck Jonathan did a term but failed a re-election and paved the way for a northern president, Muhammadu Buhari, who will finish his second term in 2023.
There is therefore an unwritten agreement that the presidency would rotate between the North and the South.
It is therefore generally assumed, particularly among the political leaders from the South, that the presidency of the country should come from the southern region in 2023 as the southern governors recently issued a notice to this demand.
However, this demand did not fly with the northern elites who described it as unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Commentators on the debate for rotational presidency between the North and the South have been divided with some insisting that we should be concerned with the president’s competence and integrity and not the part of the country he comes from.
Former Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi and former vice presidential candidate to Buhari, Pastor Tunde Bakare, belong to this camp.
Bakare has argued that zoning of the presidency is unconstitutional and that “what is needed at this moment is the person who can do it. Political parties should bring their best forward. Let the best of the best emerge. It can go to the South, it can go to the North. It’s only one seat.”
Sanusi, also a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, believes rotational presidency could leave Nigeria with two useless presidential candidates in the 2023 general elections, arguing that “what Nigeria needs is a president that can deliver.”
“Give me a president from any part of the country who can deliver and we should vote for him. He is not taking the presidency to his home town,” he said.
But as the controversy over zoning or rotational presidency continues to dominate political discussions, there is consensus among several political leaders that zoning will go a long way in sustaining the unity of the country, considering the level of division today.
As it stands in Nigeria today, the future president should emerge through a political and electoral process that guarantees that the North would be carried along in governance.
The next President must be a Nigerian president, not an ethnic president, a regional president, or a religious president.
What Nigeria and Nigerians need now is a president with an antecedent that shows that he will not lead the nation to division.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, according to many around the corridors of power, has all these characteristics. But they are also quick to say that his stubbornness may be an inhibiting factor.
However, the process of choosing who should be the candidate in the major parties should not be done with threat, violence or intimidation.
It is clear that no southerner can become president unless he gets the support of the north.
It is insulting when people talk about rotation because it gives room to those who want to be mischievous to twist the situation to cause chaos.
Why should rotation be an issue? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
For a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria, so many interests abound as to who leads the country and from which region of the country.
This was the reason political parties adopted zoning arrangements to give all regions an opportunity to lead.
The zoning arrangement or power sharing arrangement is to enable especially marginalised ethnic groups to benefit. This can be seen in the case of former President Goodluck Jonathan who emerged through zoning.
Although, it can also deprive competent persons the opportunity to contest because the zoning formula does not favour their regions at a point in time but rotation is good for national unity.
However, it is good to open the field for all qualified persons to aspire and contest for any position rather than zoning.
While the North should allow any other zone to produce the Presidency having occupied same for the eight years stretch by 2023, the ideal scenario is to look at integrity and vision of promising aspirants.
Many thought the Yahaya Bello movement was a joke in the beginning. But it has reached a point where kingmakers within his party and outside must listen when he talks. His level of acceptance amongst women, youths and across religions can not be swept under the carpet.
If merit is the determining factor in 2023, the Kogi Governor is likely to stand. And why not? In a normal society, where political recruitment is based on justice and where the government can guarantee social justice, equal rights, human rights, merit ought to be the factor that determines who will be the president.
Who should be president should depend on the quality, relevance and capacity of his vision to fulfill the dreams of the citizens.
In considering the flag bearer, members of all political parties should evaluate the performance records of each candidate, the candidate’s ability and continued capacity to handle strenuous requirements of the job, including fairness.
For those who have held positions at the highest level in the states, voters should look into their records, how the fortunes of the states they governed were positively turned over and their care for the masses.
Definitely, hunger is pervasive in the country and Nigerians have profoundly lost values, but voters must understand that hunger, poverty, insecurity would be on the rise and devaluation of their worthiness would be deepened if they continue to sell their votes for pittance.
The truth is that zoning is a phraseology unknown to our law if we are talking about the law and the constitution.
Allowing the North Central to produce the next president in 2023 would end secessionist agitations among the Igbos and Boko Haram insurgency in the North East threatening the unity and security of Nigeria.
Besides being marginalized, both geo-political zones have competent persons who are capable of leading the country.
All the other zones have produced elected presidents except the North Central and South East zones.
There may not be so much problem if the presidential candidate in 2023 comes from the North Central and the running mate from the South East.
After eight years, the two zones will now exchange the baton, so that within the next 16 years, either of the political zones would have had the opportunity to produce a president. That will bring real peace in Nigeria.
If there should be zoning, it should be zoning to capacity and competence.
The shameless flaunting of ethnic, tribal or religious credentials cannot take the nation out of the back waters of corruption and rabid underdevelopment.
We need to spread these opportunities equitably amongst competent individuals to give all parts of the country a sense of belonging as enshrined in Section 15 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The system of shutting people out of their inalienable right for a period of time just to satisfy a section of the country from time to time has not made us break even in the overall affairs of the country and this is the time to do away with this turn by turn democracy.
We must see beyond the immediate political satisfaction of a few who are bent on perpetually keeping Nigeria under developed.
The issue of rotation is a front burner in the political discourse in Nigeria because of lack of trust amongst various components of the country due to the hyper level of tribalism, sectionalism, nepotism, religious intolerance, selfishness, and greed openly exhibited by various administrations and public office holders in the country.
In an ideal situation, the best and patriotic person endowed with developmental ideas and capable of executing strong policies that will stop corruption and other endemic ills that have destroyed this country is what we need.
The question of integrity and competence can be achieved from any part of the country. All the different parts of the country have people who can pass the integrity and competence test.
The idea of insisting that the office of the President must go to any geo political zone must be under the condition that the right and mostly qualified candidate can be found in that geo political zone.
In real time politics, it is very important to note that being a politician who is very rich doesn’t translate to being the best.
That you were once a governor or Senator at a point in your career does not mean you could be the right candidate under a far delicate and troubled situation the country finds itself today.
Nigerians should look beyond party politics and zoning in choosing the presidential candidate in 2023. They should be guided by very many factors before giving their support to anybody that offers himself for the presidential job.
These factors include, experience in good governance, known individual capacity in human and natural resources management, level of competence in deep and rational relationship in a diverse and not too united people and ability to be consistently cool – headed and fully inclined to wide consultations.
Above all, good health beyond doubt, loyalty and patriotism free of selfish agenda and someone who is truly detribalized with comprehensive exposure within and outside the country.
The final factor should be that the candidate must be well above average in the area of accountability and integrity. Assessing the EFCC Vs. Kogi State N20bn bailout case may again throw up the Governor as fit for this bill.
Prof. Anosike, an academic, is based in the United States.