The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party in Nigeria, has concluded its long-awaited national convention. The main takeaway from the gathering is the zoning of its presidential candidate for the 2019 elections to Northern Nigeria. But they may not be alone. The fiercest narrative that has continued to greet my expression of interest to vie for president under the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is that power must remain in the North past 2019.
So, why specifically the North at this critical stage of national development where the nation is facing serious crises in all fronts? Have the leaders from any particular zone shown any magic wand in solving national problems? If zoning is suddenly the sole panacea for our problems, what are the criteria?
The cursory history below is cue.
By May 2019, the North might have occupied the seat of power for about 42 out of 59 years of national independence. Of the three Northern political zones, the North-West would have been in power for roughly 18 years; 11 democratic, and 7 years under military rule. The North-East already had about 6 years of democratic governance in the First Republic; while the North-Central accounted for solid 18 years, all military. Yet, despite unfettered allocation of federal funds to the Northern region, its huge natural and human resources remain grossly untapped. It is not surprising, therefore, that the image of the poor human condition in the North is the convex lens through which the history of bad leadership in Nigeria is seen worldwide.
Similarly, the Southern Nigeria has held power for about 17 years. The South-West zone was at the helm for 12 years; 8 years of democratic power, and 4 years of military and quasi military dictatorships. The South-South follows with 5 years, all democratic leadership; while the South-East accounted for 6 months through military authority. Unfortunately, however, the condition of vital federal projects in the South, including roads and airports, remain an eyesore. Needless to mention that the region is well known for high crime rates home and abroad.
Ultimately, politicians from both the North and South are guilty of bad leadership in Nigeria. We must admit, therefore, that the distrust in the polity is deeply rooted in the past, where each ethnic group or region patently shares blame. But if zoning must prevail at this critical time, common sense dictates that the law of equity would equally demand that the position of the president be allocated to the region or the zones thus far marginalized in the presidential equation.
Critics are expected to roar here. As if Nigeria just attained independence in 1999, they will attempt to argue that the rotation began in 1999. Others have also made the case that the rotation rationale does not consider military rule. Fine. But there is the need for consistency. Nigeria has moved onto political zones instead of the regional concept. Thus, the presidential calculators ought to zoom their searchlight into the North-Central and the South-East, being the political zones that are yet to produce democratic presidents. In other words, any presidential aspirant from North-West, South-West, South-South, and North-East might as well step aside.
More progressively, let there be open contest from all zones without preordained anointment. Nigeria needs a leader who is best equipped to lead at this stage of national development. For things are not going well in our country. The ordinary man and woman is finding it difficult to survive. Many of the youths are fleeing the country, most of whom have no other choice than to embrace the harsh conditions in immigration jails in foreign lands as more hopeful than the free life in our native land. Some are even accepting to be sold as slaves insofar they escape the Nigerian dilemma.
Make no mistake about it, the main problem is not the fault of the current national government. Instead, it is a culmination of acute leadership failures inherited from the past PDP regimes that squandered the nation’s golden opportunities. For example, despite unprecedented revenue generated from crude oil from 1999 to 2014, abject corruption, rather than the dividend of the hard-earned democracy, was the order of the day.
As can be recalled, that very situation prompted many patriots, including this writer—to sacrifice our individual political and business interests—to promote any candidate who could stem the tide of bad governance bedeviling the country at the time. We did not care about ethnicity, religion or creed. We did not care that the South-South, the very life zone of the nation, which at the time had a sitting president in Goodluck Jonathan, had not exhausted its eight years in Aso Villa. All we sought was a Nigerian, simply a Nigerian, with a history of fighting corruption. Muhammadu Buhari was that man.
Buhari came back to power with good intentions and has performed to the best of his ability. At least, corruption is once again being viewed as stealing. But, if the truth is told, his best can no longer cope with the demands of the 21st century Nigeria. In short, President Muhammadu Buhari has two glaring styles to consider moving forward: The Mandela manner or the Mugabe muggle. The world is watching.
The world is definitely watching, believing that Nigeria can do much better. It is not a secret that her citizens, including the youth, are leading lights worldwide in all-important areas of human civilization from medicine, education, engineering, law enforcement, and what have you. Yet, the same Nigerian professionals cannot replicate similar standards at home because of all manners of discrimination, including uneven zoning and quota. That trend must change. The posterity beckons on us to capitalize on our rich diversity and find common grounds where ideas could converge for practical solutions instead of amplifying the echoes of a lifelong pattern of tribal or regional rivalries.
SKC Ogbonnia*, an APC presidential aspirant, writes from Abuja, Nigeria.