If the President’s nephew and one of his closest advisers, Mallam Mamman Daura, were a Christian and a Southerner, I am 110 per cent sure that his recent proposition that for 2023 and beyond, Nigerians should not think about zoning the presidency any more but should consider only merit, would not have raised any eyebrows from some Nigerians, especially Southerners.
I am also 110 percent sure that the columnists, opinion leaders and political activists who have written or spoken in condemnation of him would have done the reverse. They would have written glowing pieces hailing him as one of the few living statesmen, patriots and nationalists still around, actively and patriotically trying to shape the destiny of the nation.
In my own small corner where I sit to monitor the affairs of my country, the question that came to my mind is: why did Christian and Southern commentators interpret his advocacy to mean that men and women of merit and competence can be found only in the North and the people who can have a chance to have a shot at the presidency if only it is conceded to them through zoning or other affirmative measures, are to be found only in the South?
As a Christian and Southerner, I find this position deeply insulting. Don’t we have people who can have reasoned arguments devoid of insults and regional posturing by agreeing with him but saying at the same time that the South, especially the South East which I think should be supported by all Nigerians to produce the next president for the sake of justice, peace and stability, has a surfeit of ‘meritorious’ presidential materials?
In fact, if Nigeria were not resting on a tripod and the case was left open for any Southerner to be considered, I would have humbly presented my humble self, if no one else is willing to look in my direction. For, apart from thefactthatIamnotIbo,Idonot see what I lack as a very meritorious, competent and suitable presidential material. Presidential candidates and presidents don’t have horns!
The story of our utter brokenness can be seen in the fact that we Nigerians can no longer have any reasoned consensus about where our nation should go so that it will be good for everyone to fulfil his or her destiny devoid of the tensions, stress and suspicion that have enveloped the land today.
My own proposition is that the talent, treasure and technique for governance are evenly distributed and that a minority of minorities like me have what it takes to provide adequate direction for this nation even better than some of those who have been privileged by God to sit on that seat in the past.
It is true that it took the USA a very long time after her Civil War for ‘’Northerners’’ to concede power to the South. But Nigeria is not the USA and it will not do for chauvinists whether in the north or west of our country to tender the argument of the USA example in support of the North producing a president again in 2023 and beyond or for the West to want it. It is simply not fair to the Ibos who are one leg of the Nigerian tripod. A two-stone contraption cannot provide the needed balance for a pot to cook the family meal. It will fall and spill the family’s precious food! We need a three-stone tripod.
What I feel is that it is in the best interest of the North for its leaders to make it clear that it is the unmistakable turn of the South East to produce the next president of our country. And the North should do this now in their interest and in the interest of the country.
No one from the North should further heat the polity by tendering the inciting old argument that power is never peacefully surrendered to anyone. My gentle warning is that if the North makes the mistake of allowing fate or the power and guile of Southerners to accede to power, that power will not return peacefully to the North again in the nearest future. We oracles of God do not want our prophecies to come to pass; we do not want to say ‘’we told you so’’ because when people do not learn by counsel but through awful experience, the results are often quite costly.
I believe that it is only after the Ibos take their turn that anyone, whether north or south, can now comfortably talks about ‘merit’. As things are now it is unmistakably the turn of the Ibos and none should say or post anything on the social or mainstream media wondering whether any one will be comfortable entrusting presidential powers into the hands of the Ibos as my friend and former comrade Naseer Kura did recently on Facebook.
Such a gambit is dangerous as it is highly inciting and inflammable. As far as I can see Ibo people are not more roguish or saintly than the Hausa- Fulanis or the Yoruba or anybody else in Nigeria. We all are an admixture of good and bad people like all people of God on planet earth.
One of the redeeming steps Buhari should take immediately is to find a way to politely tell the Jagaban of Borgu kingdom, Bola Tinubu, that Nigeria at this moment does not favour a Hausa-Yoruba political ping pong. And that he should, therefore, shelve his presidential ambition in the interest of peace and the continued existence of Nigeria as one political entity. Such a step will restore his sagging image as a nationalist and a man of fairness and justice.
If the North and other Nigerians want me to also exercise my right by mentioning who I consider suitable Ibo presidential materials, I will do so now without equivocation. My number one is Peter Obi, the two Nwodo brothers and Dr. Sam Amadi. There are, of course, many others but for me, these are great Ibo men who can be great presidents.
I further state that Peter Obi is the greatest of them all. However you want to define merit this man has it and has demonstrated it.
And however you want to define representation or zoning, this man eminently qualifies on that count too. My humble advice to my Ibo brethren is that there should quickly meet, dissolve all their differences and pick Peter Obi and present him to Nigerians as their choice and ask Nigerians to crown him as our president of Ibo extraction.
President Buhari on his part should accept Peter Obi without any pre- conditions such as that he should declare for his party APC before he can support him.
In fact political leaders on both the APC and PDP platforms should do what the military of General Abdulsallam Abubakar did in 1998 by deciding that only two Ibo men will be each of their presidential candidates in 2023.
I bet that if Buhari sends a clear message, through his famous body language but to me more appropriately through an open declaration, that he is in favour of an Ibo president for 2023, his approval rating will go sky high and many of the political problems he has now will just disappear overnight.
I say so because his leadership failures have been deepened by despair and suspicion that his succession will create huge problems for the country because he will insist on a Muslim Northerner of Fulani extraction on his party platform. This suspicion is widely held across the nation, including some of those who are thought to be potential beneficiaries who are alarmed about the consequences.
On the issue of Nigeria’s tripod, I don’t know whether it is Fate (God) or Satan that has so far severely tried three Nigerian presidents-Obasanjo, Jonathan and now Buhari- to see their statesmanship abilities or the lack of it. When Obasanjo came in in 1999, there was no Ibo man properly elected on the platform of his party to be made Senate president to be number three man.
Obasanjo had to bend over backwards to ensure that while he a Yoruba was number one and Atiku, a Hausa-Fulani, was number two, an Ibo man should be number three. Obasanjo accomplished that and obeyed the unstated Nigerian tripod law.
Jonathan was confronted by a similar challenge.
He is a Christian- Southerner and his deputy a Muslim- Northerner. By some strong force beyond his political competence to control, the number three position, the Senate Presidency, went to a Christian Middle Belter and not to a Yoruba man.
He was also outsmarted by some political young Turks in the Federal House of Representatives who swung the number four position in the country’s political pecking order to one of their own from a wrong place leaving the Yorubas without even the fourth position!
This failure of the Yorubas to get their ‘due share’ was blamed on Jonathan and he suffered this albatross throughout his stay.
It eventually cost him the presidency in 2015 as the Yorubas felt they had no portion in Nigeria under Jonathan and for the first time in the country’s history aligned with the Hausa Fulani to keep the Ibos out of the power loop at the centre.
For Buhari, his failure to give the Ibos a feeling of belonging is so obvious that millions of Ibo feel that he still harbours the Civil War animus against their tribe.
That is why Buhari must take the extraordinary step of showing the Ibos that even if he personally hates them as widely perceives, he has no other option but to do what is necessary not for the sake of the Ibos but for the sake of Nigeria. This is what is called statesmanship. Nigeria needs Buhari’s statesmanship at this time more than anything else he may do now or at any other time.