Shehu Sani

On his twitter bio, activist turned politician, who until recently, represented Kaduna Central District in the Nigerian Senate, Shehu Sani, describes himself as a “dedicated fighter for Justice and Freedom.” But that has proved to be an irony, judging by his idea that justice is giving power to those who have had it before and denying others who haven’t. Indeed it has turned out that Sani is a promoter of injustice, or at best, displays a warped sense of justice.

Speaking with journalists in Kaduna on Monday, Sani argued that it would be unfair to deny the South West geopolitical zone the presidency in 2023 because, according to him, it would be ingratitude on the part of the North not to support the South West for the presidency.

Hear him: “The President should caution those from the North eyeing that position. Power needs to rotate to other regions; the Southwest worked tirelessly to remove PDP from office and helped to bring Nigeria to where it is today and deserve support from the North come 2023.

“If federal character is applied on appointments and other areas, it should also be applicable in the political space. Therefore, the North should be fair and magnanimous to all and give all regions, a sense of belonging.”

While I agree with Sani that power, in the interest of fairness and justice, should return to the South in 2023, it is rather appalling that Sani believes that when it does, it should go to the South West. The same zone that has had eight years of presidency, and by 2023, would have had another eight years of vice presidency, bringing the total to 16 years out of our 20 years of democracy.

Sani does not think it would be unfair to deny the South East, another Southern zone that has not held power once, not even as vice president, the opportunity when power returns to the South. His reason being that it was the South West that helped to kick out the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, which he conveniently Christians the “PDP.”

Listening to Sani, you might be tempted to think that the “PDP” is one group of villains who were destined to ruin Nigeria, and the South West helped to “rescue” the country by kicking it out. Thus, for doing this very patriotic duty, the zone deserves to be compensated with power, well, at the expense of the PDP supporting villains of the South East.

But of course, this is not the case. What Sani means is that since the South West helped President Muhammadu Buhari from the North West to power at the expense of Goodluck Jonathan from the South South, the North should return the favour. Because, apparently, deep inside Sani’s heart, a fair Nigeria is a Nigeria where power is rotated between the South West and North West at the expense of not just the South East, but also North Central and North East.

Since Sani believes that what qualifies each zone for the coveted office of president is their support for the zone in power, it is safe to say that he believes that, after Buhari – and if Buhari’s North or more specifically North West supports the South West to take power in 2023 – the same North West should take power again in 2031 as reward for helping the South West. This, is in the interest of ‘fairness ‘ as defined by Sani.

It is rather tragic that even those you think are some of the brightest minds in the country, are still locked in the near primitive mindset of jungle justice. In other words, the might is right logic of justice.

But what is more tragic about Sani’s assertion is the fact that for him, competence should not necessarily have a place in leadership selection. What Sani is saying is that we should no longer support or oppose a leader on the basis of his performance or antecedents, but strictly on the basis of selfish and parochial interest. Therefore, even when available statistics point to an undeniable evidence of one’s incompetence as a leader, and when indeed, that incompetence is manifested in such leader’s first term in government, it is still right, and even ‘patriotic’ to keep supporting such leader at the expense of the country itself with the hope that after the leader would have finished ruining the country, he would hand over power to you. This is the logic that should guide Nigeria’s politics, according Senator Sani.

But Sani is not alone. Nigeria’s vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo is a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). In the church he ministered for years, he must have had Nigerians of all ethnic groups, and of course, if the Bible was ever his guide, he would have taught his congregation the Christian virtues of love for one another, and the fact that in the house of God, there are no Jews and no Gentiles. But the same Osinbajo, in 2018, went to Oyo and told his Yoruba brothers that they must vote Buhari in 2019 so that in 2023, power will return to them, the Yoruba, with him potentially as president.

This, of course, at the expense of other ethnic groups, especially the Igbo who have not had it before. Osinbajo ideally, should represent the shinning light of Nigerian politics. He is, in addition to being a pastor, a professor of law who practiced in Lagos State, the country’s flagship of civilization, for many years. But even with all his exposure and education, Osinbajo believes that politics should be about tribe primarily, and justice and fairness can go to hell.

Yet, these days, he has formed the habit of periodically travelling to Anambra, through Enugu, perhaps to build goodwill in anticipation of possible power bid. Obviously, he expects that while he is justified to promote injustice against the Igbo in his own selfish interest, the same Igbo would line up behind him to help him achieve that interest.

But Osinbajo, for having proved himself a man of cheap virtues, no longer surprise one by his positions. I mean, didn’t he go to the US to say that reports of kidnappings in the country were exaggerated when most of the highways in his South West constituency were danger zones?

I must use this opportunity to express my admiration for the larger Yoruba race, who despite the shameless ethnic baiting by a section of the political class, largely rejected the government they felt has not done well, prompting the government to finally resort to intimidation and manipulation.

In the case of Sani, however, having followed him for some time on various social media platforms, I had thought very highly of him. While most politicians and opinion leaders in the North would rather keep mum over Buhari’s apparent failings, Sani risked all to stand for Nigeria and for truth.

But his stance on 2023 presidency has revealed a side of him that I never knew. It would appear that Sani believes that patriotism, as far as Nigeria is concerned, is supporting a Northerner to gain power, and helping that Northerner to remain in power, even at the expense of peace and national cohesion. If Sani didn’t think so, he would probably have reasoned that Buhari cannot be an ideal Nigerian president and that the call of every Nigerian patriot would have been to oppose his return to power.

Nigeria has become the world’s poverty capital, insecurity is assuming very alarming proportions, ethnic and religious tension is at all time high. Yet, Sani does not believe that if anyone deserved to be considered for president on the basis of Buhari, it ought to be those who opposed his uninspiring and evidently unpatriotic government, rather than those who promoted it. Could it be that the virtues Sani espouse in his constant social media engagement are but pretence?

On a personal level, I frown at the very idea of choosing a leader, not based strictly on competence, but on zones, ethnic groups or religion as appears to be the case in Nigeria. But I also appreciate the peculiarities of the Nigerian politics. It is a country where governance is not necessarily a call to serve but a call to dispense favour. On this basis therefore, it becomes necessary for every group to have access to this favour of office by having one of their own in power.
If the above be the logic, and if, although not provided for in the constitution, Nigerians have accepted that the only way to ensure balance and enthrone a sense of justice is to have every zone produce president on a rotational basis, it is obscene therefore, to argue, as Sani has done, that the reason this justice must not be extended to some groups is that they did not support the present occupant of the high office.

The hallmark of democracy is freedom of choice. It is primitive to think that as a president or a leader, everyone must support you and when they don’t, they must not get what is ideally due to them. This is the mindset that belongs to the 15th Century dictatorships.

I still believe, regardless, that what should matter most in leadership selection is competence. And when a leader is competent and able to give everyone their due, the dangerous scramble for power will reduce. But to argue like Sani is to play to the gallery.

Obinna Ezugwu: [email protected]