By Adebayo Obajemu
Though the 2023 presidential election is still one year and some months away, the fireworks have begun, and politicians have already begun behind the scenes political manoeuvres. One interesting feature of the coming contest for presidency is the reenactment of the old and traditional fault-lines and primordial sentiment that had made ours a prebendal politics.
Last week, Mr. Uche Secondus, chairman of main opposition party, PDP escaped ouster as the two regions battled for the soul of the party in the run up to 2023. Whoever occupies the position will determine where the president comes from.
After eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari will have come to a constitutional close in 2023, the North through their body language, utterances of some key politicians, opinion leaders and network of some influential power brokers close to the seat of power, appear not ready to relinquish power and allow same to shift to the South.
“Let me be frank with you, the thinking in critical but powerful circles in the North across political divide is that after Buhari another Northerner should succeed him, before the idea of power shifting to the South could ever be given serious consideration”, says Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist in a telephone conversation with Business Hallmark.
He contended that having spent 13 years in power, it is widely believed in the North that Buhari and Yar’dua terms put together have not approximated the 13 years of Southern presidency.
Giving credence to this line of thought, Professor David Fiki of the Ahmadu Bello University told this newspaper that “North understands Politics and are more adept at the game than Southerners, it is not as if the North is opposed to the idea of presidency moving to the South, but the North believes that they are yet to complete their terms. Don’t forget that the strand of northern conservatives in power now is the most parochial and fundamentalist when it comes to northern interest.”
As it is the North is calculating politically, and the strategy is to push the politics of the two major political parties to a cul de sac that will effectively position the region to benefit from whichever side the political pendulum swings.
As the North strategizes to secure presidency come 2023, political expediencies demand that sacking Uche Secondus from being chairman of the People’s Democratic Party may not be in its best interest, since replacing him with a Northerner means automatic ticket for the South to produce the president.
So saving Secondus was a good script, thus Northern power brokers in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rallied behind Prince Uche Secondus, the party’s national chairman, and saved him from the coup spearheaded by Governor Nyesom Wike to forcefully remove him from office last week.
Reliable sources informed BusinessHallmark that a horse of northern powerbrokers led by Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Senator Walid Jibrin, the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) rallied the North behind Secondus for reasons of enlightened self interest.
Sources mentioned the presidential ambitions of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal. Following the upheavals that trailed the resignation of seven members of the Na¬tional Working Committee (NWC), which included the Deputy National Financial Secretary, the Deputy Legal Adviser, the Deputy National Auditor, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, the Dep¬uty Women Leader and the Deputy Organising Secretary, Tambuwal, who is the chair¬man of the PDP Governors’ Forum was said to have ral¬lied his colleagues while Ji¬brin also mobilised members of the BoT to do all they could to prevent the party from an imminent implosion.
It was also gathered that some group of retired gen¬erals from the Northern part of the country who played a crucial role in the formation of the party also used their influence to calm the situa¬tion, leading to a temporary ceasefire.
According to our source, “But for the intervention of Northern powerbrokers in the party who quickly mobil¬ised last week Tuesday, maybe the PDP national chairman would have resigned by now. The motive of those behind the coup plot, led by Governor Nyesom Wike, was to create the impression that Secondus was incapable to lead again as governors defected and NWC members had also passed a vote of no confidence on his leadership.
“However, Governor Aminu Tambuwal really lived up to his responsibility as chairman of the PDP Gov-ernors’ Forum. He mobilised his colleagues and I think they were the ones that gave Secon¬dus the needed backing that he shouldn’t resign as they were solidly behind him.
“Also, Senator Jibrin, the chairman of the BoT, also mobilised elders in the par¬ty against the coup plot. He wondered why some indi¬viduals in the party want the NWC dissolved when the BoT passed a vote of confidence on the Secondus-led exco in March, this year, and the Na¬tional Executive Committee (NEC) also did the same a month later.
Beyond the advantage it confers on the North which will now produce the presidential candidate, many power brokers in the party resent the overwhelming influence of Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State in the party.
Saved by Northern oligarchy, it is believed that Secondus is a political capital that is expected to pay back his being saved from disgrace. Thus after saving him, the stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, then, handed the embattled National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, a two-month life line.
He would no longer be forced to resign as being canvassed by some members of the National Executive Committee, NEC, National Working Committee, NWC, House of Representatives Caucus, youths and governors.
However, instead of December 6, 2021 when his four-year term will end, he has about 80 days to remain in the saddle as the stakeholders have fixed the end of October for the national elective convention of the PDP.
The stakeholders, comprising 13 governors, the Board of Trustees, BoT and other organs of the party, brought the convention forward in what is seen as a move to placate anti-Secondus forces, who have been pushing for his removal in the past few months.
Several groups and individuals, including Southern Governors Forum, influential leaders in the South and regional sociocultural organizations such as PANDEF, Ohaeneze, Afennifere and Middle Belt Forum have all canvassed for the return of power to the South. However, some Northern leaders are saying the idea of Southern presidency is good for the unity of the country.
Borno Governor Zulum backs Southern counterparts for presidency. He disclosed that he is of the view that the presidency should go to the south in the year 2023 because the unity of our country is very important. Zulum disclosed that he is of the view that the presidency should go to the south in the year 2023 because the unity of our country is very important.
Governor Zulum made this known during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, noting that his stance was not tied to any political ambition.
“I have said it times without number that I, Professor Babagana Zulum, am of the view that the presidency should go to the south in the year 2023 because the unity of our country is very important.
“And I have said it before, I am not interested in becoming vice president or the president of the nation but I want to say the right thing.
Recall that recently eminent leaders, under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, rose from a meeting recently in Abuja demanding 2023 presidential slot to be zoned to the South in the interest of united Nigeria saying without that, there is no Nigeria.
In its communique signed by Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere; Prof George Obiozor, President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; Dr Pogu Bitrus, National President, Middle Belt Forum and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, National Chairman, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the forum stated that “the Northern part of the country would have fully enjoyed the Office of the Presidency, for the full statutory period of eight years by 2023, hence, should yield to the South.”
It also called on “the All Progressives Congress, APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and other political parties to zone the Presidency in 2023 to the South, at the next election.”
The group further “enjoined political stakeholders from the South not to be lured into the unpatriotic step of seeking such other positions as national chairmen and Vice President of the main political parties, but join forces to demand and ensure that the Presidency moves to the South in 2023.”
Some northern leaders have however reacted to the demand of their southern counterparts insisting that there was no level of threat or intimidation that would make the political power to return to the South.
The northern leaders said although they believed the South had competent people, who can be the next president, the leaders of the Southern and Middle belt regions must note that they cannot get the presidential seat by threatening the north with secession.
Reacting to the communique by the Southern and Middle belt leaders, a former presidential aide, Alhaji Salisu Yakassai, argued that no region in Nigeria can attain the Presidency without the support of others. Consequently, he advised those who want to be President to hit the road and convince all people that they mean well for them.
He, however, explained that the politicians and tribal leaders resort to threats because of the fault-lines in Nigeria’s democracy which make votes seem not to count. Yakassai blamed the failure of leadership, especially at the centre, for the decline of nationalism and embrace of parochialism among the people.
“I am a Nigerian to the core, and so, our brothers and sisters all over the country are welcome to air their views, because we are in a democracy.
“However, the collective aim should be to build our country. Yes, we are practising democracy and we acknowledge that there are fault lines in it, because votes appear not to count. That in itself creates frustration.
“So, the demand by the Southern and Middle belt leaders which was capped with a threat may not be far from the frustration that votes do not count in this country. However, it is laughable that politicians and tribal leaders should be making such threats in the 21st century.
Well, even the presidency has said the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable but we say everything is negotiable. But if our brothers in the South and Middle belt regions rather than negotiating are threatening secession, then their demands won’t work.
Anthony Sani, immediate past secretary general of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF argued that “there is no national consensus on politics of identity symbolized by rotation of the Presidency which is binding on political parties.”
According to him, “politics of zoning is still at the level of political parties which use it to design their winning game plans. Even within political parties, we still have party members who insist on their constitutional right to contest and refuse to pander to directives by their political parties and go ahead to contest during party primaries. Multi-party democracy thrives on majority votes and contest of ideas and reasons.
“The south has ruled for 13 years and the north has ruled for 11 years under the nascent democracy from 1999 to 2023.
“I therefore do not see the basis of hue and cry about where the president comes from in 2023. There is no justification for any insistence that the president must come from the South as condition for the nation to remain one and united.”
More so the law makes it impossible for the president to emerge in our democracy with the support of one region alone. That is to say, a president must garner not only majority vote but also at least 25 per cent of votes in each of at least 24 of the 36 states. The North does not have 24 states.
“As far as I know, multiparty democracy is expected to unite the country precisely because political parties crisscross the country through campaigns by breaking barriers and building bridges across ethnic, religious and regional aisles. These processes have greater capacity to bring about lasting unity of the nation than politics of fiat zoning.”