Nigeria’s political landscape is already agog with the permutations for the 2023 elections as to who will occupy the coveted seat of the President even as the dust raised by the 2019 elections has hardly settled.
Palpable tension is rising that the political elite of the northern extraction may have perfected plans to keep power in their region beyond 2023, which some believe should be the turn of the South to produce the President in deference to the ‘zoning’ principle.
Indications to this development emerged a couple of days ago, when Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Mohammed, in an interview with one of Nigeria’s dailies, stirred the hornet’s nest when he allegedly told southern politicians jockeying to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari, to perish the thought as the north could still vie for the position in 2023.
Mohammed had in the interview said “this idea of zoning and rotation has been a tragedy for Nigeria because it can deprive Nigeria of getting a better leader. That being the case, whosoever wants to claim it, let him go.
“Look at what the Afenifere said that next time it would be a Yoruba person. Their understanding of rotation is between the North and the Southwest, or Northwest and the South-west. That cannot be.
“Now the contradiction, which they invented about zoning and rotation, has now collapsed, and now they are looking for lies to tell to deceive us.
“Otherwise, how can you say that we now have a President who is from the Northwest and his deputy, who is from Southwest, and that next time it will be the turn of the South-west to produce the president of this country? What are we talking about? I don’t want to hear about this equity and justice, that is sheer nonsense,” he said.
“We keep on making this mistake of agitation of, ‘it is our turn’ over and over again. After all, somebody says the classical definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome,” he said.
The Russian-trained medical doctor also unleashed harsh words on the Igbo dominated South East, which is mounting claims that the 2023 is its turn to produce the President, arguing that the region has been marginalised for a long time.
Mohammed alleged that the South East is seeking equity and justice but accused the region of abusing equity and justice on account of the massive votes they gave former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in 2019. He apparently suggested that the region had lost the chance of producing the President in 2023 and should forget it.
“The people, who abused this equity and justice, are the people from the Southeast because whatever we are talking about, in a democracy you cannot circumvent voting figures. You can say it is time for my people. We will not vote for you and let’s see what happens. I said it in one of my statements, look at the way the people of the Southeast voted during the last election; they have a humongous collection of votes and they all voted for Atiku, and they expect somebody to come from his own area to vote for them.
“Democracy is a question of give and take; you vote for me and I vote for you, that was what Michael Okpara used to say. You don’t vote for me and maybe you think that by abusing me on the pages of newspapers that I will vote for you. I will not,’” he said.
Many pundits have said that the political posturing of Junaid Mohammed is in consonance with the quest by some political elements in the North to muscle out any challenge to their hegemony by bashing the two leading socio-political organisations in the South- the Afenifere and Ohanaeze, and thoroughly discredit them out of relevance in subsequent years.
One of the top members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who pleaded anonymity, told BDSUNDAY that “the north is poised to retain power because the South has had a major chunk of the democratic power slots. Remember that Obasanjo ruled for eight years but when power returned to the north through Yar’ Adua, his reign was short-lived. The South returned to power under former President Jonathan after the death of Yar’Adua but Jonathan refused to allow the north to complete its turn and he refused to quit power as requested by the north in 2011. That singular act broke the trust and now the north wants to balance things up.”
In the same vein, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, concurred with Junaid, arguing that it is not sacrosanct that the a leader must emerge from the South, saying that every part of Nigeria can produce a president, a competent one.
“Being a cosmopolitan man, I know Igbos not less than ten that can successfully run this country; I know Yorubas that can do, I know Ijaws that can do, I know Hausas that can do, I know even Kilba. Hey myself, my friend, I can be president of this country. I consider myself quite competent to do so from a small tribe of 300,000 people. There are so many such tribes that can produce good, competent leaders all over Nigeria,” he said.
Pundits however, said that Lawal’s position could be a subtle political move likely to discard the zoning arrangement, which favours the south in 2023. The tendencies emerging from these elements in the north now suggest that the region may have plotted to upstage the south because they foresee discordant tunes that will polarise the South and weaken the region especially now that it appears the northern region has a much larger voting population.
However, a public affairs analyst and a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Katch Ononuju, has urged Nigerians to ignore the posturing from Junaid and Lawal, stressing that their statements are reckless and they do not wish Nigeria well. “What they want is for a strategy to be in place where those from the south will lose faith in the Nigerian union and of course, we know what that will bring to us as people will start to conspire against one another. But thank God, the country does not take a cue from Babachir Lawal, who is before the law for alleged stealing, and of course, Junaid Mohammed that is not known to speak anything for the progress of Nigeria.
“Junaid is a core irredentist and a tribalist. I don’t think words from such inconsequential people should be taken seriously. They do not understand what it takes to sustain a peaceful union. I can only tell Nigerians to disregard careless talk from people who do not mean well for Nigeria,” he said.
Ononuju said that Nigeria is far more serious a project, adding that if for instance what Junaid and Lawal are saying is also what the southerners are saying, that means the country is gone.
He added that the two acclaimed leaders from the north and their cohorts are possibly afraid that what Buhari did by employing nepotism as a policy may be repeated by a southern president.
“Their fear is that because of Buhari’s bad record and his employment of nepotism, that should a President come from the South he may repeat what Buhari has done,” he added.