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2023: Why Enugu rotation is good to copy

Those who have true power share it, while those who hunger power abuse it.” –Royalton Ambrose

Someone with uncanny humour said Nigeria’s best hospital is in London. I don’t agree with that though. Despite that we have an uncommon appetite for anything copied from the West, Nigeria still has a lot to treasure. In the build-up to 2023, Nigeria is dilly-dallying over where the presidency and other key jobs of the post-Buhari era will go. Enugu State has a sustainable power-sharing mode that Nigeria can copy and sleep with both eyes closed. We shall return to this shortly. The Daura Duo, namely Mr President and his cousin Mamman Daura, have toyed with power since 2015.

Mallam Daura, who has pulled power strings at the Aso Rock Villa all these years favours merit for president in 2023. Now, he is against the rotatory presidency idea. See who is talking, a huge beneficiary of a bridge wants it cut off so that no one else can use it. Such a selfish view should surprise no one because that has been the nature of politics in Nigeria where injustice festers like a cancerous sore and often condoned like official policy. It is pertinent to point out early in this conversation that zoning or rotation is not synonymous with mediocrity or half measures.

Those arguing against power rotation among Nigeria’s regions have continued to give the impression that the leadership’s poor performance in Nigeria has its roots in the zoning of political positions. Far from it! If the truth must be told, our political leadership challenges derive from the inability to grant access to quality and technically sound persons who abound in every nook and cranny of geopolitical Nigeria. Mallam Daura, the newest convert of the gospel of merit and competence, knows that PMB, his blood relative, would not have smelt the presidency if merit and competence were the yardsticks for 2015. It’s an open secret that Buhari sailed on his knack over time to harness the people’s ignorance and religious sentiments to emerge as a cult hero. He was nowhere near the merit and competence measuring scale. Not even his antecedents qualified him in that line.

If President Buhari has not done well as in the last six and half years, the mother reason for it stems largely from his poor knowledge of how to manage a plural society like Nigeria. It’s not much in dispute that Mallam Daura is helping the president to oversee one of the worst federal cabinets in Nigeria’s history. It’s also under PMB with Daura as a cabal-in-chief that this country witnessed the worst square pegs in round holes. If the duo of Daura had desired merit and competence as born again Mallam now preaches, they would have practised it by their political appointments.

Every zone and state of this great country can boast of credible and talented men and women in all fields of endeavour. Since, as a people we have elevated religion and tribe to the level of a goddess, determining and influencing political decisions and even our behaviour in public office, justice demands that we factor it in all that we do. President Buhari’s administration is seen clearly to be on the wrong lane of political governance because of his inability to factor in our differences.

It’s therefore the height of hypocrisy for anyone who has been part of this government that worships at the altar of religious and primordial considerations to jettison zoning in favour of merit and competence. If it’s by merit or competence, will PMB, a Fulani, be President of Nigeria? By merit or competence, will Justice Mohammad Tanko, a Fulani, be the Chief Justice of Nigeria? By merit, will Lt-Gen Farouk Yahaya, a Fulani, be the Chief of Army Staff? By merit, will Suleman Baba, a Fulani, be the Inspector-General of Police? By merit, will Rear-Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, a Fulani, be the Chief of Naval Staff? By merit, will Mele, a Kanuri, be the best for the job of Group Managing Director of Nigeria’s number one corporate organisation, the NNPC?

The list is endless of unmerited positions because the competition was not applied in selections. Nigeria’s polity will begin to get the proper direction the day double standards as a way of life is dropped. Since independence in 1960, this country has cautiously been striving to manage its diversity to no avail. As a result, at age 61, the clamour for restructuring and even break up is rampant today. Even history is a witness to the fact that Nigeria started life by throwing away merit and competence.

Those who ensured independence in 1960 such as Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Chief Anthony Enahoro were sidelined from power positions. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa had to take the lion’s share, not due to merit or his contributions to the struggle or competence but because of compromise and the need to accommodate our diversity. Less than 10 years into our nationhood, tribe and religion reared their ugly heads in our polity through a military uprising that was tagged a tribal coup. It did not matter that other ethnic groups were involved but because of the poor execution of the coup and the emerging phobia of Ndigbo who were then dominant in the bureaucracy, it had to be tagged “Igbo coup”. A dog would first be given a bad name before hanging it.

That was what was done to Ndigbo all culminating in a 30-month civil war. Subsequent political decisions after the war ensured a deliberate accommodation of our differences. When Gen Yakubu Gowon, a Christian northern, was overthrown by a Muslim Fulani, Gen Murtala Muhammed, a Christian Southerner, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo was brought in second-in-command. When Muhammed was felled in a coup attempt, Obasanjo continued but a Fulani, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua had to be given accelerated promotion and made Obasanjo’s second-incommand.

It was in recognition and continuation of this working arrangement that an Igbo, Dr Alex Ekwueme, was drafted into running with Shehu Shagari in 1979. Even military regimes did not discountenance this zoning arrangement when they sojourned in political power for 30 years. The current democratic dispensation from 1999 also fell in line with trying to recognize our diversity in all areas. The glaring nepotistic policy of the Buhari regime, to a great extent, became a major setback on this. Therefore, ahead of 2023, the only road to political harmony and stability is the rotation of political positions.

So long as Nigeria is shying away (with all kinds of excuses) from zoning the presidency to a person of Igbo extraction, so long will the mission for political stability be elusive. If Nigeria is in a sincere search for peace and stability, it should embrace balanced power and rotation. It’s not going to injure merit and competence because the abundance of it is domiciled in every home, what is missing is access to opportunity. Given the foregoing, therefore, I recommend a power-sharing model that has worked well in Enugu State since 1999.

A close study shows that the Enugu case has to do largely with their respect for power rotation of key political posts. The state has been ruled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and power rotates among the three senatorial areas of East, West and North. It started with the East in 1999 and to the West in 2007 and now in the North, the current holder since 2015. Having seen the huge gains in the stable system, critical stakeholders in the state are unanimous that it has been good and should continue. Even though there are some political gladiators keen on disrupting the Enugu zoning due to their ambitions, they are not receiving popular acclaim. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who is a beneficiary of the system, does not see any need to stop a good melody and is looking toward handing power to somebody from the East.

If Gov. Ugwuanyi is to behave like Nigeria, he will consider power having gone round should start from Enugu North his zone as a compensation for being waiting for 16 years notwithstanding that it has the highest voting population of nearly half of the state.

But it behoves on Ugwuanyi and leaders of the state to ensure that when power returns to the East, it should also put into account those marginalized in the area. When East held gubernatorial power from 1999 to 2007, it concentrated all top positions and developments in one area, governor, ministers, representatives, and other positions. Since what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, Gov. Ugwuanyi and Enugu East leaders should ensure that this justice is extended to all and, by so doing, enhance the much-cherished stability. Ahead of 2023, therefore, I recommend the Enugu model for a nation in dire need of political stability and growth. To disregard this model at the national level and yet continue to desire peace is tantamount to exposing one’s body to mosquito bites and not desiring malaria parasites in the same body. Political peace and stability are not rocket science but accommodation, understanding, and allowing all concerned the much-desired sense of belonging. Buddhists say: “When words are both true and kind they can change the world.” This squarely applies to Nigeria




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