If the 2023 presidency is relieved of competition and minimised to an ethnic contest, then we are consciously backtracking to the mistakes of 2015. Ethnic considerations brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power. And I am sure most Nigerians have witnessed the calamity that this current administration is. When leadership is robbed of progressive competition, competence is impaired. We will keep chasing the will-o-the-wisp of progress as a country for as long as the tribe of a citizen matters more than his antecedents, competence level and abilities.
“Turn-by-turn” presidency will only yield “turn-by-turn” misery. Nepotism here thrives largely because a leader selected on the basis of where he represents generally seeks to protect the interest of that base he feels solidified his claim to power. It is the reason Buhari shows exceptional consideration for his “political base”. In fact, one of the murmurs among members of the All Progressives Congress – the president’s party – is that Buhari and his camp commonised the contributions of the South West to his electoral victory in 2015 and 2019. The president feels strongly that his victory came by the hands of his fanatical followers in the North.
So, we are only reinventing a broken wheel by putting more premium on where the next president should come from rather than on “what he had done, what he is doing; his leadership qualities, academic background, mental state and health condition”. And with the entitled perception that “it is our turn; the president is our brother”, nepotism is systematised.
Really, why should a leadership position that defines and determines the future of the country be ethnicised? Why is there no campaign for the basics of leadership? Why is there no clamour for the qualities, the credentials and competence level the next president of Nigeria should possess? Why is it always about ethnicity? Really, we are doomed to have a reprise of the indomitably failed Buhari administration, if we persist in the pursuit of ethnic-based leadership.
It is revolting that presidency in Nigeria is designed in such a way that every ethnic group, particularly the predatory political class, sees it as an entitled offering that must be acquired for the sake of promoting individual and sectional interest. The base mindset of — “it is our turn to take a crunch at the cake, so pass it!” If ethnic-based presidency is so important to us, why can we not fragment the centre and return power to the federating units? So, every group can decide how to bake and eat their own cake.
On January 6, 2021, some Igbo political leaders emerged from a meeting and asked all political parties to zone the 2023 presidency to the South East. Among these Igbo political leaders were a former governor who took a hiatus from prison and a former senate president facing corruption charges. I was startled. Who among these ones is fit to be president?
Here is their statement in brief: “Hence as power is expected to rotate to the south in 2023, the meeting noted that the south-east is the only zone in the south that is yet to produce a president of Nigeria in the current democratic dispensation. Consequently implore all the political parties to cede their presidential tickets in the 2023 general election to the south-east in the interest of justice, equity and national unity. To make good our demand and reciprocate such good faith, we have decided, as a geopolitical zone with a substantial presence in every part of the country to give a block vote and throw our full weight behind any major political party, particularly the APC (All Progressives Congress) and PDP (Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that zones its presidential ticket to the south-east in 2023 general election.”
To make it clear, the “struggle” for 2023 presidency by some south-east leaders is not in the pursuit of the Igbo interest. Rather it is in the pursuit of the interest of the ruling elite of the region. The overarching interest of the Igbo is a restructured Nigeria where every region can grow at its own pace. I argued in a previous article titled: “Ndi Igbo forget 2023 presidency; it’s a trap,” that restructuring is not achievable with a president of Igbo extraction and I gave my reasons.
Please permit me to iterate my point here: “Conversely, we could forge alliances with progressive groups with the primary aim of achieving restructuring or devolution of power to states ahead of 2023. That is, we support any candidate from any section of the country who has indemnifiable commitment to restructuring. We extract that commitment. The reason for my argument is a president of Igbo extraction pushing for restructuring will be resisted by the north. In fact, it is a campaign fail if any candidate from the south-east preaches restructuring. The nagging fear and suspicion that the Igbo will secede from the country if they get to power is intense. So, what do we hope to benefit from Igbo presidency if we cannot have restructuring?”
No political party should cede 2023 presidential tickets to the south-east on the basis of nothing but “ethnicity”. The process should be competitive to allow the best minds to take charge of the country – even if candidates from the south-east are specially considered. There should be less emphasis on ethnicity and more stress on competence, credentials, antecedents, and ability for leadership.
And even if the South East gets a go at the presidency, the next president should not be from the pool of the perpetuators of the region’s underdevelopment.
. Nwabufo is a writer and journalist. Twitter @FredrickNwabufo.