Chuks Okocha dialogues with Osita Okechukwu, Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, who makes a strong case for a political master stroke he believes will end the hurt of the civil war and rest the age long agitation of Igbo marginalization
Can you explain your proposal for the Chief Olu Falae/Chief Olusegun Obasanjo model to solve the Igbo presidency question in 2023?
All one is canvassing is simply based on appeal. May I repeat what one said at different fora, as we approach the 2023 presidential election, may I appeal to the leadership of the two leading and dominant political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – to as matter of urgent national importance consider to adopt the Falae/Obasanjo rotation model, constructed, founded and utilized to heal the extreme ethno-religious fault lines in 1999.
The adoption of the Falae/Obasanjo rotation model in 1999 was to engender unity, harmony, equity and natural justice in our dear fatherland. Indeed the goal of unity was achieved without doubt by this model of rotation of president from south to north, which not only featured, albeit governed the 2007 and 2015 presidential elections outcomes. From all perspectives and available facts, Nigeria is regrettably still divided and needs this balm now more than ever.
What do you do with some tendencies and elements in your party, the APC and PDP whose age and personal interest cannot wait until presidential power rotates back to their geopolitical zone?
Please recall that the rotation or zoning convention, was founded by patriots who placed national interest above self-interest. For the avoidance of doubt, one is not saying that the rotation convention is the best in the democratic horizon, but one of the best and a solution provider. In terms of idealism some pundits will flaunt an all comers contest, but in our peculiar circumstance in Nigeria, rotation is the ligament that holds the various tendencies together, gives a sense of belonging especially when all the geopolitical zones have well qualified men and women.
Accordingly, rotation was well perfected in 1999, with the Falae/Obasanjo Model and since then, the president has rotated between the south and north. It is with nostalgia that one recalls when Olusola Saraki, Abubakar Rimi, Umaru Shinkafi, Adamu Ciroma, Dr Alex Ekwueme of blessed memory and a host of other northerners and southerners like Dr Ogboniya Onu, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu were persuaded not to run.
These eminently qualified personalities were prevailed upon by Nigerian patriots to sacrifice their presidential ambition for unity, peace and justice, hence the start of the zoning convention. They were convinced that zoning will bring peace and unity in the country and surely it did. The good side of zoning as highlighted above is that there is no geopolitical zone without quality candidates. This is the foundation of my appeal.
Has Mr. President or your party taken any decision along this line?
To the best of my knowledge, what Mr. President did was to clear the monkey wrench of opposition elements who insinuated a Third Term Agenda. One never expected Mr. President as a statesman to descend into the arena to manipulate who succeeds him or force both parties on what to do. All he did was to clear the air that he is going in 2023 and will do his best to engender free and fair electoral process.
My great party, to the best of knowledge, did not discuss zoning or rotation. All the major actors are doing is to present the various options open to the two major political parties. Some are saying that the north should use its huge electoral vote advantage to retain power in the north, while some are saying that the rotation between north and south should be retained.
If for instance, the north agrees that rotation should continue, what do you say about some elements from the south-west and south-south like the national leader of your party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who are interested?
I have tremendous respect for our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one cannot easily forget the critical supplement he brought with his team of the south-west to the table, which culminated in Mr. President’s victory in 2015. One expects we emulate the patriots who in 1999, insisted that for us to be a democratic nation, no section of the country should feel marginalized. That in the interest of peace, natural justice, equity and good conscience, the northerners should not contest in spite of huge voting population. Accordingly, the south-west and south-south will agree that the south-east is the only geopolitical zone in the southern belt which has not presided over Nigeria since the commencement of the zoning convention.
What do you tell His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s supporters who view 2023 as another golden chance?
The same appeal of the truism that rotation convention is a healing balm and solution provider for a divided country. For instance Ogbonnaya Onu who won the APP primary in Kaduna in 1999, was equally dissuaded to sacrifice the ticket so as not to divide ranks and that the candidates will come from the same geopolitical zone, reasoning that the major contenders coming from the same geopolitical zone will appease the South-west after the annulment of June 12, which MKO Abiola won. The sense of belonging extended to the Yorubas is a balm which in no small measure enhanced national cohesion. And what is good for the goose is good for the gander. This will be the final end of the civil war and will rest the age long agitation of Igbo marginalisation.
In spite of your proposal don’t you think a lot of people will still be skeptical?
There is no proposal which will be accepted 100 percent, all one is saying is that the rotation convention is broadly for presidency to alternate or rotate between north and south and now that south-east is the only geopolitical zone out of the three geopolitical zones in the southern belt which has not presided over Nigeria, is it not germane that it is their turn? This is my canvas that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, so we should use this veritable tool of zoning to produce a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. Ndigbo are the only geopolitical zone in the south which has not presided over Nigeria since the advent of the zoning convention in 1999, but are true patriots who live and invest in all the nooks and crannies of our dear country.
Many will argue that in all the presidential elections except that of 1999, the zoning or rotation convention was never adhered to and also question why Buhari didn’t obey it?
My short summary is that a cursory glance at President Buhari’s presidential election score card before 2015, shows that the breach of the rotation convention more than any other factor weighed heavily against him.
For instance in 2011 presidential election President Buhari lost in the seven northern states – Adamawa – PMB – 344,526, Jonathsn – 508,314, Benue – PMB – 109,680, Jonathan – 694,776, Kogi – PMB – 132,201, Jonathan – 399,816, Kwara – PMB – 83,603, Jonathan – 268,243, Nasarawa – PMB – 278,390, Jonathan – 408,997, Plateau – PMB – 356,551, Jonathan – 1,029,865, and Taraba – PMB – 257,986, Jonathan – 451,354.
Please follow how the moral weight of rotation convention descended in 2015 and President Buhari won four states in the seven northern states where he never won before and Jonathan dropped votes in the other three in utter revolt against the breach – Adamawa – PMB – 374,701, Jonathan – 251,664, Benue – PMB – 373,961, Jonathan – 303,737, Kogi – PMB – 264,851, Jonathan – 149,987, and Kwara – PMB – 302,146, Jonathan – 132,602.
That’s why in 2015, Wikipedia reported Jonathan as saying “After seeking the face of God, and in the quiet of my family, and after listening to the clarion call of Nigerians, I have accepted to present myself to serve a second term” and “Jonathan ran unopposed in the PDP primaries on December 10, 2014, receiving the nomination of the party. However, this was against an unwritten rule that the PDP’s presidential candidacy should alternate between Muslim northerners and Christian southerners, and opposition to Jonathan’s candidacy had led to the defection of dozens of PDP MPs in the House of Representatives (14).”
The critical supplement provided by the south-west wing of our great party, led by the indomitable Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in no small measure was enhanced by the vital moral weight of rotation convention. All men and women of good conscience always align with such unwritten convention, because of its abiding impact in strengthening the weak and most times redressing a dysfunctional system.
There is no proposal which will be accepted 100 percent, all one is saying is that the rotation convention is broadly for presidency to alternate or rotate between north and south and now that south-east is the only geopolitical zone out of the three geopolitical zones in the southern belt which has not presided over Nigeria, is it not germane that it is their turn? This is my canvas that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, so we should use this veritable tool of zoning to produce a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. Ndigbo are the only geopolitical zone in the south which has not presided over Nigeria since the advent of the zoning convention in 1999, but are true patriots who live and invest in all the nooks and crannies of our dear country