Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja, Segun James in Lagos, Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The call on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Malam Mamman Daura, for the 2023 presidency to be based on competence rather than zoning has refreshed the nationwide clamour for power shift and restructuring.
Daura, in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, had urged Nigerians to embrace competence, and not zoning, in determining the next president in 2023.
But the comment has set off a wave of rebuttal by traditional advocates of power shift, who have been in hibernation for some time, particularly with the onset of COVID-19, which has slowed down political and socio-economic activities in the country.
The concepts of zoning and rotation of the nation’s presidency, analysts clarified yesterday, arose from the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which enjoins the party to ensure equitable distribution of political offices in order to give every section of the country a sense of belonging.
This, analysts stated further, found expression in a gentleman’s agreement, which stipulates that the presidency would rotate between the North and the South of the country.
The agreement, which started in 1999 with the election of President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South, they pointed out, was given full expression in 2007 with the election of President Umaru Yar’Adua from the North.
They said although there was a slight disruption with the death of Yar’Adua in 2010, which saw the presidency returning to the South as President Goodluck Jonathan completed his term and ran an independent term, they contended that the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 has largely compensated for the disruption and successfully restored the concept of rotation.
Daura referred to this rotation arrangement on Tuesday and argued that it had not worked, enjoining Nigerians to jettison it for competence.
Reacting to Daura’s intervention in the controversy yesterday, Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere; apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; the Niger Delta socio-cultural group, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); and frontline nationalist and leader of the South-south, Chief Edwin Clark, said the nation stands no chance of moving forward except it ensures equitable distribution of power and restructuring of the country.
The ruling APC, however, stated that the president’s nephew expressed his personal opinion, which did not represent the position of the party.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo warned that equity should not be sacrificed on the altar of parochialism since it was the rotation sentiment that produced the incumbent.
The group said it was the turn of the South, particularly Ndigbo, to produce the president in 2023.
President General of Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo, in a statement by his media aide, Chief Emeka Attamah, said: “All we know is that it is the turn of the South where we have abundant competent individuals who can steer the ship of this country, particularly among Ndigbo.”
Nwodo added that it was unfair of Daura to seek an end to “rotation” after Buhari and the northern region had enjoyed two terms in quick succession.
“The truth is that Mamman Daura is not being a fair judge. Then, he didn’t believe rotation should end. Now that he has tasted power through Buhari, rotation can end and the most qualified and competent can be voted in, discountenancing that the South-east has never tasted what he is drooling in.”
Nwodo reminded Daura that the law of equity demands that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
“By the way, who determines the most qualified and competent candidate? Is it as competent as the last one they gave the nation?
“It is indisputably the turn of the South, specifically the South-east,” he added.
He said one of the reasons northern politicians ganged up and removed former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, from office in 2015 was over the claim of violation of the rotation principle.
He said: “Now that it is the turn of the South, they don’t see it in that context anymore.
“Having benefited enormously from his nephew being the president, he now wants it jettisoned because it is the turn of the South.
“Talking about competence or most qualified, was President Buhari the most qualified Nigerian when he ascended the presidency? Has he proved to be the most competent?
“Are the service chiefs the most competent among their colleagues to warrant their being retained beyond their tenure? Now that it is the turn of the South, precisely South-east, he is mouthing most qualified and competent.
“Equity is a constant flagship for peace and good governance. Without it, there will be continued agitation and crisis.”
The spokesman of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the Daura’s interview had exposed the deceit of the North and its selfish agenda.
“It is amusing to see those, who were singing zoning or tearing down of Nigeria before 2015, now becoming the apostles of competence after taking eight years. This is the most selfish orchestra.
“And this same group has opposed true federalism that would make people comfortable without rotation of the highest office in the land. With the unjust advantages of the Buhari’s years, some of our compatriots are developing the idea that that is the best for the country to have without thinking of the implication.
“There is no hope for Nigeria under this structure. If we go back to federalism, the internecine battle for the control of the centre will definitely go down,” he said.
The Niger Delta socio-cultural group, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) also condemned Daura’s position.
The group, in a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, described Daura’s statement as not only insensitive but most unfortunate and unarguably capable of creating unnecessary tension in the country.
It said: “Nigeria is currently being confronted with grave challenges of insecurity, with attendant threats to the socio-economic fabrics of the country; lives and property of innocent citizens are being devastated daily, across the country. Surprising, that seemed not to bother the Northern leader, who is reportedly a close confidant of Mr. President.
“We expect people like Mamman Daura to speak, in ways and manner, that would promote national unity and cohesion, and not to make statements that would heat up the Nation’s political space.
“Unfortunately, it appears he is more interested in who would take over from President Buhari in 2023.
“Perhaps, he needs to be told that the concept of zoning and rotation of political offices is correlated to the principle of federal character, provided by the Constitution, to promote political balance, and to address the problems of exclusion, marginalisation, under representation across the political zones, and power domination by any section of the country. No wonder the federal character provision of the nation’s Constitution is being grossly abused by the Buhari administration.”
It said the call for jettisoning of zoning is unnecessary and self-serving, contending that it is part of the perfidious machinations towards 2023.
“No region has a monopoly of competent people. But come to think of it, if anyone should talk of competence, at this time, should it be coming from them?”
Also speaking, an elder statesman and chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, dismissed Daura’s position as “rabble-rousing,” saying Nigeria must be restructured now through a change in the constitution.
According to him, the question of zoning can only be sorted out if the constitution is changed before the next election, warning that unless this is done, the country may break up.
He stated that the outburst by Daura is rabble-rousing and another attempt to deceive the people.
According to him, “They are just deceiving themselves. We are operating a constitution we didn’t approve. Unless we change the constitution, there can be no election or zoning. The way out is through restructuring. The military constitution created states without standards; so, how can it work? The constitution is a military imposition. Nobody can deceive me on that.”
He dismissed the Daura interview as inconsequential, saying that until the constitution is rectified, zoning and election in 2023 will be an exercise in futility.
The spokesman for the APC in Lagos State, Mr. Seye Oladejo, said Daura expressed his position to test the waters and feel the people’s pulse.
“I believe they are just testing the waters and feeling our pulse. Everything will be sorted out in the fullness of time,” he added.
Elder statesman and Ijaw leader, Clark, said Daura is not competent to speak on zoning as he has never held any political office in his life.
Clark, who spoke yesterday on AIT programme, said Daura was only a deputy editor in the defunct New Nigeria Newspaper.
“He was a deputy editor when the late Adamu Ciroma was the editor. He took over as editor when Adamu Ciroma was appointed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor.
“So, he is not competent to speak on zoning. His views are personal as he cannot speak for any of the political parties. He is only a member of the cabal and, therefore, cannot speak for any political party. Whatever he says is merely a private opinion,” Clark said.
Daura Expressed Personal Opinion, Says APC
However, the national chapter of the ruling party said the views expressed by Daura on the 2023 presidency did not represent the position of the party.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Yekini Nabena, told THISDAY yesterday in Abuja that the party would make its position known at the right time.
He added that while Daura has the right to express his personal opinion, he did not speak for the ruling party.
“He has the right to his own personal opinion; that is his own personal opinion. I don’t think he’s speaking for the party. I believe when it gets to that point the party will make it public. He has his right to his personal opinion,” he said.