2015: Imperative of a Northeast Presidency, By Bukar Mustapha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has just released the timetable for the 2015 general elections. This means political activities will soon pick up and the atmosphere will once again be charged. The most important of all the political horse-trading that will soon ensue is determining who occupies the presidency by the year 2015. There is so much interest and calculations across a spectrum of stakeholders on this all important position. Many political gladiators are jerking up their sleeves for a showdown in the contest of who grabs his party’s ticket for presidency.
As it can be recalled, the North ought to have taken over the presidency in 2007 for a period of eight years; that is after President Olusegun Obasanjo had ruled for a stretch of eight years. It did take over. But fate conspired to deny the North of the eight years. Expectedly, and as provided for by the constitution, then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan took over from late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, first as acting president and later (on Yar’Adua’s death) as president. However, instead of President Jonathan to complete what remains of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan tenure and let the position comes back to the North again, he manipulated his way to getting a fresh mandate.
However, as the political mill begins to roll once again, there is a resounding agitation to send President Jonathan parking. First, to most patriotic Nigerians, the man has only managed to hold the country in one place: stagnant, without any progress. On the extreme side, others are even lamenting that the country only witnessed retrogression on many sides, under the watch of President Jonathan.
For the north-East, the six years or so of Jonathan presidency have been most uneventful ones. For us, it has become what the Latin would call annus horriblis (year of horrors). The time-bomb planted by years of neglect of this area has suddenly gone off and to the chagrin of all, the government seems helpless on the two expected directions: containing the insurgency, and cushioning the impacts on the victims and the affected towns. While the government’s security forces daily avenge attacks on them by the insurgents on the hapless civilian population, the civil government has shown no willingness to help victims recover psychologically and materially. The pointer to this is the paltry budgetary provision of N2 billion for the entire North-East, after all the promises.
For the average person from this region, our people are being treated as second-class citizens in their own country. First and foremost, federal presence in this vast zone is, for lack of better word, abysmal. Strategic and key institutions of governments have not been sited here. There appeared to be no deliberate industrialization policies by the federal government to develop the region. The scattered industries around have also been left to rot in neglect.
It is the opinion of our people here that things have been allowed to degenerate over time in this region because its capable and competent persons have been tactically shut out of power at the highest decision making level. For a very long time, there seems to be silent but dangerous trend in the politics of the North, and Nigeria in general where there appears to be a sort of consensus or conspiracy against the North-East geopolitical zone. This dangerous trend, whose unfortunate manifest is now the insurgency in parts of the area, which goes on unabated, is a direct result of neglect and marginalization.
Anytime opportunity presents itself for the North to present head of government, it goes to the North-West or the North-Central, as if by act of commission – and omission for the North-East. Despite producing senior thoroughbred military officers, the region was never for once accorded the honour of producing the head of state. Those fine officers, therefore, were only used (or, expended) in military operations where, thank goodness, they proved themselves to be brave, professionals and good managers of humans.
A quick rundown of the history of Nigeria’s military rule shows that when General Ironsi was toppled in July, 1966, the then Colonel Yakubu Gowon (from the North-Central) was handed over the mantle for eight years. From Gowon, the North-West took over via Murtala. There then come Buhari (from the North-West) who removed a fellow North-West person – Shehu Shagari. General Babangida, from the North-Central succeeded Buhari and he in turn was followed by Abacha (from the North-West). The military era ended with General AbdulSalami Abubakar, also from the North-Central, succeeding Abacha. This shows North-Central alone has spent nineteen years ruling this country while North-West held sway for six years under the military, in addition to the Shagari and Umaru Yar’Adua years as civilian leaders.
Yes, it is it true that late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa from the present day Bauchi state was the first and only Nigeria’s Prime Minister. But it is also true that he was just there as the errand boy of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna, who was the leader of the of the ruling Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) then. Obsessed with playing at the regional level, where he was working towards his ambition of becoming the Sultan of Sokoto, he ‘sent’ Balewa to the centre while retaining his own role as the party leader. Meanwhile, there was a president in Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Therefore, as the calculations begin for 2015, it is our prevent hope that this time around, the larger North plays the fair card for the North-East in picking a presidential candidate. Yes, in 2011 something of that nature was reflected but some of us who are keen students of power knew that it was not going to work. This was because President Goodluck Jonathan getting the PDP ticket at the time was a fait accompli. But this is 2014 and all hopes for who produces the president lies with the All Progressives Congress (APC). Yet, North-East is not lacking in competent and vibrant personalities that have the qualities to be presidents, from within the APC.
Having tried many options in the past, and bearing in mind the dynamism of the world and diversity of Nigeria, key stakeholders in APC should have a deep reflection of who the party gives its ticket. The opposition coalition this time around is in a form of make or mar union which has the vibrancy of upstaging the present administration of PDP. But to achieve that there is need to have a decent leader. Such a person should be a leader who everybody will be comfortable with for his decency, pan-Nigerian spirit, honesty and modernity. Needless to say, the North-East as a geopolitical zone have an array of personalities that have passed the credibility test and have the broad-mindedness to superintend over one united and stronger Nigeria. Moreover, we from the North-East will have the rest of mind that the current disturbing challenges here will be easily solved. The saying that only the owner of the room knows where it leaks is true in this case.
Bukar writes from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State.