Will a President of the South really benefit the South?
By Muyiwa Adetiba
It is quickly becoming a cliché to say that Nigeria has never been so polarized. But every day and every action of our political leaders proves the truth of this statement. The past two years have witnessed deeper rifts along the fault lines that exist in the country.
In some cases, it has been the northern core against the rest of the country in a way reminiscent of Orkar’s coup. In many cases, this is the old palava from the north to the south.
The country is so polarized today that partisan affiliations now take a secondary position compared to geopolitical considerations. The country is so polarized that when the southern governor’s forum takes a position on an issue, its northern counterpart almost automatically counteracts the position without stopping to weigh the long-term importance of that position.
This is the case, for example, of the state police or the community police. It took a long time and a lot of unnecessary deaths for some of them to come back. It really doesn’t make sense to watch a country as large and as populous as Nigeria from Abuja.
Another case is that of open grazing. Again, it took a long time and a lot of unnecessary death for some of them to realize that open grazing is no longer enough in a country where the open spaces so far are rapidly being occupied by a growing population. fast. Other contentious issues abound that unfortunately could take more socio-political upheaval before common sense gives way to common ground given the myopic demagoguery of our leaders.
The final contentious issue is 2023 and where the president will come from. The battle lines are roughly drawn between north and south, with no regard for political affiliation. This is a high stakes poker game where each side thinks it has more aces than the other.
The position of the governors of the south is that the presidency should be zoned south for the sake of equity and inclusion. The same search for equity and inclusion that has led to the promotion of the “federal character” and the “quota system” in the country with the abuses that result from it. For the same reason, political positions within states are also zoned.
The northern governors’ forum typically opposes its own position. Democracy is a numbers game, she says, and the North has the numbers. In addition, zoning is not in the constitution of the country. Both are correct. But both are playing the game of opportunity. The south has never been comfortable with the quota system while the north has never been comfortable with the cession of the presidency.
But the statesman implies giving and receiving, especially in a plural society. Unfortunately, these people turned out to be more high stakes gamblers than statesmen. But then the players according to Kenny Rogers in his evergreen song, “The Gambler” know when to hang on and when to walk away. This is the key to survival. Contrary to popular sentiment in some places, I think both sides will lose if the country falls apart. Let both sides examine the cards in their hands and let them step back and negotiate. The harder people hold a line, the deeper the lines.
I can understand why those who push former President Goodluck Jonathan to throw his hat in the ring see it as some sort of solution to the apparent impasse. Jonathan, the Ijaw man with an Igbo middle name, ticks a few boxes. He is a national figure whose antecedent is already known. He is not expected to upset the applecart; which means that the status quo will not change much. He should satisfy those who claim a Christian from the south while appeasing by the brevity of his mandate the few Muslims in the north who find the idea of a Christian president from the south unbearable. This will make the south-south, the goose that lays the golden eggs less restless.
This will satisfy those who are not comfortable with the idea of an Igbo president, while those Igbos who remember the Jonathan years, when the Igbos practically ruled, will think it is the best thing to do to have their own man in the saddle. More importantly, it will shorten the time frame for the presidency to return to the north. But they forget one thing.
A man in power is unpredictable. A man in power who knows his days are doubly short. Jonathan is now an older, wiser, and more confident man who might want to right some wrongs. If it took the bait to get on the soapbox, it might shock those who hang the hook.
But really, beyond the need for inclusion and fairness, why should a president’s birthplace make so much noise? It’s not like an area has been transformed by an incumbent president. In fact, the reverse seems to have been the case if you look at what has happened in the north over the several years of the northern presidency. Nigeria is 61 years old. Almost 45 of those years have been with a northern head of state. However, the north with its three zones, is behind the south in almost all human development indices.
Meanwhile, the Southeast, which barely sat on the coveted throne, leads in almost all of these clues. Oil spills were not cleaned up during Jonathan’s years as president. The flares were not plugged successfully. Employment has not increased. In fact, the development needle in the south-south has barely budged in those six years. Some of his friends and associates have grown extraordinarily wealthy during those six years, as have some of the friends and associates of his predecessors. But not the people. Never people.
What the south should insist on is lifting the vice of the center. The key to development is in the hands of those who control states and local communities. But they need tools to do their jobs well. Any president, north or south, who can free the states from the federal allowance stable they are tied to, would write their name in gold. But that would mean reducing his own access to power and money.
And therefore influence. Obasanjo did not. Jonathan didn’t. In fact, I don’t know of any African leader who has done so. Nothing therefore says that the next president of the South will do it. Yet, unless it is done, the clamor for a Southern president is the clamor of the elite for the elite. This is of little benefit to the grassroots.
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