LEADERS – Seven letter words, and unique. They make or mar societies and nations. Countless leaders, in history, cruelly and destructively, led people. Many others were empathetic, connected with the people, led people to higher productive and inspiring level; and were successful. Today’s 21st century leadership demands, call for stronger and more inspiring leaders. What personifies the choice of today’s leader? What does it take to be a leader? The description of a leader by ROBERT TOWNSEND, provides a clue.
“They manage themselves, inspire others, and forge the future. They are full of questions and wary of easy answers. They explore and dream and are tireless believers in people. They are willing to take risks and are committed to excellence – along with readiness, virtue, and vision. Leaders strive to face things as they are and prepare for things as they will be. If you believe that competence and conscience must be restored, you must demonstrate both”. ROBERT TOWNSEND
ROTATION PRESIDENCY in Nigeria’s politics, has never been a soft sell. It comes with sound and fury. Stirs controversy, inflames passion and temper. Has the force of dynamite and the rage of hurricane. Pitches Nigeria’s south against the north. Neatly divides the country along – geographic, region, ethnic, tribal and religious lines. Reopens the issue of domination, marginalization and superiority complex in the country.
Ahead of Nigeria’s 2023 general elections, rotation presidency has held the two major political parties in the country hostage. The ruling All Progress Congress, APC; and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – each, playing the waiting game, hovering around the decision of where to pick its candidates for the 2023 presidential ticket – the north or the south. That is how titanic the issue of rotation presidency is in Nigeria.
An African axiom states: “When a toddler tastes honey, he does not return the container to the shelf, so easily”. Analysts applied this to the quest for power in Nigeria. The “feudalists” north, analysts said, tasted the honey of power, and want to hold on to it, at all cost. That is the believe of many in the country, and still lingers on. This has triggered the agitation for rotation of power in the country.
ANNULMENT OF JUNE 12, 1993, presidential election with impunity, followed by the “arrogance and intransigence” demonstrated by some group of politicians, who believe that political power must be confined to one section of the country – the north; further fuelled the agitation for rotation presidency. Merit, the basis for the selection of leaders, took second place, to political expedience.
Merit was the symbol of June 12, 1993, presidential election. It featured two candidate of the same religion – muslim-muslim ticket – one from the south, the other from the north. June 12, shattered many political myths. It showed, particularly, that free and fair electoral contest in Nigeria will produce winner from any side of the divide. MKO Abiola, from the south, beat his opponent, Othman Tofa, from the north, with a Vice President, christian from the south; while MKO had his Vice President, muslin from the north.
To soothe the fierce agitation that followed the annulment of June 12, 1993, presidential election, and the death of MKO Abiola, acclaimed winner of the election; pressure mounted for a southern president. The northern political machinery of coercion, and the military on its side, the north framed a southern presidency. Olusegun Obasanjo was the choice of the northern ruling class. He emerged as presidential candidate.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar, then military head of state, after the sudden death of “maximum ruler” and “iron man” military dictator, late General Sani Abacha; supervised the 1999 presidential election. Olusegun Obasanjo, emerged the president of Nigeria, in 1999, on the political platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, former president of Nigeria, assumed office May 29, 1999. He initiated democratic reforms to rebuild the nation from the rubbles of near collapse of all aspect of the country’s national life. Late General Sani Abacha’s administration, left behind wreckages of economic, political and social fractured Nigeria, with decayed infrastructure, which Obasanjo inherited.
Obasanjo focused on fixing Nigeria’s problems – through national reconciliation, rebuilding and growing the economy, critical infrastructure and institutions. These were reflected in the nation’s debt forgiveness, opening the economy to foreign investors, establishment and empowering institutions, such as the EFCC, ICPC, autonomy to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, emergence of GSM telephone system, transforming the airline and rail system, among others.
Obasanjo exited office in May 29, 2007, after two terms of eight years. Ahead of his exist, political elites began ground work on rotation presidency. The country’s political space was agog with rotation presidency. Again, the north assumed the role of superior partner in determining where the country’s next president would come from. The north, loudly, began to insist that Obasanjo must hand over power to a northern candidate. Obasanjo did. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, from the north emerged president of Nigeria.
UMARU YAR’ADUA, a former president of Nigeria, was sown-in as president, in May 29, 2007, and proposed a “government of national unity”. He set out with “seven-point agenda” for his administration, with focus on “elevating Nigeria” to be among the twenty largest economies in the world by 2020. His seven-point agenda focused on “infrastructure, power and energy; food security; wealth creation; transport; land reforms; security; and education”.
Due to illness and death, Yar’Adua’s administration could not, genuinely, be assessed with realising his proposed national agenda. Significantly, however, Yar’Adua is credited for inaugurating presidential electoral reform committee, which dealt with the issue of quality and credibility of electoral process and elections in the country. Retired Nigeria’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Muhammadu Uwais, headed the electoral reform committee.
Uwais electoral reform committee’s report, remains distinguished and unblemished, in the history of Nigeria’s electoral reform. Yar’Adua, also, was renowned for his Amnesty Programme, extended to Niger Delta agitators, who took up arms, to draw government attention to the plights of the people of the region; whose environment and means of livelihood have been heavily degraded and neglected over the years, due to oil exploration.
GOODLUCK JONATHAN, also, former Nigerian president, was named Acting President, February 9, 2010, while Yar’Adua was hospitalised and on sick bed in Saudi Arabia, in November 2009, on the controversial doctrine of necessity by Nigerian Senate. He was Vice-President to Umaru Yar’Adua.
Following Umaru Yar’Adua’s death, in May 2010, Goodluck Jonathan was sown-in as substantive president of Nigeria, on May 6, 2010, to serve out about two years left of Yar’Adua’s four years term that would expire in May 29 2011. Nigeria’s National Assembly at that time, approved Jonathan’s nomination of Namadi Sambo, then Kaduna State Governor, as Jonathan’s Vice President.
Ahead of 2011 elections, Jonathan stepped forward to contest the presidency. Northern elites stepped in with rotation presidency. They argued that a northern president should have finished Yar’Adua’s unfinished presidency. Jonathan defied the argument of the northern elites; and rallied support from both the north and the south for his presidential ambition.
Eventually, Jonathan won the 2011 presidential election. May 29 2011, Goodluck Jonathan was sworn-in as President of Nigeria, after completing the two years of Yar’Adua tenure. It was heavy storm for Jonathan to get the presidential ticket to contest the 2011 presidential election; due to the agitation for rotation presidency.
Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural address pledged to continue with his former boss national programme, but tagged his administration’s programme “Transformation Agenda”. He promised to implement the seven-point agenda policy framework of Yar’Adua’s administration. Jonathan’s administration, has measure of achievements to its credit.
Nigeria’s GDP, for the first time, in over decades, was rebased by Jonathan’s administration. Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa. It overtook South Africa and Egypt. His administration conceptualised high speed rail projects, and supervised the constructions of new railways in the country; which included Abuja-Kaduna railway, Lagos-Ibadan railway. And phased rehabilitation and renewal of airports across the country.
Jonathan, also, embarked on power sector reform. He launched “Roadmap for Power Sector Reform”, which unbundled the power sector into Distribution and Generating companies, to revamp Nigeria’s ailing power sector; with the objective to achieve stable electricity supply in the country. He undertook the construction and rehabilitation of federal roads across the country, among others.
The down side of Jonathan’s administration, however, was the high-scale corruption and plundering of the nation’s treasury by his political appointees. He was also faced with the challenge of tackling Boko Haram insurgency, which engulfed huge areas in northern Nigeria, including the nation’s capital, Abuja.
Ahead of 2015, presidential election, Jonathan took a further bold step. Again, stepped forward to renew his presidency for a second term. Northern elites, again, stepped into the political turf of rotation presidency. They argued that Jonathan had spent six years in the nation’s presidency – two years to complete Yar’Adua’s presidency, and four years of his presidency; as such he was not entitled to a second term in office; and that power must shift to the north.
Jonathan defied the odds, vastly, against his ambition for second term and moved on. Handful of northern elites stood behind him. Monumental political scheme and grand alliance commenced to unseat Jonathan and install a northern president. Retired General Muhammadu Buhari, seen as a popular northern candidate, was thrown up to thwart Jonathan’s ambition. Jonathan lost the 2015 presidential election to General Muhammadu Buhari.
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, current president of Nigeria, assumed office May 29, 2015; on the mantra of “change”. At his inauguration, he pledged to be president that “belong to all and belong to no body”. Buhari hinged his administration’s agenda on three pillars: “revamping the economy, fighting corruption and ending insurgency”.
Buhari emerged as president not on known merit of leadership criteria, but on “personal integrity”, and the altar of rotation presidency. During Buhari’s campaign for the presidency, former President Obasanjo, clearly stated that Buhari could not be trusted with effectively managing the economy and foreign policies; but could deal with Boko Haram insurgency and fight corruption.
It did not matter to Obasanjo and the northern elites, whether Nigeria’s economy should grow; or whether Nigeria’s foreign policy should be attractive to boost investors confidence, and put Nigeria on the bright light of committee of friendly nations; that will enhance the development of the country. What mattered was rotation presidency.
Over six years of Buhari’s presidency, and less than two years left of his eight years [two terms in office]; Nigeria and the citizens national lives are prostrate. National indexes to assess the nation’s progress, under Buhari’s administration, analysts said, would score his leadership below average. The rest is history.
Buhari will exit office in May 29, 2023. The heat of rotation presidency in the country, once again, is on. The two leading political parties in the country – ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; are logged on rotation presidency; not on what the incoming president possess as a leader, to move the country out of the present quagmire; but rotation presidency.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2023, in Nigeria is on the boil, due to rotation presidency. In the months ahead, the political weather in the country may get stormier. Nigeria’s Southern Governors from 17 states, are leading the power shift blaze. They are demanding that the next president of Nigeria, to be sworn-in May 29, 2023, must come from the southern region of the country.
The southern governors made the declaration in Asaba, Delta State, during one of their regular meetings, and have consistently insisted on the demand for southern president in 2023. The demand for a southern president by the 17 governors is across party lines – governors of the ruling All Progressive Congress and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The north has been uncomfortable with the demand.
Nigeria’s south has 17 states, with a lower voting population, to the north 19 states with higher voting population. None of the two regions – north or south, can produce Nigeria’s president independent of the other; going by the provisions in Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution [as amended]. How the southern governors intend to produce the next president is uncertain.
The south has three regions – south-west region, six states; south-south region, six states; and south-east region, five states. Which of the regions in the south will the president emerge? Will it be on consensus, by demand, or by strategic planning?
In the present political dispensation, south-west has produced President Obasanjo. The south-south produced President Goodluck Jonathan. The south-east has not produced a president. Will the south-west and the south-south concede the next presidential slot in 2023 to the south-east? What guarantees the workability of the southern governors demand?
NINETEENS STATE Northern Governor, reacted to the Southern Governors’ demand, for a southern presidency. They rose from the Northern Governors Forum meeting, in Kaduna, on Monday, with a communique opposing the call by their Southern counterpart that presidency should move to the South in 2023.
The northern governors gave constitutional reason for their position. They said the southern governors demand is against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 [as amended]. For a candidate to emerge president of Nigeria, he must meet the requirements of majority votes scored in at least 25 percent of the votes cast in two thirds of the states of the federation; in case of a runoff, a majority win.
The northern governors and other political actors in the north seemed to be saying that rotation presidency among south and north is a moral issue – based on oral principal among political parties; and should not be demanded, as a right, the way the southern governors are going about it. And over the years, the moral principles of rotation presidency have worked, and have built inclusiveness in the polity.
They further argued that political parties should decide, which section of the country they would select their presidential candidate. The selection process should be based on consultations; inclusiveness across regions of the country; strategic planning on winning election; leadership quality based on the candidate’s capability of dealing with core national issues – such as driving the economy; building bridges across north and south for the unity and coexistence of the component parts of the country.
NIGERIA IS ON the “Move Again Looking For Mr President”, in 2023. Will it be a make or mar elections? Will Nigerians be allowed to make credible choice of who will lead them from May 29, 2023? Will Nigerians be given an Electoral Act that will ensure free, fair and credible elections in 2023? Many questions.
Some analysts have argued that the model for selecting Nigeria’s next president in 2023, should be merit. They believe Nigeria will be governed better, if the leadership selection criteria by political parties in the country are based on merit, rather than rotation of the country’s presidency.
Analysts believe very strongly, that rotation presidency has not favoured Nigeria and the citizens. They are insisting that the process of leadership selection in the country must change. History, they said, has no record of presidents that are produced on demand; not even on consensus, as Nigeria’s southern governors are demanding. Presidents are produced through politically free, fair and credible contests – the process of democracy.
Nigeria, they said is a “broken nation” economically, politically and socially, since the last six years of Buhari’s administration. The country needs a president that will fix the country; no matter what part or region of the country he comes from – north or south.
The two main political parties in the country – the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; analysts said, must get it right in producing a president that can fix the brokenness of the social, political and economic lives of Nigeria and Nigerians.