Dangers of North-South dichotomy

By Muhammad Ajah
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In as much as every Nigerian citizen who meets the constitutional requirements to contest for any position of choice is free to employ any reasonable means to canvass support from fellow compatriots, there is need to respect both inter and intra-party independence and cooperation to move Nigeria forward. The real burning issue of recent in the Nigerian politics is neither the appointment of the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nor that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The thing in the whole political quagmire is the north-south dichotomy which has been smuggled into the system.

From the onset, it must be asserted that the political elite have to work hard to manage this monster with maturity and handle the dicey implication of hanging on this for long if we must progress as a nation. What should be paramount to Nigerians should be how to choose leaders who can practically add value to their lives and bring development to their homes. Time will come when we must de-emphasize on where a contestant for a national position hails from.

When we talk of power sharing, it is relevant to note that it is not limited to elective positions alone. It is more important that it is reflected on appointments especially in the federal civil service. While one cannot argue the fact that experiences should matter much in the appointment of Nigerians into offices, there is the other side of it that once a state is under-employed in a sector of the economy, that state remains so because there would be no enough personalities to protect the interest of the state in that sector. We are yet to cross the stage where nepotism, ethnicism, tribalism and religion play no role in this regard.

Power sharing or power rotation specifically means the movement of the position of the president between the North and the South. This simply means that when a president of the northern extraction rules the country for a certain number of years – constitutionally four years which is renewable for another four years – and an election is to be held, no northern politician should contest. After the eight years, it becomes the turn of the South to produce the succeeding president.

Although this has been capitulated in “a gentleman's agreement” in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it has since been a binding demand that every citizen should cherish for the time. This is because, going through the list of past presidents of Nigeria, the north has had the largest number. This was during the military era. And it was a justification that the north, comprising of nineteen states of the federation, were dominating the army in the past. The north also was believed to be more populated than the south which is made up of seventeen states. With these facts, it has always meant that the north had more advantages to be president considering the tenets of democracy that majority carries the vote.

When we look at the present partitioning of the country into six geopolitical zones, we find that the north has three zones with one domineering language which is Hausa. The South also has three zones but with many struggling tribes claiming superiority. The Yoruba and the Igbo are the domineering languages of the South, but it is quite difficult for the people of the South-South geopolitical zone to accept inferiority under any of the duo. The Ikwerre, the Efik, the Anang, the Bini, the Ijaw, and a host of other ethnic groups and languages in the six South-South states seem not to have one traceable ancestral linage. The five South-East states have Igbo as their language though with dialectical differences. The same is true about the six South-West Yoruba speaking zone.

This analysis became necessary in order to bring close to memory why the north can continue to dominate the politics in Nigeria. Further to the earlier yardsticks, the north is not much divided in pursuing a common goal. True that they have been in power for a longer time since independence, but the rate of poverty bites harder in that region more than the south. And it is not hiding the fact that they sustained the nation's economy before the advent of the “cursed” crude oil and gas. On another note, materialism remains stark in the south more than the north.

It was against the background that the north was dominating the politics of Nigeria that the issue of power sharing or rotational presidency received a nod by most of the political game masters. And it was much more on that grounds that in 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was staged to be the occupant of the Aso Rock Villa. It was likewise in an effort to consolidate on the unwritten power-sharing mechanism that Obasanjo was allowed, through pressure on former Vice President Atiku not to contest against his boss, to re-contest and be rigged into Aso Rock Villa for the second tenure in 2003.

All Nigerians showing their political prowess at the time of danger, the ploy for a third tenure for Obasanjo by certain unpatriotic citizens to sabotage the general interest of the Nigerian people and subvert the provisions of the constitution which allows for two tenures of four years each for a president, was thwarted. Thanks to heroes like Chief Ken Nnamani and a host of governors and political juggernauts who stood firm to salvage the country from a civilian coup. Many Nigerians went to prayer sessions during that trying moment. And God answered Nigerians and not Obasanjo. This means that any claim that the former president had respect for the constitution or wanted a smooth run of this present government was arguable. The support for zoning was merely for his personal and selfish interest.

Now that it is time to respect the rotational presidency, a lot of people particularly from the south are opposing it. The reason why this trend came to be in the first place must not be forgotten so quickly. If it is true that Obasanjo's exalted plan is to ensure that power does not return to the north in the next decade or so, then something is wrong and something must be done quickly to force him to relinquish any attempt that could cause disharmony and acrimony among the peaceful, united and still-hoping-for-a-change people of Nigeria.

The risk that this stand posses on the polity is glaring. The implication is that whenever the power returns to the north, if the system is eventually dismissed or ignored, they will insist on holding it as the south did and this may cause what majority of us does not desire. That is more a reason why, though PDP labours to maintain it, it should remain. PDP, as a self- acclaimed largest party in Africa which believes in the rule of law and which has been in power since the nation's return to democracy, should insist on getting it right if Nigerians must continue to have sympathy and patronage for it. Is it so difficult to respect the law and the people's desire?

The bare truth is that the power rotation has solved the problem of negligence which the south had cried for. But for the sake of getting it better and involving every part of the country at the highest level of the leadership, it may be sensible to consider rotating the position of the president amongst the six geopolitical zones, instead of the north-south dichotomy. Let it be a one-tenure system of five years for every zone. In so doing, history will be ready to record the most serious, most focused, most determined and most liberal region in the country. This means that when, for instance, the South-West produces the president, the other five geopolitical zones can form the opposition. This, in no small way, will enhance development, unity and independence on one hand, and fight sectionalism, corruption and series of societal evils holding this country to ransom.

With the INEC and PDP chairmen now coming on board, it is the wish of Nigerians that our political elite should take the constitution so sacrosanct and do the right thing that will keep us faithful and patriotic to our fatherland beyond 2011.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail- [email protected]