2011 PRESIDENCY: SOUTH-EAST GOVS GOT IT WRONG
The story was on the front pages of most national dailies. But Daily Sun captured it in its most vivid essence. The kicker was '2011 Presidency.' The header was 'WE WON'T CONTEST.' The fanciful rider was, 'South East Governors back out of race for Aso Rock.'
Said a vital part of the report:'…rising from the South East Governors' Forum, they said they would rather support any presidential candidate with the best program that would address the issue of the marginalization of the South-East, as well as the political imbalance in the country.'
While I do not claim privy to what conditioned the declaration of the SE Governors, I make bold to assert, that the declaration may not have been well thought out or at best, hasty. It is on record that during the same period, their counterparts from the North (who we pooh-pooh as having feudalistic tendencies) met in Kaduna after which they issued a press release to the effect that they would make no comments about zoning and the presidency until after they had consulted with the electorate from their zone!
This beggarly collective position of the SE Governors amounts to sitting on the fence. It is primitive. It is subjugatory. It is like mortgaging the collective political rights and consciences of the people of an important political bloc within the union. It stands the chance of having long lasting political consequences on the bloc – consequences which end, no one would predict.
Looked at closely, it could have been driven for fear of incurring the wrath of any politician of worth (from the North or South-South) to whom either individually or collectively, the SE Governors seem to be beholden. Do the SE Governors really mean it that the political imbalance and marginalization of their region would effectively be addressed by a non-participant observer? Political power in my opinion should be taken, not given.
Even when Okwesilieze Nwodo, the Chairman of the PDP is saying that the presidency is an open contest, free for everyone, the SE Governors appear bent on excluding themselves and by implication the rest of the people from the SE. Why? Are the SE Governors genuinely speaking for the SE political bloc? Are they telling individuals willing to vie for these positions (which they detest) to steer clear? Must presidential candidates from the SE emerge from within the Governors Forum's rank? Must any of them run for it to be acknowledged that someone from the bloc ran? Who asked the SE Governors to make such bold, brash and self arrogating declaration? Who sen' them? Is there a guarantee, written or implied that says (in future) other segments of the union and its leaders whom the Governors are trying very hard now to please will defer to the South East Zone in the near or remote future?
Is this the same SE Governors that boldly asserted that former President Yar'Adua was still the legitimate president of the country even when they knew that the man was near comatose and almost bed-ridden? Are they now speaking in measured tongues in order not to ruffle political feathers of some segments of the polity?
What is coming out from the SE is, directly opposed to what is happening in the North, the South West and the South-South regions of the federation. In the South-South for example, Elder statesman, Edwin Clark has been hiding under the sacred toga of 'is Octogenarian' to threaten fire and brimstone should Jonathan not be allowed to run. He is not alone .Chief Albert Horsfall is another champion of South-South turn. Professor David West, their compatriot, another septuagenarian has been playing the wiser consul advising against pushing Jonathan too far.
In the North, elders have been meeting and issuing statements to the effect that the zoning policy of the Peoples' Democratic Party -(PDP) should be maintained. They reason that this would be the only way for now, to guarantee the ascendency of the region back to the exalted seat of the presidency. I think they wrongfully presuppose that the PDP is Nigeria and Nigeria is the PDP.
There, in Northern Nigeria, the people of the middle belt as represented by political power houses as Solomon Lar and General T.Y. Danjuma seem to speak in unison to the effect that the North is no longer as monolithic as its founding fathers wanted it to be.
In the South West, understandably, it has been nothing but loud silence except the media, which aggressively, is egging Jonathan to run. And or using screaming headlines to bring to our living rooms, the behind the doors deliberations of the people on the political chessboard of modern Nigeria. We hear from the grapevine that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is being prepared by the SW to pair up with a northern contender of worth as Vice President. If this happens, the SW will surely be a winner.
To me, it looks like the SE Governors who may have other good intentions for the region unknowingly are going to achieve a direct opposite of whatever genuine heart desires of theirs are. Take this scenario as a guide and judge for yourself:
Jonathan contests in 2011 and wins. He will rule till 2015. In 2015 the north will rise again and say, we allowed Jonathan to take our share. Jonathan will then say, 'I have served only one term.' He will prove his point beyond reasonable doubt. The north will counter: 'We will never allow any southerner to be at Aso Rock for another 4 years let alone a two term preposition of 8 years.' If the north reasoned aloud then, it may attract the sympathies of most southerners who may reason as the SE Governors are reasoning to the effect that power should move up north for equity and fair play.
At the end, Jonathan may have his way and rule for 8 years. If that happens, what will be the position of the present Governors then? Add 8 years to the present ages of the governor, you find most of them in their sixties. Throw in another eight years when the North would actually mount the saddle after Jonathan has completed his two terms and you have most of them in their seventies and on their way to retirement homes.
By then, this generation of SE politicians would at best be suitable for appointment as board members of federal parastatals. Do not tell me that when we reach the river, we cross it. Sixteen years from now, where will the present Governors be? Will they be in a position to collectively go to Enugu or wherever is convenient to them to make declarations limiting the collective political freedom of a whole region and its people? Do they have the mandate of the people so to do? Why are they scared of throwing their political hats into the enlarged ring of the Nigerian political big league?
Should chickening out so early in the debate of whether the president should be in Southern Nigeria with Jonathan as its pivot or simply walk up to the North to assuage the demands of northern notables who are now waging a war proclaiming that it is the turn of the north or never? Why can't politicians from the south East be seen to be saying, 'After Jonathan, it will be the turn of the SE or Jonathan should not run because he may by default be taking the turn of the South East?' Why are there no questions being asked. Why are important politicians of South East extraction not asking such question as to what happens to the south-east geo political zone 2011 and after? I want to know. No, we want to know.
What would happen in 2015? When will it be the turn of the SE to produce the president of Nigeria? Come on guys, someone within the SE political circle should begin to ask these questions as soon as possible. The non-existence of such a question now presupposes that the region's present day politicians have chickened out either because of selfish political considerations or because of the settlement syndrome known to thrive in the SE more than in any other segment of the Nigerian polity.
More worrisome is that since the announcement, no political person of circumstance from the region had gone to the media to chide the Govs. Does it then mean that what the governors said in their press release after meeting in Enugu should be taken to mean the official position of the entire people of the region? If so, it is a very dangerous development. I predict that history will be harsh to the present group of Governors from the SE if their injunction becomes the official position of the region.
Godson Offoaro wrote from Havensgate, Owerri.