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WHY I AM DEEPLY WORRIED

By NBF News

There has been no time since the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections that the sentiments surrounding the North/South political divide in this country has been more pronounced than now. I am deeply worried as a result of this. The arguments regarding the zoning formula have been taken to another level altogether with both sides threatening fire and brimstone.

As we are all aware, the last time such sentiments ran high after the annulment of the June 12 elections in 1993, the political crises that followed left this nation politically, socially and economically moribund for many years. The series of civil disobedience that followed that annulment, the spate of killings and political unrest continued for a long time until the death of Abacha in 1998. I am deeply worried because those sentiments are here with us again.

I am deeply worried because a situation where there is no longer any father figure left in this country with enough clout and respect to rise above these ethnic sentiments and call all sides to order is a bad omen for this nation. I am thinking of a figure like Mandela in South Africa, like Jimmy Carter in the United States of America or Koffi Anan in Ghana. What we are seeing is that those who ought to play such roles in Nigeria either do not command such national respect or have all receded into their ethnic conclaves and are now championing ethnic causes. It is such a shame. The Yoruba will call such people agbayas (a grown up who is not behaving as expected of his age).

A situation where former presidents of this country, elder statesmen, former vice presidents are now beating the drums of ethnicity, all in the name of zoning, is a complete letdown to themselves and our country. Those in the North and the South are all guilty of this.

Imagine a situation where Babangida, who ruled this country for eight years, is actually championing the slogan of 'it's the turn of the North'. Babangida has actually warned Jonathan in many of his speeches not to contest or else there would be crisis in the country. The other day, Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president of this country, through his group, actually threatened to sue Jonathan, if Jonathan decides to run because, according to them, Jonathan will be breaching a gentleman's agreement on zoning of the Presidency. Other notable northern leaders, like Olusola Saraki, Adamu Ciroma, Solomon Lar etc, who have all held important positions in this country have all either rooted for one side or the other and no one is rising above politics and ethnicity to put things together.

In the South, we have seen plenty of agbayas whose actions and utterances are breaking this country more than pulling this country together. For instance, instead of Obasanjo to be remorseful for bringing us to this impasse by imposing a medically certified sick man on all of us as President, and instead of retreating to Ota Farms to play the role of a godfather by advising all candidates to keep the peace, he is actually junketing from one part of Western Nigeria to the other mobilising his kinsmen like an ethnic champion to support a candidate from one part of the country against the other. He fired the first salvo on the Voice of America when he lied openly that there was nothing like a zoning arrangement within the PDP, only for us to later see a PDP communiqué he signed in 2001 affirming the zoning arrangement within the party and for the party to later confirm that, indeed, the zoning arrangement within the party will remain but that Jonathan is free to run to complete Yar'Adua's tenure.

We have also seen Chief Edwin Clark, an elder statesman, making loud, wild and divisive utterances, threatening fire and brimstone if Jonathan does not win the 2011 Presidential poll. The Presidency has not bothered to caution him on his utterances. In fact, his utterances must have encouraged militia groups to be issuing warnings to their kinsmen who dare support candidates from other parts of the country. Just like the North, there are countless other statesmen in the South who have taken this same position with the effect of sending wrong signals to the youths who look up to them for guidance and direction.

Please note that I am not here concerned about who is right or wrong in this whole argument regarding the zoning formula. I am not also concerned about which part of the country is supposed to produce the next President. I am only deeply worried that these elders from different parts of the country have decided to promote ethnicity over issues of good governance and there is no strong moderating voice in this whole battle for the keys to Aso Rock.

The false impression that is being created is that people are actually elected to the Presidency to champion ethnic causes and to promote the welfare of their kinsmen over and above people from other parts of the country. But it is only a s stupid person that would believe that. Most governments in the past headed by Northerners actually made many southerners billionaires without paying attention to the general welfare of the country and some governments in the past headed by southerners actually made many northerners billionaires without also paying attention to the general welfare of the country.

So what is this clamour to have 'one of our own' as President at all cost? It must be understood by the masses that the campaign of 'it's our turn' by both sides, is nothing but a euphemism for access to steal public funds. Whoever is thinking that, because his kinsman is President, he will see manna from heaven at his doorsteps every morning he wakes up or see strange deposits in his bank account should have his head examined.

On the other hand, if the quest to have a President from one's own ethnic region is only for the psychological satisfaction and for the bragging rights, then is it really worth all the threats of violence that both sides are issuing?

I am deeply worried that the slide of the 2011 elections into threats and violence is not attracting strong condemnation from both sides. As much as I think that the decision of my big brother, Raymond Dokpesi to head the campaign of former blood-thirsty dictator Babangida is immoral and unprincipled on his part (and also puts the neutrality of his news media in serious doubt and jeopardy), to issue threats against his person and that of his family or declare him a persona non grata in any part of this country as a result of that is totally unacceptable and condemnable. And instead of the Jonathan Camp issuing a statement to condemn such threats or violence by their supporters, it actually issued a statement abusing the Babangida camp.

For me, rather than issue threats of violence, we must be prepared to publicly engage the likes of those who associate with characters like Babangida in intellectual discourse and debates to expose their immorality and lack of principles before Nigerians so that we can call them to order by treating them as pariahs. On the other hand, the Babangida camp is not making any effort to caution those from the North who are warning Jonathan to respect the zoning arrangement by not throwing his hat into the ring.

I am also deeply worried that we are going into the 2011 elections without a national consensus on the zoning arrangement. It has come to a point where the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can no longer be silent about the zoning arrangement. It has come to a point where the Constitution of this country must clearly spell out whether the zoning arrangement is permissible or not. In other words, the Constitution must be clear as to whether political parties are allowed to adopt a zoning formula or not in picking their candidates for elective offices. The fact that the Constitution is silent about it now, still allows political parties to adopt such arrangement in picking their candidates.

Let us have a national referendum on the zoning arrangement. If we decide to abolish it in all spheres of our national life, let it be clearly spelt out in the Constitution and the minorities must be prepared to live by that and to insist on good governance. On the other hand, if we decide, in a referendum to retain it, let it also be clearly spelt out in the Constitution and let the dominant ethnic group be prepared to rotate power with the minorities and to insist on good governance in doing so.

The masses can no longer afford to leave this issue in the hands of the elite who are only fighting for their selfish interests. The masses must be prepared to take their destinies into their own hands by insisting on good governance, free and fair elections and a clear way forward on the zoning formula.

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