2023 presidency: Afenifere, ADC, ACF fault el-Rufai

SOME prominent organisations and major political parties, on Monday, reviewed the postulation credited to the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, that the principle of zoning of elective offices be jettisoned to elect Nigerian leaders in 2023.

His advocacy came against the clamour by stakeholders from the North-Central, South-South, South-East and the South-West for power shift in the next general election, after power would have resided in the North for eight consecutive years.

el-Rufai had said: “Even with our success in the 2015 elections, there is room for improvement. Barriers to political equality, such as our seemingly entrenched though informal rule for zoning candidacies according to regions of origin need to be de-emphasised and ultimately abandoned in favour of an emphasis on qualification, competence and character.”

Those who spoke to the Nigerian Tribune on the position of the governor included the national chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu; pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere; general secretary of Arewa Consultative Forun (ACF), Mr Anthony Sani; acting national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Professor Tunde Adeniran and Senator Olu Alabi, as well as the president of the Coalition of Northern Youths, Alhaji Shettima.

Chief Nwosu described el-Rufai as being insensitive, in view of the diversity of the country coupled with the fact that every ethnic group was awash with abundant competent and credible professionals.

“Nigeria needs to harness the diversity of its population in order to establish a sense of belonging among the constituent units. There is no section of the country that does not have competent and tested individuals that can lead the country.

“Is it the type of competence that el-Rufai and the APC people are touting and selling to Nigeria now? That is el-Rufai for you.

“However, on a more serious note, el-Rufai is being insensitive. One of the ways by which this country can move forward is when we harness its diversity.

“In everything we do, we must inculcate the diversity values into our culture if we want Nigeria to work, otherwise we are going for a disaster. I think people like el-Rufai are intelligent other than, at times, when they allow their selfishness to override them. At this point in time, we should harness our diversity value.

“He is being insensitive. And at this point in time in the life of Nigeria, any well-articulated leader should be thinking of how we should harness our diversity value,” Nwosu said.

While acknowledging the place of merit in determining the leaders of the country, the ADC chairman noted that every part of the country could boast of “highly qualified people that could lead Nigeria.”

On his part, the publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said the Kaduna State governor could be flying a kite that the political power must remain in the North in 2023.

“The marines have tuned all their antennas to el-Rufai. We should have joined the marines to listen to him if he was delivering that message in 2014 when the resonating words for people like him was ‘we want our power back’ and ‘the North has been marginalised’.

“Now that they have it back, they want to have it for keeps with the competence they have displayed that has made all indices worse for the country.

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“We will join the competence train when Nigeria is set on true federalism for the federating units to have autonomy.

“That would be the kind of country where Ahmadu Bello seconded his aide to be Nigeria’s Prime Minister, while he was Premier of the North. But to keep us in this and be talking competence is telling us we were born yester-night,” Odumakin said.

Also speaking, the ACF national secretary, Anthony Sani, said zoning became expedient in order to manage the diversity of the country and guarantee a sense of belonging for the various ethnic groups.

“I do not know the context Governor el-Rufai made that statement. As a result, I cannot make an informed comment on his position. But note that I have said it over and over again that politics of identity symbolised by power shift and rotation was introduced in order to manage our diversity, albeit it is an admission of failure of leadership which has made communities to believe that access to national resources by way of appointments, projects and major contracts should be turn-by-turn.

“But I dare say merit and rotation are not mutually exclusive. That is to say it is still possible to get candidates in whom merit and zoning can be found.

“Somehow, I believe because no country has enough resources needed for satisfaction of all citizens, governance is necessarily an art of balancing competing demands among not only constituents but also among socioeconomic sectors.

“This is to inspire inclusion and sense of participation, even if as precursor for the introduction of meritocracy,” he said.

A former minister of education and acting national chairman of SDP, Professor Adeniran, agreed that zoning was most expedient at the inception of the Fourth Republic because of the damage of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.

According to him, the nation now needed a system that is based on ideology and other niceties like merit to firm it up.

“That has always been my personal position. I believe strongly that competence and ideology should guide Nigerians in the choice of those to govern the country at various levels. Zoning was popular, rational and defensible at the onset of the Fourth Republic because of the essence of June 12.

“It became fashionable for political parties to flaunt zoning as part of their principles and, as would be expected, ethnicity, bigotry and mediocrity soon seized the channels of zoning. That principle will not carry Nigeria far as a country very much in need of liberation from ignorance, poverty and other factors of underdevelopment.

“The leadership Nigeria needs in 2023 must be based not only on competence, the capacity for leadership, but also on the right ideology. That is paramount.

“No matter where a Nigerian leader comes from, if he or she is people-oriented and believes absolutely in the rule of law, human dignity, social justice, fairness and equity and, of course, the imperatives of peace, democracy and true federalism, Nigeria would be safe and make progress in such hands.”

On his part, the leader of the Coalition of Northern Youths, Shettima, simply said: “I subscribe to competence too,” just as a member of the PDP national leadership, Senator Olu Alabi, said it was a tall dream for anyone to sincerely talk about competence as the determining factor for the next presidency because of the prevalent primordial biases and bigotry in the land.

“Competence and not rotation, as articulated by el-rufai is the ideal. But are Nigerian leaders ready, with the background of ethnic, religious and other primordial biases and beliefs? These dangerous diseases of bias/beliefs must first be tackled nationally by God-sent leaders and not the ones we have all over the country now,” he said.

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