Zamfara: 2023 Presidential Ambitions and the Callousness of Northern Leaders
By Jude Ndukwe
Barely 4 weeks after the 2019 general elections for which winners are yet to be sworn in and for which dusts in several places are yet to settle, northern leaders, through their usual forerunners, have rather very prematurely and inconsiderately started overheating the polity again by trying to sell the idea that the presidency of the nation would remain in the north come 2023 despite them having completed two terms of four years each through President Buhari (or Atiku Abubakar should the courts declare him winner following his petition on the matter).
First, it was Yari Shettima, President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, who was being clever by half in an interview with a newspaper by declaring that Buhari has failed as president, therefore, his presidency does not represent the north, and that based on that, the north would present a candidate that would represent its interest in the far away 2023 presidential election despite the conventional rotation of the presidency between north and south for the purpose of equity, fairness and justice without which there can never be peace.
Following that was the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir David Lawal, who also echoed Shettima’s stance by saying that it is not compulsory north must cede power to the south in 2023. This is also in spite of the need for every region to have a sense of belonging in the leadership of the nation and respect the principles of zoning and rotation which made both leading parties zone their presidency to the north, an action which was fully respected by other eminently qualified personalities from other zones by not contesting in the presidential primaries of the two leading parties.
As if taking a cue from these two northern leaders, and betraying the suspicion that they must have been sent by the organized leadership of the north to test the waters by selling this preposterous idea at this time, Junaid Mohammed, Second Republic legislator added his voice to the controversial call by making far reaching spurious accusations against the southeast, blaming them for voting for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar at the last election as if Atiku is no longer a northerner like Buhari and that the Igbos were left with a choice between two northerners. Mohammed should have known that having been presented with two choices by the north, they would certainly go one way or the other, and that whichever way they go, the Igbo would still have pitched their tent with a northerner be it Buhari or Atiku.
And this narrative of always trying to futilely crucify the Igbo for their political choices has to stop. This is democracy and it is the best form of government because it is based on the freedom of people to express their political choices freely without facing a backlash for it. The same Igbo the Mohammeds of the north like to label for not following a particular pattern of voting during elections voted for Atiku, a northerner, despite the presence of another eminently qualified Igbo son, Kingsley Moghalu, on the platform of the YPP, just so the principles of rotation and zoning of the presidency especially between the two leading parties in the country are not only respected but also preserved.
Rather than being vilified for this, Ndigbo should be applauded for their respect and love for the nation which, more than any other ethnic group, have shown greatest dedication and commitment to nation building.
However, this is not the crux of this piece. Its crux is how northern leaders are so shameless in canvassing for 2023 presidency when their region is on fire and ravaged by the worst insecurity since the post civil war era. How could any responsible set of leaders be talking about a 2023 presidency that is so far away when their men are now daily being kidnapped, randomly killed on a regular basis, their women raped, maimed, abducted, forcefully married out to strangers in distant lands by their abductors, and most of them brutally killed? What manner of irresponsibility and heartlessness make these leaders turn their focus on politics when their children have become endangered species and a waste to the world because of social malaise of crime and criminalities including drug abuse bedeviling them? Most times, because of the incessant violent crimes in the north, these children are made orphans. Even those of them who manage to make it to IDP camps because of the continued deterioration of security situation in that zone have their rations and benefits stolen by their leaders, as it is in the “Grasscutter” case. Sadly, Babachir Lawal is one of those mouthing a northern presidency in 2023!
From Benue to Plateau, from Adamawa to Taraba, from Borno to Yobe to Zamfara etc, whole villages are being sacked by armed bandits in a manner that suggests we have no government, or that northern presidents always produce the most abysmal performance in office as presidents.
So what is the essence of shouting northern presidency in 2023 when the north has remained the most diseased, the most poverty-stricken, the most illiterate and the most backward in every indices of human development even when the north has had the largest share of the presidency since independence till date? What is the benefit of the presidency to the north that it keeps insisting on holding on to power when facts have shown that the country especially the north suffers the most whenever they have one of their own in power? It is not that these northern leaders do not know what to do actually, their problem is knowing how to do it. Pray, how can you be expending billions of naira in a vain search for oil in the north when that amount could have been channeled to agriculture where the zone has its comparative advantage over other regions and employ thousands of youths in the process while turning Nigeria to a major export country for agric and agro-allied products?
These northern leaders should know that the people of the southeast they so much love to victimize for their political choices are not too interested in the presidency other than voting. If the presidency comes to them, fine. If it does not, Ndigbo cares less because the great and modern cities of Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha etc were built by the efforts of the Igbo with little or without federal government assistance. Today, about 1,000 shops and still counting at the humongous Ariaria International market, Aba, enjoy 24 hours uninterrupted power supply to boost the entrepreneurship output of the people. How many cities in the entire north can boast of the infrastructural development and facilities of Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha, Ohafia, Abiriba, (which are also known as “Small London” because of their modern architectural edifices), Enugu, Abakaliki etc. All these cities have been built by the Igbo spirit which travels far and wide and brings home its experience and wealth to bear on their people and immediate society with or without federal government intervention.
The only international airport in the entire southeast was the creation and construction of the Igbo people. Whatever the Igbos have built by themselves today, was built under the assumption that if they do not take care of themselves, nobody will do it for them, hence, the thriving spirit driving them.
The Igbo talk of marginalization only as humans who feel cheated about a system deliberately skewed against them in order to keep them down. But since after the civil war, despite the paltry twenty pounds given to each of their fathers to start life again after the civil war, and despite their properties seized, the Igbo have risen from the ashes of life like the ancient Phoenix to overtake other zones of the country in terms of development but for federal government presence and huge interventions in one or two places of these other zones.
The fact is that even if the nation is run based on self-government for each region and Abuja as beautiful a city as it is, is given to the north as part of their land to manage, Abuja would deteriorate so badly in just five years that the squalid Zamfara of today would be a magnificent town compared to it.
Rather than keep clamouring for a presidency that has brought more curses than blessings to the north, and arrogantly talk down on others, the north should look inwards and see how it can turn the misfortunes of its children roaming the streets aimlessly and hopelessly into something beneficial to them and the nation. A situation where the north produces the president, SGF, Ministers of Defence, Interior, Petroleum, Heads of the Army, Air Force, Police, Civil Defence, Customs, Immigration, Prisons, NSA, EFCC, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives and so many others, yet, have grown worst in insecurity, economy, education etc compared to other regions speaks volume of the fact that power without sense is senseless!
Northern leaders should eat their humble pie and admit that they are woeful handlers of power which they have only used to further impoverish their region, and learn from the Igbos they so much love to vilify, how to use the power of intelligence to advance the cause of their people.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @StJudeNdukwe