By Eric Elezuo
By the principle established by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the 2023 Presidential Election will hold on Saturday, February 18, 2023. As a result, the Commission has vowed to release a complete timetable for the 2023 general elections immediately after the Anambra gubernatorial election, which holds on November 6, 2021, according to a statement credited to the chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu.
The details of the timetable to be released soon will take care of dates and modalities for other elections like primaries, National Assembly and governorship polls.
Consequently, the race for the most exalted seat in the country, the Presidency, has taken a new dimension as it is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari will cease to be a talent of Aso Rock come May 29, 2023. And as expected the contest has pitched itself between the North and the South. Both sections of the country want a piece of the seat. While the South is calling for a respect of the an unwritten treaty, which proposes shift and rotation between the north and south, the north is claiming it is undemocratic to scheme it out in the process.
However, the 17 Southern governors, taking the matter a notch forward, met in Asaba on July 5, and resolved among other things that the presidency should return to the south after President Buhari completes his eight years stewardship in 2023. The made the following resolutions:
1. Re-affirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress, and peaceful co-existence between and amongst its people.
2. The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.
a. The Forum reviewed the security situation in the country and commends security operatives for their relentless efforts in restoring security and safety and commiserates with families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty;
b. Re-emphasised the need for State Police;
c. Resolved that if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed;
d. The forum frowns at selective criminal administration of Justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the Law and fundamental human rights;
e. Set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member States; and
f. Resolved that Funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the States and Federal Government to combat security challenges.
4. Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law:
i. The Forum commends the National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB;
ii. The Forum rejects the proposed 3% and support the 5% share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives;
iii. The forum also rejects the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins;
iv. However, the forum rejects the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC). The Forum disagrees that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of Government have stakes in that vehicle.
5. In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the Electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum reject the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act; and also rejects the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.
6. The Forum unanimously chose Lagos State as its permanent secretariat and appreciated the Governor of Lagos State for the wonderful hosting of this meeting while commending him for his good work in the State.
Firstly, the Northern Elders Forum, a recognised group that speaks for the north, said that the northern region of the country may not support the agitation for the rotation of Nigeria’s presidency to the Southern region.
The spokesman of the group, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, during a live television talk show, and while reacting to the outcome of Southern Governors Forum meeting in Lagos said many northerners may be discouraged from voting for a Southerner as president with the manner governors and leaders of the region are going about their agitation. He alleged that the Southerners are making the demand in a “wrong manner” that may offend sensitive northerners.
Leveraging on numbers, which the NEF spokesman, and to a large most northerners, believe the north has advantage of, reminded the Southern governors and lawmakers that votes and not agitations determine who becomes the president. He spoke on the impression that the north plans to use its number to frustrate the southern agitation, thereby retaining power in 2023 after Buhari against the wishes of other regions.
He also argued that there must be a convincing reason and right candidate for the north to elect a southerner, adding that southerners would have to convince the northerners on what they stand to benefit if they shift power to the South. It is therefore, little wonder that most of those who have signified their interest for the presidency are from the north. Some of them are former Zamfara State governor, Ahmed Yerima, incumbent governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello. A source told The Boss that a former Chief Security Officer to late General Sani Abacha, Hamza Mustapha, is also eyeing the presidency.
The interest of the North cuts across the two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), and so persons of interest as far as the race for the 2023 presidency is concerned are from the two major parties.
In the PDP, there are at least three sitting governors, including Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, who wishes to be president. Others include Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, PDP’s presidential candidate in 2019, Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and two terms governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
In the south, only former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Prof Kingsley Moghalu, has formally expressed his interest. However, while cronies and associates are promoting the candidacy and interest of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, he is yet to publicly and personally declare his intention.
Another fears of the northern elites on planning to scuttle the gentleman agreement of rotational presidency, lies in the unfounded belief that whatever President Buhari has done for the North will be overturned by any incoming southern president.
According to a political analyst, who prefers anonymity, “the so called lopsided appointments which have favoured the north may be reversed when southern president takes, or at the least equality or equity of appointments.” he reasoned that the north wouldn’t want that to happen, noting that the elites from the region are at home with the way things, and wish to let it remain so.
The southern governors, and in deed most southern political leaders and elites believe that with a southern president by 2023, all separatist agitations will cease. But the northern elites are not insisting on having 2023 but ready to do all it takes to retain the presidency.
Another plan is to engage a politically strong southerner, who could be lured with the position of vice president, and by so doing derive a handful of votes to seal the presidency deal.
In the meantime, Northern state legislators have resisted the southern advocacy for the presidency, saying that the North deserves to retain the presidency in 2023 because the South had ruled for 14 years while the north would have ruled for 10 years at the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure. They lent credence to Yerima Shettima’s position that the north must be allowed to do another four to balance the 14 aqccumulated years already used by the south.
The lawmakers, who assembled in Abuja on the platform of an advocacy for the 2023 were represented by four delegates each from 18 states in the northern part of the country.
The group, headed by the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, are supporting the aspirations of Governor Bello, who is also from the north.
In the National Assembly however, the gaps of disunity owing to the quest for the seat of power come 2023, are beginning to widen. A case study is the votes for the passage of the Electronic Votes Transfer. The members of both the upper chamber have been locking horns over the desirability of the bill with most northern members saying that network is an issue in their various localities. At the end of the day, the bill was passed in the absence of many house members with many of them staging a walkout.
Some analysts have also mentioned that the game plans being proposed by most regions today may very well be different from the thought process of President Buhari. Although the President has said that he will leave office after his constitutional tenure, most people believe he was speaking tongue-in-cheek
However, two years is a long time for game plans to be revisited and reviewed, and Nigerians are watching with coded interest to see how the intrigues unfold. It is just 23 months to May 2023!