In The Spirit of Fairness

By Faith Berewa.

Nigeria has become a tinderbox. We are in the dire straits, and, you know, as much as I do, there doesn’t seem to be a way out. Opportunity presents us for the emergence of a strong, decisive, fair-minded leader that will hopefully, tackle and lead us out of the country’s hydra-headed evils.  It is the time in our election cycle for candidates to emerge from the political parties who will carry their party’s flags in next year’s national elections. My focus is the presidential race.  With just days away to the presidential primaries it’s been intense with the candidates of the two main political parties jostling for the delegates’ votes.   The presidential ticket is the icing on the cake, with many figures signaling their intention to be their party’s flagbearer. The President of Nigeria is an incredibly powerful position. An executive position, controls the Commanding Heights of the economy. Throw anything in there- control, influence, power, authority, supremacy, prerogative, “to do and undo”.  So no surprises at the number of candidates seeking the top job.

This brings me to the essence of this piece. First, let’s delve into a bit of history- especially for younger readers who were not born then or might not be aware of some historical facts preceding our current democratic dispensation.

June 12 1993 presidential elections was held between Social Democratic Party’s, Chief Moshood Abiola from the Southwest and National Republican Convention candidate Alhaji Bashir Tofa from Kano, in the Northwest.  Abiola’s running mate was a Muslim, like him. Quite instructive. Results released showed Chief Moshood Abiola coasting home to victory. The “evil genius”, the military ruler, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled the elections and the country was thrown into turmoil.

President Ibrahim Babangida stepped aside on the 27th of August 1993 handing power to an Interim National  Government led by corporate guru Ernest Shonekan. It did not last long. The defense minister in that cabinet General Sani Abacha who took part in the 1985 coup that brought Babangida to power, toppled the Interim national government on 8 Nov. 1993 and ruled until his death on June 8 1998. He was succeeded by Gen Abubakar Abdulsalami who handed power to an elected civilian government the following year, precisely in 11 months.

Now let’s get back to the beginning of our historical discourse. Remember a Yoruba man from the southwest was set to win the 1993 elections that was annulled? Fast forward to 1999.  Elections were held as promised by Gen Abdusalami to usher in constitutional civilian rule ending almost 16 years of military dictatorship. The two main contenders, Chief Olu Falae and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo were from the Southwest –seen as reparation of sorts for the June 12 stolen mandate, this was in the spirit of unity and harmony, simply put, for us to move forward as a Nation. Olusegun Obasanjo, former military ruler 1976-79 who handed power to a civilian regime in 1979, was elected president and sworn into office May 29 1999.

Since then power has been rotating between the northern and southern parts of the country. Rotation has become a Force for national cohesion and stability of the Polity. I’ll quote part of Vanguard Editorial of October 3 2021  “power rotation was one of the principles that Nigerians debated at the Constitutional Conference convened  by the late General Sani Abacha between 1994 and 1996 as a means of preventing future reoccurrence of the ugly fall-outs of the annulled June 12 1993 presidential elections won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola. Specifically the Provincial Ruling Council led by General Sani Abacha had  approved that there shall be rotation of the presidency between the North and South. It was also seen as a panacea to unite the country and give every section a sense of belonging …..we wish to remind those who argue that power rotation principle was an imposition by the Abacha’s PRC(Provincial Ruling Council) that the 1999 Constitution was also a bigger imposition which we have lived with subject to serial amendments.”

Mohammadu Buhari from Katsina state in the Northwest has been president since 2015 after replacing Goodluck Jonathan in what was a demonstrated power of the unwritten law of rotation in our current democratic dispensation.

Fast forward to 2022, ideally, power should shift to the South right? Not the thinking of the ruling APC, and the main opposition party.  “We have not zoned the presidency” said APC chairman during a recent visit to the president. The opposition PDP also came out with its official position – thrown open to candidates from all zones. Of course there have been cries from individuals and groups from both the South and North, who justifiably believe that it’s the turn of the South after 8 years of Northern rule, in the spirit of fair play.

The allure of power is tempting – a strong force difficult to let go once tested at whatever level – so the race by many aspirants, and those from the North- to take over the rein of power on May 29 2023.

Nigeria is in a precarious state. These are extremely difficult times for us as a nation. We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Never since the civil war has our unity has been this endangered.  We are so so divided along ethno-religious lines with our very existence as a nation threatened. The discordant tunes in the country currently are deafening, frightening and dangerous. Not zoning the presidency to the south will aggravate this.

Truth be told, the policy actions of this president has in no small way created deep seated divisions and animosity among the various ethnic nationalities with “leaders” heating up the polity with reckless statements. The bottom line is the political control and dominance by the North, especially the Hausa/Fulani stock, at the expense of other regions. Other ethnic nationalities don’t feel an equal part of the commonwealth, it’s been an issue in the Nigerian Project and that feeling of dominance and control by the Hausa Fulani homogeneity has been exacerbated since president Buhari came to power. His appointments especially in the critical security sector, his blatant disregard for the principle of federal character, his insensitivity to the agitations by some sections of the country, the alarming insecurity, and his kids- glove approach in dealing with terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, marauding Fulani militia raiding, killing, sacking whole communities from their ancestral land, causing millions of Nigerians to be internally displaced, have resulted in deep seated divisions among various ethnic groups. What divides us today is stronger than ever. In spite of this, some politicians from the north want to perpetuate this dominance and control. This will further deepen the acrimony and agitations.  This is vicious in all ramifications. How can the north eat its cake and have it? Goodluck Jonathan was hounded out of power because “it’s our turn” they screamed. At the end of two terms in office, power should rotate to the South. This is what every Nigerian knows about our present democracy.

Let’s not even talk about competence being the reason for northern candidates to throw in their hats into the race.  The present northern political class can’t claim to be more competent than their southern colleagues.

Real democracy can only thrive in an environment of equity, justice, fairness and inclusion, where everyone, every tribe, every religious affiliation is treated as equal. This fosters cohesion and nation building. Anything contrary breeds chaos. What we desperately need now is unity, social cohesion and harmony. Northern candidates should, in the true spirit of patriotism play by the rules and accept the fact that it’s the turn of a southern president.  

True patriotism is giving up your ambition for the sake of peace, stability and unity of the country especially in the times we are in.  That’s the true Service.


I have given my opinion on power shift to the south. But where in the south? Let’s be candid here. Where else but the South East? An Ibo man, Chief Alex Ekwemue became vice president 9 years after the Nigerian civil war. This certainly bolstered reconciliation, Integration, unity and healing, after a brutal war. It was an affirmation to “no victor no vanquished’’. Over 40 years later, and 23 years into this democratic dispensation, there doesn’t seem to be a consolidation at peace building and bringing the Igbos “to the fold”.  Why should the south east be sidelined? Why can’t a people resourceful, industrious, produce the next president? The Separatists’ agitations, violence and restiveness in some parts of the region are fallout of the marginalization of the region.

The concluding words of the speech by the great South African anti-apartheid campaigner and president, Nelson Mandela during his trial in 1964, which he repeated after his release in 1990 resonates “during my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die for”

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