The National Publicity Secretary of the influential Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed has branded proponents of a southern president in 2023 as lazy politicians who are looking for a shortcut to power.
Baba-Ahmed says while there is nothing wrong in having a southerner as Nigeria’s leader in 2023, those seeking the office and their supporters should launch into ” the hard work of persuading Northerners ” and other Nigerians to vote for them.
Such aspirants, he says, should assure voters that when they eventually get into office they will not become ” southern or northern president, but a Nigerian president.”
“We don’t want another tribal or regional president”.
In his view Nigeria’s real challenge is having a “political leadership that is completely undeserving to be leading this country,” and not rotational presidency.
According to the former Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), voters should be allowed to decide who rules them.
“Power does not return or go anywhere, power is determined by voters; this is why we have a democratic process, we are a democratic country,” he said in response to a question on the recent call by Southern governors that the presidency should return to the south after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
He adds: ” Voters should decide who they want to vote for.
“Since 1999, Nigerians have been voting; we voted a southern president in 1999 to 2007, we then voted a northern president in 2007 who ruled for only two years and a southern president completed his tenure and was voted again in 2011.
“Then, we voted a northern president in 2015. In all these times, it was the power of the voters that determined who becomes the President. Votes don’t carry regional connotation.
“The democratic process says Nigerians should exercise right, that every Nigerian above the age of 18 is qualified to vote for who they want to be president, that is it. You cannot arm-twist that provision.”
He says even if the political class decides that presidential candidates in the next election must come from the south, it cannot “insist that voters from the northern part of the country must vote a southern candidate or that all political parties must field southern candidates.”
Continuing,he says: If we have five parties and one of the parties fields a northern candidate and the northern candidate scores the highest votes, he becomes the President. You cannot force a voter to choose a candidate that is not his choice, just because the candidate comes from a particular region of the country.
“You cannot tie up northern voters completely and totally and say he must not vote for any party that fields a northerner for the position of the president. You need to persuade people, you need to do the hard work of politics.
“People who believe that having a southern presidency is central to the survival of this country should in the name of God get up do the real work of lobbying and politicking and persuade people that the future of this country is contingent on the emergence of a southern president.
“But, you cannot do it by threat, intimidation and blackmail. If you keep pushing this rhetoric that it must be southern president or we will leave this country or the heavens will fall, then northern voters will say, what about my right to choose whoever I want? What do you do with my right? How can you force me to choose a southerner if I have a choice to choose a northerner or southerner?
“That is the point we have been making. You cannot legislate this, it is not in the law.”
Baba-Ahmed believes Buhari is largely responsible for the current separatist agitations in the country by the likes of Nnamdi Kanu of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Yoruba nation activist,Sunday Igboho.
He says: ” All these arguments we are making about lack of inclusion, abusing our diversity, have their roots in the way in which this President runs his government.People don’t feel belong. And the same people who are saying they are not part of the Buhari’s government are now saying give us this presidency. ”
Buhari, in his view, has failed to “address issues that give chance to irredentists, secessionists, adventurers and killers who ride on this idea that this part of the country does not belong to Nigeria and he has failed to reach out and find a way to integrate them into mainstream political system; that is his job.
“You cannot be indifferent to sentiments in South East, you cannot be indifferent to what is happening in Southwest and still hope that you can run a safe and secure country.
“You ought to have detected this a long time ago and move to nip it in the bud and assure communities that will ordinarily feel that people like Igboho and Kanu have a case to make.They have no case to make.
” Every element and every community in Nigeria has been sidelined by incompetence, by indifference and by a president who doesn’t think that it is his job to perform the political role of a leader. So that is the mismanagement that people talk about. It is sad and tragic that we are where we are today when we should be stronger politically.We are not.”