Given the propensity of rotational arrangements to throw up clueless and ill-prepared candidates and put them in positions they never dreamt of, let alone planned for, not many well-meaning Nigerians would be willing to throw the dice of political rotation and leave their fates to whoever the arrangement flings out.
But while most Nigerians agree that rotational presidency has been a disaster, we are yet to agree on a better way of ensuring that our best materials occupy sensitive and important public offices: Surely, even if it is the ‘turn’ of the South South to produce a president, Goodluck Jonathan cannot represent their most intelligent, charismatic or forward-looking specimen.
And because Nigerian politics and politicians have what seems to be an inbuilt mechanism to eliminate merit, capacity and integrity at every opportunity, the political space today is largely occupied by clowns and other charlatans who, in the real sense, have no idea of how to manage power and responsibility, and certainly should have no business running our complex administrative systems at the federal and state levels.
At the moment, the key debate in the polity revolves around the demand that the incumbent – who is constitutionally entitled to a second term – should stand for reelection, in defiance of a political accord to seek only one term (a pact he tactless and derisively dismissed). Others insist that it is the ‘turn’ of the north, since it was short-changed when its tenor died three years into an expected eight year tenure.
The South West has been reticent on the matter, realizing that the country is yet to recover from the damage its own candidate, Obasanjo, (again, hardly the best the region had to offer) did to Nigeria. Nevertheless, it still has odds of playing a key role in 2015, especially if it puts up the likes of Lagos state governor, Babatunde Fashola on a ticket, or at least as the face of progressive politics.
At another level, anyone reading the body language of the senate president, David Mark knows the man has been eyeing the presidency with an Abacha-like patience and tactic. In the possible event that Jonathan is unable to achieve what he so desperately wants, it is not inconceivable that he would depart with a Greek gift that would deliberately stoke the religious divide in the north by paving the way for Mark’s emergence.
All these permutations bring us to the crux of the matter: Are there no politicians from the South East who do not only want to be president, but are engaged in actual politicking to realize that ambition? For a region that wields such considerable economic might in a political system where cash chokes logic, it is curious that practically no politician from the South East is seriously eying Aso Rock – at least, not publicly, where it matters.
Not long ago, Nigeria was inundated with calls for a president from the South East. The methods might have been debatable and unsophisticated, but the voices were heard. Now, with less than a year to go before the next general elections, the deafening silence on the matter can only fuel conspiracy theories – even where none exist.
For example, there is a belief in certain quarters that the South East has resolved to support whoever is in power – in return for certain benefits. It is on record that the South East governors generally supported late President Yar’adua until his death – then promptly shifted their support to Jonathan the moment the baton of power shifted.
In return for their support (by way of highly inflated returns in the 2011 presidential elections), the region has been hugely rewarded by the president: Minister of Finance (some say prime minister), Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (new) Central Bank governor, Minister of Power, and leadership of key commissions like the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, Nigeria Communications Commission, National Population Commission, Debt Management Office, Sovereign Wealth Fund, Nigeria Stock Exchange and many other agencies of government.
Considering the strong personalities and enterprising nature of many people from the South East, and also the buccaneering nature of our politics, is it that they have resolved to eternally play the second fiddle? Or is their strategy the low-risk approach of milking the cow while others wrestle with the horn? If so, then it is a disservice to our politics both in terms of substance and entertainment value.
Ultimately, given the challenges of incompetent leadership, insecurity, unemployment and poverty facing Nigeria, what we need is capable, competent, honest and forward-looking leadership. Still, it is disappointing that no candidate from the South East with a realistic chance of winning seems ready to run for president next year – even if to prepare the ground for a future run.