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Sunday, 18 November 2012

NIGERIAN LEADERSHIP AND THE NORTH/ SOUTH DICHOTOMY

                                                                     
In 1906, the colony and protectorate of Lagos and the protectorate of Southern Nigeria were amalgamated. In 1914, Lord Luggard, the then Governor-General, amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates to form the state called Nigeria. In 1951, a federal constitution was introduced. On October 1, 1954, the Sarduna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello became the Prime Minister of Northern Region, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the Prime Minister of Eastern Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was appointed the Prime Minister of Western Region, while Sir. John Macpherson became Governor General of Nigeria.
 The title of the prime minister for the regional leaders was changed to premier in April, 1955. In 1958, Sir. James Robertson became the Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir. John Rankine became the Governor of Western Region, Sir. Robert Stapledon became the Governor of Eastern Region and Sir. Gawain Bell was the Governor of Northern Region. In 1957, both the Eastern and Western regions got self-government, while the Northern Region got self-government in 1959. Self-government was run like physical federalism in which the regions controlled their resources and paid taxes to the central government. At that time, there was peace in the country because the regions were run as independent states. On August 29, 1957, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the Prime Minister of Nigeria and formed the first all Nigerian Federal Executive Council on August 30, 1957. On Saturday, December 12, 1959, the first federal elections were held. The result of those elections returned Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister. After the elections, Nigeria was never the same again as there were claims and counter claims of rigging. Election fraud and violence snowballed into the January 15, 1966 military coup that was led by late Major Chukwuma Patrick Kaduna Nzeogwu. Major General Aguiyi Ironsi who headed the military government for six months was killed in a counter – coup on July 29, 1966. The coup was successful and Colonel Yakubu Gowon became the military Head of State and ruled the country for nine years before he was overthrown on July 29, 1976 by Major General Murtala Mohammed. General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in an aborted coup led by Lt. Colonel Buka Suka Dimka. Lt. Colonel Buka Dimka was court marshaled and was executed for coup plotting. General Olusegun Obasanjo took over the reins of power immediately and led the country for three years after which he conducted general elections in 1979 and handed over power to the winner, Alhaji Shehu Shagari. On December 31, 1983, General Mohammadu Buhari seized power from Alhaji Shehu Shagari and ruled the country till August 27, 1985 when he was ousted by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda. General Ibrahim Babaginda led the country for eight years and conducted presidential elections in 1993 which were won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola but later annulled the elections. The annulment of the elections drew the anger of Nigerians especially the people of the South- West who felt that their kinsman has been denied of the presidency. The South also felt that the North did not want them to rule the country. Thus, General Ibrahim Babaginda was forced to step aside on August 26, 1993 after he had appointed Chief Ernst Shonekan to head the infamous Interim National Government (ING). There were calls across the nation and the world for the revalidation of the elections but all such calls fell on deaf ears of General Sani Abacha who seized power from Chief Ernest Shonekan on November 17, 1993. General Sani Abacha held on to power till he died suddenly on June 8, 1998. As a result of the death of General Sani Abacha, General Abdusalami Abubakar assumed office as military Head of State on June 9, 1998. The agitation for the actualization of the June 12, 1993 elections, were still on when the winner, Chief M.K.O. Abiola died in prison. The death of Chief M.K.O. Abiola did not hinder Nigerians from demanding for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 elections. The whole of the South demanded for a Southern president and vowed not to accept anything less. The agitations for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 elections prompted General Abdusalami Abubakar to conduct general elections in 1999 which were won by General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd). General Olusegun Obasanjo ruled for eight years and handed over power to Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who won the 2007 general elections. Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died on May 2, 2010 after he had led the country for three years. Subsequently, Acting President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn into office on May 3, 2010 as President of Nigeria. Since Nigeria gained independence in 1960, the North has ruled the country for 39 years either as military head of state or as civilian president. During the 39 years that the North has ruled the country, there was no complain from the South about zoning, but as soon as President Goodluck Jonathan indicated interest to contest the 2011 presidential elections, the North is now talking about zoning in the PDP. A group of Northerners are asking President Goodluck Jonathan to obey the zoning agreement in the PDP which entitled the presidency to remain in the North for eight years. They said that the South had the presidency for eight years and since late President Yar’Adua did not complete his eight years tenure, another Northern should be allowed to complete it. There are many questions to answer regarding the zoning which the North is requesting President Goodluck Jonathan to respect. First, if the PDP zoned the presidency to the South for eight years, 1999 – 2007, why did political aspirants from the North contest against President Olusegun Obasanjo in the PDP presidential primary in 2003? In 2003, prominent politicians from the North contested against President Olusegun Obasanjo in the PDP’s presidential primary. In the primary, President Olusegun Obasanjo became the PDP flag bearer having scored 2,642 votes. Late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi came second by scoring 159 votes while Chief Barnabas Gemade came third by scoring 17 votes. Now, assuming Alhaji Abubakar Rimi scored highest the votes, say 3000 as against the 2,642 votes which President Olusegun Obasanjo scored, would the North have allowed President Olusegun Obasanjo to rule for a second term when their own son won the PDP primary? In 2003, some Northern governors claimed that President Obasanjo was unpopular and that they would vote for him during the PDP primary. The group was led by the former Katsina State governor, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adu who later became president in 2007. The governors from the North were warned not to vote for President Obasanjo or else they would lose re-election. Most Northerners wanted one of their own to be the president under the ANPP or PDP. The Northerners said, “…Obasanjo is history, it is all over for him”. The North actually wanted Ahlaji Abubakar Atiku in the 2003 elections. They wanted Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to run under the PDP. “The Governors’ visit and their request touched the Vice President very deeply. At that moment, I could swear he was going to yield to their demand”, said a close associate of the Vice President. The North mounted pressure on Obasanjo to withdraw from the presidential race. Northerners met the PDP chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh and told him that it would be dangerous to field Obasanjo as the PDP flag bearer but Audu Ogbeh dissociated himself from such scheming. The associates in the PDM led by Alhaji Lawal Kaita, House Speaker, Ghali Na’Abba, pressurized Atiku Abubakar to join the race. This was one of the reasons why there were disagreements between President Obasanjo and his Vice Atiku during their second term. If the presidency was zoned to the South in the PDP between 1999 and 2003, why were all these intrigues and scheming against President Obasanjo in 2003? In 1999, was there zoning in the PDP? Can the North say that they zoned the presidency to the South in 1999? If the North say so, it is amusing because M.K.O. Abiola that won the June 12, 1993 presidential elections was a South- Westerner. Therefore, the South- West only assumed office in 1999 to actualize the mandate which Nigerians gave to their son on June 12, 1993. Would there have been peace in the country if the mandate Nigerians gave to M.K.O. Abiola was not actualized by his kinsman? Was there peace in the country between 1993 and early 1999 before the June 12, 1993 mandate was actualized by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999? Moreover, one would have believed that there is zoning in the PDP if no Northern presidential aspirants contested against President Olusegun Obasanjo in the 2003 PDP primary. Since some Northern presidential aspirants contested and lost to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, there is therefore nothing like zoning in the PDP. Another question begging for an answer is that, assuming we have a strong opposition political party that was able to produce another president from the South in 2007, what would the North have done? What have we achieved as a nation since 1960 that the North has been ruling the country? Thus, what Nigeria needs now is a leader who can develop the country like Malaysia, Singapore, India etc, and not sectional leaders that cannot move the country forward. Nigeria needs a leader like Lee Kuan Yew who transformed Singapore from a third world country to a first world country. This is the type of a leader Nigeria is searching for and not zoning.

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