Criticisms trailing the call by Mamman Daura, nephew to President Buhari for the jettisoning of rotational presidency for merit are not as much with the validity of what he said. Before now, that view had been copiously canvassed by a number of serious-minded Nigerians with varying degrees of persuasion.
By Emeka Omeihe
The furore over his suggestion has more to do with the quarters it is emanating from rather than the substance and weight of the issue that was raised. Ironically, the issue is also at the heart of the contradictions of the federal contraption this country has had to operate overtime – an arrangement that has sacrificed merit for political exigency.
Thus, when Daura sought to canvass a departure from a system which his ethnic group had championed and benefitted from in the last couple of years, he was bound to be viewed with utmost suspicion. Matters are not remedied by the fact that his blood relation is currently at the helm of affairs of this country courtesy of the same arrangement he seeks to fault.
Daura had while speaking on the BBC Hausa service said: “this turn-by- turn, it was done once, it was done twice, and was done thrice…it should be for the most competent and not for someone who comes from somewhere…”
He dismissed the clamour for power shift contending that it was time for the country to unite and go for the most competent person. According to him, since Nigerians have tried rotational presidency about thrice, it would be better to go for the most qualified candidate in 2023 irrespective of whether he comes from the north or south.
Ordinarily, the logic of Daura’s presentation would seem unassailable. The place of competence and merit in guaranteeing effective and purposeful leadership has long been established. That is the concept of the philosopher king espoused by Plato. For Plato, a philosopher king is a ruler who possesses both a love of wisdom, as well as intelligence, reliability and willingness to live a simple life. If that is what Daura refers to as merit and competence which should take precedence over and above where one comes from, he is not saying anything strange. In the absence of intelligence and knowledge, what you get is incompetence in statecraft which is a recipe for leadership failure.
So if we are now being told that merit should take precedence over other mundane considerations in determining who occupies the highest political office in the country, it should ordinarily not ruffle shoulders. But the avalanche of criticisms that have trailed this singular call, would suggest there is more to it than ordinarily meets the eyes.
Those who have axe to grind with the suggestion are not as much quarrelling with the place of merit in guaranteeing the right leadership, as the timing and quarters from which it is emanating. It is a vote of no confidence on the messenger but not the message. It is a product of the pairing of events of our recent past and how the new idea conflicts with the real forces and variables that influenced the 2015 elections.
If after such gory events that featured threats of fire and brimstone; where foxes and lions were to be soaked in blood if election outcome did not go a particular way, we are now being told where the president comes from no longer matters, serious suspicion is bound to arise. That is why the suggestion has been largely interpreted as a subterfuge to have power retained in the north after Buhari would have completed his tenure.
Those who oppose the suggestion do not discountenance the place of merit and competence in guaranteeing effective and purposeful leadership. They have quarrel with inherent duplicity of the suggestion. After all, very competent persons can be found in all the geo-political divides of the country. There is nothing preventing those in the area the presidency is zoned from throwing up the best within them using the power rotation formula.
So no one is opposed to merit or competence per se. But those possessing such leadership attributes must be thrown up within the power rotation formula. Merit and competence are not at cross purposes with power rotation if vested interests allow the right things to be done. The issue to contend with is why even with rotation, the various geo-political zones have not been able to throw up leaders with the requisite capacity to effectively steer the ship of this country? It has more to do with the capturing and devious deployment of state apparatus by those privileged to have ruled this country at one time or the other. Of the three times this rotation experiment was conducted, two of those who emerged as presidents were former military leaders of this country.
Even in the case of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, they were handpicked by Obasanjo. They may not have emerged as candidates of their parties were there to be free and fair primaries. Having been so picked, every resource available to the state had to be deployed to deliver them at the polls. Even in the case of Buhari, power shift was the propelling imperative rather than merit and competence. The proper thing is for vested interests to allow zoning to throw up competent people.
With manifest evidence of the subversion of the will of the electorate during elections, scrapping zoning will dovetail to power monopoly by the section of the country that currently occupies that high office. That will lead to domination and corruption of power. For a country that is still largely assailed by nepotism, where ascendancy to political office is determined by ethnic, religious and some other parochial considerations, rotation is still the way to go. It is not rotation that compromises competence but the vaulting ambition of those who have tested power and are bent on still clinging unto it despite the existing pool of more competent people from across the country.
If rotation failed us thrice as Daura claimed, that failure is of individuals the system threw up than the principle. Those who have led the nation in those three occasions are by no means the most competent those regions could produce. The same contradictions that propelled Daura’s new proposition could not allow the proper thing to be done. And if Buhari’s skewed deployed of the power of appointments to critical institutions and commanding heights of the military is anything to go by, then the case for power shift is further reinforced.
Let other sections take a shot at the residency in keeping with the high-minded vision of the political parties. Let them also savour the prebendal trappings of the control of power. By the time power rotation has gone round, we shall then sit down to consider the propriety or otherwise of merit and competence. But who says the fourth trial could not make the difference since one of the arms on which the foundation of the county was erected is yet to have a shot at that office.
Or is there no merit in the proposition that the forgotten stone could turn out a stabilizing force in the much elusive quest for national stability, cohesion and development? There is the need to go it the fourth time and even more using Daura’s language since we cannot change the goal post at the middle of the game.
More fundamentally, Daura stirred the hornets’ nest given that his advocacy is in sharp contrast with extant national policies to forge national inclusiveness irrespective of the incalculable injustice they have wrought on innocent citizens. Here we have in mind such policies as quota system, educationally disadvantaged states, catchment areas and similar policies that sacrifice merit for political considerations.
Such policies have been deployed to deny very qualified children from many states of the south admission into federal institutions in favour of less qualified ones. Why Daura is not concerned about the injustice of this nature is at the heart of the suspicion of duplicity that is the mortal fate of his suggestion. If one admits affirmative action as a recognized balancing process even in the United States of America US, then rotation is a desideratum for power balance, peace and stability of this unity in diversity.