The vexed issue of the 2023 presidency coming from the South-east Nigeria, on Saturday 05 October, got a critical boost from the South-south sister geopolitical region.
In an exhaustive interview by Vanguard Newspaper with the leader of the Pan Niger-Delta Forum (PANDEF) and first republic politician, Chief Pa Edwin Clark , he said he supports the “zoning between the South and the North” and that after President Buhari’s term ends in 2023, it is “the only honest thing to do in this country” for the presidency to move to the South-east.
In Nigeria’s 59 years of self-rule no executive leader of the country had come from the South-east zone, except for a short 6 months period in 1966.
Chief Clark had glowing words for the patriotism and contributions to Nigeria’s independence struggles and nation building by the Igbo people and the South-east and rejected the suggestion that they play bad politics only because the current ruling APC party did not fare electorally well in the zone.
He dismissed as mere “campaign gimmicks” the promises from politicians of various regions that the 2023 presidency will go to them if they voted for Mr. Buhari enmasse in the last 2019 election, and warned South-western politicians to “stop thinking of becoming the President of Nigeria” in 2023.
”What is the justification for them [South-west] to become the President of Nigeria? They should not be thinking of how to divide Nigeria. We must all unite and have respect for ourselves. The South-west should allow other people to have a taste of power. There is no way the South-West would be better than the South-east on the 2023 presidency”, Chief Clark said.
Pa Clark’s robust defense of 2023 Igbo presidency actually came in the heels of a similar position taken by no less a person than the leader of Afenifere (the apex South-west sociopolitical organization) = another veteran politician, Pa Ayo Adebanjo  while taking questions from The Morning Show on Arise Tv on Thursday 03 October 2019.
The Afenifere leader directly rejected the presidency coming to his South-west region, saying the country cannot claim to be united while denying the South-east the next presidency.
“You talk about unity, that is where you will know where the sincerity lies. If you are keen about unity, will there be a unit of the country that you will deprive presidency? What does that mean for unity? We are talking about people who want Nigeria to stay together. How can anybody who loves this country talk of the presidency coming to the South-west in 2023.
“That is why I tell you all these people are not serious, including Buhari. Why should you exclude the South-east? Is South-east not part of Nigeria? South-west has had, South-south has had, the North has had, why exclude the South-east if you want them to be there?”
Notwithstanding, both leaders, in addition to the official position of the South-east political class, insists on an even more urgent and greater priority which is the restructuring of Nigeria. Advocates say restructuring Nigeria back to its original federal concept where the regions exercised sufficient political and economic autonomy from the federal government will speed up national development.
Yet, these compelling voices of reason appear to be drowning in the sea of growing agitation by bullish elements in the north who are insisting to have the 2023 presidency retained in the north and those scheming to take it to the South-west.
In separate interviews with another newspaper, Nigerian Tribune, secretary-general of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, remembered that zoning was not a constitutional issue and therefore that the decision was better left to the political parties to make.
Yet he warned that “there is no national consensus on rotation and zoning that is binding on political parties”, arguing if it were so, “Muhammadu Buhari would not have contested against President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 and former President Goodluck Jonathan would not have contested against Buhari in 2011 and in 2015.”
Throwing the weight of northern youths behind the position of the ACF leader, Coalition of Northern Group president, Shettima Yarima, stated that northern youths were insistent on retaining the presidency in the north because since the current democratic order in 1999 even by the time Buhari will complete his tenure in 2023, the North would have ruled for nine years and the south fifteen years.
“For justice, equity and fairness”, he said, “the North should be allowed to rule beyond 2023 even if it is for one term. We can now partner or form a strong alliance with the South-east for them to produce the president in 2027.”
Yerima conveniently discountenanced the notorious fact that the north had been in executive power for most of the democratic and military rules prior to 1999.
This toxic struggle for 2023 presidential power is already heating up the polity. The regional and ethnic contestation for federal power while vision, capacity and competence takes the back seat makes the case for the urgent restructuring of Nigeria and decentralization of federal executive powers to the federating units.
Tired of this perennial geopolitical logjam, increasing number of disenchanted citizens, first from the South-east and South-south regions and now also from the South-west are beginning to wonder if the disparate peoples of Nigeria can ever achieve a common nationhood 59 years on, or whether it was time to consider dissolution of the country along the ethno-regional lines.