How much progress has Nigeria made with its ethnic-motility politics? Since 1999, we have had presidents of different ethnic extractions – Yoruba, Fulani, and Ijaw – who were largely elected on the portfolio of ethnicity and religion rather than on the content of their minds? But how have we fared?
The Obasanjo administration despite investing billions of dollars, estimated to be around $16 billion, in the power sector, did not crack a fire; the country is still trolled by the undersupply of electricity. And subsequent administrations, including the current one are yet to find the X of the power problem. Other sectors – health and education — suffer the same kismet.
”Turn-by-turn presidency”, which is strictly based on ethnicity and religion, will not turn around our ruined fortunes. The 2015 mistake was the fallout of this deprecating ”na-our-turn” arrangement. Becoming the president of the most populous black nation in the 21st century is not by character, qualifications, accomplishments, competence, and integrity but by the emulsion of ethnicity and religion. Tragic!
We cannot make progress this way.
Yes. I know I once made an argument for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023. My position was that we have to create a system which will engender unity, justice and fairness for all citizens. But this does not negate the very important place of competence for leadership. Competence trounces every other consideration in the checklist of leadership.
As a matter of fact, the current arrangement exacerbates corruption because whatever leadership that is trumped up by this orthodoxy will see power not as a means to build the nation, but as an avenue to corner resources to its own part of the country. That is what is happening now.
We have an administration, which without scruples and with defiance, peopled the security architecture with 97 percent of officers from a section of the country. And we have a president who has not flinched in letting everyone know that the section of the country which gave him 97 percent vote must be treated better than the section which gave him ”5 percent” vote. This is the consequence of ”turn-by-turn” political ordering.
We are likely to make the same mistakes of 2015 and 2019 in 2023 if we persist on this patched path.
This brings me to the question: What is really our national interest? Do we have a national interest? Or are there disparate interests? In essence, Hausa interest, Igbo interest, Yoruba interest and Christian/Muslim interest? Perhaps, our national interest is dependent on the religious or ethnic background of the leadership of the day. Whichever way it swings, it is predicated on the primordial.
Our ethnically-charged selection process influences all aspects of our national life. At a time of grave insecurity, there is no urgency to curb the incursion of armed herders from outside the country. This is despite reports that some of the bandits terrorising the country are foreigners from Niger Republic. The reasoning is that the leadership of the day is dithering because of the umbilical cord of ethnicity.
The way forward for us is obviously not ethnic politics, which has held us down for years. As I said in my previous article, ‘We must renounce our tribal identities; I’m Nigerian Not Igbo’, we must begin to erode ”tribal identities” and to build the ”Nigerian identity” to make progress as one country.
We need a Nigerian leadership to foster a sense of nationhood among the variegated peoples of the country. The more we emphasise ethnicity and religion in our politics the further we are divided along these devious lines.
Nigerians need a Nigerian president in 2023 NOT — an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani president — a leader who has been tested with responsibility and leadership; a president for all. These people are not in short supply here.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist