Penultimate week when elder statesman Mamman Daura expressed his opinion against rotational presidency, many political lepers and their co-travelers became unjustly provoked, livid and rushed for the head of the elder statesman just for condemning what he believes to be against the unity of Nigeria and the injustice meted to smaller ethnic groups by the major three that have the numerical strength to clinch the presidential slot.
Nigeriais the collective heritage of about 200 million people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and tongues. There are over 250 ethnic nationalities spread across the country. Nigeria does not belong only to the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani. Unfortunately, these three so-called major ethnic groups have been at the fore-front of defining the political and economic actualities of the country since independence.
Even among the ‘big three’, there are splinter groups of distinct cosmology. Again, Nigeria does not belong only to the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani. It belongs to every group subsisting in the entity irrespective of population size. But sadly, these other ethnic nationalities have not been allowed the participatory chance of defining their destiny. Their voices are minimized by the cacophony of the louder groups.
When it comes to power sharing and distribution of the commonwealth, the big three come into contest, featuring prominently on the table. It is always about what the Igbo want, what the Yoruba want and what the Hausa/Fulani want, but never about what other Nigerians whose voices are attenuated want. This is not how to achieve nationhood as Mamman Daura tried to express that attracted him baseless attacks.
Have we asked what other 247 ethnic groups and more want? I know the argument could be that they have representatives in parliament who speak for them. But how tenable is that argument when the political distribution is already ponderously skewed against them? And the arrogant assumption is that their interest is already sheltered in the larger interest of the dominant groups.
“The flaws of giants” – this is the abstraction of the Nigerian situation; the perception that all will be well with the country as long as the, big three are catered to ignoring the composite whole. We once witnessed the uprising by the Ijaw, who are considered a minority by Nigeria’s definition, in the Niger Delta. We plod away on a tripartite equation trying to find the X of our national problems with an abridged formula.
Our problems are national and not sectional; the solutions do not pivot around the big three. I must say, the problems of the country today and since independence are the craft of the Igbo, the Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani. That Nigeria has remained in the doldrums is largely by the devices of the big three. Let me rephrase. The Igbo, the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba are the cause of Nigeria’s problems.
I have come to understand that tribalism is more much pronounced among the big three. The unhealthy rivalry, hate mongering and recriminations among these three groups have been the bane of Nigeria’s unity. The hate is evenly distributed among the three.
The 2023 presidency debate is heating up, and as usual the argument oscillates among the big three as if the country is their personal estate. Why are the Idoma, Igede in Benue not put in focus? Why are the Isoko and the Urhobo in Delta not in the equation? Why are the Tarok and Rukuba in Plateau and Esan in Edo not on the table? And why are the Marghi and Vere in Adamawa and the Manga and Bede in Yobe not in the discourse?
Nigeria needs a Nigerian president in 2023 just as Bauchi state yearns for a governor from north or central zone of the state. The southern zone of Bauchi state has been in power since the advent of the present dispensation in 1999. Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu was a governor based on the ‘Gentleman’ agreement agreed by the components that make-up the state in 1979. Based on the unwritten agreement, Bauchi North had the first shot, Abubakar Tatari Ali. After the break from the military intervention that seized power in 1983, Dahiru Deba from the central zone, became the governor. Next was Bauchi south that produced Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu. In 2007, Bauchi North was to produce the governor but instead, the then ruling party shifted post to Bauchi central and the strongest opposition party, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), zoned its gubernatorial slot to Bauchi south that paid. In Benue state, its’ time for Idoma has to govern Benue state. Ekun has to taste power in Kogi as Burum or Bogghom has to occupy the seat of power in Plateau state and the case applies in few other states where racism discrimination flourishes because of numerical strength or religious domination. Nigerians need national solutions to their national problems, and only a competent leadership can deliver the goods no matter from which of the components. Ethnic politics has failed us since the beginning of our union as a country. The primitive rotational presidency based on ethnic ordering will only lead us further down the foundering path.
But if we are so set on the primordial arrangement, then all the 250 ethnic groups and more should have a shot at the presidency. After all, there are competent Nigerians in every group. Nigeria belongs to all of us – big or small. We should always look out for the best to lead not a leader based on sentiment.
*Muhammad is a commentator on national issues.*