Many in the North believe that the narrative from the South on the 2023 elections is not only undemocratic, but amounts to political blackmail against the North. Naja’atu Mohammed, a well-known veteran political activist weighs in “It is not about northern interest as such, it is about democracy. What manner of democracy is rotational democracy? No one can blackmail the North at this point in time. When they say there will be trouble if the North does not cede power to the South, trouble with whom? If they want power on rotational basis then they should change the constitution.’’
Views such as Naja’atu Mohammed’s on 2023 are legion in the North. There is an overwhelming feeling that due to its posture of political correctness in the interest of preserving the unity and integrity of Nigeria, the North is often taken advantage of. “We were taken advantage of on the issue of June 12, 1993 elections which ironically we made possible by denying our son Bashir Tofa in favour of the late Chief Abiola. Yet the North was collectively vilified for the annulment by the military under Babangida. And because of that we were forced to relinquish our democratic rights in 1999 at the advent of civilian dispensation where the military imposed Chief Obasanjo. Now the South-East want us to support them for the presidency in 2023, yet their leaders want a Biafra republic. The South-West too want the same thing from the North, but they are also threatening to break from the country if power is not ceded to them in 2023. I think it is one blackmail too many and in 2023 the North will not be too averse if the country breaks up rather than be a perpetual target of political blackmail’’ so says Mallam Ibrahim Boyi Tarauni a veteran grassroots politician based in Kano.
In the North, the political developments around the presidency and the ruling APC party are watched very keenly. The recent call by Pastor Tunde Bakare on president Buhari to “anoint’’ his successor in 2023 is viewed as a trap on the president. Kabiru Usman, a Kaduna-based security and political consultant opines that the ploy is ultimately aimed at getting the president to nominate a southwesterner knowing full well that “if he nominates a northerner the same people will vilify him for being tribalistic. So it is intended to force his hand to nominate a southwesterner.’’ In this regard Usman says that the huge support President Buhari enjoys in the North cannot be automatically transferred: “Buhari and indeed any political leader in the North has no mandate to compel northerners to vote for his preferred candidate in 2023.”
Will the North insist on retaining power in 2023 regardless of the adverse threats emanating from the South against this?
Nura Tambaya, an Abuja-based businessman and keen follower of political developments answers that the time has come for Nigeria to decide whether to continue practising democracy on the basis of what he calls “emotive exigencies’’ or on its acceptable tenets. In 2023, the North must “must raise the bar of democratic practise above the toxic prescriptions of things like zoning, rotation and turn by turn politics which are alien to democratic best practises’.’ In this regard, Nigeria should build on the two democratic revolutions already recorded in our political history; the epochal June 12, 1993 elections in which Chief Abiola was the beneficiary of a nationwide vote, and the unprecedented victory of President Buhari at the 2015 elections which marked the first time an opposition political party would defeat a ruling party. These political developments he pointed out were incubated in the North, made consciously and willingly, not by blackmail or threats.
James Bako a Jos-based political analyst concurs. Although he is inclined to understand the sentiments behind the demands for power shift to the South, he however believes Nigeria should move to a new frontier of politics and democratic politics. “I would like to see the next president of Nigeria after Buhari as somebody who will aggregate in him all the different tendencies of Nigeria. President Buhari unfortunately did not reflect that in his persona and his governance so the next president should tick that box. He cannot do that if he is a product of zoning.’’
The key to that, according to Naja’atu Mohammed, is to build bridges across the political landscape of Nigeria. The North with two thirds of Nigeria’s landmass and over one third of its population as well being home to hundreds of ethnic groups has established itself as the political engine room of the country. This is also where the millionaire votes to turn any national election comes from. Any presidential aspirant that seeks to rule Nigeria must reckon with this fact whether he comes from the North or South. From the political precedent set by President Buhari it will not be enough to sit back and rely on “zoning’’ by any political party or “anointing’’ and expect to get the political backing of the North.
Expressing a similar view on the issue, Arch. Hauwa Abdulsalam Mohammed, a grassroots mobilizer of women who played great roles in mobilizing women to vote in the 2015 and 2019 elections, says that her main desire was for a president who will tackle the issue of debilitating poverty in the North especially among the womenfolk. In 2023, in addition to zoning which she believes is undemocratic, she would want a proven commitment from whoever wants to be president on the issue of hardships being experienced in the north.
For Abdu Waziri Nguru a senior lecturer at the University of Maiduguri and a leading member of the North-East Intellectual group made of academics monitoring the political pulse of the country, the North will do well to anticipate that the main political parties, APC and PDP will at some point in the run up to 2023, implode under the weight of their contradictions. According to him, going to 2023 the North is politically handicapped in that it does not control the PDP which is a South-East and South-South affair and should President Buhari go in 2023, the North would have lost whatever foothold it has in the APC. This will even become more glaring once power shifts to the South making the entire North politically homeless and at the mercy of the South politically. This he says urgently calls for a northern based political party to pursue the political interest of the region.