By now we ought to have outgrown such divisive tendency as rotational presidency. We can’t be advocating quality leadership and be promoting rotational presidency. One, it is a product of lack of trust among the various groups and nationalities that make up the nation. It is unfortunate the successive leaderships over time have not been able to downplay this tendency to resort to divisive tendencies like rotational presidency. They promoted these tendencies because they invariably decided that one sure way for them to gain followership was to promote them. They promoted some of these primordial sentiments because they suited their selfish desire to gain power. They had no direct contact with the people but they found that religious, ethnic, and regional divisions served as effective links. They have been able to attract the empathy of these people through these divisive attributes. They played on the naïve emotions of the people to get what they wanted. The society loses because the real issue of good governance is ignored.
What do you feel when you weigh it against the argument that rotational presidency provides sense of belonging for people who will feel isolated and dismembered if they continue to have none of their own in government?
For me, we should be looking at quality leadership that assures development of the country. What should matter to us is not where a person comes from. It should be who makes quality and affordable education available to Nigerians, who provides adequate housing for the population, who generate employment and create wealth that put food on the table and meet other necessities. This person should come from anywhere, it shouldn’t matter where. This is the modern Nigeria we want to build. This is the modern Nigeria we all should support.
The matter of zonal presidency came up when Goodluck Jonathan was made Acting President and things began to look like he could actually become the substantive president. Some northern voices began to ‘remind’ the rest of the country that Jonathan’s Presidency would eat into the ‘turn’ of the north to hold onto the presidency.
Let me say first of all that I am a northerner. Geographically speaking, I am a northerner, but my responsibility to my nation is to ensure that good leadership is what counts, not where the people in the leadership come from. There has been a big decline in the quality of life of our people. Hunger has no label. Unemployment respects no regional discrimination. When we are looking for the solution to our national malaise, we should look the way of people who have the capacity and will to do what should be done regardless of where they come from. The former president Ibrahim Babangida was quoted as saying that the principle of Federal Character has outlived its usefulness. The Senate President David Mark said it. We should redirect our focus from things that are not important to things that are important. National development is about capacity, about sincerity of purpose, about courage and political will to take certain fundamental decisions that can take this country to national development and global reckoning.
Signs are obvious that the chairman of your party’s Board of Trustees Orji Uzor Kalu is going in for the presidential contest billed for next year. His ambition calls to mind the same argument that the next president should come from the north.
Again, I like to say this: sectional or rotational presidency is not what we should be discussing now. It doesn’t give people the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice if the option is narrowed to a specific part of the country. If Nigerians had been presented with a wide array of candidates without PDP’s restrictive policy, is it Umaru Yar’adua that we will have had today? And Yar’adua was presented as the northern candidate. Can you see it as a consequence of zonal presidency? The north now has Yar’adua filling their ‘quota’ whether they like the fact or not. In the spirit of restrictive choice, the former president Olusegun Obasanjo said he had set out criteria on which the president was to be determined and he zeroed down on Yar’adua. That means he singlehandedly picked Yar’adua but gave the entire world the façade that Yar’adua emerged from an election. You can see how the concept contradicts the principle of democracy and the extent of abuse to which it can and has been subjected.
We veered off to Orji Kalu’s presidential ambition earlier. On its merit, disregarding the rotational presidency idea, how do you view Kalu’s ambition?
It is his fundamental human right to aspire to any office in the land, especially because he has been around for a while and is eminently qualified for the office of Mr President. You can see with me that Orju Uzor Kalu has demonstrated adequate capacity from recent experiences, coupled with age which is on his side. (He will be 50 on April 21, 2010). If you look around the world you will find that it is people in this age bracket that rule modern economy. Orji Kalu has excelled in business, politics, and philanthropy, and attained the feat of becoming the Executive Governor of Abia State in 1999 at age 39. The enterprising Orji Kalu has remained one of the most visible politicians in Nigeria today despite having left office as governor close to three years ago. He is an inspiring example to people of the younger generation who see in him the qualities that a president needs to actualize the new Nigeria that they yearn for.