The furore that erupted in the country last week, on whether or not there should be a “power shift” of the presidency from the North to the South in 2023, was unusually early, unnecessarily heated, and it started from a most unlikely quarter.

Malam Mamman Daura was reported to have said during an interview with the BBC that the 2023 presidential race should be open to aspirants from all parts of the country, that the presidency should not be reserved for aspirants from the South alone in the name of power shift. It should be determined by competence, he reportedly said. Even though BBC was yet to air the whole interview, the release of that portion of it alone ignited a storm on the national scene. Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum and many other regional groups waded in, some with fiery comments.

Ordinarily, the remark should have been regarded as the personal opinion of a man who does not hold any position in the government. Mamman Daura is not even known to be a card-carrying member of any political party. However, he is President Muhammadu Buhari’s uncle and closest personal associate. For years, the media has described him as the most influential member of Buhari’s inner circle of advisers and the alleged head of the “cabal” around the president.

Mamman Daura hardly ever speaks in public or appears at public functions. He almost never grants interviews. It was therefore puzzling to observers that he went public with his views on this very sensitive matter. Ordinarily, zoning and power shift are affairs for political parties and their members to sort out among themselves according to their understanding of the political atmosphere. Parties also consider their own circumstances before they take positions on such matters. That Mamman Daura raised this matter outside the confines of a political party was what invited geo-ethnic associations to wade in with their own totally unhelpful comments and brickbats.

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The timing of Malam Mamman Daura’s remarks is also inauspicious. We are three years away from the next election. The country is faced with many problems including insurgency, insecurity, pandemic, broken infrastructure and sharply reduced government revenue due to lockdowns and fall in oil prices. The Buhari administration needs every single minute it can get to try to get a handle on these problems before the politics of 2023 renders it a complete lame duck.

Igniting the power shift debate at this time threatens to bring forward the onset of the administration’s lame duck status. If that happens, the country will suffer because no meaningful progress will be made in tackling any of the major problems bedeviling us.

As to the main issue of whether there should be a national consensus to shift the presidency to the South in 2023, we believe that no sacrifice is too great to make in order to achieve peace and stability in Nigeria. A time will come in the future when, as Mamman Daura advocated, every voter will make his/her decision based on the competence, ideological stance, personal record and campaign promises of a candidate, irrespective of where he/she comes from. For now however, regional, religious, ethnic and other sentiment is still strong in Nigeria. Political parties must factor that into their calculations.

The decision should be made when the elections are nearly at hand. We should also remember that only the major political parties can really be pushed to adopt such a consensus. There are always smaller parties contesting elections in the country and those ones can hardly be made to adopt power shift. That reality makes the big parties to look over their shoulders while making decisions. We urge agitated politicians and geo-ethnic groups to sheathe their swords at this time and allow the country to face its major problems, since the next election is still three years away.

Source: The Street Journal

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