By Sylvester Udemezue
“If we are to keep our democracy, there must be
only one commandment – thou shall not ration justice.”
(Governor of Ekiti State v. Fakiyesi (2009) LPELR-8353)
In a published piece (of legal opinion) titled[i] “2023: Nigeria Does Not Need Power Shift, Nigeria Needs Leadership Shift”, a respected legal giant, fellow LPDite (member, Legal Practice Discourse) and fellow ROLite (member, Rule of Law in Nigeria), Mr. J.S. Okutepa, SAN has made submissions which the present author believes is fairly summarized in the following sentences:
Nigeria does not need “power shift” but “leadership shift”, “character shift” and “attitude shift”; a shift in “the way we do things”. Nigeria does not need Igbo, Hausa/Fulani or Yoruba power shift because it is an insult to the collective sensibilities of the more 240 other tribes that are part of the Federation of Nigeria. Nigeria does not need a “power shift” to any of these so-called majority ethnic nationalities of Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba” because leaving power in the majority ethnic groups has led to “deteriorating political, social, and economic developments” as “the majority ethnic groups have successfully nurtured corruption”. Come 2023, “let us avoid power shift… we cannot continue to operate a lawless system and expect good results and development… it is the leadership shift we need”.
The reason “the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”[ii] decided to give the country a constitution is explained in the Preamble to the Constitution,[iii] thus:
We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Having firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God …. And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people…. (emphasis, mine)
The most fundamental objective of the Nigerian Constitution is to promote unity, harmony, freedom, equality and justice which are the foundations upon which the country itself is founded.[iv] As a follow up, the Constitution proclaims[v] itself the supreme law of the land whose provisions have a binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Further, according to the Constitution,[vi] the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. All and sundry are in duty bound to observe its provisions which remain binding on all powers and principalities within Nigeria, however highly or lowly placed. According to George Washington, the Constitution is the ultimate guide which we must never abandon.[vii] Said A.E. Samaan, “The U.S. didn’t achieve its liberty or prosperity by mistake. It was by design, and the architects were the Founding Fathers. Rights given by fad and fashion are just as easily taken away. Let no one mess with the Constitution. The Constitution matters.”[viii] Abraham Lincoln put it this way,88 “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.” In Marwa v. Nyako,[ix] the Supreme Court gave further illustration to the concept of the supremacy of the constitution, thus:
The Constitution is described as the grund norm and the fundamental law of the land. All other legislation in this country take their hierarchy from the provisions of the Constitution. It is not a mere common legal document. It is an organic instrument which confers powers and also creates rights and limitations. It regulates the affairs of the nation state and defines the powers of the different components of government as well as regulating the relationship between the citizens and the state.[x]
It must be noted that the constitution of a country need not contain all the details regarding the structure and governing principles. The constitution of a country its grund norm, only need to contain the fundamental principles that outline the purpose, structure, and limits of the country. Essentially, the constitution of a country provides a foundation upon which the country operates.[xi] Now, to ensure the promotion and sustenance of those principles of equality, justice, unity and harmony, the Constitution makes provisions for a Chapter 2, which constitutes the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”, the underlying foundation upon which all governance, all aspects of Nigerian State policy and activity shall be based. Although the Chapter appears not justiciable,[xii] the constitutional directive in section 13 of the Constitution leaves no one in doubt about the level of importance placed on the Chapter: “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution”. The Constitution then proceeds to give the following further directives with the aim of promoting and sustaining the foundations of Nigeria as enunciated in the preamble:
The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.[xiii] The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.[xiv] National integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.[xv] The State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various people of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.[xvi]
For the avoidance of doubts, the present author’s reaction to the learned silk Okutepa’s submissions is one of vehement disagreement but strictly restricted to only parts of the learned silk’s submission that the present author believes have raised some constitutional questions. The present rejoining response is informed by Mr Okutepa’s suggestion that the idea of “power shift” or power-rotation, is unnecessary, “lawless” and should be avoided like a plague. It is argued that Mr. Okutepa’s said suggestions are legally faulty, unsustainable and insupportable; socially unjust and unfair; politically unreasonable and suicidal; culturally insensitive; constitutionally unwarranted and unwarrantable, and indeed an invitation to chaos, anarchy and doom, considering the peculiar nature of Nigeria, a multi-lingual, multi-religious multi-ethnic country of over 250 ethnic groups.
There is need at this point, to respectfully correct certain wrong impressions created by the learned silk in his commentary under consideration. First, the learned silk wants the world to believe that “rotation presidency” or “power shift” in Nigeria was all about sharing of power among the Igbos, the Yorubas and the Housa/Fulanis. With the greatest respect, this is incorrect. Yes, there are three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, but, legally and politically, Nigeria has six geo-political zones, namely: North-Central; North-East; North -West; South-East; South-South; and South-West. However, since the inception of the fourth republic in 1999, all discussions about “power shift” or “power rotation” have been about how to share power among these six geopolitical zones on the basis of a north-south shift. It has never been about how to rotate power among the three major ethnic groups of Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba. The learned silk’s postulation is, therefore, misleading. An illustration: since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the Igbo tribe (whether of the South-east or the Igbo-speaking segment of South-South Nigeria) has ruled Nigeria for only SIX MONTHS (January-July 1966), as opposed to the Ijaw tribe of the SouthSouth which has ruled for NEARLY SIX (6) YEARS: 2010 to 2015. The Igbo is one of those ethnic groups Mr. Okutepa describes as “major ethnic groups” while Goodluck Jonathan’s Ijaw tribe of the South-South is one of the “minority” ethnic groups, according to Mr. Okutepa. By the way, What is the “minority in a tribe that has ruled Nigeria for nearly six years out of the nation’s sixty years of independence?
Second, Mr. Okutepa represents the three major ethnic groups of Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba as the ones whose leadership of Nigeria has,“successfully nurtured corruption” in Nigeria leading to “deteriorating political, social, and economic developments”. This is a misrepresentation; corruption in Nigeria has no ethnic or geographical origin. Neither the Igbo nor the Hausa/Fulani, nor the Yoruba, nor any other ethnic group in Nigeria could validly be described as being the reason why Nigeria is seen as “fantastically corrupt”.[xvii] Indeed, some unconfirmed reports have it was during the Goodluck-Jonathan-presidency that corruption and looting went on unrestrainedly in Nigeria.[xviii] The truth is, contrary to Mr. Okutepa’s suggestions, is that there is hardly any government in Nigeria that has not been accused of or associated with corruption[xix] — Sir Tafewa Balewa (1960 to 1966); General Ironsi (January 1966 to July 1966); General Gowon (1966 to 1975); General Murtala Mohammed (1975-1976);[xx] General Olusegun Obasanjo (1976-1979); Alhaji Shagari (1979-1983);[xxi] General Muhammadu Buhari (1983-1985); General Ibrahim Babangida (1985 to 1993);[xxii] Chief Ernest Shonekan (1993: three months in power); General Sani Abacha (1993-1998);[xxiii] General Abdulsalaam Abubakar (1998-1999);[xxiv] Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007);[xxv] Alhaji Umaru Yar’ardua (2007-2010); Dr Jonathan (2010 -2015); Rtrd General Muhammadu Buhari (2015-date).[xxvi] As an observer stated, “abusive, corrupt, and unaccountable Nigerian political leaders have undercut serious efforts to construct stable institutions to govern the country, solidify the rule of law, and promote respect for human rights”.[xxvii] Corruption is a true nationalist in Nigeria; it observes federal character; there is no ethnic group, major or minor, that does not have its fair share of the ugly stain of corruption. One could argue that Corruption in Nigeria belongs to all and to no one in particular. Indeed, if the major ethnic groups in Nigeria are the fathers of corruption in Nigeria, then the minority ethnic groups are the mothers, thus making all and none equally guilty and blameful.
Third, it is difficult to understand the distinction learned silk Okutepa tried to draw between “power shift” and “leadership shift”. Generally, one wonders whether “power shift” is not conterminous with “leadership shift”. But, learned silk has used the two terms to mean two different things. According to him, “power-shift” means rotation of power among the “three major ethnic groups” or, to use learned silk’s own words, “the Igbo, Hausa/Fulani or Yoruba power shift” which is “lawless” and “an insult to the collective sensibilities of the more 240 other tribes that are part of the Federation of Nigeria”. As already pointed out, this author disagrees with the learned silk on this. On the other hand, as the learned silk has said, “leadership shift” means “character shift” “attitude shift”; a shift in “the way we do things”. He has also used the same term, “leadership shift” to describe movement or concentration of leadership/power in the hands of people with integrity and character, and in the hands of “leaders whose actions and decisions will not encourage agitations and separation and balcanisation of Nigeria”. It is difficult to understand in precise terms, the dimensions of the “leadership shift” learned silk has put forward as a replacement for or as an alternative to “power-shift”. However, the present writer does not quarrel with whatever connotation learned silk Okutepa has chosen to give to “leadership shift”, but with the learned silk’s proposition that such “leadership shift” should be pursued and realised outside “power-rotation”.
To learned silk’s suggestion that power shift is “lawless”, one may ask, which law outlaws or forbids power-shift or power-rotation in Nigeria? And as a direct counter to learned silk Okutepa, the present author holds the respectful view that the idea of “power shift” or “power-rotation” is not only essential and lawful but is authorized and even commanded by the Constitution as a necessary vehicle towards realising the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy” as well as to achieving true unity, harmony, equity, justice and equality among the peoples of Nigeria. Consequently, and contrary to the Learned silk’s suggestions, the present author believes that what Nigeria needs now, more than all else, is power-shift in 2023 to the three geo-political zones in the South of Nigeria on grounds of equity and justice, and later in 2031, back to the north, and so on, in that manner, among the six segments (geo-polical zones) in Nigeria.
Learned Silk Okutepa hails from the Northern segment of Nigeria, and there is no evidence that the same learned silk spoke out against the clamour for power-shift to the north in the run up to the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. On the contrary, learned silk had supported the power-shift to the north. If learned silk did not embark upon this Nigeria-does-not-need-power-shift advocacy when majority of Nigerians believed it was time for power to shift to the north, in 2015, one wonders why now that it’s the turn of the south to produce the next president, in 2023; why now that many believe it is the turn of the north (Mr. Okutepa’s north) to respect “federal character” provisions of the constitution and show integrity, honour, responsibility and gentle-manliness by relinquishing power to the south? Nigeria’s national ethics shall be Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social, Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-reliance and Patriotism.[xxviii] It is the submission of the present writer that “leadership shift” (whatever learned silk Okutepa and his school of thought, intend the term to mean) could and should be pursued and realised within the context of power-shift to the south in 2023. Thereafter, when next it’s the turn of the north to produce the president (example in 2031), the same school of thought should bring up this “leadership shift” to enable Nigerians Select, Elect and Appoint (SEA) a Nigerian president of northern extraction “whose actions and decisions will not encourage agitations and separation and balcanisation of Nigeria.” There abounds and can be found in each of the north and the south of Nigeria (and indeed in each of the six geo-politacal zones in Nigeria) hundreds and thousands of excellent presidential materials — from among the aged, the middle-aged and the young. There is no segment of Nigeria that does not have competent presidential materials, broad-minded, detribalized and pragmatic leaders.
The present writer agrees that Nigeria is in dire need of men and women of extraordinary leadership qualities –foresighted, hardheaded, and charismatic. This is because more often than not, as the present author has argued, a nation`s greatness depends on the quality of its leaders (as on its followership). The view of the present writer as put forward in a commentary titled “A Nation’s Greatness depends on the quality of its Leaders & Followers”,[xxix] could be summarised as follows:
Nigeria needs a leader who is heart-driven, one who understands what the country needs on every level; a peacemaker; one who unites, not divides; a cultured leader who supports true freedom of speech, not censorship; a leader who chooses diplomacy over war; a leader with integrity; one who says what they mean, keeps their word and does not lie to their people; a leader who is strong and confident, yet humble; intelligent, but not sly; a leader who encourages diversity, not racism. Nigeria needs a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls; who will invest in books, not weapons; a leader who brings morality not corruption; intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance; stability not fear and terror; peace, not chaos; love, not hate; convergence, not segregation; tolerance, not discrimination; fairness, not hypocrisy; substance, not superficiality; character, not immaturity; transparency, not secrecy; justice, not lawlessness; improvement and preservation, not destruction; truth, not lies and propaganda. Nigeria needs a leader who serves the best interests of the people first; who does not sacrifice human life on the altar of sectional interests and bigotry; a leader who is always open to criticism, and does not silent dissent.
Leaders with all or majority of these qualities exist and can be found in every part of Nigeria; there is no state or segment that has a monopoly of men of integrity, fair-mindedness or foresight “whose actions and decisions will not encourage agitations and separation and balcanisation of Nigeria”. Besides, sauce for the goose is sause for the gander! Any suggestion that power be concentrated in only one segment for too long, to the exclusion of the others is inimical to the fundamental and underlying objectives the Federal Character Provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution? Accordingly, any idea of “leadership-shift” that fails to recognise the need for power-shift to the south in 2023, is, with due respect, lawless, unconstitutional, digressive, evasive, beclouds the material issues, and tantamounts to leaving the substance in favour of a pursuit of mere shadows. It’s respectfully submitted, again, that the fundamental objective of the Federal Character Provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution is to provide for, authorise, direct and mandate power-rotation in “the government of the Federation” and power-sharing in all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Those who try to argue that the idea of “rotational presidency” is not supported by the Constitution either do not fully appreciate the spirit and intendment of the the Federal Character Provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution, or are deliberately and distorting the same to suit selfish or sectional interests. It is important to suggest that there are only two options left for Nigerians and Nigerian leaders, if they must save and sustain Nigeria, stabilise democracy, strengthen unity and accelerate the nations’s peace and development: it is either Nigeria embraces “Rotational Presidency” as an indispensable governance creed or the country should opt for Restructuring a credible alternative. In the event that the country’s leaders and peoples opt to follow the option of power-shift, in order to respect the Federal Character Provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution, then the best way to talk about or to go about any idea of “leadership shift” is to advocate that, in rotating power down to the south in 2023, Nigerians should be careful to ensure that they do not elect or select any religious bigot, an ethnic jingoist, a clannish, nepotistic, extremist and clueless leader; that Nigerians should elect a uniting and not a disuniting personality. In this way, one would have acknowledged both the urgent need for “power-shift” to the south in 2023 and at the same time, for “leadership shift” to true nationalists.
It is reiterated that section 14(3) of the Constitution has directed that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”. In its plain sense, it is respectfully submitted, “the composition of the government” of the Nigerian Federation begins with the composition of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the government of the Federation is headed by the President of the Republic. Accordingly, application of the provisions of sections 14 and 15 of the Constitution must begin with the office of the President. Indeed, it is submitted, a community reading of the Federal Character provisions of the Constitution leaves one with no choice than to agree that the Constitution, as a matter of necessity, prescribes and contemplates the idea of a “rotational presidency” for Nigeria. The first employee, appointee or elected official of the Nigerian Federation, the Nigerian State (which is made up of the Nigerian electorate) is the President of the Federation. The process of installing a President for Nigeria usually goes through the S.E.A procedure:
- The Nigerian State (through the political parties, by zoning/nomination/primary election) would first SELECT candidates for the general elections;
- Thereafter a Candidate, from among the candidates, is then ELECTED President (via general elections);
- Finally, the Nigerian State would APPOINT the President into office (via the Presidential Inauguration/Swearing-In).
The appointment of the President is usually subject to monthly wages and salaries, paid from taxes collected from the Nigerian electorate and kept in the Nigerian Federation account . Section 15(4) of the Constitution places an obligation on “the State” to ensure that the “SEA” procedure is conducted in such a manner as to “foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various people of the Federation” Section 14(3) wants the composition of the government of the Federation (starting from selection, election and appointment into the office of the president) to be done in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria, promote national unity, command national loyalty, afford every segment of Nigeria a “sense of belonging”. All government positions and appointments, and offices in, “the government of the Federation”, including that of the President, should be spread across the various segments of Nigeria. In other words, each and every segment in Nigeria must, in a rotational manner (turn-by-turn), have a taste of each, including the office the President. Both in the SEA process and in the composition of the other offices in the government of the federation, including the agencies, Ministries and Departments, there must be “no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups” The office of the President is thus not excluded from contemplation and application of the federal character principles and provisions of the Constitution; to suggest otherwise is to do grievous NATIONAL and irreparable harm to the Constitution. The wording of Section 14(3) shows that the composition of “the government of the federation” which starts with the office of the president IS DIFFERENT FROM the composition of “any of its agencies”. Some people have argued that “chapter 2 of the Constitution neither includes it nor excludes the office of the president?” Such an argument makes no sense at all; it is either the office of the president is covered by chapter 2 or it is not! There is no middle ground! And this writer has no doubt that its is included!
Now, if one agrees that the office of the president is contemplated in Chapter 2, one has indirectly agreed that the office of the President should be spread (which invariably and irresistibly means “should be rotated” since the office of the President is only one) among the various sections/segments of country in such a manner as to: promote and “reflect the federal character of Nigeria” as envisaged by s. 14(3) of the Constitution; afford every section of the Country a “sense of belonging” as envisaged by s. 14(3); promote “national unity” as directed by s. 14(3); ensure “social justice” as directed by s. 14(1); “command national loyalty” as directed by s. 14(3); ensure “that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups” as directed by s. 14(3); “foster a feeling of belonging” as directed by s. 15(4); promote “national integration” as directed by s. 15(2). Finally, in conducting the SEA process (ie., in the process of Selecting, Electing and Appointing a President for Nigeria), and in appointing other members of the government of the Federation or its agencies, ”discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited”. The sum total of the implication of the aforesaid is, one must repeat, that the Constitution has directed (in its Chapter 2), although not directly, that the position of the President must be rotated among the various peoples of Nigeria. Unlike other offices in the “government of the Federation”, the application of the “Federation Character” provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution, to the office of the President is PERIODICAL; all segments of the country cannot be given a presidential slot at one and the same time; one segment must take at a time while the others must wait for their respective turns. The Constitution does not specify the precise manner of rotation of the office of the President among the constituent units but requires (by necessary reasonable implication) that occupation of the office must be equitably spread/rotated across the length and breadth of Nigeria. What else could be the reasonable import of the provisions of sections 13, 14 and 15 of the Constitution, if not rotation, equitable spread? How else could the Nigerian Federation achieve the objectives set out in the Federal Character provisions if not through “rotational presidency” or periodic power shift? Indeed, to exclude the office of the head of the government of the Federation in any discussion on implementation of federal character is to promote fraud, elevate insincerity to high heavens, advertise mischief, and perpetuate grave violence against the objectives and express directives of the Constitution. Any suggestions by anyone or group to jettison “power-shift”, unless such is targeted at achieving the alternative — restructuring — could and indeed, would politically spell doom for Nigeria! Regarding the other offices in the government of the Federation, because they’re are many (there ought to be no fewer than 37 offices of ministers at each time), the Honourable Minister for Agriculture need not come from any particular segment of Nigeria, provided that no fewer than one person is appointed from each State as a Minister for the Federation.[xxx]
It is interesting to note at this juncture, that even in learned silk Okutepa’s home state of Kogi, advocacy for “power-shift” as a means of ensuring peace, equity, fairness and social justice is on the rise, rightly so.[xxxi] As of July 16, 2021, a pressure group, the Kogi Central Political Ambassadors (KCPA), had thrown its weight behind agitations that the governorship seat in the State should shift (be rotated) to the Kogi West Senatorial district in 2023. In a statement, the Chairman of the group, Malam Muhammed Onimisi, KCPA had noted that the group’s position was premised on “the need for equity, fairness and justice in the state”. Similarly, sometime in August 2021, a prominent socio-cultural group, the Kogi West Elders Forum (KWEF), has urged all political parties in Kogi State to consider candidates from Kogi West Senatorial District as the next governor of the state. The forum deplored the skewed political power play that has denied the district its good intention and active participation in previous elections, the ability to produce a governor of the state since its creation in 1991.[xxxii] Indeed, discussions and campaigns for power-rotation within Kogi State, on grounds of equity, justice and fairness (the same reasons the federal character principle was introduced into the constitution of the federal republic), have of late been in the front-burner. A few days ago, Mr. Yekini Jimoh took a look at the issue of power-rotation within Kogi State amid the ongoing campaigns by some leaders in the state.[xxxiii]
The makers of the Nigerian constitution understood and appreciate the practical implications of Nigeria being a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country; they introduced “Federal Character” to lessen acrimony and friction, create and give a sense of belonging to all parts of Nigeria thereby engendering genuine cooperation, unity and progress among Nigerians. Thus, whether we talk about leadership-shift in terms of gender-balancing or in terms of generational power-shift to the younger generation (to make youths leaders of today) or of leadership-shift to men and women of greater honour, broad-mindedness, integrity, and foresight, one thing that must never be pushed aside without fatally injuring the fabrics of the peace, security, unity and oneness of Nigeria, is the idea of power-rotation among the various segments of Nigeria. The high-heterogeneous nature of Nigeria makes power-shift is a necessity in Nigeria; running away from it is like trying to run away from one’s shadows; one would ultimately come back to face reality in the interest of order, peace, justice, unity, political stability, and national integration. Power-rotation is aimed to address the problems of instability, hegemonies, marginalisation, and domination by one segment or region over the others. The only options before Nigeria is to either to consolidate power-rotation and ensuring spread to all segments in an equitable manner or restructure the country to give greater autonomy to the regions or geo-political zones which make up the federating units. If by their grandstanding, shenanigans and scheming, Nigerian politicians and their advisors destroy the presidential-power-rotation concept, they might have succeeded in destroying unity, peace and stability in Nigeria; peace, unity and stability are essential preconditions for progress and advancement. My question for Nigeria is this: Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound![xxxiv] A reference to a statement by the present author in 2020 appears apt in the present circumstances:
In 2010, I had warned Nigeria to not destroy the rotational presidency earlier introduced by the PDP in 1999. The South had had power for 8 years with CHIEF OBJ from Ogun State (in the south)as the President. Power thereafter shifted to the north with Alhaji Ya’ardua from Katsina (in the north) as the President. When Ya’ardua died, I wrote and begged Nigeria to ensure that power remained in the north until 8 years before returning power to the south. Nigeria did not listen. Nigerian Politicians jettisoned rotational presidency. It was the death of rotational presidency that polarised PDP membership, and saw to the party’s inevitable ouster from power at the centre in 2015.[xxxv] This was because, with the disruption in 2011, of the North’s 8-year term (which had begun in 2007) during which period power was supposed to remain in the north, the North had felt cheated and short-changed. The result was the fierce battle by the north to enthrone one of their own at all cost in 2015. And, [indeed,] it was done at all cost….until Nigerian politicians return to running the affairs of Nigeria in line with Federal Character Provisions in Chapter 2 of the country’s constitution, there might never be any hope for Nigeria’s redemption or survival.[xxxvi]
Above is my unsolicited advice to all Nigerians, including the leaders, politicians, followers and observers. Giving advice is a thankless exercise. It is said that bad advice could blind you.[xxxvii] Conversely, according to Matshona Dhliwayo, “a good advice will instruct you, excellent advice will enlighten you, and transcendent advice will elevate you.” Accordingly, as suggested by author Mohith Agadi, when one sees good advice, one should not only listen to it, but should also take it. Our hope and progress as a nation would begin only when we learn to carry every section of our country along, to treat everyone as a part of us and to act as one big family, and to eschew segregation, exclusion, clannishness and nepotism in governance.[xxxviii] Our leaders have a choice to make between stabilizing Nigeria and moving it forward and destabilizing it and moving it backwards. In an earlier commentary, the present writer gave the following explanation:
…..all choices are made with great risks. …we must decide for ourselves, individually, collectively, whether the consequences are worth the action we take…. We always know the right thing to do; the hard part is doing it. Yet, doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. Doing the right thing comprises in facing reality. The reality is that all what we need now is reconciliation with one another, not blaming each other, reparation of damaged relations and society, not bullying of sections of it, reconstruction of devasted hopes, not persecution of those who dared to raise their voices; repentance and re-engineering, not exacerbation and heightening of tension. Sometimes, God doesn’t send you into a battle to win it; he sends you to end it. All kinds of fights end at forgiveness. We must therefore evolve for our country a conflict resolution method which rejects revenge, aggression, oppression, victimization and bullying. Our leaders should stop scaring away [some segments of the country] and making them feel not recognized nor welcome.[xxxix]
Finally, in his farewell address to the Americans, at the end of his eight-year tenure as a President of the USA, Bill Clinton had offered the following suggestions to the residents and people of America:
… we must remember that America cannot lead in the world unless here at home we weave the thread of our coat of many colours into the fabrics of America. As we become ever more diverse, we must work harder to unite around our common values and common humanity…. In our hearts and in our laws, we must treat all our people with fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
God help Nigeria!
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)
[i] Okutepa JS, “2023: Nigeria Does Not Need Power Shift, Nigeria Needs Leadership Shift – Okutepa [SAN]” (TheNigeriaLawyerOctober 2, 2021) <https://thenigerialawyer.com/2023-nigeria-does-not-need-power-shift-nigeria-needs-leadership-shift-okutepa-san/> accessed October 2, 2021
[ii] See the preamble to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999
[iii]The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999<https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/ng/ng014en.pdf> accessed October 02, 2021
[iv] In its preamble, as shown above
[v] Section 1(1)
[vi] Section 1(2)
[vii] See: The Library of Congress, “George Washington to Boston Citizens, July 28, 1795” (The Library of Congress)
<https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw2.040/?sp=28&st=text> accessed October 02, 2021
[viii] See: <https://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln2/1:391?rgn=div1;view=fulltext> accessed October 02, 2021.
[ix] (2012) LPELR-7837(SC), the Supreme Court [per Adekeye, J.S.C (pp. 169-170, paras. B-F)], per Adekeye, J.S.C
(Pp. 169-170, paras. B-F)
[x] See also A-G Ondo State v. A-G Federation (2002) 1 NWLR (Pt.772) pg.222. A-G Abia State v. A-G Federation (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt.763) pg.204. Abacha v. Fawehinmi (2000) 4 SC (pt.11) pg.1. Balonwu v. Gov. Anambra State (2009) 18 NWLR (Pt.1172) pg.13.
[xi] Iowa State Univery, “What is a Constitution?” <https://www.ndscs.edu/sites/default/files/2019-07/PDF/clubconstitutionandbylaws.pdf> accessed October o2, 2021.
[xii] See the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (CFRN), 1999, section 6(c).
[xiii] Op Cit., section 14(1).
[xiv] Op Cit., section 14(3).
[xv] section 15(2)
[xvi] section 15(4)
[xvii] See: “David Cameron Calls Nigeria and Afghanistan ‘Fantastically Corrupt’” (BBC NewsMay 10, 2016) <https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36260193> accessed October 2, 2021; channelsweb, “Nigeria Is ‘Fantastically Corrupt’ – British PM, David Cameron” (YouTubeMay 11, 2016) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Surmq5Uu0YY> accessed October 2, 2021
[xviii] See: Sahara Reporters, “Nigeria Lost $32bn To Corruption Under Former President Jonathan – DFID” (Sahara ReportersDecember 12, 2017) <http://saharareporters.com/2017/12/12/nigeria-lost-32bn-corruption-under-former-president-jonathan-–-dfid> accessed October 2, 2021; “Presidency Releases Details of Alleged Grand Corruption during Jonathan Administration” (Premium Times NigeriaMay 10, 2018) <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/267592-presidency-releases-details-of-alleged-grand-corruption-during-jonathan-administration.html> accessed October 2, 2021
[xix]See: “Criminal Politics: Violence, “Godfathers” and Corruption in Nigeria: Historical Background and Context” (Criminal Politics: Violence, “Godfathers” and Corruption in Nigeria: Historical Background and Context) <https://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/nigeria1007/3.htm> accessed October 2, 2021
[xx] See: Agboluaje R, “How Murtala/Obasanjo Government Engendered Graft in Civil Service” (The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World NewsNovember 20, 2020) <https://guardian.ng/news/how-murtala-obasanjo-government-engendered-graft-in-civil-service-by-olaopa/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxi] See: Frankel G, “Nigerian Leader Promises Crackdown on Corruption” (The Washington PostJanuary 3, 1984) <https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1984/01/03/nigerian-leader-promises-crackdown-on-corruption/0c0695f6-2b9b-45ca-9c59-7cf8b484c72f/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxii] (Nigeria – The Babangida Government) <http://countrystudies.us/nigeria/73.htm> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxiii] García LPV, “Political Corruption in Nigeria: Sani Abacha” (Streiner) <https://streiner.mx/en/case_study/political-corruption-in-nigeria-sani-abacha/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxiv] McGrill C, “Military Drains Nigeria’s Coffers” (The Guardian, May 18, 1999) <https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/may/18/chrismcgreal> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxv] See: Punchng, “Obasanjo Is Grandfather of Corruption in Nigeria –Reps” (Punch NewspapersNovember 25, 2016) <https://punchng.com/obasanjo-grandfather-corruption-nigeria-reps/> accessed October 2, 2021; “CORRUPTION: Obasanjo’s Eight Years Worse than Abacha’s – Ribadu” (Vanguard NewsSeptember 5, 2011) <https://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/corruption-obasanjo’s-eight-years-worse-than-abachas-ribadu/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxvi] See: Omorogbe P, “Corruption ‘Massive, Widespread, and Pervasive’ under Buhari ― US” (Tribune OnlineApril 2, 2021) <https://tribuneonlineng.com/corruption-massive-widespread-and-pervasive-under-buhari-―-us/> accessed October 2, 2021; “Corruption under Buhari Is Worse, Says Babangida” (The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World NewsAugust 6, 2021) <https://guardian.ng/news/corruption-under-buhari-is-worse-says-babangida/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxvii] Criminal Politics, Op Cit.
[xxviii] The CFRN, 1999, section 23.
[xxix] See: Udemezue SC, “A Nation’s Greatness Depends on the Quality of Its Leaders & Followers By Sylvester Udemezue” (BarristerNG.comOctober 11, 2018) <https://barristerng.com/a-nations-greatness-depends-on-the-quality-of-its-leaders-followers-by-sylvester-udemezue/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxx] See: Udemezue, S.C., “Why Nigeria Must Always Have a Minimum of Thirty-Seven (37) Ministers for the Government of the Federation” (kelechukwuuzoka.wordpress, January 25, 2017) <https://kelechukwuuzoka.wordpress.com/tag/buhari/> accessed October 02, 2021
[xxxi] See: “2023 Gov’ship: Kogi Central Group Supports Power Shift to West” (Obervertimes, 16 July 2021) <https://observerstimes.com/2021/07/16/2023-govship-kogi-central-group-supports-power-shift-to-west/?> accessed October 02, 2021.
[xxxii] See: Oguntola T, “Kogi West Elders Want Power Shift To Zone” (Leadership News – Nigeria News, Breaking News, Politics and moreAugust 20, 2021) <https://leadership.ng/govship-group-seeks-power-shift-to-kogi-west/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxxiii] Jimoh Y, “Kogi: Will Power Shift in 2023?” (Tribune OnlineSeptember 7, 2021) <https://tribuneonlineng.com/kogi-will-power-shift-in-2023/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxxiv] My answer is: “God forbid”. See: the Bible book of Romans 6:2
[xxxv] See for example Tattersall N, “Q A: Nigeria’s Presidency and the North-South Question” (Reuters, July 27, 2010) <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-president-rotation-idUSTRE66Q2ZD20100727> accessed October 2, 2021: It was reported thus“Uncertainty over whether Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will stand in elections next year is largely due to a nebulous understanding that power rotates between the Muslim north and Christian south. Although not formally set in writing, there is an agreement among the political elite in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that the presidency should alternate between north and south after every two four-year terms. Jonathan, a southerner, took over as head of state earlier this year after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim who was part way through his first term. Some northern power brokers say what should have been his second term can only be taken by another northerner and that Jonathan should therefore not stand. Other northerners say it is time for the “zoning agreement” to be jettisoned.” See also: Owen O and Usman Z, “Briefing: Why Goodluck Jonathan Lost the Nigerian Presidential Election of 2015” (OUP Academic, June 29, 2015) <https://academic.oup.com/afraf/article/114/456/455/24831> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxxvi] <ttps://www.courtroommail.com/mr-uwais-leave-diatribes-and-mudslinging-and-lets-focus-on-the-rotational-presidency-provisions-of-the-nba-constitution-by-udems/> accessed October 02, 2021.
[xxxvii] Per Matshona Dhliwayo
[xxxviii] See: Udemezue, S.C., “Warning Alert to Political Leaders: Compliance with the Federal Character Provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria Is Not Dependent on Voting Patterns during Elections” (BarristerNG.comMarch 18, 2019) <https://barristerng.com/warning-alert-to-political-leaders-compliance-with-the-federal-character-provisions-of-the-1999-constitution-of-nigeria-is-not-dependent-on-voting-patterns-during-elections-sylvester-udemezue/> accessed October 2, 2021
[xxxix] Udemezue SC, “A Catholic Cogitation On The Freeze Order Against Bank Accounts Of Alleged #EndSARS Protest Promoters -By Sylvester Udemezue ” (BarristerNG.comNovember 8, 2020) <https://barristerng.com/a-catholic-cogitation-on-the-freeze-order-against-bank-accounts-of-alleged-endsars-protest-promoters-by-sylvester-udemezue/> accessed October 2, 2021