2023: race for Buhari’s successor sparks debate on national unity

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John Alechenu examines growing political tension associated with the 2023 general election and Nigeria’s quest to stay united as a country

Since the return of democratic power in 1999, the clamor for the respect of a tacit agreement of rotation of power in the center between the North and the South seems to increase with each electoral cycle.

It was the decision of the self-proclaimed military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (retired), to overturn what local and international observers have described as Nigeria’s freest and fairest election, presumably won by the the late business mogul and philanthropist, Chief MKO Abiola, on June 12. , 1993, which sparked a series of events that led to the precipitous departure of politicians in military uniforms from the Nigerian political scene.

In an attempt by the military to redress the unfair cancellation, then-military head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar held a series of meetings with the political class, most of whom became members of the Democratic Party. of the people and it was agreed that power should rotate between North and South, starting from the South.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, retired military general and hero of the civil war, was elected president in 1999 and he reigned for two consecutive terms of four years each until he handed over to Umaru Yar’Adua , a northerner, in 2007.

Yar’Adua’s sudden death two years after starting his first four-year term and the ensuing battle for succession led the PDP to lose power to reinvigorated opposition politicians who joined forces to form the All Progressives Congress.

There was a debate within the CPA as to whether or not there was a power-sharing / rotation agreement.

In the midst of this debate, governance and service delivery seem to have taken hold, and national unity is seriously threatened.

The actions and inactions of the regime of the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), have exacerbated the crisis.

A public affairs analyst and managing director of the Heritage Center, an Abuja-based political think tank, Dr Kachi Onunoju, argued that Nigerians have never felt so bad in terms of division.

He said: “This regime has brought Nigeria back to the Dark Ages with its clanism, nepotism and lack of respect for the principle of federal character which is also provided for in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“We cannot run a federation where an entire region is left out of the equation when you talk about the country’s security architecture.

“Since the Fulani militia mutilates and kills Nigerians in their quest for land, what has the government done? First, we were told that they were Fulani from Libya, Mali, Senegal or Burkina Faso, now they are asking for amnesty.

He added: “Is the amnesty for foreign bandits? Is it because the elections are fast approaching? You can see all kinds of deceptive government plans under the guise of poverty reduction. You will soon start to hear about merchant money that disappeared shortly after the 2019 election. We cannot continue to run a country like this.

However, a Gombe head of state from the All Progressives Congress, Abdullahi Jalo, said it would be wrong to accuse Buhari of being lenient with criminals because he shares certain cultural affiliations with the alleged perpetrators. odious against the population.

He said, “We have a security problem that we all have to admit. However, it is wrong to accuse the president of doing nothing to resolve it. Those close to the president are the most affected in all these attacks.

“For President Buhari, every Nigerian is his parent. He sees Nigerians as one. There is no section of this country that is not represented in its cabinet. We must avoid divisions and work for the unity of this country. People like us who have no other country want this country to work.

Although the 2023 elections are still around two years away, groups and individuals have started to mobilize their support for the people they believe deserve the chance to use their bridge building skills to unite the country.

One of the many pressure groups within the APC, the Progressive Consolidation Group, which is at the forefront of advocacy for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s candidacy, believes there is a need to build bridges across ethno-religious divisions to restore public trust among Nigerians. .

PCG leader Aliyu Kurfi said Nigerians should learn a lesson from the working relationship between Buhari and Osinbajo.

During advocacy visits to some northern states, including Katsina recently, the PCG noted that there was a window of opportunity for Nigerians to restore trust among themselves.

He said: “When we launched our good governance awareness campaign in March 2019, our main focus and determination was to continue to promote PCA. It is our hope, our prayer and our desire to ensure that the CPA retains power beyond 2023. But for that to happen, peace and unity is a major requirement.

Although the vice president’s office has since removed Osinbajo from the group’s activities, his stance on national unity is mixed.

Osinbajo recently noted in a speech at the National Dialogue on Social Cohesion in Abuja that there was more to everyone in a united Nigeria than a fragmented country.

The dialogue, hosted by the Africa Polling Institute and the Ford Foundation, was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center and featured the presentation of the 2021 edition of the Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey Report.

Osinbajo, who was the special guest of honor, noted that Nigeria’s challenges were not unsolvable and that many countries had and are still experiencing similar ordeals as part of their historical development.

The vice president, who has been an advocate for Nigeria’s unity in diversity, attributed the separatist unrest to a sense of alienation among citizens.

He said: “In many quarters there are real feelings of alienation and exclusion. We need to strengthen the institutions that, at all levels, can deliver justice, inclusion and mutual security. “

Osinbajo denounced the classification of Nigerian citizens as indigenous, non-indigenous and settler on the basis of which states relate to residents.

He argued that “all Nigerians have the constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives in peace and security under the law”.

Addressing the growing incidence of crime across Nigeria, the Vice President noted that addressing the situation would require a collective response.

He observed that governments at all levels were adopting more local and decentralized policing strategies, but noted that for these initiatives to be successful, these security arrangements must be comprehensive.

Osinbajo noted that the diversity within each state and community must be taken into account, adding that societies function best when each party feels a sense of belonging in terms of shared responsibility.

He said: “In this way, the whole community will gain a sense of belonging and, more importantly, will feel that they have an interest in protecting their properties from criminals. No truly durable safety umbrella can be built on the basis of exclusion.

He expressed the opinion that criminals should be treated for what they are without recourse to their ethnicity or religion.

According to him, it would be against the law of natural justice to harass an entire community for the crimes allegedly committed by some of its renegade members.

Osinbajo stressed that calls for the break-up of the country were rooted in socio-economic frustration rather than a deep desire for disintegration.

He stressed: “I remain convinced that the majority of Nigerians want to succeed in their country rather than separate from it”.

He spoke the same way at a conference when Sokoto State University was first convened in Sokoto.

Osinbajo said, “The champions of the division will mobilize their supporters along ethnic and religious lines to secure their own pieces of the so-called national pie.

“In the context of national unity, it is essential for us to establish a culture of tolerance, openness and acceptance of people of all cultures and beliefs. There is unity to be found even in the face of such differences.

A senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Jos, Joseph Anuga, observed that politicians who had little to offer in terms of service delivery more often than not played the ethno-religious card to appeal to feelings. of segments of society for curry unfair advantage.

He said: “It has become common that with every electoral cycle in Nigeria, gangs and militias from other African countries are activated. Unfortunately, whenever a major election approaches, desperate politicians resort to desperate measures to gain or retain power and in doing so, governance suffers. We need to look beyond mundane succession battles and focus on creating systems that work for the majority. ”

Meanwhile, groups across the country and lawmakers in the federal parliament are already voicing support for the candidacy of CPA national leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in 2023 polls.

It comes amid unrest and controversy between the main party leaders of the APC and the PDP over whether the presidency should move south in 2023 or stay in the north.

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