Although there have been a strident clamour for power to be rotated to the South by leading southern political figures and political analysts, there is as yet no coherent and convincing strategy on how that can be done. Indeed the southern zones seem to be at odds on how and which of the three zones should ‘’take the shot’’ (to use a popular Nigerian political term).
The South-West rests its strategy for seeking the 2023 presidential seat mainly on the political fortunes of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He towers over any other political figure in influence, resources and political reach. He even has the support of a sizeable number of people in the opposition and of the political neutrals in the region. To the South-West, he represents the best possible chance amongst any of the leading political figures in the zone to bring home the presidency in 2023. This is in keeping with the well-known political tradition of “Tiwa n tiwa’’ or “what’s ours is ours’’ in South-West which translates into rallying behind one of theirs no matter their political differences, where national political issues are concerned. This much manifested during the presidential campaign of late Chief MKO Abiola.
The South-South for obvious reasons, are being coy about claims to the presidency in 2023. The last president before President Buhari, Goodluck Jonathan was from this zone and it will amount to political insensitivity to put their hat in the ring for the 2023 presidency. Still that is not to say that “if the ball rolls out from under the scrum, they will not be tempted to take it and run with it”, to use a rugby term. The South-South approach is not to overtly show interest in the 2023 presidency publicly but to prepare assiduously on the blind side through quiet but far reaching contacts with the North on the issue with the hope that their claim could be supported when the chips are down. In this regard, the South-South has the likes of Transportation minister Rotimi Amaechi, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege and Niger Delta Minister Akpabio each making quiet inroads into the North.
The approach of the South-East is the most confounding of the three. While the South-West is working strongly towards consolidating its 2023 presidential project around Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the South-South is speaking very softly but carrying a big stick on the issue, the South-East is seen approaching the matter from a very incoherent and potentially counterproductive manner. Many in the South-East have said it loud and clear that they would prefer secession from Nigeria than a South-East presidency in 2023. And those in the South-East who hold the view that the zone should produce the presidency in 2023 however believe that it should be granted as a political concession by the rest of Nigeria for perceived marginalization in the political scheme of things. The South-East insists that the two other southern zones having produced presidents in Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, should be automatically allowed to take it. And because of the high stakes riding on the 2023 presidency the South-East will not likely countenance or support any candidate from any of the other southern zones.
The North will certainly not feel unhappy at the disjointed way the south as a whole is going about the quest for the 2023 presidency. In contrast to the South, in the North, it is relatively easier to build a consensus across the three zones making up the North on a candidate to support during national elections. In the zero sum game that is the hall mark of Nigeria’s politics, nobody should expect the North to encourage or help the South achieve the political consensus it desperately needs to clinch the presidency in 2023. As 2023 approaches, the North will tell the southern zones tongue in cheek as they struggle to outdo one another “hey! common guys the net is wide open, go ahead and help yourself to the goal’’.
The North also knows full well that with its huge number of registered voters and voting numbers, the southern zones would necessarily need its support to actualize their ambition for a southern presidency. The entire clamour for the presidency to be rotated to the South in 2023 rests hugely on the expectation of northern cooperation with the idea.
In the run up to 2023, this situation will play right into the hands of the North whose political baseline will be not to allow power rotation to the South. In this regard I can say right away that the North will not support a South-East presidential candidate in 2023. And Tinubu’s push for a southwest political claim which is not supported with much enthusiasm in the North will meet with many lacunae. There will be rivals to challenge him in the zone and his choice of running mate will be acrimonious. In any case the South east will be expected to do anything to scuttle a Tinubu presidential project in 2023.
The South-South will be encouraged by these developments to try to put itself out as an alternative which of course will not yield any much headway eventually.
The North holding the aces will rely and encourage the southern zones to cancel out each other politically rendering them ineffective in their quest for the presidential seat in 2023.
The final joker for the North in this act of political brinkmanship will be to work towards the break-up of the APC which is the only one between the two main political parties where power rotation is feasible. The PDP desperate to climb back to the power it lost in 2015 will then opportunistically field a northerner and possibly a running mate from the South-East.
If the desired power shift does not happen in 2023, blame the South not the North.