Dr Muhammed Bello Nawaila, a director of Coalition of Northern Groups has explained why the rotation of the presidency, which the South is clamouring for in 2023, would not stand.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, Dr Nawaila, who is in charge of education matters in the Coalition, stressed that the South had short-changed the North after the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Why is your group opposed to rotation of power?
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We are not opposed to rotational presidency, but we are opposed to doing everything that is not right; everything that is not constitutional. We want the country to be following strictly the constitution. You cannot fight the right that the constitution gives me just because you have a gentleman’s agreement among yourselves. There is nowhere that 50 or ten people will sit and decide the fate of 200 million people; it doesn’t work like because we have a constitution guiding us. The party has to follow the constitution. You cannot leave the constitution and decide otherwise. I have the right to contest and you can’t deny me that based on rotation arrangement that you and your friend agreed by allocating the slot to another area thereby violating my right to contest. If they have found a way to put rotation in the Nigeria Constitution, then, we will have no issue with that.
You are talking about rotation being a constitutional issue; we had it in 1999, where the presidency was slotted to a particular area. Where were you people at that time?
Everybody agreed. We were not the people that violated the agreement, but the South. When former President Umaru Yar’ Adua died, the next president should have come from the North to complete the eight years, but the South started shouting that former President Goodluck Jonathan should continue. But even the media knew that based on rotation agreement, it was still the slot of the North. The South was shouting and the North was quiet and Jonathan continued. It is now they think that it will favour them that they are shouting it is their turn.
Let us look at it from two angles. Are you talking of rotation in APC or in PDP? We have many parties but we are jamming the issue of rotation in two. For instance, if APC now decides to rotate to South, we can understand that because by next year the North would have done eight years. But, if PDP is moving the presidency to the South biased on rotation, which rotation? Because the North has only had it three years. We need to separate that argument whether the rotation we are talking about is that of APC or that of PDP and other parties. You cannot mix all of them into one because they are separate entities.
If we are talking about rotation in APC, it makes sense because the North has it with eight years of Buhari, then they are free to move it to South. Though I’m against it because it doesn’t make sense because politics is a game of number and everyone has the right to contest. If PDP says it is rotating the presidency to the South, then on what basis? On what ground?
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You don’t support rotation but you support quota system. Isn’t this hypocritical, in a way?
You have to differentiate between the Quota system and rotation. When you talk of Quota system, you are not just bringing someone on quota when that person is not eligible.
I’m talking about quota system when it comes to recruitment, employment, admission etc
For instance, if I’m being recruited based on quota, it doesn’t mean that I would not be qualified for admission. If they take the cut off mark to be 40 per cent, I will not bring 35 per cent and you take me based on quota. I must meet the requirement, which should be stipulated, which will not go against the minimum. That is the constitution. When we go to politics, there is the minimum cut-off. It is not that because it is on quota, I must pick you whether you are qualified or not. For instance, you may have a graduate based in a primitive local village where they lack electricity and internet access and he may not even know there was recruitment going on. He has a local government office that he submitted his CV, if not because of that quota he might miss the opportunity because it is a primitive local area. That is the basic idea behind the Federal Character Commission; you must meet the requirements.
You are mixing up issues on this. Somebody scored 20 and the other scored 60. The latter is not given admission, while the former gets it. How do reconcile the two?
Where is that applicable?
In unity schools – Federal Government secondary schools
For instance, schools in Yobe State, there are no students there. There are slots in Yobe that people don’t exhaust because of insecurity. There are schools in Katsina; people don’t even go. This can only happen in an elegant city like Lagos where people rush to go. I don’t think somebody that scored 40 per cent would be considered before somebody that scored 60. It doesn’t happen.
It does happen. Somebody from Zamfara that scores 30 per cent is given admission in Kings College, if that’s his choice
Those were people slotted from the South using Zamafara. You hardly get names like Chukwueze from Zamfara, just like you cannot get Mohammed Kado Farouk from Rivers State. If you see the list, you will know they were not from the North.
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But even the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) says power should rotate to the South
I have read articles of the MBF, then Bukola Saraki should form part of the Middle Belt, but he aligns himself with the consensus of the North. That means MBF is part of the North also. When we say North and South, we know how the map divides the two regions. If Bukola Saraki from the Middle Belt decides to join the North and he is part of the consensus, that means the Middle Belt Forum is in support of the North, as Saraki is not considered as Middle Belt, but the North.
Northern Elders Forum is saying that because the North-West has taken a lot of slots that they should consider those from Middle Belt and the North-East. But what they want to do is not on quota system; it is purely on merit. They are interested in a person that is better fit for the country bearing the situation and the things happening now in the country; who is better fit, who is the best person that would manage the country. That is what we should put ahead and not the issue of the North, the South, the East or the West. We have now reduced the people to choose based on our strata, based on our region and not based on quality of leadership. We have competent leaders. Northerners have voted against the North during Abiola’s time. You can be voted and still not win and you can be voted and win. A lot of people voted against Buhari for Jonathan even at that time that there was the quest to complete the slot of the North in 2015. When Jonathan decided to run despite the shout and cry of the North that it was their quota, a lot of people from the North still voted for Jonathan. It is a matter who the people see, how you are able to convince the people to vote for you.
What we are saying is that leave a fair fighting ground for everyone; let that person tell us how he will tackle the problems of Nigeria as whole. That is what we are saying. Even though we are not political parties, but at the end the parties will do what they wanted to do.
Now, you insist it must be open and there is no rotation of power?
We have to insist that it must be open because that is what the constitution says. When Jonathan contested on the quota of the North, the South was silent and they let Jonathan contested. Nobody was saying that it was the quota of the North. They were saying it’s Jonathan, and he must contest and we had to agree. And now that somebody from the North wants to contest, you are now telling me that it’s the quota of the South. Let’s agree, but there should be a clear demarcation on which party we are talking about rotation. If we want to go based on rotation, then PDP should sit and view that the North had only three years, while the South had the majority of the years, therefore it should come to the North. If the APC talks about rotation, since the North has eight years, they can move it to wherever they like. You cannot say all the parties should zone the presidency to the South based on the eight years of Buhari, it makes no sense.
In the event that a Northerner succeeds Buhari what do you think will be the reaction of the South?
This is playing politics. At the end, whoever emerges from whichever party, it shows who has a better manifestoe and better campaign strategy. I don’t think it would result into any violence or any killing. We are too rational and we have gone too deeper to just fight because the candidate emerged from the North. It will not come to that. If the president emerges from the North, the deputy has to come from the South. If the Northern candidate picks a qualified deputy that the South can buy into, then they will vote for the party. That is how Nigeria is; we will argue and shout and at the end we vote and continue our lives.
You are emphasising ‘competence’, but when you were campaigning for Buhari, did you see the competence in him?
Even you and I saw the competence in Buhari. It was not the North alone. I don’t know why people, especially the South keeps talking of voting Buhari as the Northern thing. The South-West also massively voted for him and he won in that region. Although the North gave a huge vote, the South-West also gave him a huge vote in all the states in the zone. Although majority of the votes came from the North because they have the number, but the South-West followed. We saw his competence during the campaigns, as the most viable team, the most well equipped team, the best strategy and we thought the team will deliver, but eventually they failed. Everybody can see the failure. They have failed, but we cannot say there are no other competent people. So because Buhari has failed, then we have to throw away competence and just vote based on region or religion?
Is there any region that is lacking competent people?
No. That is why we say give all them a fair chance to present their ideas. When you allow people to present their ideas to the electorate, you will be surprised who they would vote for. We have seen the lesson of vote this and that in Buhari, as he has failed. People will now open their ears and make rational decisions based on the ideas you are presenting to them. I don’t think people will vote blindly this time around.
Why do you think people will not vote blindly this time?
It is because people learn every day.
If we learn everyday and we saw that Buhari was a failure as you pointed out, why did he win again in 2019?
What transpired in 2019 is what I cannot say because a lot of people said there was rigging. Some people attributed it to Atiku type of politics. Like they say in America, ‘this one is a disaster, but the other person is not the solution also.’ So a lot of people decided not to vote; they didn’t see Buhari as a better president, but they didn’t see Atiku as a solution because of what he was saying during his campaigns. Those neutral voters that would swing the election decided to sleep at home. It was the diehards of Buhari and those of Atiku that went out to vote, and eventually we knew that money played the tricks. But the rational people decided to sit at home. That is why we are saying – present a lot of candidates for people so that they will have options.