2023 Presidency: Bashir Tofa 'Zoning Is Dead In Nigeria' - |Ads4naira Blog|

2023 Presidency: Bashir Tofa 'Zoning Is Dead In Nigeria'

Remember Bashir Othman Tofa? He is a Nigerian politician from Kano State and was the National Republican Convention (NRC) candidate in the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, won by his rival Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, but the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida never released the official results.
In this interview with ABDUL HASSAN, the businessman turned politician declared that zoning of the highest political office in the country, the presidency, is dead and as such the South should not expect the North to relinquish power at the end of President Buhari’s second term in 2023. He said the struggles and power game within the APC and PDP pose grave dangers and threats to the nation’s democracy. He also said he is not averse to joining the next presidential race if God permits.
Do you think the North has gotten a fair share in the leadership of this country?
The North hardly complains about any fair share of leadership in Nigeria, unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Even then, very quietly. The North firmly believes that it is within the right of any President to appoint people he trusts and deeply believes will execute his agenda. Some people believe otherwise. The constitution requires however that the President reflects the makeup of Nigeria in his appointments, with acute consideration for merit in respect to each appointment he makes. If that is done and, in addition, every part is served equitably in line with their needs, such complaints will diminish, like it is in almost all developed societies. What you do and set out to achieve will be more important than the consideration of the racial, ethnic or the religious make up of who you appoint.
Nigeria has been and remains till date a tribal and fragmented society. We refuse to do what is required to move us forward and develop the country for the benefit of all. We still see ethnicity and religion in almost everything we do. We are truly underdeveloped. Unless we cross that line, we will remain disunited and in fear and suspicion of each other.
One of our (Nigerian) main problem is that we are still just a collection of people in a geographical area called Nigeria; we are just a country. We have been unwilling and unable to grow into a Nation State. May be it is because the country was put together, perhaps with the clear objective of serving the interests of the colonial masters, but not the collective interests of the people. I often wonder who among our founding fathers negotiated and signed the so-called 1914 amalgamation document. Some of them were toddlers in 1914, and most were not even born then. I hope some historians will answer this question for us. Who signed it on our behalf, and who gave them the mandate to do that?
My belief is that this country was put together without the agreement of the people that were supposed to make it up. Even the various constitutions, those colonial constitutions and the ones we wrote in 1979 and revised in 1999, were really not agreements between the various groups. They were laws and guidelines of a general nature. That’s all.
In a 1986 book manuscript (In Search of Unity) which I wrote, and which remains unpublished till date, but which I keep revising due to changing events in Nigeria, I suggested that the various groups of ethnicities in Nigeria needed to sit, discuss and agree, within themselves first, as to how and under what conditions they would want to live in a country such as this, mindful, of course, of other peoples’ desires and rights. Thereafter, representatives of each of these groups should come and sit all together in a well organised, authoritative and mandated Conference to make the necessary compromises and reach binding agreements that will be the basis of amending our current constitution, or writing a completely new one. I think all the current calls for restructuring of Nigeria is about this.
Here, a fundamental question may likely arise. What if a section decides that they would come to the Conference with the sole purpose of negotiating an exit from the Union? A kind of “Nexit”. However it is perfectly possible that negotiating to remain will be successful.
Nigerians are already looking forward to 2023, do you support zoning or rotational presidency?
I have never supported rotational presidency for the simple fact it is an idea that will never promote unity amongst Nigerians. It is a very divisive and myopic formula. What Nigeria needs is a Nigerian President, not a sectional or zonal President, who is there simply because he/she is from a particular zone or region of the country. For zones to be clamoring for Presidency as a do or die affair during each election cycle, is certainly one major factor for the utter disunity we experience in these difficult times. Rotational Presidency is utterly undemocratic and unfair to qualified people who have ambitions to lead their country, but won’t be availed with the opportunity because they are from the wrong zone at that material time. The shouts of “it must be our turn” from one or two zones, and “no, it is not”, are the consequence of rotational presidency, which are very inimical to the unity of this country.
This rotational blunder is a PDP invention with the intention of settling some political confusion and dilemma. But even they (PDP) had to break this understanding by using a new sinister term they invented, known as “the doctrine of necessity”, that allowed a Vice President from a different zone, not only to complete the term of the deceased President (which he was entitled to do by the constitution), but to contest the election to become the next President, even though it was not the turn of his zone, in accordance with the rotational understanding. Had the idea of rotation was unknown; the “doctrine of necessity” would have been unnecessary. The President would just go on to contest the election with the permission of his party without any rancour.
The ANPP had never openly or even quietly promoted this idea of rotation. At that party’s presidential conventions, aspirants from all parts of the country were free to contest. Delegates were also free to elect anyone they saw fit. President Buhari contested three times (2003, 2007 and 2011) with other aspirants from all parts of the country and emerged the candidate of the APP and later ANPP, not because he was from the North, but because the delegates thought he was a better candidate for their party at those times.
Democracy should not be limited and exclusive. It must be an open and transparent affair that is inclusive and gives everyone a fair chance to seek whatever elective office he/she is qualified to contest in accordance with the rules.
It is, therefore, easy to see that rotational presidency is diametrically opposed to democracy. People with ambitions, who are qualified must be allowed to participate, whoever and from wherever they are. A candidate who lost knows that he is out not because he is from a wrong zone, but simply because he/she lost the contest in the party primaries. The same thing for the state and national secondary elections. Allowing for full democracy and fair participation of all is the best way to safeguard our national cohesion, peace and prosperity.
Unless political parties drop rotational presidency and make announcements to that effect in good time, the 2023 election will certainly be a bridge too far for this country. The power struggles and acute, almost sickening ambitions of certain people within the two main parties, juxtaposed with the determination of certain zones to assume the presidency in 2023, are a clear sign of the dangers and the threats to democracy that we will be faced with.
Some leaders like Governor Nasiru Ahmed el-Rufai are already asking that North should still contest the presidency after Buhari, do you agree?
I believe my answer above, is clear on this issue. All parties should forsake rotation right now, and give everybody the opportunity to contest whatever elective post he/she is qualified to contest. I know that some section may vote in block, but that is their choice, and they will reap the consequences for their action. Nonetheless, there are sure to be people who will cross the divisive lines of ethnicity and religion and cast their votes in favour of the person they believe will serve their purposes better. We have seen this many times before. If we get used to electing people based on their records, merit, qualifications and their programmes, then we will be well on the way to becoming a nation of unity, peace and development.
The biggest dilemma that we may be faced with, in my opinion, is whether these two main political parties (APC and PDP) will survive the tremors within them. They are like volcanoes waiting to erupt! It is for this reason that the thought and even the preparations for a new genuinely national party or parties, populated with credible and dependable people, free of these rancours, and built with the genuine vision and courage to unite this country again in peace and national prosperity, may be quite timely.
Would you still aspire to lead Nigeria again if the opportunity arises?
In life, and in good health and available opportunities, one must never say, never again. Every matter will be as Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) decreed, for He has power over all things. Who would know what is in store for each of us, except Him, the all knowing?
What I can also tell you is, it is not in my plans, right now, to seek any elective office. But, like I said, Allah’s plans will prevail over all other plans. If for whatever reason I find myself up there, my only wish is to serve this country with dedication, fairness and honesty; actively promoting peace, security, unity and prosperity for all Nigerians without exception. I have this urge in me, to make all Nigerians feel they are equal, living in a land of know how, not of know who.
If you are the president of this country, what will you do differently from what is being done now?
I will certainly build on the efforts being made on security, peace, unity and prosperity of all Nigerians. Another thing I would certainly do with keen determination, is to convince the members of the National Assembly to accept not more than N2 million a month, based on full sitting allowance.
Thirdly, I will also plug all wastages, lower taxes and make sure I strengthen all our institutions. Another important thing I will certainly do is to pay attention to education, employment and empowerment, especially of our teeming youths all over the country. Any money or jobs allocated, will be equitably shared among the States, and I will also mandate each State to share it among qualified people in their State, and in accordance with the guidelines.
How will you assess Buhari’s administration on its campaign planks of economy , security and corruption war?
President Muhammadu Buhari (may Allah increase him with health and wisdom) has well meaning intentions for all sections of the Nigerian people. Assessing performances from one who is looking in from the outside is totally subjective. It is like a spectator watching a football match. When he moves his foot to the left, and the player moves his to the right, he blames the player. But the player is the one in whose front is the ball. And he only knows his circumstance. But if the player also moves his foot to the left and kick the ball but miss the goal, that would be regarded as bad luck, whereas in the first case, it would be regarded as a mistake. But, let me just say that, I am sure President Buhari knows he is the player and no one else. He is also well aware that this is his last term. Therefore, legacy should be very important to him. I hope he will pay more attention to issues of security, employment and empowerment. Wherever peace resides, he must go there and seek it, for without it, we are doomed. The society is boiling almost everywhere, and special attention should be focused on that.
Do you believe a Deputy Governor or Vice President should succeed his boss for continuity like Osinbajo succeeding Buhari?
That is what the constitution says. Unless it is changed later, that will be the way it is and shall remain.
Generally, how can you assess Nigerian democracy within the context of development as compared to military regime?
We are in a democracy now, and hopefully we will continue to be that, despite the difficulties. But, in whatever situation Nigeria finds herself, we have to do our best to make the best of it.


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