By EHICHOYA EZOMON
Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark posed a very salient and pertinent question on the back page of the New Telegraph of Monday, August 3, 2020: “Who is Mamman Daura fooling?” This comes as Mallam Daura, former Journalist and media Administrator, advocated a merit-based presidency, rather than the rotation of power between the North and South of Nigeria since the return of democratic governance in 1999.
Daura, a nephew to President Muhammadu Buhari, out of the news in the better part of the Buhari presidency, operates as a filial adviser, and acclaimed as the most influential member of the shadowy “cabal” at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The only time(s) he’s in the news was for the wrong reasons: He and his family members had tangled with Mrs Aisha Buhari, wife of the president, over “right to occupy” some quarters at the Villa.
To demonstrate Daura’s staying power and closeness to the president, Mrs Buhari’s vehement objection to the Dauras living at the Villa hasn’t moved the needle, but only fed social media with all manner of gossips as to what’s happening there.
Now, out of his place behind-the-scenes, Daura has ventured into the political arena, to engage in the 2023 verbalisation, and the hot-button issue of how the president should emerge.
Daura’s views have unsettled about the main bond that currently holds the North and South of Nigeria together: The rotation or zoning of the presidency between the former protectorates.
Though not constitutionally-appointed, Nigerians have accepted rotation as guaranteeing “equitable distribution” of political offices, by ensuring that the presidency rotates between the North and South in every eight years.
The North is on the homestretch of its slot of eight-years of two terms of four years each, which began in 2015 with the election of General Buhari, whose government will terminate in 2023.
Going by rotation, the next president should emerge from the South, and possibly zoned to the South-East as the geopolitical area of the South yet to produce a president since 1999.
Thus, Daura’s advocacy for a merit-based presidency, in place of rotation, has got sceptics hollering that, “We told you so”: That the North would not let go of power in 2023.
The bombshell has been interpreted as the biblical “voice of Jacob but the hand of Esau.” To polity watchers, Daura spoke the mind of President Buhari, and to the broader interest of the North.
But presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, has debunked Daura’s prognosis on the BBC Hausa Service as representing the position of the presidency, as critics have insinuated.
Shehu said: “It is important that we state from the onset that as mentioned by the interviewee (Daura), the views expressed were personal to him and did not, in any way, reflect that of either the President or his administration.
“At age 80… Malam Mamman qualifies as an elder statesman with a national duty to hold perspectives and disseminate them as guaranteed under our constitution and laws of the land. He does not need the permission or clearance of anyone to exercise this right.”
Well, said! But will sceptical Nigerians, Chief Clark inclusive, buy the presidential explanation of Daura’s advocacy for merit, instead of rotation of power between the North and South for election of the president in 2023? Surely, the presidency has a lot of fires to fight in the weeks and months ahead of the 2023 polls.
But why is Daura’s statement generating storm, when he’s not the only Northerner to speak about the North holding on to power after Buhari’s tenure?
Besides his relationship with Buhari, which enables him to know the president’s thinking, Daura’s suggestion has upended the reported campaign promise by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to field a Southern candidate from the South-East in 2023.
Accordingly, Chief Clark, former Minister of Information and Senator, has lately canvassed for a president from the South-East in 2023, pleading with the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a South-westerner, to shelve his said presidential aspiration.
So, Clark, 93-year-old leader of the South-South and a pan-Nigerian advocate, was apt to raise the query: “Who is Mamman Daura fooling?” Without a blinker, the answer is, “Southern Nigeria.”
Because, in 2015, no Southern politician aspired publicly to be president, on the understanding that the North’s eight-year tenure of the presidency (2015-2023) shouldn’t be distorted.
In September 2019, I wrote a two-part article (in this column) on, “Rotation and South-East quest for presidency,” and “2023: Between South-East and micro-zoning.”
The first article of Monday, September 23, which dealt with alternating the presidency between the North and South, weighed the South-East clamour against the alleged scheming of the North to retain power after the expiry of Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
As the push for North’s power retention clashes with the desire of the South-East to assume the presidency, my second piece of Monday, September 30, focused on power shifting to the South, and how it could be micro-zoned to the South-East.
Before Daura’s comment, the South was running with the calculation of power shifting to its region, and the permutation that it would then be zoned to the South-East. So, why would the North want to disrupt the power rotation calculus?
The North’s political actors aren’t yet contented with occupation of the presidency, on the alleged distortion of rotation in 2011 after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010.
The scenario looks thus: From 1999 to 2007, the South had its share of uninterrupted eight years in President Olusegun Obasanjo. Similarly, the North, by 2023, would have a straight eight-year tenure (2015-2023) in President Buhari.
The debate, as to where the presidency will go in 2023, shouldn’t arise had the political actors that framed rotation of power between the North and South adhered strictly to the follow-in-turn scheme.
Along the line, politicians in the major political parties, waving tribal and/or religious flag, disrupted the system, and prevented the North from completing its eight years after Obasanjo quit office in 2007.
The late President Yar’Adua, who took over from Obasanjo in May 2007, died in 2010, barely three years in office. The North’s agitation was to complete Yar’Adua’s “eight-year tenure,” to end in 2015.
Then President Goodluck Jonathan’s rebuffing of the North’s canvassing bred the first distortion of rotation of the presidency in 2011, which office Jonathan failed to regain in 2015.
To return power to the North in 2015, the voters rallied for Buhari of the opposition APC. This was the second distortion to rotation that could have been remedied with Jonathan’s re-election.
But that would mean a second eight-year rule for the South, leaving the North to scramble to balance the equation. This is the hard fact, and the feeling of Northern leaders, whether in the APC or PDP.
As there’s no sentiment in politics, the North has no qualms striving to retain power than allow the South unheralded 16 years, while it has only 11 years in the kitty by 2023. That’s the obvious “message” that Mamman Daura has sent to the South.
Mr. Ezomon, journalist and media consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached on 08033078357. Twitter: @EhichioyaEzomon WhatsApp: 08033078357.