Doctor Muhammed Bello Nawaila, director of the Coalition of Northern Groups, explained why the rotation of the presidency, which the South demands in 2023, would not hold.
In an interview with VINCENT KALUDr Nawaila, who is in charge of education issues within the Coalition, pointed out that the South had wronged the North after the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Why does your group oppose the rotation of power?
We are not opposed to the rotating presidency, but we are opposed to everything that is wrong; anything unconstitutional. We want the country to strictly abide by the constitution. You can’t fight the right the constitution gives me just because you have a gentleman’s agreement between you. There is nowhere where 50 or ten people will sit down and decide the fate of 200 million people; it doesn’t work because we have a constitution that guides us. The party must respect the constitution. You cannot leave the constitution and decide otherwise. I have the right to dispute and you cannot deny me that based on a rotation arrangement you and your friend agreed to assign the slot to another domain thereby violating my right to dispute. If they have found a way to enshrine rotation in the Nigerian Constitution, we will have no problem with that.
You say rotation is a constitutional matter; we had it in 1999, where the presidency was assigned to a particular area. Where were you at that time?
Everyone agreed. It was not us who violated the agreement, but the South. When former President Umaru Yar’ Adua passed away, 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 a rotation agreement, it was still the Northern slot. The South was screaming and the North was silent and Jonathan continued. It’s now that they think it will benefit them that they shout it’s their turn.
Let’s look at it from two angles. Are you talking about rotation in APC or in PDP? We have several parties but we wedge the question of the rotation in two. For example, if APC decides now to turn to the South, we can understand it because next year, the North will have done eight years. But, if the PDP moves the presidency to the South by favoring rotation, what rotation? Because the North has only had it for three years. We have to separate this argument according to whether the rotation we are talking about is that of APC or that of PDP and other parties. You cannot mix them all into one as they are separate entities.
If we talk about rotation in APC, it makes sense because the North has him with eight years from Buhari, so they are free to move him to the South. Although I’m against it because it doesn’t make sense because politics is a numbers game and everyone has the right to argue. If the PDP says it is turning the presidency to the South, then on what basis? On what ground?
You don’t support rotation but you support the quota system. Isn’t that hypocritical, in a way?
A distinction must be made between the quota system and rotation. When you talk about a quota system, you’re not just bringing someone on the quota when that person isn’t eligible.
I am talking about the quota system in terms of recruitment, employment, admission, etc.
For example, if I am recruited on the basis of a quota, it does not mean that I would not be qualified for admission. If they set the threshold at 40%, I will not bring 35% and you will take me according to the quota. I must meet the requirement, which must be stipulated, which will not go against the minimum. It is the constitution. When you go into politics, there is the minimum threshold. Just because it’s on quota doesn’t mean I have to choose you, whether you qualified or not. For example, you may have a graduate based in a primitive local village where they lack electricity and internet access and they may not even know there was a recruitment going on. He has a local government office to which he submitted his CV, otherwise because of this quota, he might miss the opportunity as it is a primitive local area. This is the basic idea of the Federal Character Commission; you must meet the requirements.
You are mixing up issues on this. Someone scored 20 and the other 60. The latter is not admitted, while the former gets it. How to reconcile the two?
Where is it applicable?
In Unity Schools – Federal Government Secondary Schools
For example, schools in Yobe State, there are no students there. There are slots in Yobe that people don’t use up because of insecurity. There are schools in Katsina; people don’t even go there. This can only happen in a fancy city like Lagos where people are rushing. I don’t think someone who got 40 percent would be considered before someone who got 60. That doesn’t happen.
It happens. Anyone from Zamfara who scores 30% is admitted to Kings College, if that is their choice
They were people from the south who used Zamafara. You barely get names like Chukwueze from Zamfara, just like you can’t get Mohammed Kado Farouk from Rivers State. If you see the list, you’ll know they weren’t from the North.
But even the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) says power should turn south
I have read MBF articles, so Bukola Saraki should be part of the Middle Belt, but he aligns with the consensus of the North. This means that MBF is also part of the North. 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, it means that the Middle Belt Forum supports the North, because Saraki is not considered the Middle Belt, but the North.
The Northern Elders Forum says that because the North West has taken a lot of slots, it should consider those in the Middle Belt and the North East. But what they want to do is not a quota system; it is purely on merit. They are interested in a person better suited to the country who supports the situation and the things that are currently happening in the country; who is best suited, who is the best person to run the country. This is what must be highlighted and not the question of North, South, East or West. We have now reduced the number of people to choose based on our strata, based on our region and not on the quality of leadership. We have competent leaders. Northerners voted against the North during Abiola’s time. You can be voted and not win and you can be voted and win. Many people voted against Buhari for Jonathan even back when there was the quest to complete the Northern slot in 2015. When Jonathan decided to run despite the shouting and shouting of the Northern that it was their quota, many northerners still voted for Jonathan. It’s a question of who people see, how you are able to convince people to vote for you.
What we’re saying is leave a level playing field for everyone; let this person tell us how they will tackle the problems of Nigeria as a whole. That’s what we say. Even though we are not political parties, but in the end the parties will do what they want to do.
Now you insist that it be open and there be no rotation of power?
We must insist that it must be open because that is what the constitution says. When Jonathan challenged over the North’s quota, the South was silent and they left Jonathan challenged. No one said that was the quota for the North. They said it was Jonathan, and he had to argue and we had to agree. And now that someone from the North wants to challenge, you are now telling me that it is the quota of the South. Let’s agree, but there should be a clear demarcation on which party we’re talking about rotating. If we want to go on a rotational basis, then the PDP should sit down and consider that the North has only had three years, while the South has had the majority of years, so it should come to the North. If the APC talks about rotation, since the North is eight years old, they can move it wherever they want. You can’t say that all parties should zone the presidency to the South based on Buhari’s eight years, it doesn’t make sense.
In the event that a Northerner succeeds Buhari, what do you think would be the reaction of the South?
It’s politics. In the end, whichever party emerges, it shows who has the best manifesto and the best campaign strategy. I don’t think it would lead to violence or murder. We are too rational and have gone too far to fight just because the candidate is from the North. It won’t be. If the president comes from the North, the deputy must come from the South. If the Northern candidate chooses a qualified MP that the South can subscribe to, he will vote for the party. This is how Nigeria is; we will argue and shout and in the end we will vote and go on with our lives.
You insist on ‘competence’, but when you were campaigning for Buhari, did you see competence in him?
Even you and I have seen Buhari’s skill. It wasn’t just the North. I don’t know why people, especially the south, keep talking about voting Buhari as the northern thing. The South West also voted overwhelmingly for him and he won in that region. Although the North gave him a huge vote, the South West also gave him a huge vote in all the states in the zone. Although the majority of votes came from the North because they have the numbers, but the South West followed. We saw his skill during the campaigns, as the most viable team, the best equipped team, the best strategy and we thought the team would deliver on their promises, but in the end they failed. Everyone can see failure. They failed, but you can’t say that there aren’t other competent people. So because Buhari failed, we should reject jurisdiction and just vote based on region or religion?
Is there a region that lacks competent people?
No. That’s why we say give them all 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 voting this and that in Buhari because he failed. People will now open their ears and make rational decisions based on the insights you present to them. I don’t think people will vote blindly this time around.
Why do you think people won’t vote blindly this time?
It’s because people are learning every day.
If we learn every day and we saw that Buhari was a failure as you pointed out, why did he win again in 2019?
What happened in 2019 is what I can’t say because a lot of people said there was rigging. Some people attributed it to the Atiku type of politics. As they say in America, “this one is a disaster, but the other person is not the solution either”. So many 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. These neutral voters who would rock the election have decided to sleep at home. It was the diehards of Buhari and those of Atiku who went to vote, and finally we knew that money was playing tricks. But rational people decided to stay at home. That’s why we say – run a lot of candidates for people so they have options.