There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is facing myriad problems today even threatening her very existence. It is indubitable that most of those challenges originated from the PDP era as the Nigeria ruling party which climaxed during the last regime under Goodluck Jonathan. The huge resources earned during that period were squandered without a thought for the rainy day despite red flags persistently raised by experts. The insurgency which was at a nascent stage then was allowed to fester. Matters bordering on national security were treated with pedestrian amateurism. Agitations based on perceived injustice and inequities in allocation of national resources were treated with snobbish disdain.

 

By 2015, all these problems have attained full maturity and blossoming, further complicated by free fall in global crude price and flourishing insecurity in the region of Nigeria’s golden egg, the Niger Delta Region. These were the colour of things in Nigeria when the All Progressives Congress (APC) mounted the stage as Nigeria’s ruling party under President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. Rightfully, the new ruling Party has continued to exonerate itself from the unsavoury state of affairs which has taken the plunge for the worse as forewarned by experts earlier. Truly, they are not to blame, but this has resulted in what the opposition parties condemn as APC’s blame game or buck passing. They insist, and I must add rightfully too, that as the ruling party, APC was elected to tackle what they found on ground and that their success or failure as a ruling party will ultimately be measured by the extent to which they are able to address these problems.

 

Today, the economic atmosphere is still gloomy but obviously looking up. From the efforts of Muhammadu Buhari led administration, no doubts, there is light at the end of the tunnel, if the current tempo is sustained. But insecurity has deteriorated. Agitations especially, ethnic based, is spiralling out of control. The Bokoharam insurgency though severely degraded remains potent in some parts of the North East. The perennial farmers/pastoralists clashes have taken a new unprecedented dimension with what looks like a full blown war between the Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers with a religious angle of alleged threat of Islamisation added. Banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping and sundry criminality also attributed to the same Fulani tribesmen have also entered the stage tormenting virtually every part of the country and proving intractable. The angst and frustration across the country is palpable. Down south and north central, the belief is that the menace is buoyed by the fact that a fellow Fulani is the President and because of the intractable nature of the problem, they allege that the government is treating the menace with kid gloves because of whom they are, President’s tribesmen! The opposition parties are feasting on this and gnawing away at the ruling party’s areas of electoral advantage. The risk to the ruling party is steady depletion of their electoral influence across Nigeria as witnessed during the last election and is sure to continue unless this perception is confronted and changed by deliberate measures and policies of the APC led Federal Government. Not doing so will be akin to the proverbial foolish man that was pursuing the rats escaping fire in his house while his house remained engulfed in fire. A case of Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned. Surely this is not in the character of APC leaders.

 

The foregoing scenario foretells grave implications for the corporate existence of the Nigerian Federation. Ominously, we are still within the fifteen years doomsday forecast by some international bodies for the disintegration of Nigeria. Already the social media currently is awash with a document allegedly authored by the Tiv ethnic nationality demanding separation from Nigeria. Same with the Yoruba group which has produced a bill for referendum for self-determination. The situation in the South East is troubling coupled with the volatile conditions in the Niger Delta Region.

 

Of particular note, is the situation in the South East geopolitical zone where the prevalent belief is that Mr President and indeed the Nigerian state do not want them in Nigeria. They point to what seem like lopsided appointments into political and government offices by the ruling party. They also point to many other sundry actions and decisions of government seen as discriminatory against the South East and illustrating it with Mr President’s allusion to 5% and 95% electoral support and political patronage ratio. As a matter of fact, South East did not vote for the ruling party in 2015 elections and the ruling party on its own part did not seem to have bothered about their electoral performance in the South East going by apparent skewed nature of their policies affecting that region. The result, the electoral fortunes of the ruling party in that zone remained virtually the same in 2019. It is now like a thug-of-war situation between APC and a component part of their mandate jurisdiction over who shall blink first. This ought not be so. The situation is so bad that any plebiscite conducted in that region today will result in massive support for separation of the zone from Nigeria.

 

It is often said that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable but the question whether Nigeria’s continued existence as one united indivisible nation is cast in iron has continued to arise accentuated by these grave developments that threaten her like the “the bear tied to the stake and bayed about by wild dogs”. East, West, North, South, the story is same.

 

But is the situation hopeless as portrayed above? By no means, the Nigerian case cannot be said to be hopeless or irredeemable, but a lot depends on what the ruling party, APC does with the sick baby left in their care. It is not going to be an enviable record if the Nigeria baby dies in the hands of the Change Party on which Nigerians have invested so much hope. The situation is a task on leadership and patriotism. So far, the often used term, magnanimous in victory appears to lack in the bloodstream of the political victors. To salvage the situation, greed of political actors need to be replaced by selflessness, being one’s brother’s keeper and making sacrifices, real sacrifices for the sake of Nigeria’s unity and progress.

 

One collateral consequence of the rejection of the ruling party in the South East is the virtual absence of elected officials of government from that area on the ruling party’s platform since 2015. This means that even if the ruling party is minded to favour the zone in the sharing of National Assembly offices, there wouldn’t be the personnel who would take up the offices. Fortunately, this has slightly changed. There is no way a cursory search today in the ranks of elected legislators of the ruling Party or their alliance parties in the South East will not reveal National Assembly members-elect qualified to hold any of the offices of the Senate Presidency, Deputy Senate Presidency, Speakership or Deputy Speakership of House of Representatives.

 

APC, ZONING OF NASS OFFICES AND CHALLENGE OF LEADERSHIP

The situation of Nigeria as at today is scary. This should be of major concern to those entrusted with keeping Nigeria alive, peaceful, healthy and growing.  The ruling party should understand the contending interests and sensibilities within the component units of the Nigerian Federation. They should be at home with what is required to douse the misgivings prevalent in the country, re-assure the suspicious, assuage the aggrieved and pacify the agitated. In essence, the practice of zoning of political offices was devised for this purpose and if properly handled is enough to restore sense of belonging to the marginalised by redressing perceived imbalances in the system.

 

Already, of the six geo-political zones making up the country, the President already comes from the North West, the Vice President from South West and national Chairman of the Ruling Party from the South South. The remaining three geo-political zones of North East, North Central and South East should have the positions of the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives and their deputies to contend with. The Senate President is said to be already zoned to the North East and the Speaker to the South West before the eventual emergence of some qualified candidates from the South East. The continued discontent, restiveness and agitation across Nigeria makes it imperative that APC leaders should go back to the drawing board in the face of the availability of capable hands from all the geo-political zones. That zoning has been concluded before now or that any particular leader has endorsed or given his words one way or the other is not enough excuse not to revisit the exercise. To refuse do so will mean the continued total exclusion of a zone like South East from national scheme of things. This scandalises the ruling party and cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever. Excluding South East from the sharing equilibrium of the Nigerian polity is a mistreatment to a motherland denied her third leg of the tripod upon which she rests. No tripod can be stable on only two of her three legs. This should be very obvious to any national leader unless blinded by greed, selfishness or sectional obsession. Such a leader is a threat to Nigerian nationhood. Leaders of APC from South West should be patriotic enough to give up their aspiration for speakership since the zone already produced the nation’s number two citizen and concede same to zones that have none in the interest peace and unity of Nigeria. Some leaders from that zone may nurse ambitions to lead the nation in future. Today is an opportunity for them to demonstrate capacity to be fair and equitable in handling Nigeria’s commonwealth and showcase their statesmanship and nationalistic credentials which mirrors the image of what to expect if given the opportunity.

 

It is obvious that this zoning exercise if revisited and properly handled will turn out the magic wand needed to initiate the process to quell the turbulence and restore tranquillity to the beleaguered ship of the Nigerian nation. This should be a veritable tool in the hands of the ruling party to navigate the country out of the storm of disintegration. They must not lose sight of this opportunity. This, is the challenge of leadership for the ruling party which APC must rise up to.

 

Uchenna Okonkwo-Okom

Lawyer, Public Affairs Commentator and Former Chief Whip,

Anambra State House of Assembly

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