NIGERIAN President Muhammadu Buhari’s body language encouraged northern governors’ opposition to calls for power shift to the South, according to political analysts.
The Southern Governors’ Forum had, at a meeting in Enugu on September 16, insisted that the next president of Nigeria must come from the South in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
But governors of the northern states – under the aegis of the Northern Governors Forum – after a meeting in Kaduna on September 27 issued a communique in which they unanimously opposed the southern governors’ demand for power shift to the South.
A power rotation arrangement has been playing out between the North and the South since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999 and by 2023, when Buhari, a northerner, rounds up his tenure in office, it is expected that a southerner will succeed him.
But in opposing the southern governors’ demand that the position of president move to the South in 2023, the northern governors have argued that calls for power shift contradict Nigeria’s constitution.
Speaking on Channels Television on September 29, a Political Analyst and Economist Katch Ononuju said Buhari’s body language and style of governance encouraged the northern governors to oppose power shift.
“The northern governors historically do not act without the body language of the president.
“None of them have ever gone against any policy that Buhari has expressed support for,” Ononuju said.
* Buhari weaponised nepotism, North afraid southern president would retaliate
Ononuju added that Buhari had weaponised nepotism, conferring undue advantage on the North to the detriment of the South.
According to him, the Northern Governors Forum’s objection to power shift was an indication of fears among the northern elite that a southern president would reverse the prevailing situation where the North was being heavily favoured by the presidency.
Ononuju observed that the North was afraid of a repeat of the situation that played out when Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as a democratically elected president in 1999 after years of northern-dominated military rule.
“They (North) stacked up advantages during the military era but when Obasanjo became president, he neutralised it.
“He removed all the soldiers they put everywhere and neutralised all the platforms through which they weaponised nepotism and returned the country to a place where everybody had a sense of belonging.
“Immediately Buhari became president, he started his pro-Fulani strategy.
“There are fears that if Buhari leaves (office), those legacies will be wiped off because if the next president comes from somewhere else, he is going to return Nigeria to normalcy – that is what is driving this (opposition to power shift).
“They fear that whoever comes will neutralise Buhari’s nepotism gains and return the country to normalcy. That is why you are seeing them doing this.”
Ononuju stressed that rotation of power and the principle of federal character were crucial to the survival of an ethnically diverse country like Nigeria.
He added, “Only federal character can ensure that our diverse heterogeneous society has a sense of belonging in what we call the Nigerian experiment.
“But with the way Buhari has weaponised nepotism, a lot of people are not given a sense of belonging and that is why people are embracing separatism as their own way of protesting that.
“And Buhari going this far made the northern governors say they are not handing over power, that power will stay with them.”
However, Ononuju further observed that Buhari’s ‘incompetence in managing diversity’ had united different ethnic nationalities, a development which he said was good for the Nigerian project.
On the other hand, he noted that due to the fact that Buhari had weaponised nepotism, “it will be very difficult for him and his people to allow power to shift because if it shifts they are afraid that the Obasanjo equalisation will occur again.”
Another Political Analyst and former President of Igbo think-tank group Aka Ikenga Goddy Uwazuruike also said the northern governors acted with Buhari’s support.
Speaking on Arise Television on September 29, Uwazuruike reacted to the northern governors’ opposition to power shift.
The northern governors acted ‘in cahoots with the presidency,’ he said, noting that when the southern governors initially came out to oppose open grazing and demand power shift, the presidency reacted violently.
Faulting the northern governors’ argument that the call for power shift was unconstitutional, Uwazuruike, a lawyer, pointed out that Section 15 of the 1999 Constitution provided that the state shall foster a feeling of belonging for everybody.
He suggested that power rotation was a political arrangement that was meant to ensure that power went round.
Stressing the need for rotation of power, Uwazuruike said, “Is Buhari the president of Nigeria or the president of northern Nigeria? If the president coming in 2023 must be the president of Nigeria, then whatever comes around must go around.”
Nigeria is currently experiencing agitations for self-determination and secession from different sections of the country.
The agitations have been blamed on the pro-North disposition of the Buhari administration, which had bred feelings of marginalisation among other sections of the country.
Uwazuruike said the northern governors’ opposition to power shift would further divide the country.
“Without any equivocation, those northern governors destroyed the tiny thread that has been holding us,” he said.