Magazine article New African

What Type of Leader for Nigeria? While Nigerians Want a Visionary but Pragmatic President Who Will Address the Urgent Needs of the Country, a Section of the Political Elite Is Opting for Selection Methods That Could Frustrate That Wish, Reports Osasu Obayiuwana

Magazine article New African

What Type of Leader for Nigeria? While Nigerians Want a Visionary but Pragmatic President Who Will Address the Urgent Needs of the Country, a Section of the Political Elite Is Opting for Selection Methods That Could Frustrate That Wish, Reports Osasu Obayiuwana

Article excerpt

FOR THE OVERWHELMING MAJORity of Nigerians deeply frustrated with their deteriorating living conditions - even as their elected politicians are amongst the best paid in the world - this year's presidential poll is about electing a visionary, hardworking leader who can reverse the country's economic and social decline.

With its plurality of nationalities (over 250), making Nigeria a politically complicated nation to lead, the incoming president must unquestionably transcend ethnic rivalries and govern in a manner that commands the admiration and respect of its entire 150 million or so people.

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But it appears--at least in the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP)--that the selection process to produce the next president will be less concerned about a candidate's track record and blueprint for Nigeria and more about whether he has the "right ethnic fit". That is certainly the opinion of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), led by Adamu Ciroma, who insists that the PDP candidate can only come from the Northern part of the country.

Ciroma, a former governor of the Central Bank and ex-cabinet minister, has accused the incumbent president, Good-luck Jonathan (who is from the oil-rich Niger Delta in the southeast) of violating the party's agreement to give the North an eight-year period at the helm, from 2007-2015.

The former president, Umaru Yar'Adua, who died in the third year of his presidency, was expected to have served those two terms, which a Northern Nigerian was allegedly "entitled" to, based on the PDP's regional zoning formula. Yar'Adua's predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southerner from the Yoruba ethnic group, benefitted from this controversial "gentleman's agreement" when he served as president between 1999 and 2007.

Thus, according to Mohammed Yusufu, Nigeria's former police chief and a member of the NPLF's presidential candidate selection panel (but, strangely, not a member of the ruling PDP), President Jonathan is trying to "commit a coup in his own party."

"We have a president that is trying to succeed himself," said Yusufu.

"I have not talked much about the zoning system of the PDP, which, under normal circumstances, remains the party's [internal] affair but for the fact that the crisis in the party has become a national problem because of the political dominance of the PDP in Nigerian politics."

But Jonathan, who, as vice-president under Yar'Adua, was the other half of the presidential ticket that originally came to office in 2007, sees himself as being a continuation of the Yar'Adua legacy. He consistently argues, legitimately, that the Nigerian constitution and the voters--not the PDP's internal arrangements--are the final arbiters on who is eligible to contest the 6 April presidential election.

Writing on his internet Facebook page on 5 December, Jonathan, who comes from Otuoke in Bayelsa State, urged the voters "to prepare to answer whether we are Northerners, Southerners or Nigerians."

"My passport and yours say [the] Federal Republic of Nigeria. When we recite the National Pledge, we affirm to Nigeria. I'm a Nigerian candidate and I will not be tired of pledging to Nigeria, my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest! North or South, East or West, Nigeria is the best," Jonathan went on. …

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