By Law Mefor
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” – Psalm 42:7
There has been a misguided counter-narrative against the campaign for Nigerian President of South-East extraction. The opponents of this just and noble campaign say that zoning is against merit and as such, the nation is robbed of the chance of being led by a capable hand that will be cut off by zoning and rotation. This argument is warped, baseless and incurably defective for there is no zone in Nigeria that cannot survive and grow as an independent, industrialised nation. Each of the 6 geopolitical zones averages a population of about 30 m and the population of nearly half of the nations of the world is below 30 m.
To stretch the argument further, many great countries have populations ranging from 5 m to 30 m, each producing leaders that took them to their enviable heights. Countries such as Netherlands, Australia, Israel, Romania, Chile, Ecuador, Rwanda, Belgium, Cuba, Czech Republic, Greece and others. The point is that the population of each of the geopolitical zones in Nigeria is sufficient to ensure the emergence of qualified persons to lead the country to enviable heights as these countries with relatively small populations who attained greatness, have all demonstrated.
For a fact, there is no zone in Nigeria that does not have very competent hands to provide leadership for the country. Leadership qualities and capabilities are not a prerogative or genetic inheritance of any ethnic group or zone (the so-called born-to-rule). If such exists, those who have arrogated power and leadership of the country to themselves all this while, should have been able to take the country out of poverty and out of the 3rd World.
It bears repeating, rotation of presidential power between North and South Nigeria is a necessity borne out of structural imbalances in the Nigerian federation and that is why it has been the convention since the return of Nigeria to the current democratic dispensation. The two divides (North and South) have been able to provide good enough leadership for the country, without sacrificing merit. Olusegun Obasanjo, for all intent and purposes, was a great President (South). Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was brilliant too (North). When the nation zoned to either North or South to produce these men as President, merit was not sacrificed. Campaigners for the President of South-East extraction are therefore not asking that merit be sacrificed: pick from their very best and Nigeria and Nigerians will be the better for it.
Zoning to the South-East will not compromise or sacrifice merit on the altar of political expediency because the South-East has very capable hands that have played at national and international stage for Nigerians to make their pick. And some of them have already indicated interest in running for the Presidential office. Among such ‘wise men from the East’ are; in the PDP, Peter Obi, Anyim Pius Anyim and Sam Ohuabunwa who have already purchased nomination forms. In APC, Dr. Chris Ngige, Gov. Dave Umahi, Sen. Rochas Okorocha and Orji Uzor Kalu have also indicated interest to run and there are one or two others in sundry political parties such as Prof Kingsley Moghalu. These men are very capable hands that can run Nigeria creditably and equitably, turn things around, and make happiness and life more abundant to all citizens of Nigeria.
The abridged CV of one of these eminent Igbo sons – Mr. Peter Obi – will be annexed for evaluation by whoever really cares. We challenge others to do the same and let Nigerians be the judge regarding who amongst these aspirants from round the country is most qualified to lead Nigeria at this material time.
If merit has any definition, Peter Obi’s experience, capacity, integrity and everything else shine forth like the brightest of stars. Unless those touting merit have a different meaning for the concept.
The electoral value of Peter Obi also goes beyond what his great CV eloquently captures. In the 2019 presidential election, Peter Obi was on the ballot as vice presidential candidate of the PDP. Peter Obi won his state (Anambra) for the PDP by 96%. The PDP victory was so unprecedented in that election. The party won in every polling unit, in all the 360 wards, and in all the 21 LGs. The victory of the PDP was also total in the entire South-East. The zone was solidly behind the Atiku/Obi ticket for the reason of the personality of Peter Obi.
Compared to Atiku the PDP flag bearer, Peter Obi demonstrated he had higher electoral value. The PDP flag-bearer in that election, Atiku Abubakar, almost lost Adamawa, his state, to Muhammadu Buhari. Though Atiku won by a small majority in Adamawa state in the 2019 presidential election , he won only 10 LGs while Buhari won in 11 LGs.
There is no doubt that the PDP fielding Peter Obi in 2023 would elicit greater pull in the South-East and the entire South, and is also very likely to significantly make an impact in the North.
The youths of Nigeria, regardless of creed and tongue, like and trust Peter Obi for a good reason. The proof of this assertion can be checked out by reviewing how Peter Obi’s declaration for president trended for about a week in the social media. No other aspirant attracted such attention. That is sort of a referendum of what his performance would be in a general election.
His sterling performance as governor laid a firm foundation for education, health, security and infrastructure in Anambra state. Before Peter Obi left as governor, Anambra had become the safest state in Nigeria, a status the state lost in the last few months, following the invasion of Anambra by the so-called UGM from other states. Anambra has been placing first or second in NECO and WASC examinations in the last decade in Nigeria and it is a Peter Obi legacy, sustained by Willie Obiano, his successor.
Nigeria is besieged by six key issues, which Peter Obi is supremely placed to address, namely: insecurity, corruption, economic downturn, restructuring Nigeria and economic diversification. One certain way that Psychologists predict future behaviour is through past behaviour. Apart from being a self-made billionaire, Peter Obi has proved to be an expert in wealth and job creation both in the private and public sector as he demonstrated when he was a 2-time governor of Anambra state. His presidency can engender the creative economy that can connect the nation to the 4th industrial revolution breaking forth globally, which is driven by Tech, ICT, and digitalization/digitization.
Peter Obi creatively found a way round insecurity in Anambra state, which was a microcosm of whatever obtained then in Nigeria. Such solutions can be extrapolated with modifications to address the Nigerian dire security situation. Workable security architecture can be negotiated by such a man, including designing and negotiating how state police and community police can work in Nigeria. If it worked in the other 25 countries of the world practicing federalism, there is no reason it cannot work in Nigeria. It only requires patriotic leadership, political will, technical knowledge and deep insights.
The best way to fight corruption is by personal example and strict adherence to due process. Peter Obi is uncorrupted by public office and therefore he is without reproach. He has been out of power for 8 years and is about the only former governor in this dispensation that has not been summoned by the EFCC, ICPC or Code of Conduct Bureau. He is also a stickler to rule of law and due process. He is frugal and abhors extravagance and inessential spending. As governor, he approved only the contracts that met best competitive tenders and within profit margins allowed by global best practices. As President, one should not expect the usual brazen contract bazaars and contract inflations to continue or shoddy contracts executions under his watch. There has to be due process and frugal management of the nation’s scarce resources.
Indeed, by merit or by zoning as demanded by social justice, South-East is best positioned and qualified to fly the flags of the two political parties as exemplified in Peter Obi.
Peter Obi’s abridged CV is hereby annexed. You be the judge while awaiting those arguing against zoning based on the so-called merit to bring forth their strongest argument. Let them lay their preferred aspirants’ credentials side by side for dispassionate comparisons.
• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; email: email@example.com; Tel.: +234-905 642 4375; tweet: @LawMefor1.