Rotational Presidency: The Best Method for Indigenizing and Stabilizing Nigerian Politics
By Priye S. Torulagha
Currently, Nigeria, like other Sub-Saharan African countries, suffers from cultural identity crisis. Although it is an African nation, yet, it is governed as if it is an Arabian and a European country. The governmental systems are borrowed from the West and Arabia (Islamic). The political systems are borrowed from the United States of America (presidential system) and Arabia (Islamic caliphate in Upper North), the legal systems are borrowed from Arabia (Islamic Sharia in the Upper North) and the West (Western Jurisprudence), the educational systems are borrowed from Arabia (Islamic madrasa) and the West. The religious systems are borrowed from Arabia (Islam) and the West (Judeo-European Christianity). The economic system is borrowed from the West (capitalism). The law enforcement and military systems are borrowed from the West and Arabia (Sharia in some parts of the country).
Despite the fact that foreign ways originating from Arabic and Western colonialism dominate the fabric of society, Nigeria claims to be an independent African state. Indeed, there is almost nothing that portrays Nigeria as a sovereign state. No wonder, many educated Nigerians and public officials have little or no knowledge of their African cultures and religions but are prolific in Arabic, Islamic, European, and Christian studies, and cultural ways. How can strangers in their own land claim to be independent?
The truth is that Nigeria is not a sovereign state. It is more suitable to be described as a “semi-autonomous” political entity because there is little or nothing in the country that reflects its African root. These foreign systems that came through conquest and colonialization are responsible for generating inequity, injustice, unfairness, and perpetual instability in the country because the cultures of political governance (Islamic and Western) are incompatible with the traditional African cultures of the nationalities that constitute Nigeria. For instance, in Africanized Hausaland, it was possible for women to rule. Hence, Queen Daurama or Magajiya Daurama ruled Daura in the 9th century. Likewise, one of the greatest Hausa monarchs was a woman (Queen Amina). In Islamized Hausaland, it is not possible for a woman to serve as an emir. In most African cultures, you speak for yourself in a legal situation through either confessing or telling the absolute truth by swearing in the name of your ancestors while under the Western legal system, you spend money to hire lawyers to speak for you and you are even encouraged to lie (not guilty until proven guilty). Those who have money buy their way to legal freedom while those who do not have money end up in prison. Thus, justice is an economic commodity that only those who have the financial means can purchase. Thus, the Islamic and Western concepts of justice are different from the traditional African concept of justice. The only exception to the view that Nigeria is a semiautonomous nation is in cultural attire where Nigerians clearly demonstrate their independence, like their North African counterparts.
One way to begin to Africanize Nigeria is to introduce a political leadership selection system that is uniquely Nigerian that reflects African communal cultures. In this regard, it is argued here that rotating the leadership of the political system is a major step to restructure, indigenize, and stabilize Nigeria. There are numerous advantages of adopting rotation in selecting political leaders at every level of government in the country.
First, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic nation with about 300 or more nationalities and three major religions (Ancestralism (traditional), Christianity, and Islam). Indeed, Nigeria is like the United States of Africa because of the ethnic and linguistic diversity. Therefore, the country is very complex and requires a political system that minimizes conflict among the ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. Due to the complexity and delicate nature of ethnic and religious relations, it is necessary to develop a leadership selection system that ensures that every group and political zone has an equal chance of producing a political leader of the country. Thus, a rotational system is the only method that guarantees every political zone an equal opportunity to produce the leader of Nigeria.
Second, a rotational system will minimize money politics. Currently, it costs tremendously to run for political office at the national, state, and local levels. Due to the cost, political candidates who are financially handicapped are compelled to seek godfathers and godmothers to sponsor them. When a political candidate is sponsored financially, the candidate is automatically corrupted because he or she must payback the money spent by the sponsor. Generally, a candidate who wins an election after having been sponsored, must payback by looting public funds to do so or award over-inflated contracts, and or employ a certain number of people recommended by the financier. Moreover, a sponsored candidate is held hostage by the godfather and or godmother to the point where he or she might not be able to freely express his or her desire for fear of offending the financier. Similarly, the sponsored candidate that wins election must always kowtow to the financier, thereby, failing to fulfil promises made to the voters.
Third, due to the expensive nature of the current political system, it is mostly the rich and many corrupt individuals who dominate the political system. Hence, many public officials who are elected to office are compelled to loot public funds in order to accumulate campaign funds to run for reelection. The national economy is sacrificed when many public office holders divert public funds that would have been used to develop the economy and the infrastructure to boost their campaign funds and their private wealth. A rotational system will drastically reduce the need to accumulate large sums of money to run political campaigns.
Fourth, the current system encourages a winner-takes-all kind of politics that runs counter to the communalistic African system. As a result, politicians engage in a do or die behavior by recruiting thugs to threaten, beat, and even kill political opponents. Some politicians recruit the services of native doctors to concoct magical potions to protect themselves and harm their opponents. This contributes greatly to the ritualistic killing of people as body parts are sought for preparing some deadly and devilish concoctions. The do or die politics makes election day to be violent in Nigeria. This accounts for why security forces are always heavily deployed during elections to prevent or minimize violence. A rotational system will greatly minimize the do or die kind of politics since the leadership will be rotated among the different political zones.
Fifth, the current system is discriminatory because it gives too much political power to some zones while marginalizing other zones. The political marginalization breeds a feeling of frustration and anger that lead to the polarization of national, state, and local politics along ethnic, sub-ethnic, regional, zonal, and religious lines. Nigeria in 2022 is much more polarized politically than in 1970 or 1990. Hence, separatist groups are demanding a referendum to determine the fate of Nigeria. Rotation will contribute mightily to eradicate the feeling that only certain zones are able to lead the nation while other zones are prevented from doing so.
Sixth, a rotational system of leadership will equalize and democratize the leadership selection process. A multiethnic and a multi-religious state requires a political system that opens the door for every section of the country to be able to produce a political leader.
Seventh, rotation will contribute greatly in reducing the number of professional politicians who have for decades dominated the political scene in Nigeria without contributing anything tangible to the development of the country. It is time for some of them to leave the political stage and allow new blood to flow in so that new ideas can be generated to develop and modernize the nation. Nigerians are tired of seeing the same political faces in every presidential election. Rotation will push them aside and provide opportunity for the younger generation to play crucial roles in moving Nigeria forward.
Eighth, it is obvious that the current political party system is not compatible with the communalistic African social system since parties tend to divide rather unite people. Indeed, political parties in Nigeria play politics of divide and conquer, thereby, forcing people to become partisan. The partisanship polarizes the country. A country made up of 300 or more nationalities cannot afford the luxury of promoting partisanship in the body politics of the society. The political parties encourage impunity, corruption, and a general disregard for the rule of law. They perpetuate corruption and lying by protecting and defending their corrupt members. Rotation will reduce the power of the political parties and increase national unity.
Ninth, rotation will contribute to clipping the wings of professional politicians who have colonized governance in the country. Today, the same local government chairs want to become representatives, the same representatives want to become governors, the same governors want to become senators and the same senators want to become president. The same individuals have circulated themselves throughout the nerve centers of Nigerian politics for decades. This perpetuates cultism, massive corruption, stagnation, and retrogression in social values. The country is falling apart instead of progressing to the next level. Rotation will allow new blood to flow into the system and generate new ideas.
Tenth, rotation will force many wealthy Nigerians to invest their time and money in generating businesses that can lead to the industrialization of Nigeria’s economy rather than perambulate the public space to run for elective office. Perhaps, wealthy Nigerians do not realize that in the industrialized countries, it is individuals who invest in businesses that grow to become multinational corporations, not governments. Indeed, it is private sector investors that create massive employment in the US, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and so on and so forth. Even communist China has private investors who create giant companies that help to hire millions of Chinese people. It should be noted that most of the railways in the United States of America were built by business tycoons in the nineteenth century when the US was a developing country. For instance, Henry Flagler, a former Standard Oil executive built most, if not all the Florida East Coast Railway stretching for 500 miles to Key West, which is closer to Cuba than mainland USA in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He helped immeasurably in developing the tourist business in Florida.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, it seems that politics is the biggest industry, hence, anyone who is in possession of some wealth want to become a governor or a senator or the president, instead of using the wealth to build and expand economic ventures with the aim of turning them into large corporations that can hire hundreds of thousands of citizens. Perhaps, many people are rushing into politics because in Nigeria, the public sector is the primary means of accumulating private wealth. No wonder, some of the richest Nigerians are former and current public officials. They accumulate their wealth while in public service. So far, only Mr. Aliko Dangote and a few others are investing their wealth to build private industrial companies.
It is sad that as 2023 presidential election time draws near, several individuals who should be busy building and modernizing their businesses to create employment for the teeming Nigerian population are wasting time preparing to run for the presidency. On the other hand, private citizens like Elon Musk who owns Tesla auto company and Jeffrey Preston Bezos of Amazon in the United States of America are investing massively to build spacecrafts to send people into space while in Nigeria not much thought is devoted to building industries capable of ushering industrialization by the so-called rich who prefer to exploit the state like leeches.
If the process of selecting political candidates is rotated, many would-be-politicians would be forced to devote their time and energy in other critical fields of human endeavor instead of scheming to get elected by lying profusely and promising things they cannot deliver.
Implementing the Rotational System
Having pointed out some of the benefits of instituting a rotational system of leadership, it is necessary to spell out the way in which the system can be implemented.
First, fortunately, Nigeria is already segmented into six political zones, including North-Central, North-East, North-West, South-East, South-South, and South-West. Nationally, these zones should serve as the presidential selection regions.
Second, by critically examining these zones, it is obvious that the only zone that has not produced a Nigerian leader for any length of time is the South-East zone. Therefore, it is necessary to start presidential rotation in the South-East zone come 2023. In this regard, If Nigerians are serious about indigenizing, democratizing, and stabilizing the system, they should support a rotational system come 2023.
Third, to effectuate rotation, in 2023, all would-be-presidential-candidates from other zones should cease their effort and work to institutionalize a rotational system that allows the South-East to produce the next president of Nigeria. Therefore, only presidential candidates from the zone should announce their candidacy and campaign in preparation for the primary and general presidential elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be responsible for organizing primary elections in the South-East zone for the selection of would-be-presidential candidates. Basically, the political parties and interest groups in the zone should mobilize and campaign for their various candidates in the zone. At the conclusion of the primary election in the zone, three candidates with the largest number of votes would become the major presidential candidates to contest for the general election involving all eligible voters in Nigeria. In other words, starting from 2023, whenever presidential election time comes, the zone that is entitled to produce the next president should be where the primary presidential election is held. Only would-be-presidential candidates from the zone should be allowed to contest in the primary. Similarly, only voters from the eligible zone should be allowed to vote in the primary election. Three candidates with the largest number of votes in the primary election will be subjected to a national presidential election. The winner of the general election in which all eligible Nigerian voters participate will become the president of Nigeria.
Apparently, the rotational system calls for a two-step process in selecting political candidates for the presidential position. Firstly, a primary election is held in the political zone that is entitled to produce the next president. Secondly, a general election involving all eligible Nigerian voters is conducted by INEC. The winner of the national election automatically becomes the president of Nigeria.
Fourth, to ensure a functional rotational system, the six political zones will take turns to produce the president of Nigeria. Therefore, after the president from the South-East completes his or her term of office, the presidency will rotate to the North-East zone. The North-East will be followed by the South-West zone. From that zone, the presidency moves to the North-Central (Middle Belt) zone. The presidency will be shifted to the South-South zone from the North-Central zone. At the completion of the term of office of the president from the South-South zone, the presidency is rotated to the North-West zone. Thus, the presidency will automatically be rotated to a designated zone when the term of office for one zone expires.
Fifth, vice presidential candidates will be chosen by presidential candidates prior to the presidential primary election. Vice presidential candidates must come from the zone which is expected to produce the next president in subsequent presidential term. For instance, using the zoning format above, if the South-East produces the president in 2023, the vice president must originate from the North-East zone in the same year. The reason being that the presidency will be rotated to the North-East from the South-East zone.
Sixth, to enable the rotational system runs smoothly, the term of office for the president should be six years, instead of four. A one-time six-year term is sufficient for any serious-minded president to accomplish several goals before the expiration of his or her term of office.
Seventh, to prevent individuals from a particular state or ethnic group from dominating the political zone, rotation should be done in such a manner that no two individuals from the same ethnic group or sub-ethnic group or region or sub-region or political affiliation should serve consecutively. For instance, when the rotation gets to the North-West zone, a non-Fulani should be elected to represent the zone since President Muhammadu Buhari is a Fulani. Similarly, when the system rotates to the South-South, a non-Ijaw should be the president because Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had served as a president. When the rotation gets back to the South-West zone, an individual who is not from Ogun state should serve as the president. The reason being that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is from Ogun State and that state should not produce a president consecutively when there are other states in the South-West zone. The same process or procedure should be the standard consideration in selecting candidates for office in the South-East, North-Central and North-East.
Eighth, just as the presidency is rotated so should the senatorial, representative, gubernatorial, and local chair positions. It is very important to rotate political leadership at the state and local government levels because in many states in Nigeria today, governorship and local government chair positions are dominated by individuals from certain ethnic groups, sub-groups, regions, sub-regions, and religions. This creates disaffection, leading to political tension as those who are marginalized feel discriminated. In other words, the senators, representatives, state governors and local government chairs should be rotated according to the senatorial districts, gubernatorial zones, and local governments in each state. Consequently, under no circumstances should individuals from the same ethnic group or sub-group and local government be allowed to dominate elected positions at the state and local government levels
Ninth, the primary elections for senatorial, representative, gubernatorial, and local government chair positions will follow the format suggested for the presidential position. This means that primary elections for these positions should be limited to the zones or sub-zones that are entitled to produce the next senator, representative, governor, and local government chair. After the primary elections, three candidates in each of the positions with the largest number of votes will be subjected to general elections where all eligible voters in the state or senatorial or representative districts and local government sub-areas participate in determining which of the three candidates become a senator or a representative or a governor or a local government chair.
For instance, since rotation has been tactically implemented in Bayelsa State at the gubernatorial level, when the time comes to elect a new governor since the current one is from the Kolokuma-Opukuma Local Government Area, the primary election to choose the governor should be limited to the local government zones that have not produced a governor. Preferably, the next primary election to elect a governor in the state should be limited to Yenagoa Local Government Area (YLGA). After the primary, three candidates with most votes from the YLGA should be subjected to a general gubernatorial election in which all eligible voters in Bayelsa State participate to elect a new governor. When the governor from the YLGA completes his or her term of office, the governorship should be rotated to Nembe Local Government Area (NLGA). From the NLGA, the governorship will rotate to Ekeremor Local Government Area (ELGA), and so and so forth.
In states where there are many local governments, electoral zones comprising of three or more local governments should be created to facilitate the process.
Tenth, by limiting the primary elections to senatorial, representative, gubernatorial, and local government chair positions to zones that have not produced elected officials, the do or die form of politics will be drastically reduced at the state and local government levels since only a few numbers of candidates will seek to run for an elective office at any given.
The candidates for deputy governor position must come from zones that are scheduled to produce the next governor.
Eleventh, Nigeria, like other African countries, is endowed with traditional African religions. Despite this fact, Ancestralists (worshipers and exponents of traditional religions) are discriminated by the Christians and Muslims. In other words, Nigeria is totally dominated by those who subscribe to foreign religions that came through military conquest and colonialization while Nigerians who subscribe to indigenous religions are treated as if they have no constitutional rights. Currently, there is no public holiday for the worshippers of indigenous religions while there are several holidays for Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, as in most African countries. It is puzzling that Nigerians claimed to be independent when they have no appreciation for their own religious heritage. Indeed, a truly sovereign state will not allow foreign religions to dominate its existence. Here again, Nigeria, like other black African countries, behaves like a semiautonomous nation. It is not proud of its indigenous cultures, and neither is it proud of its indigenous religions. Thus, Black Africa is the only part of the world which does not actively promote its cultural heritage.
Therefore, rotation must be reflective of the fact that there are three major religions in Nigeria and not just two. In other words, Nigeria cannot be ruled by only Christians and Muslims, if it is indeed a sovereign African country. The Europeans are reviving their pre-Christian indigenous religions, the Indians proudly worship their indigenous religion (Hinduism and related Buddhism), the Japanese are not shy about their traditional religion (Shintoism), and the Chinese do not have to run away from their indigenous religion (Taoism or Daoism) but Black Africans are always running away from their own traditional religions. This means that they are still suffering from cultural and religious colonialism. They have colonized educational systems that do not teach anything of substance about their histories, cultures and religions while focusing excessively on Arabic/Islamic and European/Judeo-Christian cultures, politics, law, and religions.
Eleventh, to limit the rich from overly dominating politics in Nigeria, registration fees for applying to run for political office must be drastically reduced. The current registration system is undemocratic because only those who have money to play around or have sponsors can run for elective office. Nigerians should not decry corruption while allowing corruption to thrive by allowing political parties to charge huge fees for candidates to register to run for political offices.
Critics of the rotational system argue that in a democracy, all eligible candidates should be allowed to contest for political offices and whoever wins most of the votes in a presidential election should become the president. They maintain that it is undemocratic to impose a leader on Nigeria through rotation. While it is agreed that all potential candidates should be free to run for the presidential position, nonetheless, national interest dictates that Nigerians develop a unique political system that is suitable for Nigeria. It is necessary to develop a system that will ensure the stabilization rather than the polarization of the country. It is absurd to play party politics based on divide and conquer and expect unity and stability to take place.
Conditions for Participating in the Rotational System
As part of the process to produce a uniquely Nigerian political system for selecting political leaders, those seeking presidential, senatorial, representative, gubernatorial, and local government chair positions must meet certain conditions.
First, all political candidates must show through verifiable documentation that they are qualified educationally to run for the positions they apply for.
Second, all political candidates must declare their assets publicly as soon as they apply to run for their chosen positions. Public declaration means that the public will be able to access the documents pertaining to their assets. The current system of asset declaration is defective and deceitful because the public cannot access the records of the declared assets.
Third, any would-be-candidate that has a case to answer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) would be disqualified from running for any public office, except the case has been resolved legally or amicably. Similarly, any Nigerian who is alleged to have embezzled public funds must first clear the matter before being allowed to run for any elective office. This is intended to reduce the massive corruption that is devouring the country. It is necessary to eradicate the view that public office is the surest path to accumulate private wealth. Nigeria is bleeding profusely as some public officials suck the financial lifeblood of the country to enrich themselves.
Fourth, political candidates must declare their health status by providing documentation to that effect while registering to run for public office.
Fifth, while registering to run for elective offices, all candidates must indicate what they intend to accomplish if elected by attaching copies of their manifestoes, visions, agenda, goals, and objectives to the registration form. This is intended to hold elected officials accountable for the campaign promises they made while running for office.
Sixth, no Nigerian who has a dual citizenship should be allowed to run for public office in Nigeria. Why? If they get elected and misbehave, they are most likely to flee to the countries of their second citizenship and Nigeria will not be able to prosecute them. This requirement will only change after the institutions of government have been effectively reinforced to the extent that they are not easily abused or violated. Currently, government institutions in Nigeria are too weak, hence, tend to serve the person in office rather than the state. Government institutions should serve the state and not the person holding office. For instance, the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has been politicized to the extent that it increasingly serves the president and the politicians rather than the Nigerian state.
Seventh, any Nigerian who has secret foreign bank accounts should not be allowed to run for public office in Nigeria. Currently, Nigeria is paying dearly because huge sums of money that would have been used to invest in industrial development are ferreted out and deposited in foreign bank accounts. The foreign countries use the Nigerian wealth to boost their economies while Nigerians suffer for lack of jobs. Evidently, anyone who is involved in the scandals dealing with the Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, Pandora Papers, and other related money laundering schemes should be barred from running for any public office. Currently, Nigeria is a compromised country because many of its ruling and political elites have money hidden in foreign banks. Such individuals cannot speak forcefully to defend the national interest because they are compromised by their secret money deals in foreign countries.
Eighth, when elected to any public office, the individual must sign a document indicating that public funds will not be used for private medical trips overseas. Any public official who wants to rule Nigeria must be willing to live and die in Nigeria. It is ridiculous to see Nigerian rulers and high government officials, like those of other African countries, traveling overseas regularly for medical services instead of building modern medical facilities at home. A leader of a truly independent state will not go overseas for medical treatment, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, Nigeria is a semiautonomous entity, hence, its rulers and the political elite patronize foreign medical services without thinking about the national security implications of exposing themselves to foreign intelligence services.
It is necessary to reform the political system and make it amenable to the African cultural environment. It is believed that the rotation of leadership among the political zones of the country will enhance the democratic system by preventing a few individuals from dominating the system to the exclusion of other Nigerians. Rotation will increase citizens participation and allow more Nigerians to run for offices without having to accumulate large sums of money to do so.
Already, as the 2023 approaches, the same individuals that have dominated the political system for decades are coming out again to run for the presidency when they should be working very hard to create businesses that employ thousands of Nigerians. Rotation will reduce “do or die politics” and allow every political zone to produce a president. Similarly, rotation will open doors to politically marginalized ethnic groups, sub-groups, regions, and sub-regions and enable them to produce political leaders at the national, state, and local government levels.
It is necessary to amend the Constitution to enable the rotational system take effect legally. It is the right step to take in restructuring and turning Nigeria into a sovereign state. Indeed, it is time to start indigenizing Nigeria to reflect its African cultural background.