Response to Bolaji Aluko's "Demands for Presidential Power Rotation in Nigeria - and Present Dangers"
Ebere Onwudiwe

Unless I read him wrongly, Bolaji counts Abiola as a one-time ruler of Nigeria. The following is from his list of past heads of government:
Bolaji: " military Babangida (North/NC) from August 27, 1985 to August 27, 1993 (stepped aside); [Civilian Abiola (South/SW) had his June 12 1993 presidential election cancelled by Babangida]; "interim" civilian Sonekan (South/SW) from August 27 - November 17, 1993 (couped); military Abacha (North/NE but culturally NW) from November 17, 1993 to June 8, 1998 (died in power); military Abdusalami Abubakar (North/NC) from June 8, 1998 to May 29, 1999 (handed over); and civilian Obasanjo from May 29, 1999 to date (December 2005, headed for May 29, 2005, God willing."


Abiola was never president of Nigeria. He never held power. He was elected but never served even for a second. Surely, Bolaji knows this. I fail to see the purpose of this inclusion.
Bolaji: "But this SS/SE argument is specious. By adding and subtracting years of military rule (1966-1979; 1983-1999; 29 years) and comparing it and contrasting with civilian rule (1960-1966; 1979-1983; 1999-2005; 16 years) - and saying "Aha - no SS ruler! See - the North has ruled for this long l And the SE has had only token power !" - we would be unfairly equating military rule with stolen constitutional non-mandates with civilian rule mandates."

Bolaji's comment above boggles the mind. The communiqué of the South Forum states as follows:

"That we are baffled by this unbecoming stance and insistence of some political leaders from the Northern States of Nigeria that national political leadership, and indeed power, should be taken back to the North just after a mere eight years of a Southern Nigerian holding the power in over 35 years, an attitude we understand to represent a certain Northern position to keep the Southerners in perpetual political servitude"( emphasis mine.)

Thus, the issue is political leadership and national power as measured by the zonal origins of the heads of government of Nigeria since independence --prime minister, military dictator or American type president. The issue is not regime-type! To obfuscate or complicate this clear statement smells.
Bolaji: "After both Abacha and Abiola died, a recall of that vocal Yoruba opposition led to the concession of the presidency to the Yoruba by the outgoing military regime under one condition: "WE WILL CHOOSE THAT YORUBA PRESIDENT FOR THE YORUBA, and the YORUBA will not be allowed to make the choice, otherwise they may declare an Oduduwa Republic one fine morning !"’ And “Only in 1999 was there a contrivance which ensured that ONLY one political zone - the SW - would emerge in the presence of three major parties (PDP, AD and ANPP) and only two candidates: Obasanjo and Falae."

Bolaji concedes here that Obasanjo was given the presidency because he is Yoruba, not because he was democratically elected by Nigerians. Notwithstanding this (his own) evidence of ethno-regional rotation of power, he goes on to put Obasanjo’s terms (since 1999) in his democracy column after which he reaches the following preliminary but nonsensical summation: "So we are left only with the periods of Shagari (1979-1983); Abiola (June 12, 1993) and Obasanjo (1999 to present) to focus on if we want to deal with democratic ideals under a presidency with a national constitutional mandate. It is to those periods we now turn." This conclusion is illogical because the issue is not with his putative “democratic ideals” under which he counts as a holder of power a man who never held office at all and another who was selected exclusively on account of his ethnic and regional origin.

The rest of Bolaji’s analysis (unlike his previous brilliant contributions) is a waste of time hardly befitting a man of his intelligence, or inclusion in this great forum.
I should stop at this point because Bolaji is my good friend. Like him, I oppose the third term agenda. However, I believe that the emerging solidarity of the south should be encouraged. The admirable cohesion of the north should be emulated and balanced. This I think should be ultimately healthy for Nigeria's nascent democratic experiment. I will prefer a time when such solidarity is truly trans-regional and built on political ideology rather than on ethno-regional identities.