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Why are ethnicity, zoning dominant issues of 2023 elections? By Fredrick Nwabufo

A plus ca change. Leadership fails, followership fails; society atrophies and nothing changes. Why? We keep reinventing purgatory because we are either too complacent or too self-absorbed to interrogate the real issues of leadership, divorcing provincial proclivities. We want change and good governance but have refused to levitate above the insular mentation that has kept us bound in the abyss of retrogression.

Why are concerns over ethnicity, region and religion the nominators of conversation on the 2023 elections? Why are these societal retardants the leading matters of debate on the elections? In every election cycle, these misnomers have become the fundamental benchmark for selecting leaders by political parties and for electing the same by citizens?

Are we predestined to remain on this primrose path? Is there no hope for a change? Why are conversations not primarily on proven administrative competence, but on which region, ethnic group and religion the next president must come from? Yes, even if consideration should be given for the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the next president, this should only be secondary. The priority should be on who can deliver the goods for all Nigerians? Who are those candidates that can nurse and heal a divided Nigeria back to health? Who are those candidates with more than smattering knowledge of everything – security and economy especially? And these individuals must have proved their worth, capacity, character and competence in previous offices. Antecedents matter.

While we fixate over primordial concerns, we lose sight of the most important matters. We dispense too much energy on trivialities, and leaving little to interrogate those who have come forward to represent us.

Many Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity and religion, belong in the axis of competence. Political parties should zone presidential ticket to this “region”. Character, antecedents, history of demonstrated patriotism and respect for diversity, proven leadership competence should be the leading issues as we head for the 2023 elections.

There is a winning argument for inclusion as regards zoning of political offices, but in our case, it appears zoning is just an end and not a means to better governance.

As I said earlier, even if ethnicity, region and religion are to be criteria for selecting Nigeria’s next president for the sake of ‘’justice, equity and fairness’’ as propounded by those calling for an orbiting in the geography of power, this should not take precedence over the principal issues of leadership.

On Wednesday, I shared my thoughts on variegated issues leading to the 2023 elections on the popular television programme, “Village Square Africa” on News Central TV, hosted by veteran and award-winning broadcast journalist, Sulaiman Aledeh.

I will reproduce a bit of what I said here.

Sulaiman: On the issues guiding the elections, what do you have to say on what is playing out in the country?

Fred: “It is an interesting time; I believe we will have an election in 2023 where an incumbent president will not be running, and it makes it much more interesting because it is an open ticket. Any party or anybody can take it because the power of incumbency is limited in this case. We have clamours for political parties to cede the presidential ticket to the south, and of course, it has been a back and forth. There are arguments for and against that.

“Personally, I believe what we should be talking about now is competence. Political parties should zone their presidential tickets to the geography of competence. If I should rephrase that, political parties should zone their presidential tickets to the axis of competence, capacity and character.

“This is the problem we have had over the years. We emphasise ethnicity and religion. Some of the presidential hopefuls that have shown interest have been toeing this path. We have a problem of putting emphasis on what should be secondary and not on primary matters of competence, character, ability, antecedents and proven track record of leadership — which should ordinarily be the issues that should guide the 2023 elections. But unfortunately, we are seeing religion and ethnicity being the topmost issues in this season. The questions are — what has zoning done for us over the years? How has zoning changed Nigeria?

‘’The problem is when you cede a presidential ticket to a particular zone on the basis of ‘it is our turn’, the person who is coming to contest is coming to represent his region and not Nigerians. We should be talking about a Nigerian president not an Igbo president. That is why I totally repudiate the phrase — Igbo presidency — it is wrong to say Igbo presidency. These are some of the things we need to correct.

“We need a Nigerian president not a president of the south-east, the south-west or the north. A president that will represent all Nigerians; that will be for all Nigerians.

“We have been through this path before. When you start ceding or start amplifying ethnic agenda and issues, the person who emerges will want to favour his own side of the country because he believes that he is at the presidency to represent his region.”

If we want to do better, we must know better. Making the 2023 elections about an ethnic group or region is reinventing a bogey. We should elevate our thinking and conversations beyond the crude and primitive.

By Fredrick Nwabufo; Nwabufo aka Mr OneNigeria is a writer and journalist.

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