By Abdullahi Bayero
On 25th February 2023, Nigerians will vote in a brand new president in one of the most politically charged scenarios since the return of democracy in 1999.
On the surface, it seems like a simple four-horse race being run by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (APC), Atiku Abubakar (PDP), Peter Obi (LP) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (NNPP).
In reality, it is an election that could either substantially stabilize the federation or create more cracks in its unity.
The choice of candidates in the coming presidential polls is the widest with 18 parties fielding formidable personalities for the top post.
Apart from the aforementioned, contenders include Hamza Al-Mustapha (Action Alliance), Sowore Omoyele (African Action Congress), Umeadi Nnanna (All Progressives Grand Alliance) and Kola M.K.O. Abiola (People’s Redemption Party).
However, the real race remains between APC’s Tinubu and the PDP’s Atiku.With 54 per cent of the 94 million registered voters in Nigeria, the North remains the key determinant of the winner of the ballot.
Whichever way Northern votes swing, a President is always made but the constitution and even the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria requires alliance with at least one of the Southern regions for a clear victory at the presidential polls.
This was clearly demonstrated in the First Republic when the Northern People’s Congress formed government in alliance with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons and in the Second Republic the National Party of Nigeria aligned with the Southeast and South-south.
Now Nigeria is possibly more polarized than at any time in the course of its history even during the civil war.
The North-South dichotomy which derived from the 1914 amalgamation remains the fundamental fault-line.
Separatists such as the outlawed IPOB and Oduduwa Nation have merely raised the stakes by deploying violence.
As in the aftermath of the June 12 1993 electoral crisis, boosting the bridge of unity and cooperation across the River Niger is now a necessity and not an option.
In the next fortnight, the North will choose between leveraging its votes to bring a desperate northerner to power or pitching its tents with some southerner who helped to return it to the presidency for the last two consecutive terms.
In another dimension, northern voters will decide whether a party that played on the sensibilities of the region by jettisoning power rotation deserves to return to power so soon after a disastrous 16-year reign.
In other words, voters in the North will be picking between mine-good-or-bad or the right and moral thing to do.
Just as enterprising and industrious categorizes Southerners, intellectual and emotional intelligence classifies Northerners whether Christian, Muslim or even animists.
It is not in the Northerner’s character to be selfish and self-serving and it is this sense of justice that has sustained the stability of the Nigerian state since its creation.
At independence, the North formed the Federal Government not just by numerical strength but the trust and confidence it enjoyed across other regions.
History has once more placed us in a perfect position to test our sense of accommodation and our commitment to truth, justice, equity and fairness.
By voting for Tinubu and the APC, the North will be true to its grateful character. It would regain its full respect as a champion of national unity and be in a prime position to negotiate for power in the coming circles.
With a win, the nation would also be finally rid of the obnoxious perception peddled by religious bigots that a same-faith ticket cannot work no matter the caliber of the candidates.
We must not succumb to the temptation of eating our tomorrow today by denying the South presidency and frittering the solidifying political relations between the North and the Southwest.
It is time to prove that we are neither hypocrites nor unjust.
Nay sayers do not value trustworthiness, have no hope in the future and aim to obtain instant gratification at cost to citizens and country.
We must also dismiss those demonizing the Asiwaju as a certificate forger, serial embezzler and an ethnic chauvinist. Some of these same strident missiles were hurled unsuccessfully against President Muhammad Buhari.
Tinubu’s pan-Nigerian passion has been proven throughout his political career. In 1992, he led several aspirants from the Southwest to step down for the late Shehu Musa Yar’adua who won the SDP presidential primaries.
In 2007, he offered the presidential ticket of his party to Atiku Abubakar and did same for Nuhu Ribadu in the 2011 presidential polls. His quest succeeded with support for the election of President Buhari in 2015 and 2019.
The North now has no better strategy than sacrificing its selfish interest to simply retain power in the region. Furthermore, neither the PDP nor Atiku deserve to be rewarded after their inglorious regime destroyed the fabric, institutions and even the few industries in the region.
Voting Atiku also means placing a potential threat to Nigeria’s full integration and progress just a heartbeat away from the Presidency.
The 25th February presidential polls are a date with destiny.
We must unequivocally elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the next President of Nigeria. It is not just the North’s integrity that’s at stake. Our nation’s unity, peace and prosperity may depend on it.
Bayero is a Kaduna-based businessman