The iconic expression ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ occupies a pride of place in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. The recurring consistency of the expression throughout the play attests to its significance which is why many critics have interpreted it from diverse perspectives.
Yet its paradoxical alignment is not lost on the discerning mind. Uttered by the three witches at the beginning of the play, the expression has since become a prognosis that explains the fairness or otherwise of the actions of men.
Indeed, ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ can easily be adapted to challenge or question the defining moments in Nigeria’s sociopolitical and economic reality. Its suitability to interrogate the recent political position of the governor of Kaduna State Mallam Nasir El Rufai is apt.
The governor, in a moment of epiphany, while speaking to BBC Hausa service, avowed that the Southern part of the country should produce Nigeria’s next president. El Rufai’s position is a direct rebuttal of a contrary position by President Buhari’s nephew Mamman Daura that he is against the zoning of the presidency.
The determination of El Rufai’s position as fair or foul will depend on the objective analysis of Nigeria’s political history. By every stretch of the imagination, by all the strands of divine judgement, and by all the standards of equitable cognition, El Rufai’s position is not only fair but also legitimate. Of course, we are aware that there are six geo-political zones in Nigeria but the electorate subscribe to a North-South partition so that it is either the president of the country is a Northerner or a Southerner.
Although this arrangement to either produce a Northern or Southern president is unwritten and unconstitutional, there is a bidding understanding among the political parties that the presidency should be rotated between these two geographical zones. Even if this unwritten understanding of rotation is equitable, the South has always viewed the North as wielding the coercive apparatus of absolutism with habits not far from domination, subjectivism, and entitlement.
For the South, power in Nigeria, whether under the military or civilian dispensation, has always been inscribed in the minutiae of experience which has left a permanent scar on the country’s political heart begging for healing. Following Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the country has enjoyed self-governance for sixty years with a combination of military rule and civilian administration.
Out of the sixty years of Nigeria’s self-governance, the South has been at the helm of affairs for fifteen years and nine months. The North has been in charge for forty-five years and three months. Certainly, many people will argue that the days of the military rule should be discountenanced because they were days of a forced rule which did not represent the wishes of the people.
All the same, the point must be made that the North has decided the fate of this country for forty-five years. If we want to strictly achieve political equilibrium, the presidency of this country should ordinarily go to the South for at least ten years before it will return to the North. But this position seems extreme and will not suffice.
If we choose to situate the ‘fair or foul’ argument within the years that Nigeria has been in democracy, it will reveal that the North has occupied the presidency for eighteen years which will become twenty-one years when the Buhari administration is hopefully over in 2023. Meanwhile, the South has occupied the presidency in a democratic atmosphere for thirteen years.
When Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999 from the degenerate era of military rule, a Southerner, Olusegun Obasanjo, became the president of Nigeria. It was a development thought to be a compensation for the Southerners, especially the South-West for the injustice meted out to MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential elections.
Obasanjo occupied the position for eight years and a Northerner Umaru Musa Yar’Adua took over serving for three years before the inevitable visitor snatched him away. When Obasanjo completed his tenure, there was no debate as to where the next president will come from, it was the turn of the North. When Yar’ Adua passed on, it was inevitable for the next in command, the Vice- President Goodluck Jonathan to be sworn in to complete the term.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) presented Jonathan again in the 2011 elections which he worn. In 2015, Buhari, a Northerner won the election and has since been re-elected and will hopefully occupy the position till 2023. Following these developments, the big question is – should the presidency remain in the North or return to the South?
El Rufai, a Northerner, has convincingly served a salvo of fairness and equity by insisting that the presidency should return to the South and many people completely agree with him. The Kaduna governor made it clear that he will not support a Northern candidate for the presidency in 2023. Perhaps, El Rufai’s convictions that a Southerner should become the next president of Nigeria inhere from his painstaking study and interpretation of Nigeria’s political situation.
By such fair declaration, the governor has finally brought to an end his rumoured ambition to vie for the presidency in 2023. If Nigeria is a country where fairness and equity are virtues, there should be no debate as to where the next president of this country should come from.
Although it is unconstitutional, the understanding must be respected and no Northerner should present himself for the position of the president. Or should there be a constitutional amendment to officially rotate the presidency among the six geo-political zones in Nigeria? A bigger question also confronts the Southerners.
If the South is to produce the next president of Nigeria, what region should the president come from? Of all the regions in the South, the South-West, the South-East and the South-South, it is only the South-East that has not produced an elected president in Nigeria.
If we advance the ‘fair or foul’ narrative, it is only fair that the South-East should produce the next president of Nigeria. The two leading political parties in Nigeria should use the opportunity of the 2023 presidential elections to retool their equitable machinery by zoning their presidential slot to the South-East.
El Rufai’s fair submission should embolden the political parties to do the needful and be seen as promoting the structures of justice and fairness. A South-East president is long overdue in Nigeria given that the people of that region constitute a major force in the country’s economic, political, and social hierarchy. An Igbo president will also assuage the bruised emotions of the people who feel alienated and marginalized since the end of the civil war which claimed over three million lives.
The presidency in 2023 is a huge opportunity to permanently integrate the South-Easterners into the Nigerian project and bury the divisive but realistic mantra of marginalization. It is only fair that the South should produce the next president of Nigeria. On that score, El Rufai’s position is fair.
Dr Adiele teaches in the Department of English,
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