There can be no end in the foreseeable future to a do-or-die fight for the presidency of our nation.  The unbridled struggle for the position of top dog has generally been motivated by the attraction of the prospect of almost absolute power over our lives and our nation’s resources, particularly the proceeds from the oil wells of the Niger Delta.  Indeed, if income derived from oil is removed from the federal purse, federal government would have to manage on a consolidated budget that is a fraction of annual current revenue.  The underbelly of the arbitrarily created 36 states and 774 local governments would become exposed, as they would literarily collapse without what some people have described as ‘blood money’ from the Niger Delta.

Our political godfathers in their wisdom have attempted to bring some sanity to the acrimony, insecurity and instability generated by the struggle for the lucrative centre with the concept of rotating the presidency along North and South axis or more loosely, amongst the generally accepted six geopolitical zones.  However, the constitutional provision for a maximum of two to four-year terms could mean that each geopolitical zone would produce a president every 48 years (that is, assuming that each president enjoys control of the treasury for eight years).  This also implies that all other eminently gifted, qualified and socially committed presidential materials from all other zones would be wasted in every 48 years cycle, with little chance that the best available candidate at any point in time, would be the one from the geopolitical region in line for the Presidency!  

In the above political dilemma, particularly where the plunder of resources takes precedence over service and wealth creation, Nigerians become victims of the greed of a parasitic political class – invariably championed by autocratic leadership in the last four decades.  Indeed, the greatest threat to our contrived democracy is dictatorship!  If we want sustainable peace and stability in this country, our constitution should ensure that the best available presidential material from each geopolitical zone at any one time have unfettered access to contest for and become President.  Our constitution should also ensure that no one person controls power long enough to become so formidable as to successfully engineer term elongation and perpetuate dictatorship!

So, how do we tackle these pitfalls in a nation, which is in the grip of irrepressible ethnic/regional aspirations for Nigeria’s ultimate office?  Some eminent Nigerians have rightly argued that the first requirement for a sustainable, stable, just and egalitarian nation should be the adoption of a truly federal constitution, where the centre devolves more of its powers to the states/regions as the engines of growth, so that the states/regions will freely exploit their internal human and material resources, and pay appropriate dues to the central government.  Such a structure would motivate each region to look inwards and develop its own God-given resources to the best of their ability, rather than wait for monthly handouts from Abuja.  All regions would be actively engaged in putting their citizens to work and we will achieve additional wealth creation with attendant improvement in social welfare and security.

In addition, we may also consider the adoption of a six-year collegiate presidency, to douse the tension and attrition created by the usual battles to install a one-man power-centered presidency, and the incessant clamour and grandstanding by each geopolitical group for their turn each time an incumbent’s tenure expires.  Under this arrangement, each political party would field a team comprising six candidates selected from each of the six geopolitical zones for the post of president for a six-year-term in office.  Each member of the victorious party’s collegiate will serve as president for only one year while the other five members of the collegiate would serve as vice presidents with direct oversight responsibilities for a discrete set of ministries and/or parastals.  The five vice presidents would also be rotated annually from one set of ministries to the other, so that in a six-year term, each member of the collegiate would have served for one year in every segment of federal administration with additional one year as president.

Such structure will be more cost-effective, and make it impossible for one person to consolidate hold on the seat of power or remain long enough to eventually constitute a dictatorship!  Furthermore, the abiding intense desire of geopolitical groups to see their own person in the top seat would be realized, as each region would perpetually have a member in the collegiate presidency.  Nigerians would also be able to enjoy the benefit of the contributions of an eminently qualified ‘PAN-Nigeria’ presidential star team, who will  jointly and faithfully pursue their  party’s manifesto in place of the possibility of a manipulative personal agenda.  

On the level of states and local governments, the same collegiate system of administration comprising ethnic nationalities can also be put in place to ensure cohesion, and harmoniously carry along the majority of the communities in each state.  However, very cogent arguments can also be made for the abolition of the enormously wasteful and unviable 36-state-structure, with its huge operational costs, which support minimal contribution to the well-being of citizens, and yet provide ample opportunities for more political adventurers to line their pockets.  Besides, legislators’ emoluments and allowances would be constitutionally pegged at par with a level not higher than that of a permanent secretary in the federal and state/regional government respectively.  The choice is ours to make; do we want to live in apprehension and wallow in inequity, ethnic and political attrition within our body polity or do we truly want to break the chains of our bondage and release our true potential as a great nation?”

The above is an excerpt from an article, which was first published in May 2006.  The object of the piece is to crystallise a sustainable, equitable, inclusive and progressive framework for our various ethnic nationalities/social groupings, to harmoniously live together.  I hope that the ongoing National Conference will benefit from the discussion contained herein.  
There is, however, every reason to believe that the adoption of a truly federal framework in which more powers devolve from the centre to the states will engender increased competition and promote progress within the federating states.  

Furthermore, while population size will remain important for the allocation of resources, state/regional contributions to funding the federal machinery will be commensurate with the population statistics declared by each state/region.  Consequently, it will make no sense for census figures in any state to be deliberately fabricated in order to attract more federal subvention, as is currently alleged.