NEWS ANALYSIS: Arewa House parley: Any 2023 connection?

November 2, 2020
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THE crème de la crème converged on Kaduna on Saturday for an epochal 50th anniversary of Arewa House, otherwise referred to as the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research. Apart from the stimulating lecture delivered by the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the occasion brought together a galaxy of politicians of different affiliations, academics, former top military brass and foremost traditional rulers from the entire 19 states making up the northern axis of the country.

The gathering was instructive in many respects, as it provoked an amalgam of permutations and thoughts on the real and imaginary in the political calculus of the country. One, it came at a time the country was tense due to challenges bordering on governance. It is equally significant in the light of the need to calm frayed nerves arising from the wave of insecurity and violence that trailed the protests by the youth, in a demand for a paradigm shift in governance and end to police brutality.

The gathering was instructive in many respects, as it provoked an amalgam of permutations and thoughts on the real and imaginary in the political calculus of the country. One, it came at a time the country was tense due to challenges bordering on governance. It is equally significant in the light of the need to calm frayed nerves arising from the wave of insecurity and violence that trailed the protests by the youth, in a demand for a paradigm shift in governance and end to police brutality.

The gathering also underscored the preponderance of opinions across the board on the imperative of a restructured  Nigeria, with powers devolved, such that the country can return to a federal arrangement as against the current convoluted, defective and objectionable structure that remains the real source of seamless instability and endemic crises.

The threat posed by the existing structure to the attainment of nationhood has sustained the campaign for a quick,  honest and profound rejig and had widened the ranks of the advocates of restructuring. Perhaps quite remarkable about the Kaduna convergence of the powerbrokers and other influencers in the political circle in the country is what some analysts consider as the major inherent political undercurrent.

Beyond the calibre and pedigree of the dignitaries were the views canvassed by a couple of influential individuals.  Those views have become a subject of serious interpretations, controversies, debates and conjectures among major stakeholders in the Nigerian project.

One school of thought believes that the session and issues it threw up appear to have signalled the political alliance over the 2023 presidency, amid the raging debate on which of the three geopolitical zones in the southern part of the country should get the slot.

In the last few months and notwithstanding the worrisome state of the nation, the cry over power shift had remained pronounced between the North and the South. While some members of the northern establishment have led the advocacy of the South- West producing the next president, others favour the South-East, which has never filled the slot in the last 21 years of civil rule in the country.

Nonetheless, there are others from the North who believe that the divide should still produce the next president, in spite of the incumbent coming from the area. According to some pundits, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the  Arewa House, Kaduna, turned out be one of the opportunities for influential forces in the North to firm up their  strategies and permutations on the politics of the 2023 presidency.

Though the organisers said the objective of the event was to showcase the achievement of the Arewa House in the last  50 years, the political undercurrent was apparent as the speakers underscored the systematic build-up to the next general election.

The event, which was held in the widely-recognised capital of the North, has spurred a chasm of political manoeuvrings,  meetings and consultations across the board, with observers, including some key personalities with different political persuasions and zones underlining the frenzy that characterised the epochal moment and the views expressed by the eminent persons on Governor Fayemi, who is the guest lecturer.

This is coming against the backdrop of speculations that Fayemi might run for the presidency in 2023 when President  Muhammadu Buhari would be completing his maximum tenure of two terms of four years each. Similarly, certain individuals and groups, including a few leading members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), are involved in intense mobilisation for the national leader of the party and former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, to emerge as party’s candidate for the presidency in 2023.

Predecessors of Buhari since Nigeria restored civil rule on May 29, 1999 include Olusegun Obasanjo, who hails from the South-West; the late Umaru Yar’Adua from the North-East and Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South. Comments of some speakers were interpreted to mean the disposition of a powerful caucus in the North on the battle for the 2023 presidency and tacit approval of the NGF chairman.

Such observers cited the comments of the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar and the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai,  on Fayemi, who was even described as the adopted son of the late Premier of the defunct Northern  Region.

In his opening remark at the event that brought together other foremost traditional rulers and members of the political class in the entire North, the Sultan described Fayemi as an adopted son of Sir Ahmadu Bello. “He’s a son we are proud of in the North.

He’s, of course, the adopted son of our leader and father, Sir Ahmadu Bello. He is going to be given all due love of a son  of the soil because he is the adopted son of our father,” the Sultan said. The host governor, el-Rufai, corroborated the statement of the monarch when he mounted the rostrum to deliver his address, stressing that the North does not do  nything without reason.

“The choice of the guest speaker of today, my brother, the governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, is not by accident.  We don’t do anything by accident in Arewa (North). And I am sure you will soon know his choice is not by accident.  There is a reason and I am sure that reason will get clearer as time goes on,” the governor said.

These statements have triggered widespread debate and curiosity in the political circle. Are those statements related to 2023? Are those statements mere testing of waters? Or are they just related to some other things?

For one, the  Sultan is very well respected and is not known to dabble into matters political. So what does his statement really mean? Another school of thought believe that the northern oligarchy could be feeling the pulse of some sections of the country as a deliberate move to determine the shape and form of a structured agenda.

But time, as usual, will tell the actual motive of the emerging chess game in the political arena ahead of the 2023  presidency.

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