Makurdi — Professor Jerry Agada is a former minister of state for Education and ex-president of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). He is currently the Chairman of Benue State Civil Service Commission. In this interview in Makurdi, Agada explains why the South East geopolitical zone should produce the country's president in 2023 as well as power shift to the Idoma people of Benue State.
In certain quarters Nigeria is said to be more divided than it ever used to be. What would you suggest as the way out to address the disunity in the country?
The way to bring about unity is to work with our minds to make sure that unity prevails. When people are complaining that certain sections are marginalised for instance, and you know that they are marginalised and you are not making efforts to eradicate that form of marginalisation, it means you're not helping matters. But if you know that there is such a problem and you work towards solving that problem, then we can say that a time will come when perfect unity will come to stay. Take for instance, what stops a section of the country from producing the president? To me, any side, whether south west, south east, south south, northeast, northwest, north central, if this thing can go by way of rotation so that it can get to everybody, that is a way of bringing the type of unity I'm talking about.
But where somebody will get up and says people from south east should forget about presidency, then, what are you saying? It means that they are not talking about unity.
Are you also agitating that the 2023 presidency should now be the turn of the north central?
The point is that the issue of presidency has been broadly divided into north and south. So, when you're talking of north, that is when you will be talking of north central, north east and north west. When you're talking of south, then all these, south east, south west and the south south come to mind. So, if you put it broadly, the president had been coming from the broad north. So, to me, if that is the case, let it go to the south this time around. And when it goes to the south, zones that have had the opportunity to serve in the presidency there; south west and south south, (they know themselves) should now allow it to move to the other side of the south that hasn't had it so that it will also go to them. That way, it means you're reckoning with everybody.
Coming to the north too, when next it comes to the north, that time, I can say well, this part and that of the north have been having it, so, it is now the turn of the north central which had not had it before to have it. But the way I'm looking at it, having remained in this broad spectrum of north and south, I think it should go to the south for now even though I'm from the north central.
Are you implying that people like Tinubu and Bode George who are agitating from the south west should allow it to go to the south east for now?
That is exactly what I'm saying. In fact, people from the south west have no reason to contest for the presidency in 2023. Is it not that side that Obasanjo came from? So, why should they come? They want to capitalise on opportunity. As far as I'm concerned, people from the south west and south south should relax and let it go to the south east this time around. That is my thinking.
But it does also appear that the core north is still very interested in that position. We see people like El-Rufai already perfecting strategies for the 2023 presidency. How do you react to such move?
To them and to anybody agitating to be president from the northern divide from that section, I think the person is not being fair to the Nigerian situation. The person is being opportunistic, the person is being greedy. Nobody within the geopolitical zone in the north is qualified. Anybody who is trying to be president from there is trying to take undue advantage of the situation which they seek our support. Take, for instance, I read from somewhere the other day when somebody said, once you put anybody from the north, the person will win because of population. I'm sorry. To me, anybody from the northern divide talking about this presidency is not being fair. It is such people that are looking for problems in Nigeria because they don't want unity.
Still on 2023 as it concerns Benue. Don't you think it is time for power to shift to Benue South dominated by the Idoma people?
It is time. Some of us contested in the governorship of the state years ago because we felt it should go to that zone. Since the creation of Benue State, the governorship has been put to one side and not going to the other. What is the situation of things in the country now? Are things better for us? If things are not moving for the better, why don't you try the other side too to see what they can do? When comparisons are made and it becomes a competition, people will struggle to see that they do well.