Some Nigerians must have heard of the term ''gentlemen agreement'' without actually knowing its true meaning.
The term is mostly applied in politics. This is because politicians use it in brokering deals among themselves. What then is ''gentlemen agreement?
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Gentlemen agreement is an arrangement or understanding based on trust between the two parties involved rather than being legally binding. The major elements here are: it is based on trust, the two parties agreed and it is not legally binding. So, the major driving force in entering the gentlemen agreement is trust.
Let us now delve into how this applies to the 2023 politics. This is because key politicians from the South especially the Southern Governors are now waking up to the realities of the gentlemen agreement with their Northern counterpart. It is true that Nigerian constitution does not recognize zoning. However, leaders from the North and South have maintained a gentlemen agreement to practice rotational Presidency. In this regard, the South will rule for eighth years and return power to the North. Similarly, North will rule for eighth years and allow power to go back to the South. This has been done over the years since the reign of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
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During its 16 years in power, PDP maintained this agreement. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from the South ruled for eighth years between 1999 and 2007. Then, he handed power to Umaru Musa Yar'Adua from the North who ruled a few years before he died. That was why his Deputy, Goodluck Jonathan continued after the doctrine of necessity was activated. Well, in 2015, the lapse was corrected as power was returned to the North leading to the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President under the All Progressives Congress, APC. Even if Buhari did not win, former vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP from the North would still have won. So, it was intentional to return power to the North.
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Curiously, Northern Governors Forum rejected the demand by their Southern Governors Forum counterpart that power should return to the South in 2023. When the Southern Governors made that demand, they had it in mind that Buhari would complete his second term in 2023. By then, power should return to the South as expected. But, Northern Governors and other key leaders rejected that move and argued that zoning or rotational Presidency is unconstitutional. By doing that, it means that they have refused to honour the gentlemen agreement that has being obeyed in Nigeria over the years.
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Bitter lessons southern Governors and others learnt
One of the bitter lessons they would have learnt is that gentlemen agreement can be broken or rejected by any party at any time. This may be the case when it does not favour one party in the deal. So, keeping to the terms of the agreement is at the free will of both parties involved.
Again, gentlemen agreement is not enforceable at law. This is about the biggest weakness of this practice. How can you depend on a deal that has no legal basis or backing? It cannot be enforced in court and there are no concrete evidence to back the claim that one party has been wronged or cheated by the other party. At law, mere words do not win cases but proofs/fact do that.
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Moreover, politicians cannot be trusted blindly when one plays into their hands. Southern leaders and Southern Governors should have known better. After all, they all are politicians. Pity, emotions and other consideration take the back seat in the list of priority of politicians. What tops their priority list is their interest. This is playing out. Some individuals such as Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Babagana Zulum of Borno State and many others had initially backed power shift to the South in 2023.
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But, the Northern Governors Forum and other Northern leaders collectively decided otherwise so as to protect their interest. Interest comes first before any other consideration. In all, before entering into a vital deal such as which zone produces the President of Nigeria, it should be a concrete deal with legal backing and not just gentlemen agreement. Truly, mistakes were made but lessons have also been learnt based on this reality.
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