2023 and the imperative of zoning

Due largely to self-serving interests, some Nigerian politicians have continued to speak against power rotation arrangement, especially as the 2023 general election approaches. The refrain for most of these politicians is that power is taken, not given. This may be true to some extent. However, given the precarious situation of Nigeria today and our diversity, […] The post 2023 and the imperative of zoning appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

2023 and the imperative of zoning

Due largely to self-serving interests, some Nigerian politicians have continued to speak against power rotation arrangement, especially as the 2023 general election approaches. The refrain for most of these politicians is that power is taken, not given. This may be true to some extent. However, given the precarious situation of Nigeria today and our diversity, it has become imperative that we take a serious look at zoning in the power equation in the country.

Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, is among those who are apparently against zoning. He said recently that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would not zone the 2023 presidency. According to him, “most of our leaders have said, and we have said that at our NEC, and all the possible meetings, that even though we have taken the chairmanship of the party to the North Central, it does not preclude anyone from contesting. What we are looking for is the best candidate that would win the election.”

Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, made a similar suggestion. According to him, competence should be placed above zoning or rotation in the 2023 presidential election.

Even the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) toed a similar path. Recently, NEF Spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the North would continue to lead Nigeria because the region had the majority of votes. He wondered why they needed to accept what he calls a second-class position when they could fight and get a first-class position. The Northern Governors Forum had similarly condemned the call for power shift to the South. According to the Forum, it was against the constitution of Nigeria.

We don’t agree with Saraki and others who have spoken against zoning. The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, said it all when he noted recently that “in Nigerian politics, there is a system of rotation in which everyone agrees that if the North rules for eight years, the South will rule for eight years.” Elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, went further to add that it was the turn of the South East to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023. No doubt, power rotation does not presuppose elevation of mediocrity over merit. Every zone has capable people who can pilot the affairs of the country effectively without compromising merit and competence.

Although zoning is not in Nigerian constitution, it is a recognised and accepted principle in the PDP. The party started in 1999 with power rotation. It recognised the injustice meted out to the presumed winner of the scuttled June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola, and ceded the presidential position to the South West. That was how Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as the president in spite of all odds. After Obasanjo, power shifted to the North with Umaru Musa Yar’Adua emerging as the president. After Yar’Adua, power moved back to the South as Goodluck Jonathan from the South South became president. Jonathan handed over to another northerner in the person of Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent president. In 2023, it is the turn of the South again to produce the president. And when it comes to the South, the South East is the only zone that is yet to occupy the seat of power. Naturally, equity, fairness and natural justice demand that South East should produce the next president of Nigeria.

Right from Nigeria’s independence in 1960 until date, the South East has remained on the periphery of power in Nigeria. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was President in the first republic, was merely a ceremonial president. The real power resided in the then Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, a northerner. The agitation for self-determination by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has its taproot in this kind of unfair treatment. Nigeria is made up of over 250 ethnic groups with diverse interests and cultural differences.  Zoning will give all component parts a sense of belonging and will reduce the demand for self-determination in some parts of the country. It will not only engender unity among our diverse people, but also help to stabilise the polity and make our power transition less rancorous.

We should begin to think of enshrining power rotation principle in our constitution, just as we have the federal character principle in the constitution. That is one major thing a heterogeneous society like Nigeria needs to achieve peace and unity and political inclusion. If we cannot achieve this, then let us restructure so that every region will develop at its own pace. 

It is high time we started thinking about the stability of the country. If power remains in one area, it will make others to believe that they don’t matter. These only help to deepen our fault lines. At all times, our politicians should consider the survival of democracy in Nigeria above any other selfish consideration. Power rotation principle, which started with the PDP, must be respected. If the party throws it away now, it may lead to its demise. Any fair-minded Nigerian should support zoning in all the political parties. 

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