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Nigeria and the politics of Zoning


Sun News Publishing in an Editorial examines the relevance of zoning to Nigeria’s political development

Since the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan, the issue of zoning has assumed a life of its own and dominated public discourse.

The proponents of zoning arrangement are insisting that since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoned the presidential slot to the North under the Yar’Adua dispensation, the North will still produce the next president come 2011 to complete the 8-year tenure, which the South had under former President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999-2007.

Those opposed to it are arguing that zoning, apart from being undemocratic and unconstitutional is an internal affair of the PDP, which should not be binding on all Nigerians. More so, Nigeria has over 50 registered political parties that do not subscribe to the zoning formula.
Also, they opined that every Nigerian including the incumbent President Jonathan is free to vie for the highest political office in the land.

It will be recalled that zoning crept into the nation’s political lexicon in 1998 when some PDP stalwarts agreed for power shift to the South-west geo-political zone to compensate them for the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election deemed to have been won by their kinsman, the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola. It was then certain that the only way the country could move forward was to appease the ghost of June 12 by allowing the South-west to rule.

Beyond the June 12 issue, another reason for zoning was to make power equitable between the North and the South and remove the ugly specter of one group dominating power for so long.
Hitherto, the North had dominated the nation’s leadership from independence. Out of the nation’s almost 50 years of existence as a self-governing entity, the North has ruled for 38 years while the South ruled for 12. No doubt, the zoning agreement brokered in 1998 was an informal gentleman’s arrangement between members of the ruling PDP.

If zoning is rightly done, there is nothing wrong with it. Zoning has its beauty if well used, as well as drawbacks if wrongly applied. But in our own case, we know how candidates emerge in utter disregard of the party’s internal democracy. The flawed nature of past presidential polls did not help matters either.

Now the contentious issue is whether President Jonathan should run for the 2011 presidential poll or not. As usual, it has apparently divided the country into two discernible camps.

Majority of those opposing it are largely from the North while those in support are equally largely from the South, especially the South-south, which has not yet produced a president, apart from Jonathan, who is currently serving the remainder of Yar’Adua’s four-year tenure.

The arguments on both sides, in spite of their inherent logic and reasoning, actually capture the dilemma of the Nigeria Project. Who controls the central power has been one of the daunting tasks facing the nation since independence. And it seems that we are yet to arrive at acceptable political model to solve this problem once and for all.

Be that as it may, we believe that the issue of who becomes Nigeria’s next president will be based on track record performance and not necessarily where the person comes from. Who becomes the next president will be determined by Nigerians.

Therefore, we enjoin both those who want Jonathan to run and those opposing to take it easy and avoid overheating the polity. Any advice for Jonathan to run should be based on his performance while in office.

We advise all saber-rattling Northerners and Southerners to guard their utterances and be very cautious on the matter.

Whether Jonathan should run or not will depend solely on his party, or any other political platform of his choice. What should matter most is not who runs or not but the credibility of the 2011 polls.

Therefore, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, should ensure that the election is credible, free and fair so that whoever emerges the winner will be acceptable to all Nigerians. We do not want a rehash of the 2007 flawed polls.
Above all, it is time we re-appraised our political thinking in such a way that will move the nation forward. What should be uppermost to us now is what will best serve the interest of all Nigerians, and not ethnic or sectional interest.