Veiled plots by the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party to remove presidential zoning and deprive the southern part of the country of 2023 presidential tickets could further weaken Nigeria’s fragile unity, Ejiofor Alike reports
Following the domination of the southern part of Nigeria by the North for nearly four decades, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had, with the advent of democracy in 1999, introduced the principle of zoning and the rotation of elective mandates to ensure that no section of the country retains power at the expense of other sections.
During this period of northern dominance, the country’s development indices registered stagnation or a clear lag because the quota system, religious and tribal feelings foreign to true federalism were used to push the country backwards.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria was supposed to be on par with South Africa and South Korea in electricity generation. But in 1999, Nigeria’s electricity supply was less than 3,000 megawatts, while South Africa and South Korea each produced more than 40,000 megawatts.
To chart a new course for Nigeria’s development in the new democracy, the DPP in 1998 inserted the principle of zoning of elective offices into its constitution. Article 7(2)(c) of the PDP Constitution states that “…in accordance with the principles of fairness, justice and equity, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of elective offices of the party and the public and it must be applied by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.
The objective, according to the preamble, is “…to create socio-political conditions conducive to national peace and unity by ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, to comply with the principles of transfer of power and sharing of power by rotating key political positions among the diverse peoples of our country and shifting powers equitably among federal, state and local governments in the spirit of federalism.
It was under this arrangement that former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the South West ruled for eight years from 1999 to 2007. Power returned to the North with the election of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007. Unfortunately, Yar’Adua died in 2010 without having completed the Northern eight-year term.
In accordance with the Nigerian Constitution, his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has completed his term. Based on the public sentiment that the South-South where Jonathan is from had not produced the leader of the country despite being the country’s cash cow, he contested and won the 2011 presidential election.
When he completed his first four-year term and sought re-election in 2015, the northern elements of the PDP opposed him and defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), insisting that that it was their turn, based on the principle of zoning. Some of these elements fought over the APC ticket and lost to President Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan also lost the election to Buhari, who will complete the eight-year Northern slot in 2023.
Before 2023, there is a popular clamor for power to shift to the South. The 17 governors of the south had supported this popular demand with all their weight. Sadly, some of those who destroyed the PDP and frustrated Jonathan’s re-election bid on the grounds that it was the North’s turn, returned to the PDP to insist that the party should drop zoning when the presidential ticket should return to the South. since the North ended its slot under APC.
The new narrative from these self-centered politicians is that Jonathan usurped the late Yar’Adua’s mandate. They deliberately ignored the fact that it was Yar’Adua’s death that brought Jonathan to power. They also ignored the fact that even in commercial transactions, death can create force majeure – an unforeseeable circumstance that can release one of the parties from their contractual obligations.
That Jonathan accomplished the tenure of Yar’Adua was not by any deliberate effort of southern elements in the PDP to truncate the principle of rotation or deny North its split. It would therefore be an act of injustice to demand that the South pay for such an unforeseen circumstance.
The APC, for its part, has no zoning written into its constitution, but the coalition of political parties that formed the ruling party in 2014 had what has become known as a “gentleman’s agreement” that power would turn south after Buhari’s tenure.
Many progressive northern APC politicians, including some northern governors, had all individually endorsed the transfer of power to the south. The APC had also taken steps to return the presidency to the South by swapping elective offices between North and South, which led to the emergence of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as the party’s national chairman.
But some elements of the ruling party subsequently initiated a plot to ensure the North retained power. While the APC has remained non-committal on zoning despite the emergence of its national president from the North, the PDP has taken a dangerous step to return power to the North with the recommendation of its 37-man committee that the president’s ticket be open. to all regions.
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) hit the mark in July 2021 when it rejected the position of southern governors that the 2023 presidency should be zoned in the southern part of the country. NEF Spokesman Mr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed had also boasted in September 2021 that the North had more votes to produce the President of Nigeria in 2023. He also threatened that if a Northern candidate was elected president in 2023, “anyone not like that could leave the country.
The same NEF had joined in July 2013 with five other groups from the North, in insisting that the region must produce Nigeria’s president in 2015, arguing that there was an agreement on the rotation of power.
NEF Chairman and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi, who spoke on behalf of the six groups, pledged that the North would use its numerical strength to ensure that power returned to him in 2015. The NEF therefore supported Buhari’s candidacy.
But speaking on the 2023 election, the same Abdullahi had recently said that the rotation of the presidency between North and South was “dead and buried”.
It is evident that while some well-meaning northerners are making efforts to save an already divided Nigeria, some selfish northern politicians want to fan the fire in the country by trying to remove zoning.
Some of these politicians boasting of retaining power in the region after the region has been in power for eight years, can no longer go to their villages without being accompanied by a battalion of soldiers and other security agents.
Human rights and pro-democracy activists, separatist agitators, oil-producing region activists and other well-meaning people in southern Nigeria have demonstrated over the past 20 years that the region can no longer be taken for granted by any part of the country. .
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has also warned that any attempt to end zoning by those who want to plunge Nigeria into crisis would spell the end of the country. The Governor of Ondo State and Chairman of the South West Governors Forum, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, also warned the APC against zoning the presidential slot of 2023 in the northern part of the country, saying that it would lead to a crisis.
Nigeria is currently suffering from acts of terrorism ravaging the northern part of the country, separatist unrest in the south-east and south-west, and the destruction of oil and gas installations by militants and restive communities, which have plunged the country’s crude oil production. from a peak of 2.5 million barrels per day in 2005 to the current low of 1.4 million barrels per day.
It is feared that any attempt to play politics with zoning to allow one region to dominate other regions will be the last straw that will break the camel’s back.
“Let everyone take this as a serious warning that the zoning issue cannot be swept under the rug; it cannot be dead and buried, if the zoning is buried, then Nigeria is buried,” SMBLF reportedly warned.