Nigeria is, no doubt, at a critical stage of her history. A stage of bequeathing to posterity an enduring future. She is at a threshold where any action or inaction would make or mar the her glory of the leading country on the African continuent. And one action that would prove to the world that we are capable of getting it right nay doing things right, is having in place a credible leadership through a credible election anchored on the rule of law. But a situation where ethnic sentiment holds sway and becomes a determinant factor to ascending political office; with party policy of zoning elective positions in order to appease political blocs stills leaves much to be desired. A cross section of Nigerians bare their minds on whether or not the Presidency should be zoned. Excerpts:
Kimse Okoko – Professor of Political Science
Under normal circumstances it is not necessary to zone offices but zoning in some cases becomes necessary and it is very similar to affirmative action. If there are no affirmative action in many countries, the condition of women would have been worst off. But you have affirmative action even into some constitutions to say, no, give a certain percentage of government positions to women. It is only in that context that one can condole zoning. But in Nigeria zoning is seen differently by different people. As far as the Northern Oligarchy is concerned zoning means North and South. I remember in the National Political Reform Conference, I was a member of the executive committee and this matter came up and we argued that if you are going to zone let us legitimize the six zones that Abacha initiated but the North said no, it is just North and South.
And we know why they are saying no. and that is the way they are still looking at it. The present crisis in PDP – they say this thing was zoned to the North and it must come to the North, it must stay there for eight years just like it stayed for eight years in the South.
Now, that is not a fair form of zoning because if you do North and South, there are certain parts of the South that may not benefit from that exercise for a long time and they would have been left high and dried. The Northern Oligarchy initially would not want to leave it for North Central, they will want to limit it to North – East and North-West. So in a situation like this in a country where people are not honest and not sincere; and those in the corridors of power always want to dominate, zoning becomes problematic. Otherwise, in a country like this where some people are terribly disadvantaged, zoning can be a kin to affirmative action and that will be for a specified number of years after which zoning can whither away on its own.
All I am trying to say is that under normal circumstances, in a country where certain group of persons have been so dominated, have be so excluded from the main stream, zoning would have been reasonable and similar to affirmative action. It was affirmative action that brought the black population to the level they are now in the United States. Zoning in Nigeria is not okay because it is done to satisfy the dominant power brokers in the country.
Dr. Okoha O. Ukiwo – Political Scientist
Zoning may not be the best for the country but it is the pragmatic and expedient thing to do. You must recognize that Nigeria like most countries of the world is a plural society where you have different identity based groups be it religion or ethnic. These groups believe, rightly or wrongly that they need to be given opportunity to participate in politics in the form of having people from their area occupying positions.
Now if we leave politics to the simple majority rule system where the party that wins retains power you will find out that minority interest will not be represented. So that is why beyond democracy being simple majority rule, in political science, we have a concept of constitutional democracy which seeks to adapt general democratic principles to the peculiar character of society especially in this our case – plural society. That is why zoning becomes important.
Because if you do not zone political offices in the context where people tend to vote along ethnic lines, most of the time, not always, you will find out that some ethnic groups, some regions or states may not be represented. So while the zoning in a way leads to a situation where merit may be sacrificed but it gives opportunity to most groups in society to have a sense of belonging. That is the rationale for zoning and that is why we recommend it. At a time we are able to develop our politics to the extent where people no longer think about ethnicity or state of origin; where people feel that merit and individual qualities should be the guiding criteria for election we can then do a way with zoning. At this stage where these identities are very strong and where people sympathise with their ethnic group, and people vote along ethnic line in certain respect then zoning while not being the best is the expedient thing to do and the most pragmatic.
Dr. Josiah Atemie – Associate Professor of Sociology
I feel it is good to keep everything open as they do in education. Some people feel it should be given quota system while some say no quota system. Those who say no quota system know the advanatages like the Ibos. They are well educated; when they are compared to the Hausas who are not. So if you give a free-room of merit some sections of Nigeria would not be educated. So is also this zoning system. To me, zoning is good, in the sense that it will give all sections, at least a plot at a time. The six political zones will at least have a feel of it.
Dr. Krama llami Clive – Media Sociologist
The constitution provides a frame-work for us to work in but we have set aside the constitution. There is no provision for zoning in the constitution. It is a party arrangement.
For me, we should exhibit those principles that, will stand the test of time. This issue has been debated in all generations. If you read Macbeth and all that, the revolutions in Macbeth and Julius Casesar were as a result of the zoning. How can you exclusively assign knowledge to a particular group, that even a nonentity from that group must rule. And so a whole lot of people circumscribed to participate in that, it calls for disorganization in society. So if PDP as a group has accepted it is a working formula, it could be their winning formula but that does not automatically qualify it to be a Nigerian working principle.
Say it is a working principle for Nigeria, by the time each zone rules for eight years, that will be 48 before each zone will rob round. Are you saying that in this 48 years that we can not have an outstanding leader outside this zoning system? So it is a big problem. I am not saying it is not workable for the immediate but it might create problem in future. And that is the cause of the cross-carpeting we are having now. If it does not favour you, you go to another party. I might be okay now but it smells danger because when it is finally accepted it will lead to one-party system. And in all democracy, the opposition has been a check and a watch dog. Remove that and society will be moribund.
Azigaloate J. Baabel – Public Analyst
Zoning the Presidency as in any other political position is wrong. It is not constitutionally recognized. It stifles the emergence of nationalist leaders and re-enforces ethnic politics. It does not allow for the succession of qualitative de-tribalised leaders in our polity.
This political contraption designed by PDP called zoning is their limited answer to solving the problem of centralization of political power in the North. The 1999 constitution recognizes a level playing ground for all political aspirants. No where in the constitution will you find a set of laws designed specifically for any of the six geo-political zones for any particular political office. To me, it is a bad answer to a failed political process.
While the founding fathers were concerned wi th national unity, peace and progress and a strong emphasis on qualitative leadership, our modern day post civil war leaders have never seen, will not see and does not plan seeing leadership qualities in ohter Nigerians apart from themselves, sibblings and cornies .
Yet, one may argue that zoning has produced new breed politicians like the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who himself is a minority from the Ijaw extraction. My answer to the above assertion is that Jonathan’s presence at the presidency on the basis of zoning was purely circumstantial and an act of God.
The zoning system of the presidency is not the solution to our political problems. We do not need ethnic or regional politics. Ask General Gowon and he will readily tell you the problems regionalism caused us in the ‘60’s..