Right from the time of independence from Britain, the issue of power sharing between the constituent political blocs that make up Nigeria has always posed a serious challenge, leading to distrust, bitterness and acrimony. At every point in our political history, power sharing has always been debated and people have always advocated power rotation between the North and the South but, unfortunately, much as this has been hotly debated and advocated, it is not expressly enshrined in the nation’s constitution making its implementation somehow cumbersome. Thus, people, especially politicians, speak of power rotation or zoning when it suits their interest and speak against it when it does not serve their purpose.
Nigeria is a multicultural polity that has not properly internalized the benefits of its sheer size and diversity. The result has always been mutual suspicions, prejudice and primordial sentiments at the expense of patriotism and national cohesion. And so, proper definition of the issue of power devolution will be a desirable thing to do to avoid these recurring and needless debates about zoning as we witness whenever a general election is around the corner. The debate about zoning has always followed inconsistent and often hypocritical strain. Nigerians remember zoning when it favours them and when it doesn’t it is dismissed as undemocratic and unnecessary. I am not against zoning but I believe in specifying and following the rules of engagement ab initio. It is not a good practice to change the rule mid way.
In the build up to 2011 presidential election, the North had canvassed for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to zone the presidency to the North. The argument then was that it was the turn of the North; Obasanjo having taken the slot of the South and Yar’adua having not completed his tenure before his death in 2011. But the southern opinion leaders had dismissed the argument saying it is undemocratic and unconstitutional and eventually the contest for the PDP presidential ticket was thrown open and Goodluck Jonathan emerged as the party’s presidential candidate. Thus, Jonathan completed Yar’adua’s tenure and served one term of his before he was defeated by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Now as the 2023 general elections draw close, the debate about zoning has reared up again between the North and the southern politicians. The southern politicians apparently have forgotten their previous stand on zoning when the issue came up in 2011. If PDP is going to be fair about the issue of zoning I think the party should zone it to the North for out of the 16 years the party was at helm of affairs in the country, the South through Obasanjo and Jonathan had almost 14 years while the North through Yar’adua had barely two years. So, to be equitable and fair, the presidency should be zoned to the North or thrown open for the right candidate to emerge as was the case in 2011.
But if we must talk about power rotation, we must not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is not strictly about North and South. At independence we have three major political zones – East, West and North. And at present, we have six – North West, North Central, North East, South West, South South and South East political blocs. Again, a cursory look at our political history has shown that all but one zone of these six geo-political zones has not produced the president of this country either by election or by the barrel of the gun. That region is the North East region. The North West has produced Tafawa Belewa, Shehu Shagari, Shehu Umaru Yar’adua, Murtala Mohammed and Sani Abacha. The North Central has produced Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, and Abdulsalami Abubakar. The South West has produced Olusegun Obasanjo and Ernest Shonekan, South South has Goodluck Jonathan while South East has Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi. Obviously, it is only the North East that has not produced a president of this country. So, if we must talk about equity and fairness, we must begin with the North East by zoning the presidency to that region. If we cannot do that then we must jettison the idea of zoning and throw the contest open and let the most suitable get the ticket.
Hajia Hadiza Mohammed wrote from London and can be reached via email@example.com