AN EQUITABLE ZONING FORMULA
By Chris O. O. Biose,
Nigerian political leaders need to make a clear choice between establishing and strictly implementing a thorough-going process of party nomination to choose the most competent candidate for elections or undertaking an honest and equitable system of sharing elective positions in advance of voting, otherwise called zoning. To gain public confidence regarding the political process, the electorate must know where they stand in election of their leaders. Politicians should not be allowed to live in both worlds.
Given the multiplicity of nations and language groups that constitute the Nigerian state, it is extremely cruel and fraudulent for three or four of these nations to keep hoodwinking hundreds of other nations in the Nigerian experiment about zoning. In over 20 years of disputation about power shift and zoning since 1999, nobody remembers the minorities, The hegemonic ruling class in cahoots with three majority tribes, always find reasons to want to award presidency to themselves. The same conspiratorial mindset applies to zoning governorship in most states.
If zoning apologists want to be fair and just, they need to first work out zoning of presidency to all ethnic groups in the country based on their demographic rating or some other verifiable and rational criteria. No ethnic group indigenous to Nigeria should be excluded. The zoning sequence should then be presented to a pan-Nigerian platform for evaluation and approval. Nobody has an inherent right to decide zoning privately and impose or foist it on others.
The list of national groups entitled to be included in the zoning schedule for the Nigerian presidency must include all 371 ethnic groups recognized in the 1976 Federal Government Ethnographic Survey. Those who propose zoning must work out a time-frame showing when each of the 371 nations would have their shot at the Nigerian presidency. If each ethnic group is entitled to 8 years’ tenure, this means that each ethnic group should occupy the position only once in 2,928 years, i.e., 8 x 371 (ethnic groups).
In particular, anyone who insists on sharing elective positions for “North” needs to first place all ethnic groups in the area on the table and work out in specific terms, when it will be the turn of each ethnic group in the region to ascend the presidency.
The Kataf of Southern Kaduna would certainly like to know when Northern political oligarchs would zone presidency to their ethnic group. The same applies the Berom (Birom) of Plateau State, the Junkun who are distributed in Taraba, Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and Gombe States and 200 other Northern tribes. It will also be interesting to know if Niger Delta political elite will zone the “turn” of Sothern presidency to the Ogoni of Rivers State, being a minority among minorities.
In the spirit of fairness and justice, all ethnic groups that have occupied the top political post in Nigeria since introduction of zoning in 1999 must be excluded from vying for presidency in 2023, and until all other ethnic groups in the country have been served. “Turn by turn” cannot be limited to a few national groups in the country.
In this spirit, the Yoruba, Fulani and Ijaw nations must not present candidates for the Nigerian presidency in 2023. This is because President Olusegun Obasanjo representing the Yoruba nation benefited from power shift in 1999. He was followed by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a Fulani from Katsina State in 2007 and yet another Fulani, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who is again from Katsina State. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw, took the turns of his ethnic group.
The position of the Hausa, the most populous national group in Nigeria is unclear. Ethnographically, it is quite distinct from Fulani but in the political space, it has refused to assert its identify and consistently allows itself to be subsumed within the Fulani fold. See my article entitled RIDDLE OF A NEW ETHNIC GROUP IN NIGERIA, available online.
Equity and fairness which zoning apologists preach means that everyone in the society should be treated equally. Therefore, all hitherto excluded ethnic groups must have their turn before those that already had it
Justice also demands that the weak should be protected against the strong. For this reason, since the hegemonic minority Fulani has had two slots and one major tribe (Yoruba) had it once while one other minority tribe (Ijaw) also had its turn, the 2023 presidency should be between the only remaining major ethnic group, the Igbo and other minorities.
Furthermore, it is infinitely unjust to share presidency between only two zones (North and South) as recommended by the National Conference, 2014 and some zoning apologists. This is an elite formula specifically designed to favour the strong in each of the two areas. It discriminates against authentic ethnic nationalities that constitute the building blocks of the Nigerian state.
As a check against usurpation of the turn of other groups, while the zoning schedule is in place in the next 2,900 years or so, no Nigerian should be allowed to change his or her ethnic group or defect from one ethnic group to another as several politicians famously do regarding their political party affiliation after assuming office.
At the end of 2,900 years, when each of the 371 nations in Nigeria has had its shot of 8 years at the Nigerian presidency, the zoning could resume, this time from the smallest nation in population size, to the next and so on to the largest nation. It would be unfair for the largest and strongest nations to be always choosing first. Since they had chosen first several times, when it is time to turn round, the smallest nation should have the first shot;
Politicians must choose to do a faid thorough xoning or stick to an explicit nomination process to choose competent persons to represent them at elections.
Zonal Command Structure: The Ultimate Zoning
A leading Nigerian intellectual, politician and former Vice President during the Second Republic, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, prominently canvassed a zonal command structure of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Dr Ekwueme eloquently presented this position most exhaustively and persuasively at the 1994/95 Constituent Assembly.
The main thrust of Ekwueme’s zoning manifesto was a return to the basic principles of true federalism and autonomy of federating units of the country which had been accepted by Nigerian leaders since 1945 and enshrined in the Constitution of the Federation, 1960 and Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963.
In the light of Nigeria’s history of violent take-over of governments, Ekwueme reinforced the federal structure with the provision of regional police and decentralized Armed Forces or what he called “zonal command structure”. And in this regard, he was vehemently supported by late Chief Abraham Adesanya, who was then leader of the Yoruba nation.
With zonal command structure in place, if an ambitious General in Zone ‘A’ should start ‘Fellow countrymen, bla, bla, bla’, as they usually do when announcing their military coups, another General in Zone ‘S’ could forestall the over-ambitious General by ignoring the call to subversion of constituted authority. This is an effective check to military coups and a useful way of sharing political power in the polity.