APC, PDP: Who Is Afraid Of Zoning?
There is a sudden phobia for zoning in the All Progresives Congress(APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Yet, both parties are bound to make decisions on whether the presidency is to remain rotational or zoning should be put in abbeyance.
Zoning is on the front burner as Nigerians gaze at 2023. The reason is not far-fetched. The number one seat, which is usually a bone of contention, is never a unifying factor in a country that is divided by ethnicity, religion and official nepotism.
It is also because presidential power is being perceived as an ethnic tool for bargaining for more political opportunities and promotion of sectional interest by the leadership.
In essence, the tribe producing the president anticipates a sort of comparative advantage, which the number one citizen can secure, to the exclusion of other tribes.
The exceptions are too few. But, generally, the trend has persisted because the presidents of Nigeria seem to lack national outlook.
The reality has fuelled the intense agitation for the presidency, and a fierce contest, not only among individuals and political parties, but also among diverse and antagonistic tribes and ethnic groups.
The usual complaints revolve around domination, marginalisation, exclusion, and suppression of other tribes by the ‘reigning ethnic group’ at a given time.
Under the prevailing political tension unleashed by the intense struggle, the notion of merit takes a back seat. But, this argument may also be subjective. There are competent Nigerians in the North and South who can pilot the affairs of the country.
The battle for zoning underscores a competition that goes beyond political parties. Those who usually coordinate the battle on behalf of the competing races are not only the ethnic organisations serving as mouthpieces, but few privileged principals and principalities whose influence could overwhelm the political parties.
Due to the subsisting identity, integration and penetration crises, there is no tribe that will not be a complainant when its kith and kin are not holding forte in the levers of power, particularly Aso Villa, Abuja. The antidote is the emergence of a nationalist president who will generally regard the entire country as his constituency and resolve to promote equity, fairness and justice for all ethnic groups.
The search for such rare candidates should be the priority of the two dominant parties.
Zoning is inevitable and non-negotiable, although it is not a constitutional matter. The national caucuses of political parties usually adopt zoning, without publicising it, to give a sense of belonging to the different ethnic groups, which serve as the pillars of the country.
However, political parties have a way of de-emphasising the ethnic groups by trying to premise the decision on rotation or zoning on the North-South dichotomy. Yet, it is evident that the tribes-Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo-are more vociferous in their demand for the slot than the “North” and “South’” or each of the six geo-political zones.
That was why the attempted abrogation of zoning generated an uproar in the PDP, when the Bala Mohammed Panel Report recommended that the party’s presidential ticket should be thrown open to all the six zones. Reactions promptly came, not from the party-based leaders from geo-political regions per se, but ethnic activists from umbrella socio-political and cultural organisations domiciled in the Yorubaland and Igboland. They feared that a pattern of leadership recruitment was about to be jettisoned.
When the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, evolved the idea of six geo-political zones, he had zoning in mind. In post-military period, it was expected that it would become a factor that will promote unity and hope in the country.
The presidency is more powerful than all the 36 state governments and 776 local governments. It generates more money and controls more resources. There is the pervading feeling that when somebody from a particular tribe is in the saddle, it is the ethnic group that is ruling.
Also, the merit is that through zoning, there is no perpetual domination, but the prospects, if not certainty, of power rotation.
The PDP was the first party to uphold zoning by entrenching it in its constitution. The leaders of the party described it as “turn by turn.” The core element of zoning envisaged by the party included rotation of the presidency, not among the six geo-political zones, but between the North and the South. But, there is also a provision for the distribution of the six unequal topmost federal offices among the six geo-political zones to guarantee a sort of accommodation, relevance and a sense of belonging to the zones.
According to the PDP Constitution, zoning is sacrosanct. Article 7(2)(c) of the party’s constitution states that “in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.”
But, zoning is not restricted to the presidential ticket. By implication, once the presidency is zoned to a particular region, other key offices are zoned to other zones. The offices are vice-president, Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker, Secretary to Government of the Federation, and National Chairman of the party
The PDP has maintained fidelity to zoning, until in 2019 when former President Goodluck Jonathan truncated the arrangement. He lost the poll.
The APC also followed the PDP example when its founding fathers agreed that power should shift from the North to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari completes his second term. That is why chieftains, including Governors Abdullahi Ganduje(Kano State), Aminu Masari(Katsina), Babagana Zulum(Borno), Senator Ali Ndume, Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige and his Works and Housing counterpart, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) are asking the party to stick to the fundamental agreement to ensure zoning and power shift from the North to the south in 2023.
Although the APC is inclined to pretension about zoning, there is a particular clause in its constitution that points to a semblance of zoning. A proper interpretation of the hidden clause is required so that proper operative content can be given to it.
According to Article 20(iv)(d), “the National Working Committee shall be subject to approval of the National Executive Committee make rules and regulations for the nomination of candidates through primaries. All such rules, regulations and guidelines shall take into consideration and uphold the principle of federal character, gender balance, geo-political spread and rotation of offices to, as much as possible, ensure balance within the constituency covered.” The country is the constituency of the president.
When the body language of a party supports zoning, aspirants outside the targeted zone may contest in the exercise of their constitutional right to vie for the presidency. But, during the party primary, they contest in vain.
It is too late to abandon what is now becoming a trend. The consequences are better imagined for the parties in particular and the disunited country in general.