- Category: Jideofor Adibe
- Published on Thursday, 26 May 2011 08:57
- Written by Jideofor Adibe
- Hits: 1002
From all indications the issues raised by the PDP’s zoning and power rotation arrangements during the party’s acrimonious presidential primaries are far from resolved. At that time the anti-zoning lobby advanced several arguments why zoning and power rotation arrangements were either not good for the country or should not be a hindrance to Jonathan contesting.
PDP members of the House of Representatives have reportedly sworn not to abide by the party’s recommended zoning formula. In the South East, (which has the second largest concentration of anti-zoning elements going by the results of the just concluded presidential elections), the umbrella Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohaneze as well as prominent traditional rulers and former political office holders have cried ‘foul’. In some other places, a number of previously anti-zoning elements have turned into proponents of zoning and power rotation. So why do many Nigerians seem to flip-flop on the zoning issue? There are several salient issues here.
It will appear that many people instinctively recognise the benefits of zoning but at the same time do not want a rigid application of the principle - perhaps in order not to ossify the political process. This approach-avoidance attitude, including by some PDP stalwarts, has created regrettable fuzziness around the issue, especially on conditions under which it should be strictly applied and when it should be discarded. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, (and current Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees) has for instance taken at least four stances on the issue - first he denied that zoning existed in the party’s constitution and then shifted into an obscurantist ‘when you are there you are there and when you are not there, you are not there’. He had also, at different times, argued that zoning was suspended to enable Jonathan run for the presidency and equally contradictorily held that the party’s zoning arrangement was still very much alive. But Obasanjo was not alone in flip-flopping over the matter. In Imo Sate for instance, there is reportedly a zoning arrangement among the three senatorial zones in the area when it comes to producing the State Governor. Under this arrangement, the Okigwe senatorial district (where Governor Ikedi Ohakim comes from) was expected to produce the Governor until 2015. However in the just concluded Governorship election in the state, it would seem that the electorate favoured a dispensation for Rochas Okorocha who actually comes from Orlu Senatorial district – where Ohakim’s predecessor in office Achike Udenwa hails from. Again if reports in the media were anything to go by, most serving and newly elected members of the Senate want David Mark to retain the Senate Presidency. A strict application of the PDP’s zoning and power rotation arrangements would have meant the office would be zoned to the South because under the Obasanjo presidency, (from the South West), the post was also zoned to the South (South East) while under the Yaradua presidency (North West) it was zoned to the North ( North Central). This presupposes a tradition of zoning the Senate presidency to the North if the president is from there or the South if the president is from the South. These instances show that both the zoning proponents and the anti-zoning elements during the acrimonious contest for the PDP presidential primary have sufficient grounds to claim vindication. Which, of course, only compounds the problem.
Not resolving the issue of the conditions under which the zoning and power rotation would be strictly applied and when they could be dispensed creates uncertainty such that any reconfiguration becomes vulnerable to suspicion, manipulation or being unduly politicised- some of the reasons why the zoning arrangement was put in place in the first instance. My personal opinion is that despite the obvious imperfections of zoning and power rotation arrangements, in a multi-ethnic country like ours, where the constituent units deeply distrust one another, the certainty that a zone would occupy a certain position at a defined political moment could help to muffle cries of marginalisation, and by so doing, remove a major clog in the nation-building process. In essence what seems to be lacking is not so much whether there are circumstances in which zoning could be dispensed but how to compensate for the certainty that zoning and power rotation arrangements offer. True, that someone from one’s ethnic group/geopolitical zone occupies a certain office does not necessarily guarantee progress for such a zone/ ethnic group. Unfortunately we have across the country a group of ‘ethnic watchers’ who have the capacity to press the right emotional button to throw a regime into a legitimacy crisis – if they are given the ammunition to strike. We saw this during the Buhari regime when this group successfully politicised what I believe was an honest mistake (or naivety) in the constitution of the Supreme Military Council and in Buhari appointing a fellow Northerner and Muslim Tunde Idiagbon as his second in command. Suddenly a regime that was very popularly received became viewed with suspicion such that virtually every action it took was unfairly analysed through ethnic/religious prisms. Up till this day Buhari has not fully shaken off that unfair labelling.
Another danger in not resolving the issue of zoning and when it should be rigidly applied or discarded is the danger of reviving the ‘cluster politics’ of the First and Second Republics where each major ethnic group formed a party it dominated with the hope of using the control of its enclave as a bargaining chip. The recent sweeping victory of the ACN in the South West in fact raises the possibility of a ‘me-tooist’ scenario. My personal opinion is that ‘cluster politics’ is a step backward in our nation-building process.
Related to the above is the emerging tendency for groups that exert an ‘overwhelming claim’ to a certain entitlement to be pacified with juicy political offices. This trend appears to have started with the annulment of the June 12 election won by the late Moshood Abiola. Though I strongly condemn the annulment, the fact is that primaries and elections had been serially annulled by Babangida and nothing happened. Coups and counter coups had also taken place without heavens breaking loose. With the June 12 annulment however, a faction of the Yoruba elite which was Cohesive, Conscious and Conspiratorial staked an ‘overwhelming claim’ for that entitlement by making the country ‘ungovernable’. They were subsequently pacified with an Obasanjo presidency ( the way they resisted Babangida and Abacha however also helped to pave the way for the current democratic dispensation – besides making military coups unattractive to the ‘khaki boys’). It could equally be argued that the militarisation of the Niger Delta struggle for equity led to a strong desire to pacify them, which in turn paved the way for the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan first as Vice President and later as President. Some cynics have also argued that the post election violence in some parts of the North, as condemnable as it is, is the area’s copycat staking of an ‘overwhelming claim’ for a certain entitlement. The danger therefore is that without delineating a clear and predictable system of giving constituent units of the Nigerian federation assurances that they are real stakeholders in the Nigeria project, there could be tactical nurturing of militants and purveyors of violence to help groups stake such ‘overwhelming claims’ to an entitlement.