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End Zoning, Begin Campaign

Do Nigerian leaders know that the country wasted 11 years through poor leadership? Do Nigerian elites know that the nation cannot afford to waste another four years? I doubt if they know. Because if they do they would not be carrying on as they are doing on the zoning issue.

After12 years of PDP gross leadership failure (I hope President Jonathan will redeem the remaining one year) self-acclaimed leaders of this republic should be agonizing about how to push the country away from the path of failure. But they are not. They are fiddling why 2011 comes upon us unprepared.

I have written on this page on the need to refocus the 2011 campaign on issues.
Since then the madness about zoning has continued. What is the point about the present hysteria about zoning? Founding fathers of the PDP have regaled us with tendentious histories of zoning. Pro-zoning politicians never fail to point out how Southern politicians fought zoning in other to guarantee that a southerner can be president of Nigeria.

The protagonists of zoning never realize the tragedy in their argument. If after five decades of nationhood a Nigerian whose parents happen to come of one of the southern ethnic groups can only be voted president if the office has been zoned to his region, then we have wasted the last 50 years and trillions of liters of oil that have spewed forth from the bowels of the Niger Delta.

It is patently tragic that while a black can be president of the United States without any policy of affirmative action, a southern Nigerian cannot be president of Nigeria
except the illegality of zoning allows him.

The antagonists of zoning argue that zoning is not binding and was actually never agreed by the lords of PDP. This is dishonorable. It is clear that from what those who ought to know have said that zoning was agreed as a convenient device for elite capture of power in Nigeria.

As the political activist and revolutionary Spartan, Balarabe Musa, cogently argued, to easily brush aside zoning as the proponents of Jonathan for President are doing is an act of political charlatanism; it betrays a tendency to dishonor commitments. Without honor in politics, the nation-state ends up as a den of robbers.

So, what should be the right attitude towards zoning? First, we must acknowledge both the utility and flaws of zoning. Zoning has helped the political elite achieve stability in their value-free scramble for power.

With zoning, there is a natural selection which minimizes brigandage and conflicts in presidential politics. If Yaradua was alive and Jonathan never came to the presidency presidential fight in PDP would have been a fight between northern politicians.

In 2015 northern politicians would have made way for southern politicians. This is one form of valuable order in a polity devoid of ideology or any comprehensive moral doctrine.

But once you begin to introduce complexities this natural selection begins to look ugly. Okay, how do you also balance this conservatism with the demands or urgency of revolutionary transformation? Is it not possible that a revolutionary figure could emerge in Nigeria from a region whose turn it was not and the people cannot wait for another 8 years to have him in the saddle? Or imagine that Jonathan does a heck of a good job.

Will it make sense to tell him to just conduct a free and fair election and get out of Aso Rock? The prize for doing well will be to seek the people’s permission to continue. So the logic is simple: zoning makes sense until it encounters unusual circumstances.

We are faced with one such unusual circumstance. My view is that it is manifestly unfair to ask Goodluck Jonathan not to run. We can uphold the verities of zoning and still recognize the right and propriety of the incumbent president offering himself for election as president. Jonathan can run. And if can means ought to, then he should run.

My worry is not the debate over zoning. That should be part of the deliberation required for robust politics. But the worry is that unenlightened debate about zoning is impoverishing politics.

The proponents of zoning are acting as if they want Nigerians to allow access to power on the basis of nothing other than their region of birth. Similarly, the antagonists of zoning are arguing as if all that is required to be president of Nigeria in 2011 is to belong to a region that has suffered environmental despoliation.

Atiku, Babangida and co seem to be saying “I should be president because I am from the north”. The crowd of Edwin Clark is saying give it to Jonathan to compensate for the wrongs the Niger Delta has suffered. No sirs.

Atiku or Babangida will be president in 2011 if he convinces us that he will do something different from what his party has done since 1999. President Jonathan will get our support to continue beyond May 29, 2011 if he gives proofs that he can take Nigeria on a different path of honest and competence leadership in 2011. Geography does not count. Only demonstrated competence will buy the support of the people.

The zoning debate has run its course. It is time to discard it. If those who believe that zoning is central to overcoming Nigeria’s problem are serious they should begin to campaign for 2011 on the basis on zoning and allow the people to decide. If most northerner buys the idea that what counts most is the region of origin of the president they will vote out President Jonathan.

If they think his region of origin counts less than his competence or character, they may vote him back to power. In other words, this is not time for natural selection. It is cheap to blackmail Jonathan out of the race by recourse zoning. It is better to vote him out.

The challenge now is to begin the campaigns for 2011 and end the zoning circus.
There are many important issues that need to be addressed. Nigeria continues to lurch on the precipice of failure. The latest index of failure lists Nigeria as No.14 of failed and failing states, much ahead of Angola and Rwanda, countries that have gone through civil war and genocide recently.

The threats and challenges we face as a nation are urgent and pressing. It is not time to choose president based on zoning. It is time to evaluate the CVs of the applicants.
So, let the real presidential aspirants show up and begin to campaign. Let the
disciples of Charles Darwin leave the stage.

Dr. Sam Amadi Abuja, Nigeria


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