In the year 2017, a group of northern leaders felt ashamed by the crop of leaders warming up to take over the mantle of leadership from the current set of leaders that it realised it has to do something about the leadership selection process in the region.
At the end of that summit which held in Kaduna, many of the participants were of the view that the current process which throws up clannish champions as national leaders may not be the best and that something must be done to create a system where competence would be the major criteria for leadership selection.
Three years later, elder statesman, Malam Mamman Daura has come out to hit the nail on the head about what has been at the base of poor leadership in Nigeria and recommended that competence should be prioritised while zoning should be rested.
But this noble idea has been shouted down for no other reason than the fact that it is coming from what is considered an inappropriate quarter to voice out such concerns.
The North is always considered as conservative and reactionary and not expected to advance progressives ideas.
Hence, when Malam Daura, a northern elder made the suggestion, the criticism that trailed his comment had nothing to do with the merit of the idea, but the perceived undertone that it was meant to favour a particular region.
But while castigating the message because of the messenger, many have failed to acknowledge some historical factors that support the Daura viewpoint.
In both the 1st and 2nd Republics, when the team of what was considered as the 1st Eleven of Nigerian politicians featured, nobody said anything about zoning the prime minister or president position to any particular zone in the country.
Though the dominant parties then had their bases in the respective zones of their party’s leaders, they all went into elections believing that the electorate is mature enough to decide the best based on what the candidates present to them.
The great Nnamdi Azikiwe because of his eloquence, erudition and the programme of his party, won elections in the Southwest devoid of any ethnic or religious consideration.
In the era of the 2nd Republic, the NPP which had Azikiwe as its presidential candidate won the northern state of Plateau and almost won Benue in 1983 before the coming of the military, while the NPN considered as made up of northern conservatives, won southern states like Rivers and Cross Rivers in the south.
The apogee of such political idealism was when in 1993, MKO Abiola defeated Bashir Tofa in his home state of Kano.
These examples have shown that Nigeria had always preferred merit and competence over parochial considerations.
Step forward to 2020 and elder statesman, Malam Mamman Daura, who has seen it all makes recommendations that Nigeria should go back to its preferred pattern of the leadership selection process where competence would be placed above geopolitical considerations and all hell was let loose.
The question is, what is strange in the Malam Daura suggestion to warrant such attacks and misrepresentations when it had always been actually what Nigerians wanted.
The Nigerian electoral body, which is now known as INEC had over the years tried to de-emphasize regional, religious or ethnic politics and that is why it had always made it mandatory that any party seeking to be registered to contest election in Nigeria must have functional offices in at least two-thirds of the states of the federation.
Further than that, the electoral laws also provide that a candidate can only be declared the winner of a presidential election if he, in addition to winning the majority votes, also scores at least two-third of the votes in at least two-third of the states of the federation.
Translated, this means that even the laws governing elections in the country have tried to deemphasize regional considerations as a candidate can only receive such nationwide acceptance based on merit.
This is the point that Malam Daura tried to make when he said the 2023 presidency should be about competence and not based on zoning as the nation had tried zoning about three times and it has not worked.
When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president between 1999 and 2007, the zone that complained most about neglect was the Southwest and when Yar’Adua succeeded him, the North did not fare better than in the previous administration. Till date, Jonathan is being accused of not doing enough for the South-south.
This shows that the idea of the rotational presidency does not even help the region the president hails but only puts pressure on the incumbent to look at his region even when he had sworn an oath not to use his office to give undue favour to one side.
The fact is, competence is the new order in the world in the leadership selection process. That was why America chose Barack Obama, that was why Russia is almost stuck with Vladimir Putin as its leader and that is why issues of where a political leader hails from hardly matter in most advanced countries.
Naturally, people gravitate towards good leadership no matter where it comes from. The first US president, George Washington was offered a third term but he declined not minding whether he was from the North or South.
Rwanda after the genocidal war came back and repeatedly elected Paul Kagame, a true leader, who has moved the nation forward despite being from what was considered a minority ethnic group.
It is said that in Tanzania, the people don’t even care where their president hails from as he has been able to wield the nation of different ethnic groups into one nation.
Malam Daura has not excluded any zone from contesting the 2023 elections as there are qualified and competent persons from all the regions in the country.
What he is saying is that the best among the collection should be favoured.
Nigerians should accept this as the new world order as zoning has proven to be undemocratic, dictatorial and exclusive.
To continue on the archaic and primordial principle of zoning which has not helped any would be to retrogress.
Besides, it is unconstitutional as zoning denies people their rights and privileges to contest at a given time.
Worse still, the principle has never been respected in the first place as people from other zones usually defy the recommendation to contest with those from the zone it is zoned to.
That is why zoning should be jettisoned since it has always been observed in the breach while competence, like Malam Daura, said should be the new thing.
Agbese wrote this piece from Abuja.