By Dayo Johnson, Akure; Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa; Festus Ahon, Asaba; Egufe Yafugborhi, Port Harcourt; Peter Duru, Makurdi; Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos; Charly Agwam, Bauchi; Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo; Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City; Shina Abubakar, Osogbo; James Ogunnaike, Abeokuta; Steve Oko, Aba; Ibrahim Hassan, Kaduna; Haruna Aliyu, Birnin Kebbi & Sola Ishola, Ibadan
The political understanding to compensate the South West region of the country, following the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections won by late Bashorun M K O Abiola and his subsequent death in detention while insisting on actualizing his mandate gave birth to the idea of rotational presidency between the north and the south of the country.
General Olusegun Obasanjo, a beneficiary of that understanding completed his two terms in 2007 and handed over to a northerner, Alhaji Umoru Yar’Adua who died in office while his Vice from the south, Dr Goodluck Jonathan did a term but failed a re-election and paved the way for a northern president, General Muhammadu Buhari who will finish his second term in 2023.
It is therefore generally assumed, particularly among the political leaders from the south that the presidency of the country should come from the southern region in 2023 as the southern governors issued a notice to this demand.
However, this demand did not fly with the northern elites who described it as unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Commentators on the debate for rotational presidency between the north and the south were divided with some insisting that we should be concerned with the president’s competence and integrity and not the part of the country he comes from.
Former Emir of Kano, Malam Lamido Sanusi and former vice presidential candidate to General Buhari, Pastor Tunde Bakare belong to this camp. Pastor Tunde Bakare argued that zoning of the presidency is unconstitutional and that “what is needed at this moment is the person who can do it.
Political parties should bring their best forward. Let the best of the best emerge. It can go to the south, it can go to the north. It’s only one seat.”
Sanusi, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, believed rotational presidency could leave Nigeria with two useless presidential candidates in the 2023 general elections arguing that “what Nigeria needs is a president that can deliver.
“Give me a president from any part of the country who can deliver and we should vote for him. He is not taking the presidency to his home town,” he said.
But as the controversy over zoning or rotational presidency continues to dominate political discussions, there is consensus among several political leaders that zoning will go a long way in sustaining the unity of the country considering the level of division today.
Southern president may not be fair to northerners
Mallam Ismail Hassan, a community leader in Rafin Zurfi, Bauchi state who agreed that it was the turn of the south to produce the next President, was of the opinion that a southern president may not be fair to northerners.
He therefore suggested that the future president should emerge through a political and electoral process that guarantees that the north would be carried along in his government.
“I have nothing against the south. Anyone who will be sincere knows that for Nigeria to survive beyond 2023, the south must produce the president.
“Nevertheless, he must be a president that both southerners and northerners like and vote to make him or her president. He must be a Nigerian president, not an ethnic president, not a regional president, not a religious president.
“His antecedent must show that he is not someone that will lead the nation to be divided. In addition to that, the process should not be done with threat, violence and intimidation.
“No southerner can become president unless he gets the support of the north. I hope we survive 2023 and become more united,” he prayed.
Why we ganged up against Jonathan in 2015
Mr Paul Madaki argued that a nation with Nigeria’s political features needs to provide rotational presidency in its constitution.
He said: “Of course, it should be the turn of the South to produce the President after Buhari finishes his tenure because that will be the natural and right thing to do.
“I remember how we all ganged up against Jonathan because we felt that the north was being shortchanged in terms of the number of years the South has ruled the country compared to what the north had at the time.
“You see, Jonathan did averagely fine but governance is not all about redistribution of resources, it is also about identity.
“So it is important for people to feel connected to the government once in a while, especially with our kind of situation in Nigeria.
“Forget about those who talk about getting a bad leader when you rotate the presidency. Who told them that we don’t have good leaders scattered across the country? From Bauchi to Lagos to Imo, there are good leaders all over.
“We just need to make our constitution beautiful enough to attract them. In fact, what needs to change more than anything else is our constitution.
“Unless we make the constitution a people centred constitution, we will continue to go round in circles and blame each other for our misfortune.
“So yes, it is fair game to allow the South produce the next President of Nigeria.”
A former Chairman, Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, David Racha said it was insulting when people talk about rotation because “it gives room to those who want to be mischievous to twist the situation to cause chaos”.
He said : “Why should rotation be an issue? What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
“If all of us decide that it is not possible to access a certain position all at once, we have to go one after the other and we set out a template for achieving that, is it fair that half way into that arrangement, someone will say it is not possible to continue especially when that person has benefited from the system?
“It is an insult on the collective mentality of Nigerians because we are here because of that arrangement.
“Buhari is the President today because of that arrangement, even Lalong here in Plateau rode on the back of rotation to become the governor.
“Why do you think it is good for you and not good for someone else.”
Also, citizen Ayuku Pwaspo said, “For a multi-ethnic and multi religious society like Nigeria, so many interests abound as to who leads the country and from which region of the country.
“This was the reason political parties adopted zoning arrangements to give all regions an opportunity to lead.
“Personally, I support the zoning arrangement or power sharing arrangement to enable especially marginalised ethnic groups to benefit. This can be seen in the case of former President Goodluck Jonathan who emerged through zoning.
“Although, it can also deprive competent persons the opportunity to contest because the zoning formula does not favour their regions at a point in time but rotation is good for national unity.”
Without zoning minorities will become eternal slaves in Nigeria
A Human Rights Activist, Dr Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, said: “I have been a campaigner of opening the field for all qualified persons to aspire and contest for any position rather than zoning.
“However and even though there is a caveat that those who believe in zoning will be entrapped if the madman is the only qualified person from his zone, I still believe we can mix merit and zoning side by side.
“If zoning is jettisoned, the minorities will become eternal slaves in this country as the majority tribes would seize all the elective offices as the case maybe. If not for zoning, the Itsekiris, Aniomas would not have been Governors of Delta State till date.
“So, zoning in principle is a good thing in our polity and I recommend same for the Presidency. The North should allow any other zone to produce the Presidency having occupied same for the eight years stretch by 2023.
“Indeed, the ideal scenario is to look at integrity and vision of the aspirant. But pragmatism is usually the enemy of principle and as such that idealistic scenario cannot work in practical terms in Nigeria with over 250 ethnic groups living in mutual suspicion since 1960. So, because of the peculiar nature of Nigeria and her assorted ethnic groups, rotation and/or zoning is the only way to go for Presidency especially to guarantee minorities the right to aspire and participate in government and governance.”
For now, zoning and rotation must be allowed
According to Ambassador Yemi Farounbi, ”Ideally, merit should be the determining factor, but this is a federation that is lopsided, where 88 items are put in exclusive list, a federation that has almost become a centralized nation.
“So, for that reason, there had to be guarantees that would ensure fairness, equality, equity and justice and that is why the concept of zoning and rotation comes at this level and to ignore those two criteria, is to be inviting crisis and I don’t think Nigeria needs it.
“When we are faced with problems of terrorism, banditry, kidnappers, to now add naked political partisanship, would be critical for the country.
“For now until we reach that level of development, where the religion and ethnic base of the president won’t matter as he would be expected to do justice to all, rotation and zoning would have to be allowed.
“Or until we have a truly federal constitution, where the federal government would have only about 12 items on its function, it won’t matter who is the president.
“In a normal society, where political recruitment is based on justice and where the government can guarantee social justice, equal rights, human rights, merit ought to have been the factor that determines who will be the president.
“Who should be president should depend on the quality, relevance and capacity of his vision to fulfill the dreams of the citizens.
Zoning was agreed upon from onset
In his contribution, former Senate Minority Leader, Prof. Daniel Saror said zoning was agreed upon from the onset: “I recall that while I was in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 1999, when Obasanjo was being brought in to run for president, there were several meetings in Kaduna.
“Adamu Chiroma was there, Atiku Abubakar was there and several others. There was general consensus that because of the problem we had with Abiola’s death, the presidency must remain in the south.
“After that it should come to the north and that it should rotate between the north and the south. That was what was resolved at that time.
“It is interesting to hear Baba Ahmed say today that because the north has majority, it must always produce the President even when the north has had the presidency for so long but has very little to show for it.
“I don’t think that population alone will determine or be the factor. If other people are not made to believe that they too have a stake in this country, they will develop their own approaches or attitude to Nigeria and I don’t know how far that will benefit all of us.
“Let us have a Nigeria that belongs to all of us. So I expect the presidency to move to the south.
Democracy can’t guarantee good president but participation, inclusion
In his submission, Chief Akin Osuntokun said, “The reason I support zoning arrangement is because it will serve to promote nation building but again this would not have been necessary if we have not negated federalism, the type that we had in the independence constitution.
“Zoning became an issue because there was over concentration/centralization of power at the center which is not supposed to be and this led to the turn by turn formula.
“Democracy does not give you the assurance or guarantee that you are going to end up with a good president. What it promises is participation and inclusion, and that is why it is called representative democracy.
“If you go through the history of Nigeria, you will discover that bad leadership or bad President had not been as a result of zoning.
“We didn’t have zoning to begin with until 1999 and if you look at all the elections that had taken place since 1960, the less qualified candidates had always emerged victorious over the better ones.
“Like in 1960 that we had Abubakar Tafawa Balewa emerging over Zik, Awolowo and Azikwe as the prime minister. The same thing repeated itself in 1979 where Shehu Shagari emerged over Awolowo and Azikwe.
“In those days there was no zoning, that was just a practice of Nigeria democracy. So, zoning by itself has no bearing and of course it is similar to what we call the federal character.
“There is no part of the country where quality does not reside”.
Rotational presidency must run its course to avert serious anarchy
For Pastor Kenny Adenugba, Secretary, Conscience of Yoruba Nation, ”since the advent of the 4th Republic when rotational Presidency was muted and embraced, it will be either unfair or mischievous to suddenly turn around to denounce the concept at the turn of another electoral season.
“It sure will be like changing the rules in the middle of this particular game. The times are precarious and such call by the apostles of meritocracy may just be fueling sectional sentiments and deeper hatred across the land when you realise that there is no dearth of competent people who also have integrity among the geopolitical entities of Nigeria.
“Talking of integrity, we can clearly point out men of impeccable standing with competence who had contested the Presidency since independence and who among them did we vote for or allow to be President?
“Was it Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the West, Mallam Aminu Kano in the North West, Waziri Ibrahim in the now North East or Chief Olú Fálaè among others that was allowed to take the rein of presidential power?
“This rotational virus should be allowed to run its course if we must seek equity and balance of power at this point in our national life when restructuring and self-determination ideologues pervade the land.
“To do otherwise may be courting serious anarchy that may serve as the last straw to our proverbial camel’s back.”
Sanusi, Bakare changing goal post midway into the game
A prominent Igbo monarch and the paramount ruler of Abriba ancient kingdom in Abia State, HRM Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu (Enachioken Abriba), described the position of Sanusi and Bakare as hypocritical and unjust, arguing that it is the turn of the South East to produce the President in 2023.
According to him, “it’s people like Sanusi and Bakare that are part of the problem of this great country.
“These are great men who have a good influence on the public but all expectations from them appear misplaced.
“I would have expected them to stand on the path of truth, justice and fair play. Trying to justify injustice can’t fly.
“Trying to change the goal post now that it is the turn of the Igbo nation to produce the next president is unacceptable and cannot be explained away by flowery unassuming words.
“Justice demands that it is the turn of the Igbo to produce the president. Anything short of this is injustice that cannot be allowed to stand by any true Patriot.
“I know that Sanusi and Bakare know a number of Igbo people who have impeccable character that can do the job now.
“Let us all join hands and pick the right Igbo man that can work with others to rescue this nation and return us to our rightful place among comity of nations.”
Statements of southern leaders provoked north’s insistence on retaining power
A northern elder, Alhaji Abubakar Udu Idris who is also a former head of service in Kebbi state, however argued that zoning or power rotation was unconstitutional and undemocratic.
According to him, “I have no objection to zoning but it has no basis. Although, if it is a recipe for peace, unity and stability I have no problem with that, it’s not a bad idea if we try somebody else from the south provided he is upright, dependable and he will be a president for all Nigerians.
“No northerner initially opposed zoning, it was the provocative statements from some southern academics, politicians and some elders from the region that forced northerners to insist on retaining power beyond 2023.
“In every tribe and region there are good and bad people, so what the country needs is a firm and detribalised leader no matter where he comes from.
“However, I am opposed to the idea of domiciling the presidential seat in one region. So, if zoning will strengthen our democracy through quality leadership from anywhere so be it”.
President General of Mzough U Tiv, MUT, worldwide, Chief Iorbee Ihagh said zoning was imperative to give every part of the country a sense of belonging: “As a political scientist I do not believe in zoning but Nigeria is made of hundreds of ethnic nationalities and if you leave out zoning some ethnic nationalities will take over the country to the detriment of others.
“So there is need for zoning in Nigeria, we have already started with it in the country and we cannot end it half way because one part of the country will dominate the others.
“For instance recently we had the meeting of ethnic nationalities and we zoned the presidency to the south.
“And then in my opinion I believe that when the South West, South East and South South meet they will sit and decide where in the south the position will be micro zoned to bearing in mind that they must for a capable hand, a competent and well qualified person with the right pedigree to lead a complex country like Nigeria.”
For Prof Benjamin Okaba, President, Ijaw National Congress (INC), “As a nation, even after 61years of political independence, we still embrace a political culture that encourages mediocrity, ethnicity, sectionalism, nepotism, winner takes all syndrome and other negative primordial tendencies that have automatically given rise to governance and development failures, and the marginalization and cries of oppression by some groups.
“The call for rotational presidency is coming largely from sections of the country that have lost faith in the capacity of the Nigerian political class and gladiators to rise above negative sentiments.
“Experiences of the last few years are not encouraging enough for any section of the country to entrust political leadership perpetually on one zone with out deliberately ensuring that power rotates to others.
“After all, people of integrity, competence and capacity abound in every zone of the country with over 200 million people.
“My point is that power should rotate and if it is the turn of any particular region, all Nigerians should conscientiously search for and elect the leadership with the requisite capacity.”
On his part, a former Presidential aspirant under the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, said: “To a very large extent a candidate’s a integrity is a determining factor but at the same time, we should not jettison zoning, there is wisdom in it.
“Zoning is for equity and justice, it will reduce inter party wrangling, bickering and excessive spending.
“I would even want zoning to be entrenched into our constitution. What we should realise is the fact that Nigeria belongs to all of us.
“If zoning is not practiced, a section of the country will continue to dominate the political space at the expense of others and zoning should go down to the state and indeed the local government. It should not be at the federal level alone.”
Former Senate Chief Whip, Sir Roland Owie said from 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) adopted zoning and that the people should keep to that noting that jettisoning zoning could mean the presidency remaining permanently in the north because of its voting population.
He said “Where there is no justice, there can’t be peace”.
Abagun Kole Omololu, Organising Secretary Afenifere, said, “suspicion and hatred has not been rife in the history of this country until this government came to power.
“Nigeria is not ripe to leave democracy to free for all. Some parts of the country believe it is their God given right to rule, even to the detriment of development of the country.
“Even if they produce a genius to be president in 2023, lack of trust will be the bane of the government. During the last two governorship elections in Ondo state, the ruling government lost the election because they jettisoned zoning arrangements between the North, the Central and the South of the state.
“Even though zoning is not in the constitution, a democracy must be managed to suit local condition”.
Ogbeni Lanre Banjo Ex-Ogun governorship candidate submitted that, “In considering the flag bearer members of all political parties should evaluate the performance records of each candidate, the candidate’s ability and continued capacity to handle strenuous requirements of the job and should be fair in doing so.
“Unfortunately, majority of the voters are not enlightened enough to make this decision on their own as they completely submit themselves to be goaded.
“Where delegates are used, those ones would go for the highest bidder and would not be based on ability, experience and political will to do the needful. The guide to use is very simple.
“For those who have held positions at the highest level in the states, voters should look into their records, how the fortunes of the states they governed were positively turned over and their care for the masses.
“Definitely, hunger is pervasive in the country and Nigerians have profoundly lost values, but voters must understand that hunger, poverty, insecurity would be on the rise and devaluation of their worthiness would be deepened if they continue to sell their votes for pittance”.
According to a lawyer and member-elect of Edo State House of Assembly, Washington Osifo,”the truth is that zoning is a phraseology unknown to our law if we are talking about the law and the constitution.
“But the nation is so fragile and has been north versus south and though zoning is not written anywhere, it has been written in our conscience that from time to time, the presidency that unites all of us is rotated between the north and the south.
“Assuming the presidency has been in the south for eight years, will the northerners say they don’t want zoning, that it should be thrown open?
“As at today, the north is slightly more populated than the south by the census and so some people just want to use that to continuously lord it over other parts, but in a federation like ours, it will be wrong to allow one group to constantly dominate the other.
“This country has never been this divided along ethnic lines like it is today so it will be morally right to allow zoning at this time.”
Former Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr. Peter Linus Umoh however argued that allowing the Northeast or Southeast to produce the next president in 2023 would end secessionist agitations among the Igbos and Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast threatening the unity and security of Nigeria.
He said besides being marginalized, both geo-political zones have competent persons who are capable of leading the country.
“All the other zones have produced elected presidents except the Northeast and Southeast zones.
“So if I am in a position to decide for my party, my position will be either that the presidential candidate should come from the Southeast and the running mate from the northeast or the presidential candidate comes from the north east while the Southeast will produce the running mate.
“And after eight years, the two zones will now exchange the baton, so that within the next 16 years, either of the political zones would have had the opportunity to produce a president. That will bring real peace in Nigeria”.
Prince Nyekwere, Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, Port Harcourt Branch, Rivers state said, “having a Northern or Southern President without addressing the flawed structure of the Nigeria Federation and our warped value will be of no moment.
“Most of our politicians are rapacious and have no sense of statesmanship. We need a change of value and orientation to make progress.
Darlington Nwauju, spokesman of Niger Delta Rights Advocates said, “If there should be zoning, it should be zoning to capacity and competence.
“The shameless flaunting of ethnic, tribal or religious credentials cannot take the nation out of the back waters of corruption and rabid underdevelopment.
“We need to spread these opportunities equitably amongst competent individuals to give all parts of the country a sense of belonging as enshrined in Section 15 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
Joseph Ambakederimo, Convener, South South Reawakening Group said: “this system of shutting people out of their inalienable right for a period of time just to satisfy a section of the country from time to time has not made us break even in the overall affairs of the country and this is the time to do away with this turn by turn democracy.
“We must see beyond the immediate political satisfaction of a few who are bent on perpetually keeping Nigeria under developed”.
Mr Furoebi Akene, a former Commissioner for Lands & Survey in Bayelsa State who is also the executive chairman, Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development (CEPAD) said: “The issue of rotation is a front burner in the political discourse in the country because of lack of trust amongst various components of the country due to the hyper level of tribalism, sectionalism, nepotism, religious intolerance, selfishness, and greed openly exhibited by various administrations and public office holders in the country.
“In an ideal situation, the best and patriotic person endowed with developmental ideas and capable of executing strong policies that will stop corruption and other endemic ills that have destroyed this country is what we need”.
Eric Onare, immediate past president, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, asserted “In my opinion, those opposed to zoning now are just being dishonest.
“Most of them including Pastor Tunde Bakare and Alhaji Lamido Sanusi were advocates of zoning in the past.
“The question of integrity and competence can be achieved from any part of the country, all the different parts of the country have people who can pass the integrity and competence test.
“Furthermore, the integrity and competence test is even dubious because this was same test they applied to Buhari and we are all living witnesses to his performance in office.
“There is neither integrity nor competence in his performance in office. However, zoning is important to give a sense of belonging and national unity.”
According to Comrade Gentleman Abayomi Arabambi, Chairman, IPAC, Southwest, ”The idea of insisting that the office of the President must go to any geo political zone must be under the condition that the right and mostly qualified candidate can be found in that geo political zone.
“In real time politics, it is very important to note that being a politician who is very rich doesn’t translate to being the best.
“That you were once a governor or Senator at a point in your career does not mean you could be the right candidate under a far delicate and troubled situation the country finds itself today.
“Nigerians should look beyond party in choosing the Presidential candidate in 2023, they should be guided by very many factors before giving their support to anybody that offers himself for the Presidential job.
“These factors include, experience in good governance, known individual capacity in human and natural resources management, level of competence in deep and rational relationship in a diverse and not too united people and ability to be consistently cool – headed and fully inclined to wide consultations.
“Above all, good health beyond doubt, loyalty and patriotism free of selfish agenda and someone who is truly detribalized with comprehensive exposure within and outside the country.
“Final factor is that the candidate must be incorruptible”.
Chief Tunde Olusule, a senior Journalist, believed that, “the level of our political sophistry thus far, is such that we have to continue to zone political offices and rotate the presidency, until such a time that we attain the requisite maturity to focus on quality, credibility and capacity.
“States in Nigeria which have adopted rotation of the topmost offices in their sociopolitical environments, cannot be wrong.
“Cross River, Enugu, Abia, Delta, Edo, are typical examples. Donald Duke, Liyel Imoke and the incumbent governor of Cross River, Ben Ayade, are from different senatorial zones of the state.
“Chimaroke Nnamani, Sullivan Chime and now Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State come from different senatorial zones. The experimentation of rotational governorship in these states, has given their various constituents a sense of belonging.
“Of course the archetypal selfishness of politicians comes in to play from time to time, with some governors concentrating development in their constituencies.
“When this happens, people from other zones are not agitated because they know that under the rotational template, they will always have their turns.
“If merit is the sole yardstick for national political leadership in Nigeria, the South West, South East and South South can as well retain leadership in perpetuity”.
Hon. Lanre Laoshe, a member of the Conscience of Yoruba Nation argued that “it was to ensure fairness that federal character was included in our political structure.
“And if that should be jettisoned for merit, how many northerners will get jobs and positions? On the strength of merit would northerners beat southerners? On the strength of derivation, would the north have any federal funds?
How can they seek assistance where they are weak, but will throw everything open where they are strong based on concocted and underage voting population, to rule or misrule us for ever?”
For Mr Demola Folarin, a legal practitioner, ”this argument presupposes that zoning necessarily compromises integrity and competence.
“Nothing could be more fallacious. The imperative of equity and fairness that zoning imports, in a skewed federal arrangement such as ours and the imperative of competent and honest leadership necessary to drive purposeful governance, are not mutually exclusive.
“I support rotation between the North and the South.
Maxwell Adeleye, Communication Manager to the Chairman, Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof Banji Akintoye, said, “we are not interested in Nigeria’s presidency, what we want is a referendum before 2023 election.
“The outcome of the referendum will determine which way to go. We want a referendum on the existence of Nigeria.
“We, the Yoruba people are saying we want to leave Nigeria and the best way to do it is through a referendum. That’s what will determine whether there will be a country called Nigeria or not”.
A political analyst, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said: “As for me, I prefer integrity and competence but the current Nigeria situation does not call for such. Aside that, among those clamouring for it now who is competent among them?
“A situation where some region will be telling us they have the voting strength without the revenue strength doesn’t call for integrity anymore.
“However, I would suggest true federalism is the only yard stick to move this country forward and for the good of every Nigerian”.
Elder Taiye Ayorinde, a community leader in Ekotedo said, “Whether we agree on zoning or competence, the political warlords already know what they want to do.
“It is because of that type of attitude and utterances that people are moving towards self determination.
“If they allow other people to participate, then things will go well. Right now, we have ostracized the southeast, are they not part of us? What stops them from being given a chance”.
Hon Abayomi Sheba, former Chairman Federal Character Commission FCC said, “in my opinion competence and merit should be considered in the choice of who leads the country in 2023.
“The slide towards separatism and ethnic agitations are the consequences of inept and incompetent leadership .
“The desire of an average Nigerian is having a leader that is truly nationalistic in the choice of his lieutenants and not the present nepotistic choice of aides.
“A competent leader is expected to lead by example and act in accordance with the rule of law.
“I want a President that can fix the economy, fight insecurity and provide good governance irrespective of where he comes from as long as he is a Nigerian.”