By Adekunle Adekoya
When the news broke last Monday that APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu disclosed to Nigerians that he had been in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to inform President Muhammadu Buhari of his intention to contest for the nation’s top job next year, my mind was at once settled and in turmoil over the declaration.
Settled because the man we all have come to know as the Jagaban has officially put to rest any doubts about his presidential ambition and confirmed that the activities of various support groups in the past few months were fore-runners of the big word from the big man himself.
I was equally troubled because the announcement threw up the issue of rotation or zoning again.This is because after President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, from the North, it had become the natural expectation that the next presidential candidate of the ruling party from the APC must come from the South, in line with the informal rotation credo of the power elite, irrespective of which faction, in which party, is in power at any time.
By that, all competent Nigerians from the North, including those from Katsina, Buhari’s home state have been automatically excluded.
Similarly, the main opposition party, the PDP, which practised and religionised zoning in the 16 years it held federal power is currently enmeshed in gritty politicking over which part of the country should get its presidential ticket.
The argument in the PDP is worsened by the political arithmetic being peddled to the effect that in the 16 years of the PDP, the South held presidential power longest — eight years by Obasanjo, three years by late Umaru Yar’Adua, five years by Goodluck Jonathan, as a result of which the presidential ticket should go to the North, amid an uproarious clamour for a Southern president.
I do not expect much from the other political parties, most of which are trading platforms and special purpose vehicles used to reclaim senatorial, house of assembly, and in some past cases, governorship seats.
They will, after wheeling and dealing, announce that they have adopted the candidates of one party or the other.
In September 2021, the governors of our Southern States met in Asaba, and among other things, declared in their communique that the next president of the country should come from the South.
That resolution, along with their position on the issue of VAT generated much applause.
I have never liked rotation, or zoning. My personal view of the idea is that it elevates the politics of exclusion to the high pedestal of political righteousness by justifying exclusion of one part with arguments in support of inclusion of the benefitting zone or region. The polemics change at every election cycle.
The most potent argument against zoning, in my view, is that we stand to lose all the time by it.
If the PDP arithmetic gains traction, it means another president from the North. On the converse, if the clamour for a Southern president succeeds, the best hands that this nation needs at these times may never smell the office. Zoning helped drive us to where we are today.
Recall that in the November 5, 2021 edition of this column, I posited that religion and zoning are red herrings in Nigerian politics. They have, since 1975, been used by militicians (military politicians) to mask incompetence in the management of public affairs and institutionalise graft in governance.
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It has also been used to suck politicians of all ethnic groups into the dragnet of corruption in national life. Zoning is actually a creation of the military administration that succeeded General Yakubu Gowon.
The Gowon Administration which preceded the Murtala/Obasanjo regime had as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters — Brigadier Emmanuel Ekpo, and later, Rear-Admiral Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey.
As the names show, General Yakubu Gowon and his two chiefs were Christians, in addition to the Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council, till 1971, being another Christian in the person of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Murtala Muhammed, a Moslem, had Obasanjo, a Christian as deputy.
When Murtala died and Obasanjo succeeded him, he appointed Shehu Musa Yar’Adua as his deputy.
That was the take-off.
Today, zoning has become a mantra that must not just be sung by politicians irrespective of party affiliation, it has assumed the status of an unwritten political grundnorm.
Whether I am right or wrong about zoning will not matter if we continue politicking the way we always do.
As I write this, at least four politicians from the South have indicated interest in the presidency.
They are Asiwaju Tinubu, David Umahi, Orji Uzor Kalu, and Dele Momodu.
The number may increase by the time you are reading this. What I want all of us to take to the bank is that Southern Nigeria will splinter its electoral treasure, while those adept at political manipulation, and who always voted for politicians of their ethnic stock run away with the prize in 2023.
Watch, and may The Almighty preserve us all till then and beyond.