WITH the dawn of our renascent democracy in 1999, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over when General Sani Abacha died, was in the forefront of implementing the resolution of the Provisional Ruling Council, PRC, to put rotation, zoning and federal character into effect.
He ensured that the Federal Character principle which had been enshrined in the 1979 Constitution was reenacted in the 1999 Constitution.
Section 14(3) reads as follows: “The composition of the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies”
In addition, Abubakar led efforts to zone the presidency to the South-West. Alhaji Abubakar Rimi defied the zoning and vied for delegates at the first Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential convention in Jos in April 1999 but later succumbed. Since then, the South-West, North and the South-South have benefited from zoning, remaining the South East.
If Nigeria were a covenant-keeping entity, all political parties should have no problem in collectively zoning their presidential tickets to the South-East for the fact that it is their time to benefit from our national consensus.
This should have provided Nigeria with the opportunity to fully put the Civil War behind after 53 years.
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But unfortunately, our old malaise of selfishness, greed and lack of empathy for others have taken hold of Nigerian politicians. The old argument of zoning being “undemocratic” or “unrealistic” is back to the front burner of the discourse towards 2023.
The emergence of a South-Westerner, South-Southerner or Northerner as the next president of Nigeria will mean that the rotation/zoning chain is broken. Buhari has already broken the Federal Character principle, a constitutional violation.
All the principles that bind our unity will be broken. We call for the continued faithful implementation of these principles because Nigeria’s delegates agreed on them by consensus.
We must not abdicate our national consensus or sacrifice it at the altar of personal or regional greed. Once we violate this sacred covenant, the fears that led us to adopt them may be realised. We warn that the day the Southern parts of Nigeria discover they have lost the ability to produce the president of Nigeria as of right, the unity of this country will be lost for good.
The nation has already endured seven years of a brazen and cynical serial abuses of the Federal Character principle. We must learn to live and let live, or risk losing it all.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.