By Ochereome Nnanna
NORTHERN Nigeria is about to kill zoning. The plot is on both in the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Unless the miraculous happens, we are likely to see northerners as the presidential candidates of the two major parties. Bola Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, agreed to support Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, for the presidency so that after Buhari, Tinubu would take his turn. They dissolved their parties into what became the APC in 2013.
When preparations for this were going on in 2013/2014, I wrote cautioning Tinubu to avoid that alliance or he would regret it. Buhari and his Caliphate cohorts would not give him power because they don’t share. They only relish in master-servant alliances. I even warned that Tinubu could lose the South-West which he had acquired with political sagacity.
My “predictions” are almost home and dry. The APC initially shocked me when it announced that it would zone the presidency to the South. Even with that, the proverbial Buhari body language shows that he has no plans to support Tinubu. We were even led to believe that Buhari’s mindset was inclined eastward, and names like Goodluck Jonathan, Chibuike Amaechi, Godwin Emefiele and others have been bandied.
But now, the chicken may be coming home to roost. Northern contenders have started flocking the APC secretariat to pay the humongous N100 million for the presidential nomination form. Apart from Yahaya Bello, Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, has entered the race. Despite its woeful failure, the APC Federal Government is desperate to remain in power after 2023. All gloves are off, so are all pretensions, especially as they see that the PDP might present a northern candidate.
The PDP, as the party that inherited power from the military in 1999, adopted zoning which the General Sani Abacha government had approved as a means of giving all sections of Nigeria a sense of belonging. Indeed, General Abdulsalami Abubakar used it to pacify the Yoruba for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola. In cahoots with other Northern leaders, he brought out General Olusegun Obasanjo from jail and forced the North off the race so that Obasanjo could be president.
In turn, Obasanjo pushed Governor Peter Odili off the presidential race in 2007 and brought out retiring Governor Umaru Yar’Adua to take the North’s turn. Not only that, Obasanjo brought Goodluck Jonathan who had been re-elected as Governor of Bayelsa State and made him Yar’Adua’s running mate. When Yar’Adua died on May 5, 2010, northern hawks pushed to replace him with another northerner to “complete their turn”. But the rest of the nation supported Jonathan to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure and win the presidential election in 2011.
PDP’s zoning mechanism had been deliberately allocated to South-West, North and South-South. After Buhari’s eight years it will be a violation of that principle if the presidency is retained in the North. So, the only zone that should be collectively supported for president if Nigerians were people who honoured agreements, is the South- East. Even if Buhari eventually honours his pact with Tinubu and supports the South-West, the PDP is bound by honour to give its presidential ticket to the South-East which always supported earlier zoning beneficiaries.
They say, “power is taken, not given”. But in the case of Nigeria, power has always been given (through zoning), not taken. APC zoned the presidency to the North in 2014 to enable Buhari benefit. This is to cultivate a sense of justice, fair play, and national belonging. That is what nation-building in a diverse country like Nigeria is all about. Nation-building is not a game of buccaneers or pirates who use rough play to grab everything in sight for themselves.
It was used to bring the alienated Yoruba nation back to the fold. Today, the Yoruba are at the forefront of blaming the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, for seeking to separate from Nigeria. Zoning was used to douse the militancy in the creeks. It can be used to bring the Igbo back to the centre of national reckoning and away from separatism if done right. Happily, we have excellent presidential materials on offer from that zone who can fix Nigeria.
The PDP is finding it difficult to give the South-East its due for several reasons. Only a ruling party can effectively zone the presidency or even governorship. All past zoning was done by incumbent presidents. If Buhari refuses to zone the presidency to the South, it is his personal fault.
PDP knows that the only chance it has return to power is by looking northwards. The North has a much larger electorate. Northerners attend campaigns, register, and vote en masse. On election days people in the South play street football, watch TV and banter in beer parlours. Some even open shops. That is why we have less than 200,000 from some southern states. North goes together but every southerner (especially Igbo) is a president of himself.
Northerners have accepted Fulani as their overlords and line up behind them with a “church mind,”but in the South, every group (no matter how tiny) is a self-appointed rival of the others. These divisive attributes render the South the political slaves of the North.
The North should reciprocate the support they have always got from the South-East. If the North produces the next president, zoning is dead. Northern domination will return with venom, and only the death of a president will produce a Southern president.
If zoning dies, militancy, Yoruba Nation, Biafra armed separatism and others will be unstoppable. With Islamic terrorism in the North, there will be no Nigeria for the North to rule.