FEATURE ARTICLE

Barth Amakihe, Ph.D.Monday, April 5, 2010
[email protected]
Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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THE POLITICS OF PRESIDENTIAL ZONING SYSTEM IN NIGERIA

or many decades, presidential politics in Nigeria has been saddled with ethnicity or tribal politics, religious intolerance and more recently electoral malpractices. Well meaning and patriotic elements in the polity had wrestled with the idea of the best possible formula that will guarantee peace and stability in the country. Historically, the highest political office in the land has been dominated by the country's citizens of Northern extraction. This was made possible by subsequent military regimes whose brands of leadership had no space for democratic contraception. The Zoning Formula was therefore envisaged to enable the Northern and Southern regions of Nigeria to have an equal chance of producing the president during an eight year presidential cycle. The Zoning Formula was first adopted by the Second Civilian Administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr. Alexander Ekwueme in 1979. During the first quarter of President Shagari's second term, the military led by Retired General Buhari truncated the regime, thereby making it impossible for Southern Nigeria to experience the plan. During the consecutive 15 years of Northern dominated military governance, the Zoning Formula was forgotten.


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For the past ten years, beginning with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's Civilian regime 1999-2007, and the present administration of Shehu Musa Yar'Dua and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan 2007 to present, the (PDP) Peoples Democratic Party had started dangling the carrot of the Presidential Zoning between Southern and Northern sections of the country. Advocates of Presidential Zoning often cite peace and stability in the polity as the main reason. Nigerians must seriously ask themselves how zoning the presidential slot to a particular area of the country brought peace and stability? Can zoning or quota produce the best leadership material the nation desperately needs at this critical time? Can national stability be maintained if there are widespread poverty by a great majority of the people? Chief Obasanjo's Administration which started the experimentation of Presidential Zoning from Southern Nigeria witnessed a lot of instabilities ranging from Odi in the Niger Delta to Zakibiam in the Middle Belt of Nigeria.

As presidential power went back to the North in 2007, peace and stability is still a mirage, as Jos, the capital of the Middle Belt has witnessed several bloody massacres. The examples of instabilities just mentioned clearly posits that zoning has not brought peace to the country. One must therefore postulate that the panacea for peace and stability in the nation is massive economic development of the country led by a pragmatic, smart intelligent president with a team of dedicated political leadership.Smart intelligent leadership is not confined to any ethnic group, or geographical region. When will Nigeria look for its brightest leaders from every segment of its population? Are smart and intelligent leaders not found in all our various ethnic groups including the so called ethnic minorities?

The United States whose presidential system of government was adopted by Nigeria in its present Constitution were able to achieve great milestones in their checkered history because of the belief in the rule of law, as well as a trust that every individual, no matter their race or religious affiliation, are capable of contributing towards their nation's common good. Racial, Ethnic or Religious Beliefs are consciously downplayed, while the country's ideals and universal values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through a free market economy are pursued. In this condition, your state of origin or your religious ideology is not sacrificed nor elevated to an extent that it conflicts with your love and obligation to your country. Nigerian politicians and military power brokers that are holding the country down by always looking backwards are currently in a frenzy to pick another presidential material possibly from the same generation of leaders that could not deliver the country from its economic and infrastructural malaise. Some of these leaders are heating up the polity by threatening fire and brimstone should power stay in the South South or the South East in 2011.

In view of the facts that the South South and the South East are the only regions of the country that have been spectators in the production of the presidency (highest office in the land), the entire country should seriously mobilize and support these zones to produce the Nigerian president until 2015, and after that period, the zoning formula must be discarded. Nigerian masses as a matter of fact will not care which state or zone produces the president provided that the elected individual makes a big difference in the lives of the people. The country needs a president whose policies enhance rapid economic growth in security, uninterrupted power supply, employment, roads and railways, inland waterways, as well as improving the Country's image in Peaceful International Relations. Nigerian citizens, whom fate made it possible to taste the highest office in the land, need to focus attention in establishing Trusts and Foundations to improve the lives of the masses all over Nigeria, and limit their political activities to advisory role on new administrations. May God bless Nigeria.

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