Christopher Odetunde, Ph.D.Friday, December 1, 2006
Houston, TX, USA



he immaturity of our democratic system is what keeps returning Nigeria to an undemocratic means, political zoning, to resolve our perceived political quagmire. Democracy is actually a simple system which when followed will make an otherwise complicated political setup easy. The undemocratic means which I referred to is the rotational presidency. In a well-meaning, well-established and mature democracy, all democracy needs to function like a well oiled machine are:

  1. Well articulated non-convicted citizens who are ready to build and sustain a democratic system beyond their tenure;

  2. Informed electorates who believe that a democratic system so established would protect all citizens regardless of their religion, stage in life, their ethnicity, or tribe;

  3. A democratic system that allows strong competition amongst candidates;

  4. A well spirited public debate of ideas and issues that allow sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Such debate of competing ideas would bring about mature and, beneficial democracy which is necessary to move Nigeria forward.

It is because Nigeria's democracy is still its in infancy that the zoning issues of presidency rare its ugly head. As one listens to the debate with zoning, one sees that zoning has absolutely no substance and should not have relevance in governance. For instance, Obasanjo was supposed to represent the Southwest region. Did the Southwest people vote for Chief Obasanjo at any time? How did Obasanjo represent Southwest region in the to-be concluded political dispensation. The fact is that Obasanjo behaved more like he was representing the military guys that put him in office, the Northern oligarchy, his friends, or himself but surely, to me, not the Southwest.

If Obasanjo did not represent the Southwest, how come Southwest candidates are excluded from participating in 2007 presidential contest? If indeed, Obasanjo represented southwest, would it not be proper to take a survey of the people represented to see if they were well represented and satisfied with his representation? How can a system place such a tremendous burden of representation on any individual when there are Senators and House of Representative members elected to represent and protect the interest of their zones? If the representatives and Senators are not representing the people who voted for them, do the people not have recourse to vote these people out (American mid-term election is a case in point)?

If money were not used to silence the voice of the people, would it not be equitable if all qualified candidates compete for the highest office in the land and be elected President of Nigeria not of Southwest, Northeast, S-S, S-E or what have you? A person that sells his vote should be silenced forever during that political dispensation until he/she is smart enough to redeem his voice. A salient point here is that Nigeria will fair better whenever the most visionary and qualified candidate, East, West, North, or South is voted for in a free and fair election. It is only then that the electorates can call a leader to order. We the people must embark on a reverse domino theory in this new democratic dispensation in order to buy our voice back in a governance that portend to be government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The North has been stating that they are marginalized in the current political dispensation. Who defines marginalization? What does this code word mean to ordinary Northerners and by extension ordinary Nigerians? Unfortunately for the Northern people, they have been in control of Nigeria more times than any other zone, if you allow me to state this unequivocally. What has the Northern leaders done for ordinary Northern citizens or for the space referred to as Northern Nigeria? In the 60s and 70s there was joy in the North. The North was a collage of ideas, tribal gathering, religious tolerance and a region that was both accommodating and blessed. Since those without political ideologies have moved into the Northern political stage, both the land and its people have not benefited from Northern leadership nor fair well. In all the past political and military governance, only the leaders were able to siphon money to their foreign accounts and build mansions. The Sardauna and the Tafawa Balewa were selfless politicians but, today, the North people have selfish and arrogant leadership who inflict nothing but pain to the people. Providng citizens daily akamu and Kose is not equivalent to providing the dividend of democracy. The Northerners, especially forward looking Northern youth must understand this fact, stand up and wrestle the power from the dong-heads otherwise the next generation will not forgive them.

After the 1966 coup, many politically connected Northerners, their children and friends were selling contracts and making money without lifting their fingers. Indeed, ordinary Northerners did not fair well during the military era or civilian leadership of Northerner extraction, only very few Northerners and their close allies benefited. These are all facts that can be verified by interested Nigerians. We know by facts on ground that these leaders did not set up factories, improve the educational systems beyond what Sardauna of Sokoto and Tafa Balewa left behind, nor did they improve social and fundamental infrastructures. I contend here also that Obasanjo's presidency was not a Southwest presidency nor did OBJ sign a contract to represent southwest. Southwesterners did not benefit from OBJ's presidency like they benefited from Pa Awo's governance nor did OBJ's presidency improve the lot of most Nigerians beyond what were written by paid journalists and told by political sycophants. It will presumptuous for any other zone, S-S, S-E, N-E, N-W, etc to believe that president from their zone only work for them. Southwest did not think it has absolute hold on OBJ.

The question that should be on the minds of ordinary Nigerian citizens should be, where do they factor in the present and future political strategy? The fact is that the generation of the OBJs, the IBB, the Buharis, the Shagari's knows no better than over stating the relevance of Indians, Lebanese, the whites and giving all the fat contracts out to these people as their surrogates. I thought we are all Nigerians and the Chinese, Indians, Lebanese, and Europeans are all foreigners hired to improve the lives of Nigerian citizens? Why is this in reverse? There is a challenge to the new generation of Nigerians with global reference and reach to show that they have arrived and they will no longer accept no wool placed over their eyes.

Having said this, citizens should not expect that real lasting democracy would be handed down to "Moses of Nigeria" in stone tablet without mature efforts and sacrifices from the civil society. Our today's Moses are the selfless citizens who are ready to change their lots through dedicated thought processes, willing to review their past performance in relegating their civic constitutional responsibilities and agreeing not to sell their most important political assets, their votes. Isn't it time for Nigerians to fight against discrimination and degradation of a political system and take lives in their hands starting from May 29, 2007. The new crop of leaders must believe in participatory democracy not one in which a leader feels that he is the beginning and end all, his children, by extension, associate president; and his wives and concubines are vice presidents. When I read that IBB's son own 24% of Globalcom, I ask, what have ordinary Nigerians done to God for their continued punishment? Even, OBJ's son, Dr. Obasanjo was talking to the world at large as a lineage-given semi de facto President of Nigeria. Afterall, many Nigerians are better educated that junior IBB, junior Obasanjo, etc., yet, ordinary Nigerians who are working harder than ever, and those actively seeking jobs do no better.

If Nigeria must move forward, our democracy must morph in the following directions:

  1. Discourage zoning and encourage most qualified citizens who have the educational experience

  2. Seek candidates with political sagacity and impeccable managerial records and skills;

  3. Seek citizens that are endowed with people skill;

  4. Look for citizens that are true patriots and consummate diplomats;

  5. Find citizens that understand that real negotiation comes from strength within and from outside; and

  6. Seek for citizens that believe that Nigerians are not dummies to be trampled upon.

If for example, China, India, Korea, etc. do not believe in their people, they would not have the opportunity to buy all of Africa including Nigeria as they currently are. Who can blame them? If Nigerians are, for once, blessed with visionary leader, we too can begin to spread our winds across Africa and beyond.

Political zoning of presidency in a winner take all democratic system is not good for a developing nation and bad for the people. In fact, political zoning is nothing more than a quid pro quo among friends and does not have anything to do with the governed. For that matter, suppose presidency is zoned to a particular part of the country and there are absolutely no qualified persons, should we, just for the heck of it, elect an unqualified person to govern us for four years. As you know, at the conclusion of his four years, sycophants will ask this unqualified person to run for re-election. What a shame?

To understand that a mature democracy does not need to be zoned, let us take a look at the American system. In a mature democracy, the president is not as important as those in his cabinet. The ministers are experts in their fields and ought to be the gears that run the engine of government. When a leader knows his shortcomings and surrounds himself with qualified aids or what we call Ministers capable of coming up with sound policies, the president is to tap the knowledge of the ministers and present them as his. First, US system can afford to have an unqualified person as her president (but their system of sorting out presidential candidate will not allow this) because she has a mature and responsive governing system because of her mature: a) Judicial system; b) Legislative system; c) Respected press to ascertain the check and balances; and more importantly, d) Responsive electorates that know their rights and willing to lay their lives to defend the rights. In our zone-based democratic presidency, our president is a demi-god. Our legislators do not know their responsibilities because they are more interested in "Ghana-must-Go" bags than representing their constituencies, if they think they have one. Our judiciary is easily bought because they are not independent of the executive and their livelihood depends on the dictates of the "god." The citizens see themselves as servants of politicians rather than the other way round. Unfortunately our journalists are yellow-belly journalists that will allow themselves to be bribed in order to write positively about a well known devil. For our immature polity, we must revisit the zoning system. Already, we are hearing that if a S-S or S-E candidate becomes the president, he'll be concentrating his efforts on fattening his pocket, the pocket of his cronies and, may be, developing only his side of the village. Are we really electing a president of a local chief?

Recently in Houston, Chairman NIDO Americas, Inc., Dr. Ola Kassim brought some young, goal oriented young and vibrant CEOs: Mr. Chidi Okpala - Head Offshore Banking Services; Mr. Jide Odusolu, CEO Legacy Realties; and Mr. Olu Elesin, Director of Finance, CityScape International. These gentlemen were seeking investors, with their skills, they will get more than the numbers of foreign investors needed not only to reach their breakeven points but go beyond. I and the other people present at the gathering were extremely impressed with the eloquence, the can-do attitude of the young Nigerians, believe in their products and services, and their enthusiasm in the space called Nigerian. I know that in the past, Mr. President had criss-crossed the world looking for investors without success. He may need to hire these young energetic guys to help him portray Nigeria in good light. It soon became clear to me that what we are looking for in "Sokoto is actually in shokoto." Afterall, we have what we need to move the nation forward in these young Nigerians that the old renegades did not train but are self-trained in providing solutions to our nation's problem. Zoning is not the solution. I pray God to speak to the hearts of men to let Nigeria progress with the advent of our new found freedom via the youth. These new and young entrepreneurs and/or politicians, to me, are our solutions to dilapidated infrastructures, improved educational system, and a new political structure that all Nigerians including those that have destroyed it for six decades can benefit from.

Come 2007, we must tap into our common shared values, allow our system to function the way the people that set it up intended for it to work. We dabbled into democracy and mixed it up with militocracy. We, homo-sapient, know that we have God given talents and are placed in a space called Nigeria to develop that space, spread our success as slave traders spread their trades. If we have courage to do all of the above, we too can begin to join other civilized and developed nations. Without our concerted efforts, we'll be running on the same spot faster and faster and going nowhere. Political zoning of presidency is an albatross on our collective neck and it will move us nowhere.

May the citizens take their responsibilities seriously and may God bless the Republic of Nigeria - amen.