January 10th, 2011
It was Professor Chinua Achebe who stated that those whose
palm kernels were cracked by the benevolent spirit should
never forget to be humble and so goes for those in power
today. What is happening in the PDP with regards to moves to
jettison zoning as enshrined in that party’s Constitution is
an indication that the nation's political class has learnt
nothing from such natural advise and would prefer to carry
on without regard to the nation’s sensibilities, which must
be factored in if the country will stabilize and grow.
The very nature of Nigeria’s Federalism is the main reason
zoning of the office of the president is now expedient. Many
countries of the world for many more reasons rotate power
between their own regions. Most notable example is
Switzerland, and this practice has left that country the
most stable and peaceful in the world. It is a practice that
usually begins as a convention and ultimately gets enshrined
in the concerned country’s Constitution.
If President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had not died to give
President Goodluck the chance to lay claim to the north’s
turn at the moment, there is no doubt that zoning would have
been enshrined in the nation’s constitution during
Some have claimed that the zoning principle is undemocratic
and the push to dump it is therefore a rebellion to the
ruling party’s (PDP’s) tyranny and therefore obedience to
God, as Thomas Jefferson prescribed. Such warped logic
glosses over the fact that Nigeria’s federalism is so only
in name and needs such novel measures to rein in splintering
federating units. Granted, there may be times when we are
powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a
time when we fail to protest (apologies Elie Wiesel), but a
protest against a salvationist policy can only reverse its
gains and foster more disunity in a country like Nigeria.
Every country takes measures to balance its polity. In the
US, where one man one vote is rife as the bastion of
democracy, super-delegates and caucuses still hold sway in
the election of the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ party
flag bearers. There is nothing that makes any American super
or superior to another American except their consideration
for some peculiarities that lay deeper than votes.
It might not be quite in order to assume that such tenets
that are widely recognized, observed and acknowledged must
have been provided for in the USA constitution beforehand.
So, zoning may not be mentioned in the Nigerian Constitution
as a policy that is binding to all political parties in the
country but as a starting convention in our polity that must
be allowed to blossom. It had made its debut and was tried
and tested to produce Olusegun Obasanjo as President, thus
making Southern Nigeria its first beneficiary.
Any one that is against zoning therefore is a convenient
activist and shifting the goalpost in the middle of the
game. The motive of such latter-day saints is normally
sycophantic and therefore a well-worn road to power or to
benefitting from its perks and as such, has little or
nothing to do patriotism as they claim.
These growing troops of power merchants with corresponding
monkeyshines have come to be aptly dubbed AGIP - any
government in power - and are the ones goading Mr. President
to go against his party constitution and the principle that
first made him vice president and ultimately president of
It must be observed that had President Jonathan acknowledged
zoning and pleaded for a chance to continue, given the
uniqueness and coincidental nature of his emergence, the
north wouldn’t have felt do so insulted and challenged. The
president, for waking up now against zoning after
benefitting amply from it, amounts to approbating and
reprobating at the same time and therefore less than
honourable and opportunistic.
Someone also said that proponents of the zoning arrangement
in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have pushed the
presidential ambition of former Vice President Atiku
Abubakar into troubled waters following fresh indications
that the proposition contravenes the extant Electoral Act.
This argument is pure trash since even in the US after which
our constitution is modeled; party constitution is not
subject to the electoral law otherwise, the US Democratic
Party would be violating the US electoral law of one man one
vote, with their said super delegates and caucuses
With zoning, Nigeria is on the road to becoming Nigeria;
ours is a nascent democracy going through growing pains that
will be oiled with unique measures as zoning principle. It
takes time to build a nation. Just as Rome was not built in
a day, the Nigeria that we want would not be built in one
day. But we must equally hurry things up, because there is
growing poverty and like Achebe also noted, Nigerian masses
are not enjoying their poverty and its pain and can explode
any moment (emphasis mine).
Specifically, with zoning, Nigeria is addressing the
problems imbedded in the nation’s skewed federalism.
Following the civil war and the multifarious military
interregnums, the South East particularly has been reduced
to a minority region, with one state and several LGAs down,
compared to the other regions, especially its South South
neighbours. Yet, States and LGAs remain the main bases of
resource allocation, since the nation’s weird federalism has
no fiscal features and all the States’ major resources
centrally collected and shared at whims of the controllers
of the federal government at the given time.
Zoning is therefore to ensure that every region gets close
enough to addressing its own needs ignored by those in power
with instrumentality of state power. South East is neglected
to the point that the only federal presence there is police
stations and Okoh prisons. South South has suffered the same
fate, prompting violent agitations in the latter and
kidnapping in both, until late President Yar’Adua came up
with Amnesty and other augmentation programmes. If the South
South fails to address its marginalization with the Jonathan
presidency, it will have itself to blame up to decades to
come. The South East if fighting to head the presidency by
pushing for zoning as a way of being in a position to do the
same for itself.
Nobody will be bordered with zoning (or who occupies the Aso
Rock) if the country has been returned to true fiscal
federalism (resource control) as it were prior to 1967
before the military destroyed the nation’s federalism. The
mounting need for this led the late president Yar’Adua to
set up the Ledum Mittee Technical Committee on the Niger
Delta with the promise to implement its recommendations. It
has been over 3 years since that committee turned in its
report and till date, no White Paper has been issued, let
alone its core recommendation of staggered 50% resource
control, starting with 25%, being implemented.
Zoning therefore remains the only plausible option for now,
until the real issues besetting the nation, especially
fiscal federalism are fully addressed.
Americans fashioned their democracy out of the old country,
but built it to fit their newfound values of freedom.
Likewise, Nigeria can fashion our democracy after the
American system but must adapt to fit into our nation’s
peculiarities characterized by skewed federalism. This makes
zoning a masterstroke for the pursuit and promotion of
peace, justice, equity, opportunity and human rights in
Nigeria of today. Arguments to the contrary are self serving
to say the least and should be better guided by due regard
• Law Mefor, Author, Journalist And Psychologist, Is
Director Center For Leadership, Social And Forensic
Research, Abuja. +234-803-787-2893.