Youth leader

CAN THE ZONING ARRANGEMENT PRODUCE AN EFFECTIVE LEADER?

Ejeviome Eloho Otobo and Oseloka H. Obaze argue that at the political development level of Nigeria, zoning can help overcome many obstacles

Ahead of the presidential elections of 2023, the clamor for the zoning of the presidency intensified. The Zoning Arrangement of the Fourth Republic has a unique historical antecedent. Its genesis dates back to the annulment of the presidential elections of June 12, 1993. The annulment not only led to major political upheaval, but also created a deep sense of injustice on the part of the geopolitical zone section of where did the winner come from. To allay the sense of discontent that followed, the two main political parties that emerged to lead the transition from military to civilian rule in 1999 reached a consensus that allowed presidential candidates from both main parties to come out. of the geography of the South-West. political area.

Thus, zoning in its current incarnation was born. There was, however, a precursor to the current arrangement. During the Second Republic, there was an informal but determined effort to distribute the high-level elective positions – president, vice-president, president of the Senate, vice-president of the Senate and president of the House of Representatives and vice-president. president – in different geopolitical areas to reflect the federal character and inclusive politics. The first years of the Fourth Republic also adopted this practice. The principle of the federal character was introduced not to appease a group, but to promote national cohesion and the feeling of belonging of the citizens of all the regions of the country. While the federal character is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), zoning is not. Nevertheless, both are based on the same central organizing principle, namely political inclusiveness and national cohesion in a secular, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural mosaic, in order to achieve fair and equitable representation.

While zoning may have emerged as a product of necessity; it represents in its opportunity, a pragmatic response to nation building. It is increasingly evident that countries which have made great strides in nation-building are making greater strides in economic development. This is mainly due to the fact that these countries would have reached a consensus and developed institutional and political arrangements to creatively manage their diversity. The emergence and persistence of multiple security problems in Nigeria over the past few years are proof, if need be, of Nigeria’s dismal record in nation building.

Along with national security and economic management, nation building is one of the most important tasks of political leaders, especially the president of a country like Nigeria. Nation building requires balancing efficiency and equity. Unfortunately, Nigerian political processes lack both. The zoning principle aims to ensure that no part of the country is ever permanently excluded from power and that no national party is seen as representing a part of the country. Despite its many advantages, especially in terms of national construction, zoning remains a contested device in Nigeria. Why is this the case? And can zoning produce an effective leader?

The three main arguments put forward by opponents of zoning are that it undermines the freedom to choose; promotes the mediocrity of the nation at the highest level of government; and deprives the nation of effective leadership. These arguments have limited validity. Zoning does not take away the freedom to choose. Instead, zoning is a creative and equitable power rotation in the spirit of nation building. In the 1999 presidential electoral contest, the South West presented two formidable candidates, who could not be characterized as mediocre by any stretch of the imagination. The administration that came to power in 2007 marked the first time Nigeria had two leaders with senior degrees and considerable experience in state-level governance. But there is an unexplained reason why some oppose zoning: to preserve power for themselves or for their group. For those in power, nation-building and promoting inclusiveness have little place in their political considerations.

Certainly, some Nigerian leaders displayed enormous nepotism tendencies. This can be attributed to the provisions of Article 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution which establishes the educational qualification “at least the level of the school certificate or its equivalent”. There are many obvious limitations in the thought, knowledge, and cosmopolitan orientation that accompany this low level of education. This is a provision that should not have found its place in the Constitution of Nigeria drafted on the eve of the 21st century.

This raises a fascinating question: Can zoning arrangement produce an effective leader? Three fundamental questions must be taken into account. First, there is no geopolitical area that cannot boast of prima facie qualified and competent presidential candidates. Second, effective leadership is a function of skills, knowledge and experience. By failing to turn political power, the country is depriving itself of the experience and expertise of these people. Thirdly, Nigerian leaders and citizens show great pride when their compatriots advance in politics and the like in foreign countries. Yet these same people could be deemed unworthy of ruling the country, mainly due to their geopolitical area. This is reminiscent of a claim made about President Barack Obama: that in Kenya, he could not have become president because of his region of origin. At this stage in Nigeria’s political development, zoning can help overcome any of these obstacles.

It should be recalled that the draft report of the 1994 Constitutional Conference, signed by Sani Abacha in 1995, proposed an arrangement whereby each of the six zones would have had the presidency for five years, with a revision of the arrangement after 30 years. . This arrangement failed due to sudden changes in leadership towards the end of the political transition. But in essence, it reflected a deep commitment to nation building. This shows that a little over a quarter of a century ago there was an elite consensus on this issue which has become controversial. Nigeria has now reached the crossroads of its political journey. To move forward in a spirit of reconciliation, the South East must have the opportunity to present candidates for the 2023 presidential election. As envisioned in the 1994 draft report, the time will come to review the zoning arrangement. This time is not now.

Otobo is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Global Governance Institute in Brussels, while Obaze is Managing Director and CEO of Selonnes Consult in Awka.

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