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The PDP, Zoning And Equity: Need For A North Central Or South East Presidential Candidate

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  • By   Akinwale GASKIN

The ongoing debate within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over which of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria should produce the party’s next Presidential candidate for the 2023 general election a welcome development and good step in the right direction for which the party should be commended. This is because the debate recognizes the multi-ethnic, lingual, and religious nature of the country and the need to allay the constant fear of domination being entertained by the less dominant tribes and regions of the country.

According to late chief Bola Ige of blessed memory in his book titled, Constitution and the problems of Nigeria, he said that there are over 240 ethnic groups in Nigeria with large number of different languages, traditions, and religions so much so that “the differences in the ways of life, outlook and attitude of the various nationalities are such that sometimes one could easily say that they are indeed different peoples. For example, the Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba (the three largest nationalities) are different in language, culture and way of life as the Spaniards are different from the Germans or Greeks”. It is this diversity that made the country to adopt federalism in the first place.

Despite the adoption of federalism, the constant frictions among Nigerian tribes, perpetual fear of domination, feeling of social exclusion from political participation and combination of other factors ultimately led to the civil war of 1967 -1970. In its quest for a more perfect union, and the need to address the real or perceived imbalances within the system, the country came up with special innovations and mechanisms like the quota system and zoning. By zoning, the country is divided into six geo-political zones of (1) Northwest, (2) Northeast, (3) North central, (4) Southwest, (5) Southeast, and (6) Southsouth. By this arrangement, key national political offices in the land would be rotated and shared equitably among these six geo-political zones with the understanding that no zone is superior or inferior to another. It is important to note that the country is not divided into two zones of north and south, but six zones listed above.

Based on the zoning arrangement in particular, our politicians understand, and have always tried to allow for rotational presidency among the zones. Since the beginning of the Nigeria’s fourth republic in 1999, we have had three zones, namely the Northwest, the Southwest, and South-south produced three Presidents for the country.  Up till now, although the Northeast zone can be said to have also produced a presidential flag bearer of PDP in two election circles,  the same cannot be said of North Central and the Southeast zones which are yet to produce a candidate or President for the country in the past 24 years.

This is the reality which PDP faces ahead of the 2023 general election, and it is against this background that one finds it rather amusing to hear the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, a candidate from the northwest zone (which already produced a President) talk about the need to forget zoning in choosing the party’s flag bearer for 2023. Similarly strange is the position of the South-south and the southwest members of the party (whose zones already produced a president each) claiming that they deserved to be given the 2023 Presidential ticket because it is the turn of the southto produce the next upon the exit of President Buhari’s disastrous administration. To this group, the country is comprised of only two geo-political zones (north and south), not the six that we all know.

On the other hand, those who favored the north to produce the next presidential candidate of the party have also argued that, even if we assumed without conceding that the country is made up of only two zones of North and South, it must be remembered that for the 16 years that the PDP ruled the country (1999 – 2015), the South (represented by the duo of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan) ruled the country for 14 years. The North only ruled for 2 years out of the 16 years through late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. This group further argued that an holistic analysis of the situation nationwide reveals that the North deserves to produce the next president on the platform of any other political party because altogether since 1999 up to 2023 (by which time, Buhari’s tenure would end), the North would have only ruled the country for a total of 10 years (Buhari’s 8 years, and 2 years of late Yar’ Adua) while the South already ruled for 14 years (8 years of Obasanjo and 6 years of Jonathan). On the strength of this argument therefore, it is not out of place for the North to lay claim to the right to produce the next President come 2023 because doing so would have have only given both the North and the South 14 years of Presidency apiece by the end of 2027.

Towards finding an acceptable solution therefore, the only logical, reasonable and acceptable approach, which we tend to deliberately ignore for obvious reasons, is to stick with the six known geo-political zones which were specifically created to address decades of power imbalance, fear of domination and justified sense of exclusion from political participation by the people of other zones yet to produce a President for the country.  

We have six zones. Three or four zones already produced Presidents and Presidential candidates. It is only reasonable and fair for interested Presidential candidates from those zones to leave the stage andallow the party chose the best candidate from remaining two zones that have been long deprived. Based on this principle of equity and fairness therefore, only Presidential candidates from the Southeast and North Central should be considered by the PDP for the 2023 number one job. The fact that every geo-political zone in Nigeria is abundantly blessed with credible, intelligent, highly educated and popular candidates who are sufficiently patriotic and acceptable to all other regions of the country cannot be over emphasized. Genuine commitment to the unity of Nigeria and equality of her nationalities makes this the only acceptable option before the party.

CONCLUSION

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) must demonstrate its commitment to a new and better Nigeria through its action by picking its next Presidential candidate from one of the six geo-political zones that has been excluded from Nigeria’sPresidency for too long. Choosing this glorious path will restore peoples hope in project Nigeria and send a clear signal to the electorate and the world at large that that the PDP is truly on a mission to rescue, rebuild,and reposition the country for greater unity and enduring prosperity where all our nationalities are guaranteed equal treatment under the law, and our diversity is respected and celebrated. Only the candidates from the North Central (epitome of Nigeria’s diversity) and the Southeast geo-political zones should be considered for President at this critical stage of our history and unprecedented national challenges.

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