And the Zoning War Continues


With the election of Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives against the directive of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, which has the majority members in the parliament, Nigerians are still at sea at which way the zoning war goes, now that the Yorubas in the South-west geopolitical zone lost out entirely in the powerful and important positions in the country.

Zoning was on the lips of every politician and even an average political conscious Nigerians in year 2010 preparatory to the just concluded 2011 general elections in Nigeria. It was the most used word in our political discourse in 2010.

With the elections having won and lost, gladiators are back with the same song, Zoning! Zoning! Zoning! This time not that of the office of the President but of all the top positions available, namely that of the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation not excluding some juicy ministerial positions such as Finance Minister, Defence Minister and Attorney General of the Federation.

The principle of zoning encourages the even distribution of government positions among the coordinating units that make up the country to ensure that top positions are not concentrated in one section of the country, as enshrined in the constitution of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) – the party that also controls the majority in both chambers of the national assembly – and also supported by Section 14 (3) of the 1999 amended constitution, on the principle of Federal character in sharing government positions.

Since the advent of the present democratic experiment or dispensation in 1999, the zoning arrangement has always been observed religiously with the ruling parties dictating how it works at both the Federal and States, even to the local governments.

In 1999 with the emergence of President Olusegun Obasanjo as President (South-West) and his Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (North-East), the number three position, Senate President, was zoned to the South-East and the position of Speaker of House of Representatives, which is the number four goes to the North-West. That arrangement denied the South-South and North-Central opportunity to share out of the first four positions, thereby having their days under the sun for eight years.

The arrangement was maintained after the 2003 general elections as President Obasanjo won a second term ticket along with his Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, till the end of his tenure.

With the expiration of Obasanjo/Atiku’s term in 2007, political baton changed as the Late Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’adua of North-West extract won the Presidential race with his Vice-President, dr. Goodluck jonathan, of South-South extraction and the zoning arrangement was again observed, given the seat of Senate President to North-Central and the seat of the Speaker of House of Representatives was captured by the south-West throwing up the first female speaker in the history of the nation.

However, with the sudden demise of Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’adua, the country was plunged into serious chaos with advocates turning the issue of zoning to a real war of sort. Indeed a war of attrition. The then incumbent Vice-President but now President elect, Dr. Goodluck jonathan deployed his foot soldiers to annihilate anything called zoning, as it stands against his ambition to complete the tenure of his boss or even continue same.

In the white heat of the debate, President Goodluck Jonathan, brazenly denied that his party PDP never had any agreement on any clause called zoning and that he does not believe zoning as a prerequisite to bring out the best person to rule or lead. Now the ball is in his court, as leader of the party and nation, to direct and decide who and which zone picks what.

With President Jonathan (South-South) emerging as president and Arc. Namadi Sambo (North-West) as Vice-President, the war of zoning is back as the four other geopolitical zone agitates for who picks what position.

Feelers have it that aftermath of the Presidential Retreat in Obudu, the President and his party might have decided to respect and abide by the 2007 zoning arrangement, which zoned the position of Senate President to North-Central and Speaker to South-West, leaving the Igbos of South-East and the North-East to bite their fingers and wait for their turn.

How this decision will go down well with all the zones involved is a matter of time as the inauguration of the National Assembly is slated for June 2nd, especially with the South-East, a zone that produces the highest number of representatives in both the lower chamber and upper chamber of the national assembly from the ruling party.

In all, zoning in Nigeria will continue to be a card to play during any election and consideration for political positions in Nigeria. It remains the best appropriate measure to enhance the unity, peace, and stability of the nation because of the array of ethnic nationalities and the sensitivities of suspicious and jealousies associated with it.

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