Stop the zoning nonsense

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Adelolu Arowolo

Those who are afraid of competition and want to gain undue advantage over others in the 2011 presidential contest are insisting that it is the birthright of a particular section of the country to produce the next President. Such campaigns and political manoeuvres aimed at clinching the Presidency of this nation through the back door are illegal and unconstitutional. The Constitution of this country, no matter how flawed, provides clear guidelines for those who wish to aspire to the highest office in the land. Nobody should use ethnic or other sentiments and subjective factors to exclude others.

It is a mark of arrogance and disrespect for the rule of law and the voters for some people to think that they are more qualified than others simply because of their place of birth. The electorate should therefore take note of those lazy aspirants who are elevating their tribe and zone above the concrete development needs of the people. Such people who talk less about how they intend to solve the worsening crises of insecurity, decayed infrastructure and poverty have little to offer ordinary Nigerians. Anybody who thinks he should be voted into office simply because he is from a particular section of the country is not fit to rule this nation.

The zoning arrangement which some people are trying to impose on us all is an innovation of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. The undemocratic arrangement was designed in 1999 because some people felt that the South should be compensated for the criminal and unjust annulment of the freest and most credible election which threw up a Southerner, Chief M.K.O. Abiola in 1993. Whether the choice by the ruling elite to replace Abiola with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo actually atoned for the subversion of the people‘s will is an issue for another day.

What I should immediately stress is that it is an insult for some people to arrogate the power of who should rule this nation to themselves. That power properly belongs to the people and should never be stolen from them. When voters in their wisdom chose a Moslem-Moslem ticket on June 12, 1993, they knew what they wanted and their will should have been allowed to prevail. The people know their enemies. They know their friends. Nobody who played any major role in the voiding of the June 12 election should therefore be allowed to taste presidential powers again in this country. The 2011 election provides another opportunity to use our votes to punish all anti-democratic forces.

I am happy that many prominent citizens from the North do not care about where the next President comes from. They want the best candidate to emerge from any part of the country. ”It does not matter whether he (the President) is from the North; whether he is from the South, Southsouth, Southwest, Northwest or Southeast”, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na‘Abba, recently stated in an interview. For Na‘Abba, what should matter in picking the President is the ability of the candidate to be just and fair to all Nigerians. As far as elder statesman and Dan Masanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, is concerned, Nigerians should let anybody be President, if he is qualified. For the Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, the President can come from any part of the country. What is important is the ability and competence of the candidate to deliver the goods and services for the improved well-being of all Nigerians. Space does not allow me to mention other prominent northerners that have placed competence above place of birth in choosing the next President.

Indeed, the new pattern globally is to pick leaders based on personal effectiveness. In the UK elections held last Friday for instance, two Nigerians, Chinyelu Onwurah and Chuka Umuna, were voted as Members of Parliament on Labour Party‘s platform. They would never have secured such electoral victories if emphasis had been placed on place of birth or skin colour.

The history of Nigeria shows clearly that the North has dominated political power and produced more military and civilian heads of state than the South. This would not have been bad in itself if the trend had brought progress to the people. The unfortunate reality today is that an average northerner is poorer and more backward than his southern counterpart. Of what use to the average northerner therefore is that prolonged domination of power by the North? Competent and honest people abound in all parts of the country and I believe the people would have benefitted if past leaders had been allowed to emerge based on their ability to improve the people‘s living condition.

Zoning, for me, means turn-by-turn looting. When you put somebody in office based on zoning, what you are saying is that the person should use the opportunity to enrich himself and his friends. It is essentially not about governance or service to the people. That is the reason for the worsening corruption in the country. With the iniquitous arrangement, every public office holder believes it is their own time to ”eat”. With zoning, rogues and incompetent people have found themselves in important leadership positions, compounding the nation‘s crisis of development. As lazy politicians continue to threaten fire and brimstone over zoning, let us insist on a credible electoral process that will enable voters to put competent and honest people in office.

From my mail box

Re: Preparing for elections witsh armoured vehicles

Thank you for another thought-provoking article. I agree completely with your views and suggestions. In other climes, politics is for ideology and the reward for it is fame and power. In Nigeria, it is for self-enrichment and naked show of power. The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission compounded our problems when, at the inception of this dispensation, it granted mouth-watering increases to the remunerations of political office holders at the executive and the legislative arms of government without giving any thought to the consequences of the bloated cost on the economy. On what basis did that Commission grant those jumbo increases? Remuneration should be based on proper job evaluation. There won‘t be peace until official corruption is drastically curbed and responsible people are put in public offices.


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