Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has made a case for the abandonment of zoning arrangements for political offices as currently obtainable in the country.
He said the arrangements needed to be de-emphasised and ultimately abandoned in favour of competence.
Some key political offices at the federal and state levels, particularly governorship and Presidency, are rotated among the various ethnic groups or zones.
Although an informal arrangement, the position of the President currently rotates between the North and the South.
With President Muhammadu Buhari from the North serving his second and his last term as allowed by the constitution, there are already talks about the South producing the next President in 2023.
But El-Rufai said Nigeria could not afford to continue on the same path of zoning positions based on regions of origin.
The governor made his position known in a prologue titled, ‘Defeating a Determined Incumbent – The Nigerian Experience’, which he contributed to a book –Power of Possibilities and Politics of Change in Nigeria – written by the Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Salihu Lukman.
He described the zoning of political offices as a barrier to political equality.
The governor, who highlighted the factors he said contributed to electoral success of the All Progressives Congress in the 2015 presidential election, also proposed a new funding model for parties as a major way of curtailing the excesses of political godfathers.
He argued that the present method of funding parties was “opaque”.
He said, “Even with our success in the 2015 elections, there is room for improvement. Barriers to political equality, such as our seemingly entrenched though informal rule for zoning candidacies according to regions of origin, need to be de-emphasised and ultimately abandoned in favour of an emphasis on qualification, competence and character.
“The financing of parties, candidates and campaigns remains opaque.
“Many African countries are marked by savage inequalities, and a handful of individuals have the wherewithal to hold the process hostage.
“We must work towards funding parties via capped and fully disclosed donations and annual dues payable by every registered party member.”
The governor also made a case for improved judicial processes and promotion of the rule of law.
These, he said, were imperative for politicians to stop resorting to self-help by instigating violence and engaging in “ethnic and religious mobilisation”.
El-Rufai said the experience of the APC in 2015 showed that it was possible to defeat a determined and well-resourced incumbent under certain conditions.
He said while the personalities of the contestants and the character of the political parties matter, the 2015 experience further showed that four conditions were the irreducible minimums for creating a stronger and more accountable democratic order.
He listed the conditions to include, “A unified opposition preferably merged into a single and well-structured political party well ahead of the next election cycle, and with transparent processes and progressive policies.
“A presidential candidate widely seen as credible and reformist to provide a sharp contrast to incumbents usually fattened by years of lazy, incompetent and corrupt rule.
“Honest elections that guarantee that votes count, using a mixture of competent electoral commission leadership and, crucially, deploying technologies for voter verification that drastically reduces electoral fraud.
“Credible elections are enemies of voter apathy. They enhance democratic legitimacy and citizen participation.
“Continuous engagement of the international community, particularly in the leading stable democracies as well as in multilateral institutions, to supply a crucial external fillip to the electoral process.”
In the foreword he wrote for the same book, President Muhammadu Buhari said he and his party had the popular support of Nigerians.
He said, “There is no doubt that we have the popular support of Nigerians.
“I have seen this myself when I went around the 36 states and the FCT during the campaigns.
“The turnout of people and messages of goodwill across the country were what no individual, party or government could organise or buy.
“They were purely demonstrations of confidence in our administration and its political platform, the All Progressives Congress, the product of the merger.
“The multitude that trooped out to see me and hear me were reassuring that Nigeria, despite its cultural diversities, is united on the imperative of change.
“Our duty as leaders is to ensure that we keep this nation united, build a better future for the citizens and the coming generation.”
Reiterating how previous administrations of the Peoples Democratic Party allegedly squandered the nation’s resources and opportunities, Buhari said his administration had been able to reverse the downward slide in a short period of time under more challenging circumstances.
He added, “I feel that without coming together, we would not have been able to achieve this feat and Nigeria will be the worse for it.
“We remain the only hope of the country in terms of charting a politically stable and economically prosperous future for our people.
“I will, therefore, encourage us to continue leading this country effectively, now that Nigerians have entrusted us with a mandate once again to chart the course for the future of our beloved nation.”
A member of Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, disagrees with el-Rufai, saying although zoning was not part of the constitution, it was not safe for it to be dropped now.
He said the tradition which was established during the time of the defunct National Party of Nigeria was meant to ensure no part of the country was alienated. He added that competence should be placed higher than zoning but stressed that Nigeria still needed to adhere to zoning now because of its important role it was still playing in the nation’s affair.
Oyedokun said, “If we could find a way of strictly implementing zoning in the true spirit of it, i will say i want it. But do we sincerely implement it? If you zone a position to a particular area, people from other areas are not supposed to come out to contest but that is not the case.
“To me, the kind of country we have, being heterogeneous in nature, in term of religious and ethnicity, I think for now, we should adhere strictly to zoning. What he said is right under normal circumstances but as it is now, Nigeria cannot afford to jettison zoning now.”
– The Punch