Almost twenty years down the line of our political experience, the zoning system is all looking like it has done us little or no good. Recent happenings in low quality governance in most states can be attributed to the supposed effort by individuals to satisfy a zoning formula not premeditated all in a bid to satisfy personal interests. While speaking to the people of Kenya, former U.S. President Barrack Obama said “A politics that’s based solely on tribe and ethnicity is a politics that’s doomed to tear a county apart. It is a failure – a failure of imagination”
This is the fundamentals of successful political structures and has reflected so far in the politics of the U.S.A. yielding positive results. For example, of all 44 presidents that has ruled U.S.A. between the period of 1789 till date only 18 out of 50 states (Slightly greater than 35%) have been represented and yet America has recorded progress in its political structure. To think that the U.S. presidential system of government was adopted by Nigeria in its present constitution and yet we choose to follow the path of ethnic and tribal sentiment is disheartening. In a recent interview granted by a top chieftain of a political party in Nigeria he said “This whole business of no zoning is a political fallacy that can’t work in Nigeria. The democratic system of Nigeria as it is today cannot function without certain sensitivity to the interests of sections of the society” Yes, zoning is not a bad idea if properly implemented but let it be known that in Nigeria this system of zoning would keep dragging us backwards until adequate provisions has been made for it.
The issue of zoning of political offices has so much dominated Nigeria’s political landscape, such that it comes first and above competence in political debates. Though there are some merits of zoning in a multi-tribal and multi-religious nation like Nigeria, the demerits far outweigh the merits. There is, therefore, need to discard the issue of zoning if we want to build upon the gains of the eight years of the landmark achievements of the present administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. Specifically, a particular senatorial zone has been seen to be openly clamoring for “our turn” to govern, and Awa l’o kan has been their vernacular slogan to have a share of the cake. But for a state that has had a long period of deficit of development before the present administration, mundane issues like that of zoning should be the last in our reckoning.
Leadership is a serious business and should not be trivialized on the altar of zonal or sectional sentiments. We need to concentrate on competence and the capacity to deliver. If the truth must also be told, even most of our politicians do not believe in zoning as they only talk about it when they feel it favours their aspirations.
In sports, like football, where Nigeria has sometimes put up very impressive performance, have we ever used zoning? Imagine the type of team we will have if we are to apply zoning to the National team. If the teams were to be formed by asking every state to rotate the captain or goalkeeper according to the state or senatorial zone ( or that the state that produces the coach cannot produce a player); it is obvious we would not have qualified for any international competition. When Nigeria won the Olympic Gold medal in football, did any one bother whether the whole team members came from the same zone or state?
Government is a serious business, and more serious than the sports example above because it touches on lives of everyone and if we are to actually get it right, we should rise above zonal and sectional sentiments and engage the most qualified and suited candidate for the governorship position. The major reason behind zoning is that political offices are being perceived as opportunities to partake in the ‘sharing of the national cake’ (looting of the treasury) instead of a call to service. This unfortunate psyche needs to be erased from our consciousness if we are to move forward in Osun. We need to build this state, we need to start baking cakes instead of sharing it and hence there is need for a serious team of technocrats, professionals and true leaders to form the next government.
The APC Constitution does not even have provision for zoning. So it is a case of bad practice taken too far to assume the status of law. Why must we always go done the drain and nosedive instead of political progress. The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his deputy, Chief S.L.A. Akintola were in the saddles, not because of the part of Western Region they came from or the religions they practised but because they happened to be the most known competent candidates of that era. In our recent history as a state, the late Chiefs Bola Ige and Sunday Afolabi were also from Esa Oke and Iree respectively. But no one raised eyebrows as to whether they came from the same divisions of old Oyo State or practiced the same religion. Competence, party loyalty as well as acceptance played key roles rather.
Zoning is retrogressive and undemocratic. People should be voted into offices based on their ability to manage resources to the benefit of the people and the contents of their character and not on where they come from. Just like Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu always say, “Power is not served a-la carte.” People are aware now, they want to know what you have to offer that other people have not been able to offer before.
What is the new thing that you are bringing to the table When you are able to articulate your policies, which will benefit them and put food on the table for their families, definitely, they will show interest in you, provided you have the track record to back these words up. These qualities are what brought Ogbeni up in 2007. In my own personal opinion, when it comes to aspiring to be next governor in Osun, the 2007 model, devoid of zonal consideration is what I have been looking forward to.
The clamour for zonal consideration, therefore, in choosing the APC flagbearer in the coming September 22nd 2018 governorship election is a sour point in our collective political sojourn which must not be allowed to prevail. But if we as a country decide to adopt the zoning system it is therefore imperative that a formal legal framework is put in place rather than the current informal arrangement currently being adopted to suite the desires of a few privileged individuals. Then we would be able to avoid the impending loom associated with our politics of sectional, religious, tribal and ethnic sentiments.
Dolapo writes from Oduduwa University, Ipetumodu, Ile-Ife.