ZONING POLICY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background to the study
The zoning policy has really caused a lot of political instability in the country as a result of disagreement among politicians but in spite of that it still brings about development of democracy. A recent pieces in the economists highlights the system of zoning, that Nigeria employs to alternate power between the north and south of the country. In the economists word. “candidates are picked alternatively from north and south behind closed doors and presented to voters in rigged polls”. Since independence 50 years ago, Nigeria has not achieved its full potential as the giant of Africa public services across the country are all but non-existent, corruption rife and democracy in the time meaning of the word is not being practiced. For many decades, presidential politics in Nigeria has been saddled with ethnicity or tribal politics, religious intolerance and more recently electoral malpractices, well meaning and patritic elements in the polity had wrested with the idea of the best formula that will guarantee peace and stability in the country. Historically the highest political office in the land has been dominated by the countries citizen’s of northern extradition. This was made possible by subsequent military regimes whose brands of leadership has no space for democratic contraception. The zoning formula was therefore envisage to enable the northern and southern Nigeria to have an equal chance of producing the president during an eight year presidential cycle. The zoning formula was first adopted by the second civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr. Alex Ekwueme in 1979, during the first quarter of president Shagari’s second term, the military led by general Buhari truncated regime, thereby making it impossible for southern Nigerian to experience the plan. During the consecutive 15 years of northern dominated military governance, the zoning formula was forgotten for the past ten years, beginning with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian regime 1999-2007, and the administration of Shehu Musa Yar’dua and president Goodluck Jonathan 2007 to president, the (PDP) Peoples Democratic Party had started dangling the carrot of the presidential zoning between the southern and the northern sections of the country. Advocates of presidential zoning often cite peace and stability in the policy as the main reason, but Nigerians must seriously ask themselves how zoning both presidential down to even gubernatorial elections have been able to bring peace and stability (development), can zoning or quota produce the best leadership material suitable for development desperately needed at this critical time. According to professor J.T Nwabueze, zoning and rotation principle or policy is part of a democratic culture used for fair play. He went further to say that it counters the negative impulse and tendency of a group of people to remain in office as long as possible and use the resources of the nation to service its narrow and practical interest. It also offers itself as an antidote to a practice that engenders nepotism, promotes corruption, and breed inefficiency, which in turn stultifies growth abs sustainable development. Ifedi Andi Okwenna, 2009, also opined that if power is allowed to systematically rotate between the various zones the political space will not only widen, the process will definitely throw out capable leaders who can transform our country and move it to greater height. The rotation principles on basis of zoning also strengthen loyalty to the nation because it would guarantee access to the highest office of the land to all section s of the polity but these cannot be realized if zoning and rotation does not make fairness, equity and social justice the cardinal principle in which it is practiced. Zones must come as equal and take their turn on the basis of equity, accepting that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. At the current level of our sociopolitical development, every patriotic Nigeria wants a country where things work. Zoning and rotation if fruitfully implemented will ensure a better Nigeria. The time may however, come when these considerations may matter less in our political considerations when we will begin to think more of merit than ethic or sectional origin. But this may wait until Nigeria becomes a nation state, bound by a chord outside “tribe abs tongue” by something stronger than our own brand of “brotherhood” by then rotation and term limits may be considered anachronistic. Huntington .S. (1996). Presently, a majority of Nigerians subscribe to zoning and rotation. Whatever divergent expressions seen in the political horizon are matters of personal opinion which is allowed in a democracy. Elochukwu 1988, we of the eastern leaders forum support the principle of zoning and rotation because it is very critical for the sustainable political development of democracy in Nigeria. Barrister Demaki .O, opines that the principle of zoning is nor explicitly mentioned in the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. However, it can be said to be reflected in another principle known as federal characters enshrined in another principle in section 13(3) and (4) of the constitution and it states that: “The composition of the government of the federation, or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the `need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies. For instance the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unarguable the largest party in Nigeria and also the ruling party. Any issue unresolved in the PDP may however have a reverberating effect on the political landscape of Nigeria and that is why zoning and rotation are actually enshrined in PDP constitution. Article 7.2 © of the constitution states that: “In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the approximately executive committee at all levels” the contending issue here is rotation and zoning, but to clearly understand the principle of the PDP constitution, it is important to understand what a zone represents. • Report committee on zoning (1994/95). The issue of zoning has been very contentious in Nigeria, the committee recognized that in a country like Nigeria with it’s diverse political cultural and economic endowments, true federalism must reflect a genuine attempt to regulate among the groups, as well as, a reflection of these identifiable divergences within a framework of national unity.