Home Essays I Support Zoning “With My Full Chest” by Emmanuel Oluka.

I Support Zoning “With My Full Chest” by Emmanuel Oluka.

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The catch phrase, with my full chest gained popularity during the just concluded Big Brother Naija reality TV show, season 5. It was credited to a female contestant, Dorathy Bachor when in her acceptance speech of being nominated as a deputy head of house said, I accept with my full chest — meaning that she accepted the nomination. Since then, the phrase has gone pretty viral to underscore someone’s complete endorsement of something or decision.

To be candid, I usually do not like to get myself involved in the debate or controversy of zoning; but to my greatest surprise, Cmoni has found a way to make me renege on this decision. How this was done, I am yet to decipher (***chuckles***). My decision to write on this topic has therefore put me in a position where I am forced to take a stand; and yes, I make bold to say that I support zoning, and I support it with my full chest.

Sincerely, the politics of zoning is indeed an incredibly vast topic. But this essay takes a visible approach; it restricts the exercise within the boundaries of Nigeria with a case study on the South-East geopolitical zone. Therefore, the essay tries to establish a nexus between the concept, “zoning” and how it can be of benefit to “Ndigbo” and the entire country at large.

But What Really Constitutes Zoning?

The Oxford dictionary of African Politics describes Zoning as, a political practice in Nigeria under which political parties agree to split their presidential and vice-presidential candidates between the North and South of the country and also to alternate the home area of the president between the North and South of the country. The principle of zoning is designed to ensure that neither the North nor the South of the country is ever permanently excluded from power. This practice is not only restricted to the presidency alone; it can also be seen in state and local government congresses and elections.

Historical Antecedents of Zoning

The idea of zoning was initially experimented in the second republic, following the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. In a bid to douse the post-war inter-ethnic tensions, party structures began to operate a zoning formula to smoothen some already ruffled feathers. However, the most glaring display of zoning was after the political imbroglio of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections and the takeover of power by General Sanni Abacha’s military junta. A number of advocacies rose in support of rotating the presidency between the country’s geopolitical zones. This was because the national feeling and empathy at the time was for the Yorubas to produce the next president to assuage them. This brought on board Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Therefore, zoning amongst geopolitical zones received widespread support, but the idea later lost its appeal in favour of a simpler process of rotating power between the North and South. This division was selected to reflect the country’s polarizing religious divide between the dominantly Christian South and the dominantly Muslim North.

Even the truncated 1995 constitution provided for zoning principle, but such principle could not be accounted for in the 1999 constitution. However, there appeared to be an unwritten law in the country that the presidency be rotated amongst the six zones, with bias for the North and south. Yet, there remained North-South tensions that had been foisted from the British colonial era till date as a result of the divide and rule approaches of the colonial masters not forgetting allegations of colonial favouritism towards Northern Nigeria.

This informed why in the build-up to independence, Southern politicians raised some alarm that the North’s numerical advantage was built to cause their region some marginalization. These tensions continued unabated and have often reached crescendo during elections, leading to calls for some form of zoning arrangement(s) to maintain stability within the country. This, interestingly, is the background that sets the tone for this essay.

Support for Zoning: A Case Study of the South-East Geopolitical Zone

Now, post-colonial politics saw political parties and zones that had the numerical strength in the electoral arrangement treat those that were politically and electorally disadvantaged area of Nigeria with some level of apathy and injustice. On the premise of such disadvantage, the South-East’s population remained not as big as the population in other parts of the country. Looking at the 2019 voter registration for instance, the North-West flaunts about 18Million registered voters and the whole of South-East zone (with the least number of states) have just about 8Million registered voters. So, if you mix the voting of the North-West with that of the North-East for instance, their vote alone will always ensure a Northerner wins the presidency with votes from a particular area.

This is why there is need for Nigeria to consider copying the principles of Federal Character alongside that of Educationally Less Disadvantaged States (ELDS) into the principle of zoning; at least in an interim period where every geopolitical zone would’ve tested the office of the president of Nigeria as a nation building strategy.

It is vital to note that it’s not just a case of turn by turn; but rather, a case of nation building strategy. As a matter of fact, Nigeria have done many things to build the nation; the authorities tried Federal Government Colleges plus the National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC) to bring people together and have a sense of the country. In like manner, the time is now for the country to also continue in that tradition to build the nation by allowing all constituent parts to have equal access to key executive offices. This can only be achieved on a balance of play via zoning.

It is in the spirit of zoning that the South-East region should be given the chance to produce the next president come 2023 irrespective of which political party it would come from. This is because, zoning the presidency to the region will not only give the Igbos some sense of belonging in Nigeria but will also promote national unity and cohesion. In fact, since the return to democracy in 1999, it is only the South-Eastern zone that is yet to taste power, as the whole of the North, South-West and even South-South have all had a fair shot at the presidency.

It is therefore instructive for political parties to consider zoning their presidential candidacy to the South-East zone come 2023. This is why David Umahi, the current governor of Ebonyi state should be commended for alerting Nigeria’s political consciousness of the need to key into a zoning consideration when he approached the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to zone the presidency to the South-East before defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Another reason zoning should be argued to favour the South-East is that, despite being in power for too long a time, the North have remained the most under-developed region with statistics of poverty and illiteracy not ranking in their favour at all. Now, therefore, is the time to give the South-East their fair chance and watch how the Igbo man’s entrepreneurial spirit will transform the fortunes of the regions and Nigeria at large.

Conclusion/Advice to the Igbo political Elite in the wake of Zoning

But then, there is a vital issue; the presidency cannot really be zoned to an individual; rather, the presidency can only be zoned to geopolitical zones and not really given to individuals. So, my first take is that the Igbo political elite in the South-East should shake off their inertia and turn around and tell Nigerians why they want the zoning principle to favour them. They should tell Nigerians, they are available and ready to lead Nigeria. This is because, they all appear to be pulling back and watching the drama, thinking and waiting for the day when everybody will say, Okay, nobody from other zones will run; so, go and have a meeting and bring us a candidate. That’s never going to happen.

So, what is required today is constructive engagement by the Igbo political elite. They need to stand up to be counted and to tell the country what they are bringing to bear in Nigeria in the wake of zoning.

Summarily, the idea of zoning — the idea of an affirmative action to make each zone have a sense of belonging is important and pretty critical for the holistic nation building project. This is why I will continue to support zoning with my full chest; this is why I have written this essay. Thank you!

Emmanuel Oluka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a deep thinker and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu via write2oluka@gmail.com

 

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