The need to distribute political rights and economic benefits equally among citizens in the history of political philosophy has been a necessity as a result of men’s struggle or quest to get shares of the limited resources. In such a struggle, the weak ones are shallowed out and the strong ones get hold of the resources. Recently, the advent of John Rawls political philosophy has become a topic of controversial over the past years. It has indeed accentuate from different quarters. John Rawls is a reinvigorated political philosophy with strikingly original ideas during his forties as a Harvard philosophy Professor. His aim was to accomplish a ‘Just Society’. Rawls tried to formulate a workable formula of ‘fair’ distribution of social-economic and political right among citizens equally, more especially in a democratic society where there is political and economic liberty. The expected result of John Rawls doctrine however, has remained unaccomplished, nowhere is this more than in Nigeria. Adopting ‘politics of zoning’ in the society can substantially increase the possibilities of accomplishing a just and fair society in accordance with John Rawls doctrine of procedural principles of fair treatment. This theoretical complementary seek to highlight the importance of adopting politics of zoning effectively in accomplishing a fair distribution of social-economic and political rights using Nigeria as a case study.
Politics of zoning also known as the federal character principle or the zoning system. Regardless of the term used, it is important to have a deep understanding of the zoning formulae. The oxford dictionary of African politics explains politics of zoning “As a political practice in which there is a shift of political power between the different interethnic group. This explaination looks at a means of sharing key political posts in a diverse society. Power sharing in the words of Sisk in 1966 entails practices and institutions that result in wide-based governing coalition generally inclusive all major ethnic groups. In a nutshell, politics of zoning seeks to prevent the dominance of persons from one or a few state or from one or a few ethnic groups in the running of the affairs of the country.
One of the basic considerations for adopting a federal character principle or politics of zoning is the existence of various groups with different ethnic, religious, language, social norms, political background and disproportionate population sizes, the quest for every federation to device means of managing its pluralism so as to ensure fair and equal participation of various interest groups in its political governance has become an epoch-making and Nigeria is not an exception. Admittedly, Nigeria consists of several ethnic group with diverse culture, socio-political and economic formation, this nation alone accounts for over 250 different ethnic groups. Adopting the zoning formula seems to be the right approach to meet with the demands of such complex composition Nigeria faces but unfortunately, results shows dearth effort and commitment in actualizing the purpose of zoning formula and hence may require a pragmatic solution.
The many political and leadership problems Nigeria faces has lingered unresolved for the last fifty-three (53) years: One reason for this, is the ascendancy and continued dominance of the Northerners ascending to the presidency. Nigeria as a political enclave came to be when the colonialist, amalgamated the South and North protectorates on 1st January 1914. Flora Shaw, a British journalist called this enclave ‘Niger Area, which later became Nigeria. The merging of the North and South protectorates was done with the aim to bring the diverse cultures and ethnic groups and unite them politically as one people, which are heterogeneous in many aspects.
The leadership question in Nigeria revolves around the possibility of every indigenous ethnic group ascending to be political leaders of the country. In order to confront the high level of inequality and marginalization, Nigeria had to usher into democracy in 29th May 1999, after about 16 years of military rule. By virtue of the Northerners having a long occupation of the various political seat of power (both in military and democratic regimes), the Northerners elite developed an affinity for state power and thus perceived it as their birth-right. This perception by the Northerners has given the Southerners a sense of belonging. The need to distribute political rights and economic benefits equally among the Northerners and Southerners has been a topic of controversial as a result of the both region struggling to get share of the limited resources. In such a struggle, the Southerners are shallowed out and the Northerners get hold of the resources. Going by the struggle between the Southerners and Northerners, some Nigerians believe that the power should remain in the North while some strongly believe that zoning is a foregone issue and is no longer relevant, so it should be jettisoned. However, such believes that Nigerians poses over zoning has defeated the federal character principle which has been enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution since 1979. The federal character principle seeks to ensure the appointments of various political seat in respect to the various ethnic, religious and geographic diversity of Nigeria. The phenomenon of zoning is considered a high stake politics in Nigeria democracy: This is because the principle of zoning aims at maximizing the welfare of citizens, especially the worst-off group in accordance to the federal character principle. Adopting the zoning formula effectively could ameliorate the problem of the inequality found between the Northerners and Southerners thereby distributing political and economic rights equally among the two region.
The unity of various diverse people is one of the indicators of progress and improvement of every political system. One of the United Nations Goals is to create an atmosphere with maximum unity among diverse ethnic groups and fatherlands. However, the likelihood of Nigeria achieving it is in doubt; One reason for this is the perception of the Northerners perceiving the various political seat of power as their birth-rights and hence, has created an atmosphere of hatred between the Northerners and Southerners. Zoning is seen as a mechanism of uniting various people diverse people in a heterogeneous nation. In the words of Simbine: “Zoning formula seems to fit into the heterogeneous and federal nature of Nigerian state, helping to accommodate all groups as much as possible and therefore reducing complaints of domination and marginalization. To this extent it helps to make the system more inclusive (of identifiable groups), and therefore more supportive of the democratic culture”.
One of the major problems confronting Nigeria as a country is the dominance of persons from one or a few state or from one or a few ethnic groups in running of the affairs of the country. Politics of zoning holds great potential to address the many political problems that Nigerians faces as a result of their heterogeneous nature. If the zoning formula is applied effectively, it could ameliorate the barriers of inequality and marginalization across Nigeria thereby accomplishing a ‘fair or just’ society in accordance to John Rawls doctrine.
Opara Udochukwu Kingsley, a 100 level medical student of Alex Ekwueme Federal University of Ndufu Alike Ikwo (AE-FUNAI) Ebonyi state wrote in from email@example.com