By Reno Omokri
Last week, I wrote about cold hard facts, in a piece titled ‘2023 Political Realities That Will Annoy and Heal’. It went very viral and major stakeholders in the Nigerian Project reached out to me and asked me to also x-ray the other end of the political spectrum – political idealism.
Let me make a full disclosure here: I do not believe in zoning. It is not democratic. It does not allow for the best candidate. It creates a sense of entitlement, and it breeds resentment.
However, Nigeria must choose and practice a style of governance best suited to it. We cannot adopt a foreign model (the Presidential and Parliamentary models were both foreign) and applied on Nigeria with little or no changes. Rather, we ought to adapt a model that has worked elsewhere.
Adopting and adapting are two very different ideas. When you adopt (as Nigeria has done), you take on a model and force yourself to fit into it. And that type of mentality can be very frustrating, because in politics, one side can never fit all.
But when you adapt, you take on a model and make changes to that model, until it suits your specific needs. It is like inheriting clothes from your older siblings, and taking them to the tailor to land adjustments until those clothes fit you.
Tanzania adapted the Presidential system of government to suit its needs. Instead of two or many strong parties, they have only one dominant party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, which has produced every single President since 1980. It may not look as democratic as the West wants, but it works for them, and Tanzania has never had a coup or an interruption in its chosen model of democracy.
So, if Nigeria wants to adapt her democracy and make zoning an unwritten rule, much like The United Kingdom’s unwritten constitution, then I am all for it.
However, if Nigeria is to go with zoning, then the Presidency should be micro-zoned to only those zones that have not tasted power or have barely tasted it. And that means that if we must zone, then power should be zoned to the Southeast. That zone has only ever tasted power for six months, between January 15, 1966 and July 29, 1966, when Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi held sway as the first military head of state of Nigeria.
Nnamdi Azikiwe was a ceremonial President with absolutely no political power. He was a figurehead, while Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa wielded power, albeit remote controlled from Kaduna, by Sir Ahmadu Bello.
If, however, both major political parties feel that they cannot zone the office of the Presidency to the Southeast, due to reasons bordering on realpolitik, then they should not zone to any other Southern geopolitical zone.
We either go with justice, equity, and fairness, or we go with full-blown democracy. But we cannot go with both.
There is no point asking one party to zone its Presidential ticket to one region, and having the other leave its own open, or even worse, to zone it to another region. The only way zoning can work is if BOTH major parties zone their tickets to the same geopolitical zone.
In truth, Zoning is a tactical and stop-gap measure towards ensuring the survival of Nigeria as a nation. It is a sacrifice of the majority to those ethnic nationalities who may not have their numbers.
And we need not fear the Cameroon treatment, where power rotated to the South from the North, and Paul Biya refused to release it, because as 2015 proved, the regions that concede power have the numerical strength to retake it.
If I were to make a case for zoning, and remember, I myself am a minority, I would say it is a vehicle that we can use to buy time and temporarily avert the appointment Nigeria has with disintegration. Anyone with a vested interest in the survival of Nigeria as a corporate entity had better pray power rotates to all regions in due course, whether by zoning or by turn by turn.
Due to no fault of whoever succeeds Buhari, the economy is going to get worse and could even collapse by 2025. Not to be a doomsday prophet, but the implication of that is that we are very likely to see an escalation of the presently unbearable socio-political-economic upheavals.
Nigeria is actually not far from the Congo scenario. The utility of a Nigerian President or Vice President of South East origin is the feel-good effect it will have on that zone and with minority ethnicities, which could lead to a temporarily stabilising potential. And with that stability comes the opportunity to fix the almost irreversible damage Buhari has done to Nigeria.
The opposite of this scenario will be the case if threats to Nigeria’s corporate existence continue to escalate.
With the Presidential primaries of both political parties less than a month away, it is probably too late to crystallise zoning, especially as powerful Northern APC members have bought the ₦100 million Presidential nomination forms (nobody spends that much money in order to withdraw). But even if both parties can’t zone the Presidency, they should at least consider zoning the Vice Presidency.
Having said the above, it is also pertinent to speak some home truths to those geopolitical zones agitating for zoning. Too often, they are too inflammable online and offline. Stooping to conquer is not a strategy they believe in, and sadly, they do not command the forces to acquire power by the direct route.
Such people must collectively understand that bravery without strategy is a futility. And when you do not even agree within yourselves, how do you hope to agree with your rivals in the contest for power? It is hard to acquire power, and therefore you must plan for the acquisition long before elections are imminent. But is that what some of our friends have done?
Leave your shops and markets during voter registration, and go home to register, even if you will lose small money for those few days when you don’t trade. Don’t leave your apprentice there. Carry him too and register him, because others are registering their people en masse. Then concentrate your votes, so your region commands the same voting power as others. That is the ONLY route to power!
When you scatter your votes all over the place, you reduce your effectiveness.
These geopolitical zones agitating for power via zoning actually have the population they need to make their case. But their voting power is diluted because about 40-50% of it is cast in other regions where they trade, making it ineffectual. When you have such scattered votes, political parties start to see you as only good for achieving the needed 25% to secure geographic spread. It should not be that way, but that is the reality of politics. You work with reality until you can change it.
And sadly, nobody can tell some of these zones the truth. If they do, they will gather to insult that person and his or her lineage. So, people just leave them. And then when all is said and done and a new government is inaugurated, they start shouting ‘marginalisation’!
You need a clear sense of purpose or you will be blown about by every shiny thing. Without clarity, you will invest in anything instead of the right thing. Without focus, you will weaken your resolve by pursuing too many birds and end up catching none.
And especially in Southern Nigeria, we must stop allowing religion to divide us or we will remain eternally subjugated to the North. We must realise that most people on Earth did not choose their religion. We were mostly taught what to believe. We largely inherited our religion!
If your parents were Northern Nigerian Muslims, you would have been a Muslim. If they were Igbo Roman Catholics, that is what you would have been. If Yoruba Anglicans, then voila!
It was the British government that determined most of the religious backgrounds of people in Southern Nigeria. They deliberately gave permits to Catholic missionaries to go to only certain parts, and then gave Church of England missionaries permits to go to other parts, while giving Methodists permits for other parts.
They deliberately forbade any missionaries from crossing into the North, because they wanted the North and South to be divided by religion, so they will both fight each other, rather than the colonialists.
The only place where their schemes failed was in the ancient Bini empire, because Bini culture was too advanced to accept an imposed religion. Thus, Western-style Christianity failed to take root in Benin. And that was the real reason why they destroyed Benin in 1897.
This they did to make it easy for them to divide the native populations and politically dominate us, while they economically exploit our resources.
So let us stop thinking our religion makes us better than an atheist or adherents of other religions. Christ did not die to put religion into our lives. Religion was already present in our lives before Christ was born. The Pharisees were uber religious. What Christ came to bring was faith-the WiFi that connects us to God.
And when we in the South continue to allow religion and region divide us, we will continue to be subservient to those who are United by region and religion.
After your wedding, note that you need time to strengthen your marriage Union. If you bring in relatives to live with you, you may not be able to strengthen your bond. You need a house that is so free that both of you can chase each other naked around it, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is how many homes are destroyed. Two imperfect people marry. Out of foolishness, they allow in-laws to live with them from the get-go. The in-laws note the imperfections of the spouse not related to them, and inform their extended family, and just like that, your marital issues are extended and become family issues!