Some prominent Nigerians of northern extraction have given their support to the call by Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State in political zoning for the 2023 presidential election. El-rufai who said the next president of Nigeria should come from the South noted that political zoning may not be constitutional, but it is based on the country’s political arrangement.
The Governor of Kaduna State who has been consistent in his call for the presidency of the country to shift to the South in the next general election argued that it would only be fair for a Southerner to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari who at the expiration of his second tenure would have spent eight years in office. He said, “after Buhari, what is honourable is for the northern politicians to support the southern candidate, we have an arrangement, we should stick to it and I believe that in 2023, all political parties should present candidates from the south”.
Also, Former aide to President Shehu Shagari, Tanko Yakassai noted that giving every part of the country the opportunity to aspire to the highest office in the land should be seen as an idea whose time has come.
He said, “it is good for the APC if that is what they have in their constitution. And if it is not in their constitution, it seems they have accepted zoning. After eight years of a northerner on the seat, it makes sense for a Southerner to succeed a Northerner. These are the things that can help reduce tension and anxiety. It would be morally wrong for the APC to zone its presidential slot to the north in 2023,” he said.
Similarly, former Minister of Steel, Wantaregh Paul Unongo argued that it would be in the interest of Nigeria’s nascent democracy to have power returned to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari.
His words: “My position is that the presidency should go to the south after President Buhari in 2023. The fact is that there is an unwritten agreement to that effect. Even if you don’t like alternating the presidency and you feel that you are very civilized and everybody can become president including husband, wives and children, just like what you have in America, we must realize that we are not America where you have an ideal situation and there are no problems of ethnicity as we have here.
“In the African setting people also tend to say I want my own to be there. In our democratic practice, there is a fact that is established, and it is the fact that we alternate the presidency.
He said if for instance the north has produced the current President, it is incumbent on the political parties through practical understanding that they should present the next candidates from the south. He added that he believes that it was that understanding that created the way for Buhari to become President.
Affirming his stand, Unongo said he supports the arrangement whereby the presidency can be alternated between the north and the south as it is the practice. Above all, the political party that is in power should know that if it wants some form of semblance of wanting our system to stabilize it should alternate, he added.
However, immediate past secretary general of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Anthony Sani was not convinced of Governor El-Rufai’s sincerity in his call for a Southern President in the next general election. He said, “Governor El-Rufai has the constitutional right to express his opinion on any issues of national importance including the right to change his mind when circumstances demand him to. You will recall that he once held the view that it was time to jettison politics of identity in favour of embracing meritocracy. And if circumstance has made him to change his views, that is his constitutional right.
“I think the issue is not so much as to whether the Presidency should be rotated between the North and the South as to the absence of national consensus binding on political parties, considering that our multiparty democracy allows the political parties the exclusive right to field candidates for elective offices. That is why we would not be tired of saying that proponents of politics of identity are left with the option of either to cause the national consensus on rotation of the president among regions or zones, or design their winning game plans for their preferences within our multiparty democracy”.
Although rotational presidency is not provided for in the nation’s constitution, second Republic Governor of Kaduna state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said allowing the South the opportunity to produce the next President is consistent with the principle and observation of the federal character. The elder statesman described those opposed to zoning as enemies of federal character.
He said he completely supports the idea of the Presidency returning to the South and that It is in the spirit of fairness and equity to let the South have the Presidency in 2023, by which time Buhari would have been on the seat for eight years.
According to him,
“Those opposed to zoning on the ground that it is not provided for in the constitution may have a point but truth is, zoning as entrenched in the constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is a good thing even though the party later flouted its own arrangement.
In his words,
Musa added “Now, you can’t support federal character and not support zoning because both are tailored to give every segment of the country, a sense of belonging. Zoning is today being practiced at the ward, local and state levels. So why not replicate it at the federal level?”
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Bauchi who just contested primaries for local council election, Najeeb Sani expressed his support for El-Rufai’s position on southern president in 2023. According to him, “in all fairness, I think the South deserves to produce the president in 2023, especially from the Igbo extraction. We can not keep talking about unity when a part of the country is ignored. In 2015, we all agitated for a president from the North because we felt it was the turn of the North to produce the president. Let me add that all those who now talk about competence are hypocrites. Are they telling us that there are no competent people from the southern part of the country? You can not keep a nation as diverse as Nigeria together without embracing all its people. The South should, in all honesty, produce the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
On his own part, Alhaji Ahmed Lawal, the Organising Secretary of the APC in Adamawa State believed that with or without Governor Ahmed Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state agitating for a Southern President in 2023, equity, fairness, justice and political balance gives the South the next President of Nigeria.The North he said has had its fair share of the presidency and should give the ticket to the South in 2023.
Alhaji Ahmed Lawal expressed worries that Northern political leaders who were agitating for the North to succeed Buhari were mischief makers who do not mean well for the advancement of democracy in the country. He therefore advised political leaders in the South West to put their house in order saying the next President of the country on the platform of the ruling party should come from that geo poltical zone.
Former Kano State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mas’ud Eljibril Doguwa however argued that El-Rufai was not in a position to speak for Nigerians or tell them what to do. Doguwa said, “Some times people speak out of their bounds. First, it is not for El-Rufai to say this is what he wants for Nigerians. Secondly, it is purely political. So, he has to wait, politics in Nigeria as at today is something else. The issue of power shift from north to south or south to north or anywhere is not constitutional. It is only a political arrangement among the politicians. It is too early for El-Rufai to make such statement because we have about three years to go. So, it depends on the political permutations, political stability, political understanding and political reasoning that will warrant which region will produce the presidential candidate and from which party because El-Rufai cannot speak for other parties.
Some have argued that the practice of liberal democracy in Nigeria is overshadowed by the clamours for political zoning and other power-sharing arrangements as mechanisms for ethno-regional balancing, are you for or against Political zoning comes 2023?