Nigeria: Daura's Rebuttal of the Zoning Principle and the Future of Nigeria

opinion

Ordinarily, given the truism of the statement and how it can be applied to solve the deficit of quality leadership in the country, many should have nodded in agreement to it.

The controversies arising from the comment by respected elder statesman, Mallam Mamman Daura, over the leadership selection process to be used in the 2023 general elections and beyond is needless.

This is because the opinion expressed by Mallam Daura, if analysed critically and objectively, is based on facts from the political history of Nigeria.

The elder statesman had recently stated in the course of an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, that competence, not factors of geography, should determine who becomes the next president of Nigeria in 2023 and beyond.

He was quoted to have said on the 2023 presidential elections that, "This turn-by-turn, it was done once, it was done twice, and it was done thrice... It is better for this country to be one. It should be for the most competent and not for someone who comes from somewhere."

What he was simply saying is that since Nigerians have tried the rotational presidency three times already, it would be better to go for the most qualified candidate in 2023, irrespective of whether he comes from the North or the South.

Ordinarily, given the truism of the statement and how it can be applied to solve the deficit of quality leadership in the country, many should have nodded in agreement to it.

The apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for instance, condemned the call by Mallam Daura, saying it is a subtle entreaty for jettisoning the principle of rotation, so that the North can continue to rule.

The Ohanaeze further described Daura's statement as self-serving and part of a plot to deny the South-East the presidency.

The Afenifere, on its part, said Daura's comment only exposes what it calls "the deceit of the North and its selfish agenda."

The group said, "It is amusing to see those who were singing zoning or tearing down of Nigeria before 2015, now becoming the apostles of competence after taking eight years. This is the most selfish orchestra."

Another group, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) also condemned Daura's position and described his statement as not only insensitive but "most unfortunate and unarguably capable of creating unnecessary tension in the country."

The reactions were as many as they were highly sentimental but low on logic.

By throwing the chance to all, Daura, who is a prominent northern leader, has denied the North the chance to level up to the South in terms of the number of years in the presidency.

The statement from the Presidency by Mallam Garba Shehu trying to clarify Daura's position was even needless in the first place, as Daura in the interview stated clearly that he was expressing a personal opinion.

Mallam Daura has served in sensitive positions that require deep thinking and analysis and cannot afford to be pedestrian in thought.

He has chosen to stand for what is right and can stand the test of time as being in the best interest of the country.

Between 1999 and now, both the North and South have had an almost equal share of the presidency, with the South doing almost 13 years, while by 2023 the North would have done about 11 years.

Based on that alone, it is the North that should have been demanding to level up on the remaining number of years.

But that is not even what Mallam Daura was saying, but that opportunity should be given to all zones to present their most competent candidates, while we do away with a selection based on primordial sentiments.

By throwing the chance to all, Daura, who is a prominent northern leader, has denied the North the chance to level up to the South in terms of the number of years in the presidency.

So, if anybody should complain, it should have been the North. But nobody is looking at it from that perspective.

Mallam Daura, in demanding for competence, has not excluded any zone from contesting the 2023 elections, as there are qualified and competent persons from all the regions in the country.

What he is saying is that the best among the collection should be favoured.

Much as people would want to vilify Daura, they cannot fault the fact that zoning or rotating political offices has become archaic and has not done Nigeria any good.

Paradoxically, it is those who were against the principle of zoning in the past and who insisted that Yar'Adua's death did not leave any vacuum for the North, that are now clamouring for same.

... the idea of rotating the presidency was just a temporary arrangement to placate the South-West for its sense of deprivation in the June 12, 1993 saga but is totally alien to all elections in Nigeria, from the First to the Second Republics, where competence stood as the true test of popularity.

But it must be stated that zoning heats up the polity unnecessarily and other than serving selfish interests, it has not helped in bringing out the best in terms of leadership.

It also deprives a nation of a leader with national appeal, while discouraging national consensus and political alliances for building bridges, as well as obviating nationalism and patriotism, coupled with encouraging the emergence of irredentists as leaders.

The president of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, John Nnia Nwodo, has proved that zoning is all about hot air, with his subsequent reaction to the debate when he said he would be forced to join the renegade, Nnamdi Kanu, in demanding for Biafra to secede if the Igbo are not allowed to produce the president in 2023.

One wonders what makes Nwodo think that only the Igbo should qualify in 2023 when there are numerous other ethnic groups, even in the South, that have never had a shot at the presidency.

In 1993, Nigerians showed their preference for competence when they voted for the Muslim-Muslim ticket of M.K.O Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, not minding their ethnic backgrounds and faith.

Abiola, who was from the South-West even defeated Tofa, an indigene of Kano, in his Gandun-Albasa ward.

Some have even argued that rotating the presidency is against the Constitution of Nigeria, which gives every qualified person the right to aspire to any political office in the country at any given time.

To show how averse people are to the principle of zoning, it has always been observed in the breach, even in the PDP which made it constitutional.

Besides, the idea of rotating the presidency was just a temporary arrangement to placate the South-West for its sense of deprivation in the June 12, 1993 saga but is totally alien to all elections in Nigeria, from the First to the Second Republics, where competence stood as the true test of popularity.

Mallam Mamman Daura has seen it all as a journalist, businessman and leader that he should be given the benefit of doubt on issues that will shape the political and economic future of this country.

Daura's intention is basically about the place of dialogue as a means of driving conversation in a democracy, rather than the resort to clanish cleavages.

Again, none of his traducers come close to his reputation, intellectual standing, cosmopolitan exposure and analytical frame of mind. His only sin is vicarious due to his closeness to Mr. President.

But this is one opportunity that calls for objective assessment, which Nigerians cannot allow to slip by.

Buhari Yusuf, a lawyer and commentator on national issues, writes from Abuja.

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