By Olugbenga Ige, Enioluwa Adeniyi and Justina Otio
The 2023 election is gradually drawing nearer and you can feel the intensity in the air already.
Questions have been raised if the concept of zoning will make or mar the 2023 presidential election and the unity of Nigeria in general.
Politicians and Nigerians at one point or the other have asked if we should indulge a particular zone because they have not been in power for a long time or do we vote with the capability of the individual at heart.
The issue of zoning is one of the most contentious issues in the politics of Nigeria presently, especially in the two major political parties: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The argument surrounding zoning is that it is not stated in either the 1999 Constitution or the Electoral Act, but it is a convenient measure adopted by the PDP in 1999, and hence should not be compulsorily binding.
However, it is a measure that was not invented by the PDP but was introduced by the party with the return of civilian rule to ensure equity, justice, and fairness in the political process.
The PDP had adopted the concept of zoning from inception, saying this was to promote national unity in accordance with Section 7 (2) (c) of its Constitution.
Although the word zoning is not used in the 1999 Constitution, nevertheless, its ideals and concept are in line with the Sections 14(3), 147(3) and 171(5) and the establishment of a Federal Character Commission in Section 153 (1c) and Part 1 of the Third Schedule.
The former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in March 2022 stated that Nigerians need to shift their focus from zoning to electing competent leaders capable of turning the fortunes of the country around.
The opposition party in its effort to win the highest political office in the country has been charged to zone its presidential ticket to the South.
Following agitations by party members, the National Chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, inaugurated a zoning committee to deliberate on zoning the 2023 presidential ticket.
During the inauguration, Ayu said the PDP would maintain its custom of rotating political offices among geopolitical zones in the country, and asked interested aspirants whom the rotation arrangement may not favour this time around to wait for their time.
After a series of meetings and much deliberation, the zoning committee reportedly decided to throw the presidential ticket of the party open – a development that has however been denied by the party hierarchy though the official position of the committee/party has not been made public yet.
The development saw former vice president Atiku Abubakar and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State urge the party to focus on producing a credible and worthy candidate rather than focusing on the zoning principle.
It is worthy to note that the zoning of the presidency under a principle of rotation between North and South has been the most contentious issue in the PDP going into the 2023 general elections.
It has pitted the Southern region of the party against the North, as presidential hopefuls on both sides salivate at the prospect of running in an election where the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari will not be a candidate.
Following the formation of APC in 2013, the party focused its attention on removing the then ruling PDP from Aso Rock with the issue of zoning taking a backseat and winning the election taking centre stage.
It was learned that leaders of the ruling party, led by its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, allegedly signed a ‘gentleman’s agreement’, stating that the South West will take over power upon the expiration of President Buhari’s two-term tenure in 2023.
It however remains unclear what will be the response of the leaders and power blocs in the party going into the 2023 elections.
However, after the APC decided to zone its National Chairmanship ticket to the North which culminated in the emergence of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as its chairman, speculations have increased that the party is set to zone its presidential ticket to the South.
Following the development, the decision has not stopped the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, from pressing on for the presidential ticket of the ruling party.
Osinbajo’s response to zoning
In an effort to get the view of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the issue of zoning, Naija News reached out to his spokesman, Laolu Akande to shed more light on the pressing issue.
Osinbajo, however, kept mum on the issue of zoning as he stated that his goal is to complete what the present government has started in the aspects of insecurity.
He said: “If by the grace of God and the will of the people, I am given the opportunity, then I believe that first, we must complete what we have started, radically transforming our security and intelligence architecture; completing the reform of our justice system focusing on adequate remuneration and welfare of judicial personnel, ensuring justice for all and the observance of rule of law, rapidly advancing our infrastructure development, especially power, roads, railways and broadband connectivity. Providing an excellent environment for businesses to thrive; taking the agriculture revolution to the next level especially mechanization and developing the farm to table value chain.”
Naija News correspondent also took out time to speak with the spokesman of former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, Lere Olayinka to get his view about the 2023 presidency race.
He revealed measures and steps his principal would take to transform Nigeria if he emerge as President in 2023.
Olayinka, when asked about the view of his principal in the call for political parties to zone their presidential ticket to the south, said, “he has no take, but whatever decision the Peoples Democratic Party takes is his (Fayose’s) decision.”
He further stated that left to the presidential aspirant he would have preferred that the presidency in 2023 be zoned to the South.
When asked what the target of former Governor Fayose would be if he eventually emerge as President in 2023, he said, “The most important thing about the country is to take it to a default setting where things were working before and he would take it from there, adding that he would take the country to a level where things are working, infrastructures are in place, Nigerians have access to good power supply, considerably level of social amenities and a country where everyone is equal before the norm.”
Olayinka while speaking on the effect of zoning on the unity of Nigeria said, “What Nigeria needs now is a president that can fix the country.”
He noted that “where the president comes from does not matter, but since the Peoples Democratic Party operates a zoning system and the North has ruled for eight years, it should come to the South.
“Nigeria should have equitable distribution of power.”
Olayinka also spoke on the insecurity situation in the country and how his principal would tackle it if he eventually emerge as president, he said, “He said the same measure that would be used to solve every other problem in the country is the political will to fix problems, adding that the country Nigeria has what it takes to fix its problem.”
He said, “What Nigeria is lacking is a leader that would punish anyone found wanting whether such person is a friend to the whoever is in power or not.”
He added that what is lacking in the issue of security in the country is, “Intelligence gathering, adding that we are in a country where kidnappers and terrorists are using phones to negotiate with the family of victims and the security agencies are not able to track them.
“To fix the security issue in the country, the political will would have to be put in place and former Governor Fayose has the political will.”
So the million-dollar question remains what does the country need presently? What would solve the agitation of the citizens and put a smile on their faces away from the aspirations of the politicians? Is it zoning that will appease a particular region that has been marginalized in the political picture or to promote competency considering the present situation of the country which is in need of a leader?
The 2023 election is definitely a major defining moment for Nigeria and after over 20 years since the return to democracy in 1999, the country must get this decision right and prove that it has matured.