Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Warped Logic of Zoning the Presidency

I just read an article in the Nigerian Tribune of June the 24th 2006 by Jacob Segun Olatunji & Bankole Makinde titled “South South May Boycott the Elections.” It tries to surmise the reason why the so called leaders of the “south-south” geopolitical zone want all the 37 registered political parties to field a south-southern candidate. Their reason is that the north has produced the president or head of state for 34 of the 45 years of Nigerian independence and therefore it is the turn of the south-south geopolitical region to produce the next president. Anything less, they say, they will boycott the 2007 elections. Let’s try to decompose the reasoning behind this proposition.

If the current political dispensation is a democracy, is imposing such a demand not tantamount to blackmail and hijacking the democratic process? Subscribing to such a formula of zoning is only a perpetuation of regional, sectional and ethno-centric politics that has bedeviled the system and stunted development in Nigeria for decades now. Would it not be better for the president to be elected based on merit rather than zoning or ethno-centricism? That way, there is no sense of entitlement, and we know we truly have the people’s choice in office rather than a compromise president whose ascension to power is just because he is from a particular zone of Nigeria. All progressive peoples of the world would agree that this is a regressive and tribalistic approach to democracy.

Proponents of this formula subscribe to it because they assume that there are some benefits that would accrue to the region from which the president comes. This goes to suggest that the president who is supposed to be nationalistic and impartial would favour his ethnic or regional ilk over other Nigerians. Would such a president not be unfair, perhaps even criminal?

The only traits that should matter in the next president are integrity, vision and intellect. The region from which the president comes should not even arise. The Nigerian entity would only truly be democratic when the so called “leaders of thought” and old brigade ethnocentric tribalistic politicians and their protégées stop taking the Nigerian people for a ride by playing up ethnic and sectional sentiments whenever it suits their political ends.

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