By Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim
Zoning, especially of the presidency, is not a product of a national consensus but that of certain political parties’ internal dynamics. It is pertinent that we understand that. Nigerians did not sit in a national conference and agree to zone or rotate power. So it is not binding on the broader national politics.
The idea of zoning started with the PDP in 1998, it was entrenched in PDP’s constitution in Article 7, Section 7.2(C), and it prescribes that “In pursuant of the principles of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committees at all levels”.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a southerner, became president in 1999 and prevailed as president for two terms representing eight uninterrupted years. In 2007, Umaru Musa Yaradua was nominated to fulfil this zoning principle and rotation of power to the North. Hence, he was supposed to also prevail as president for eight uninterrupted years as the president of Nigeria.
Unfortunately, he was only able to serve for about three years due to his ill health and subsequent death. As a result, president Goodluck Jonathan, who was the Vice President, assumed office as Acting President through the invocation of the “Doctrine of Necessity” principle and completed the term, which was supposed to be between May 2007 to May 2011.
However, according to the zoning agreement, it was still the turn of the North as a Northern President was supposed to go for eight uninterrupted years. But Goodluck Jonathan was not going to have it; he insisted on contesting the presidency, thereby jettisoning the PDP’s zoning principle.
A serious crisis erupted within the party, and a section of the party’s membership was hell-bent on adhering to the zoning agreement and even went ahead to endorse Atiku Abubakar as the Northern Consensus candidate to complete the North’s uninterrupted eight years.
The stalemate prevailed until a case was made that Jonathan would only be completing the Yaradua Ticket, which he was initially part of. And it was agreed that Jonathan would only be going for a single term. The decision still contravened the zoning arrangement, but Jonathan had his way; he contested and won the 2011 elections.
Jonathan, however, went back on his promise and still contested for the 2015 elections even while it was supposed to be contested by a Northern candidate as per the 2011 agreement and the broader zoning principle. And he lost.
Hence, it is only fair that the presidency is rotated back to the North “In pursuant of the principles of equity, justice and fairness”.
So no matter where the party chairmanship is zoned, the party’s zoning principle will still favour the North for the Presidency. And come to think of it, the circumstance is not novel, for this is not the first time a Northern Presidential candidate would emerge during the chairmanship of a Northern Party Chairman in the PDP. Col Ahmadu Ali was PDP’s Chairman from 2005 to 2008, and Yaradua was nominated to fly PDP’s flag and was voted to office in 2007 while Col Ali was still chairman.
Coming back to the National outlook, the (unofficial) zoning agreement in the APC favours the South for the 2023 elections, while that of the PDP favours the North. And this is where the calculation is!
Peradventure the parties adhere to these zoning agreements, and we get a PDP Northern Candidate (for example, Atiku Abubakar with a running mate like Peter Obi, Nyesom Wike or Okonjo Iweala) and an APC Southern Candidate (for example, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu with a running mate like Babagana Zulum, Maimala Buni or Boss Mustapha), who would the calculation favour?
Answer this, and you would understand why PDP would want to lure APC into fielding a Southern candidate!
Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim is a political and public affairs analyst. He writes from Zaria and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.