Members of the National Conference Committee on Political Reforms and Forms of Government recently recommended the inclusion of power rotation or the zoning of political offices at the three tiers of government, in the country’s electoral laws and the constitutions of political parties. The recommendation is largely a response to the acrimony that oftentimes attends the selection of candidates for the offices of president and state governors in the country. Although the idea of rotation of political offices among the country’s geo-political zones and the senatorial districts in the states is patently undemocratic, it will be a welcome development if it can lay to rest the age-old rancour that has been the hallmark of elections into these critical offices.
The committee members had, through a unanimous voice vote, approved that the arrangement be entrenched in the country’s Electoral Act. Reports had it that while some members suggested that the formula be included in the constitution, majority of the members were of the view that political parties should be allowed to decide where power should be zoned.
The co-chairman of the committee and a delegate from the North-East geo-political zone, Mohammed Kumaila, explained that the rotational principle will be entrenched in the Electoral Act and in the constitution of the various political parties with definitive modalities on how power will be zoned in the states and the centre. The same principle, he stressed, was also recommended for the local government councils.
Under the proposed formula, the office of the president would be rotated among the six geo-political zones of the country, while state governorship office would be rotated among the three senatorial zones in each state. The committee also recommended that the policy should apply to the local governments as well, so that power would rotate among the political wards in the councils.
We commend the confab committee for coming up with this far-reaching recommendation that is designed to ensure that we run an all-inclusive government so that no group of Nigerians will feel marginalized or alienated again. In a democracy, all sections of the country should be given a sense of belonging and no one should be discriminated against on account of his tribe, gender or religion.
The only equitable way of doing this is through the zoning of political offices in the country. As democracy is presently practised in the country, only zoning can ensure that persons from minority groups win elections in the country. We believe that, for now, zoning is okay for the offices of president, governor and other elective positions at the three tiers of government in the country.
But, to avoid manipulation of the process by unscrupulous politicians, we advise that the zoning arrangement be enshrined in the constitution so that it will be legally binding on all the political parties. Besides ensuring equity and inclusion, it will at the same time remove the undue tension and other crises associated with elections in the country. In addition to ensuring equitable distribution of political offices, zoning will completely eliminate the claims of divine right to rulership of the country and some states, by certain people in the country.
Even though zoning is seemingly undemocratic, let it be entrenched in the constitution in view of our socio-political peculiarities until such a time that the geo-political zone or senatorial district of aspirants to political offices no longer matter, as is the case in advanced democracies such as Britain and the United States. Giving zoning a constitutional backing will eliminate the frequent allegations of breaches of gentlemen’s agreements that are common in the country.
Also, the committee’s recommendation that representation at the National Assembly for the envisaged unicameral legislature should be on equal representation of 50 percent on the basis of equality of states, and 50 percent on the basis of population of each state, is worthy of consideration. While we support representation based on equality of states, we cannot do the same for representation based on population alone.
We say this taking into cognizance the unending contentions over issues concerning population in the country. What is the actual population of Nigeria now? Is it 150 million or 170 million as bandied in some quarters? The nation’s population at present is controversial. Since independence till now, apart from the independence census conducted by our erstwhile colonial master, Britain, all other head counts conducted in the country have been hotly contested by different political interests and groups.
Until we conduct an accurate census, which we think can be done if we have the political will to do it, representation in the legislature based on population should not be considered. For now, let representation in the proposed unicameral National Assembly be based on equality of states alone.