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 The case for zoning – Part 2

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
01 March 2022   |   2:59 am
In line with section 14 (3) of the Constitution, the Southern part of Nigeria is expected to produce the next President come 2023, whether or not they have a majority of the votes.

In line with section 14 (3) of the Constitution, the Southern part of Nigeria is expected to produce the next President come 2023, whether or not they have a majority of the votes. What is required is to combine section 131 on the eligibility of the candidate for the office of the President with section 14 (3) to determine his qualification. In other words, after fulfilling all the requirements stipulated in section 131, the candidate must of necessity not be barred by section 14 (3). So, even if a candidate is ordinarily qualified by virtue of section 131 of the Constitution, he can be disqualified under section 14 (3) if he is from the same section of the country as the incumbent President.
  
The idea of rotation and zoning was mooted during the second republic by the National Party of Nigeria, which was then struggling to build a party with national appeal. It was later included in its Constitution vide Article 21 thereof that NPN will strive to achieve ‘national character’ in all its dealings. I believe that this is the origin of the phrase ‘federal character’, which later surfaced in the 1999 Constitution. This would also explain section 223 (1) (b) and (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, which make it mandatory for all political parties to reflect the principle of federal character in their Constitutions.

 
“223 (1) The Constitution and rules of a political party shall – (b) ensure that members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party reflect the federal character of Nigeria. (2) For the purpose of this section – (b) the members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party shall be deemed to reflect the federal character of Nigeria only if the members thereof belong to different States not being less in number that two-thirds of all States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
  
I have listened to some politicians who claim that zoning is unconstitutional just to create confusion in the minds of their followers. Perhaps they have not read the Constitution of their own political party well enough, all of which are hereby reproduced verbatim.
  
Article 7 of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party: “7. (1) The Party shall have a manifesto which, subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, shall be implemented by all organs of the party and governments elected under its platform. (2) The Party shall strive to – (b) promote federalism and an equitable revenue sharing formula. (3) The Party shall pursue these aims and objectives – (c) adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of Party and Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.”
 
Articles 3 and 7of the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC): “Motto: Justice, Peace and Unity.” “7. (1) To promote and foster the unity, political stability and national consciousness of the people of Nigeria.” (2) To promote true federalism in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Article 2 of the APC Constitution: “Subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and any other Laws for the time being in force in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the provisions of this Constitution shall be supreme provided that where any rule, regulation or any other enactment of the Party is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, such a rule, regulation and enactment shall, to the extent of its inconsistency, be null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”
 
Section 17 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that the State social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice. Equality means the balance of power is not tilted in favour of a section of the country against the other sections. I verily believe that this prompted Governors of the Southern States to make a similar demand for power shift or zoning in 2021, as the case may be. It is nothing new, but rather expected and logical, that after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, the Southern part of Nigeria should produce the President after him. That will accord fairness and justice indeed. As I have stated on several occasions, it will be totally insensitive for the North to expect to produce the President of Nigeria, after the Buhari administration. Thus, it is expected that the next President after the present one should come from the Southern part of the country. This is meant to achieve stability in the polity and avoid undue tension and agitations. The Nigerian Bar Association for example is currently practicing the principle of rotation and zoning, between the North, West and the South and it has worked smoothly and effectively, for the body of lawyers. There is no reason why it shouldn’t work for Nigeria.
 Concluded
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.