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Zoning in Nigeria and SWAGA 2023

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
14 October 2021   |   3:42 am
Last week, and perhaps in response to the issues raised through this column and other contributions from notable Nigerians, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, voted in favour of its own Constitution...

Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat (left); Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; National Chairman, South-West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA), Dayo Adeyeye and Deputy Chairman, SWAGA, Soji Akanbi during the “SWAGA 2023” inauguration in Lagos…yesterday.

Last week, and perhaps in response to the issues raised through this column and other contributions from notable Nigerians, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, voted in favour of its own Constitution, by zoning the Chairmanship position of the Party to the North, which invariably means that its presidential candidate in the 2023 election will emerge from the Southern part of the country. This is how it should be, in order to reduce the tension currently stoked by the seeming unending debates on the issue. The ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, is still dancing round the issue and perhaps studying the body language of its major stakeholders, being President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. However it may seek to delay its decision, this is a nut that APC must crack in favour of justice, equity, cohesion and unity of Nigeria. In this regard, APC cannot afford to violate the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and indeed its own Constitution. In essence, the presidential candidates of all political parties that hope to be part of the 2023 elections should emerge from the Southern part of Nigeria, in compliance with the dictates of our Constitution on zoning and rotation.
The matter has since gone beyond mere zoning, at least with the unfolding events of recent times. Also last week, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led other politicians (mainly from Lagos State) to launch The South West Agenda, (SWAGA 2023) which is believed to be the campaign outfit of the former Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Not long thereafter, Tinubu himself flew in from London, where he had gone for medical treatment. Tongues have been wagging since then, whether Jagaban as he is fondly called, has any personal ambition for the Presidency in 2023. First, we must all thank God for good health and His healing power over Jagaban, notwithstanding the initial denials. None of us can play God, so when anyone is reported to have any health challenge, our duty is to pray for his quick and total recovery. I join other Nigerians and his well-wishers to pray that the healing shall be permanent.

But that is not even the issue but rather the full meaning, impact and consequence of zoning and rotation, on such ambition (of BAT) if any. If it is accepted that there is a legal basis to insist on rotation of the presidency to the South in 2023 in order to avoid dominance of power by any particular zone, then such principle must be pursued and implemented holistically, and to its logical conclusion, to avoid the dominance of any particular region or religion. The major factors determining the political equation in Nigeria in relation to zoning and rotation are geographical location and faith. Indeed, from experience, the latter seems more potent than the former. 

President Buhari is a practicising Muslim by all accounts and this is known to all. In fact, some have gone as far as tagging him a religious fanatic or a fundamentalist, citing some of his close cabinet members that he has entrusted with key positions of power in places like Ministry of Justice, Works and Housing, Defence, Finance, Communications, Internal Affairs, FCT, Aviation, Education, Information, name it. So, if there is going to be a power shift in the true sense of the word, then the next President of Nigeria should emerge from the South and he/she should be a practicing Christian. It is as simple as that or else there should be no basis for insisting on zoning or rotation. By all known parameters, Jagaban is a practicing Muslim and it is very strange that anyone would seek to drag him into the political equation of 2023. Yes, he is married to a Christian, but that has nothing to do with his person and his personal faith. The religious consideration is attached to the person who is to contest the election, not his spouse or his associates. 

Now the absurdity of such consideration (of Tinubu Presidency in 2023) will be better appreciated when the North (going by the same principle of zoning) would queue to produce the next President in 2031, who would by all accounts, still be a practicing Muslim. So, the illogicality of Tinubu Presidency come 2023 is that Muslims will exhaust Buhari’s Presidency for eight full years, take Tinubu’s Muslim Presidency for another eight years and thereafter the North will produce a Muslim President for another eight years, making a total of twenty-four years of unbroken Muslim leadership. Where is the equity in such an arrangement? And yet we preach justice and fairness? I cannot even imagine its consequence on our psyche as a nation that is trying so hard to achieve unity and cohesion.
Is Tinubu qualified to be President of Nigeria? By all means YES, but given the scenario painted above, it is an idea that should not even be muted at all, by anyone who is sensitive to the feelings, faith and rights of others. So, the way in which I personally see SWAGA 2023 is that Jagaban will be the major player in who becomes the President. He must be accorded his full recognition in the political equation of the present day Nigeria, he may be allowed to play a major role in the emergence of any presidential candidate of the APC. But to say that SWAGA 2023 means that BAT or any other Southern Muslim will contest the presidential election will be totally insensitive and indeed incomprehensible.
The other aspect of the incongruity of the Tinubu presidency is that of proportional representation. If we advocate for power shift to the South, this will include the South-East, the South-West and the South-South. The people of the South-East and the South-South and all their Governors without exception are Christians. Per adventure, it is possible, purely for the sake of argument, that the South-West is invited to present a presidential candidate for the APC because it has the majority (five out of six States), such a candidate should still be a Christian, given the present figures in Lagos (Sanwo-Olu), Oyo (Makinde), Ogun (Abiodun), Ondo (Akeredolu) and Ekiti (Fayemi).
To be continued tomorrow
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.