The Nigerian Federation is an assembly of several nationalities striving to forge a more perfect union from peoples of diverse heritage.
To further this objective, various forms of affirmative action have been proposed and taken to promote the feeling of belonging and inclusiveness by all segments of the country. The terms Federal Character, Zoning, Rotation, Uniform Development, National Character, etc, have been used to describe the various forms of affirmative action designed to engender feelings of belonging and national inclusiveness in appointments to positions of national leadership. The degree of acceptance of affirmative action in our national life is evidenced in an agency like the Federal Character Commission that is enshrined in the Constitution of the country.
The implementation of this nationally accepted policy might have been poorly executed in the past, thereby resulting in abuse, but that does not diminish the positive value of the policy. There are available, in every corner of Nigeria, people of merit that can occupy any office and discharge the duties of such office creditably.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) believes in merit and excellence in the appointment of people to elective and appointive positions. The Party also believes in the unity of Nigeria. These two positions are not in my opinion diametrically opposing virtues. There is an overriding imperative to take positive actions to promote inclusiveness whilst keeping an eye on merit.
The statement credited to His Excellency, Chief Bisi Akande, former Interim National Chairman of the APC with regards to the negative elements of zoning has merit. It is however not a sufficient reason to ignore the need to carefully nurture the country towards a more perfect union. It is to the credit of Chief Bisi Akande that his act of magnanimity in relinquishing the exalted position of National Chairman of ACN and Acting or Interim Chairman of APC made way for the election of a new Chairman for the APC in bid to forge a more inclusive party.
Can we deny that Chief Bisi Akande was not eminently qualified to lead the APC?---- Far from it!! The application of the principle of absolute meritocracy in a plural society like Nigeria bears the risk of alienating vast sections of the populace and generating ill will and resentment toward the Party. For example, it would have been politically suicidal to insist on choosing a President and his running mate from the same section of the country.
The big bone of contention appears to be for which zone should occupy the office of Senate President. Why is it that the only one for which zoning or national spread is contentious? The office of Speaker has been affirmatively reserved for a section of the country and there appears to be no quarrel with that decision.
There are six leadership positions in the two houses of the national assembly. It will be poor political judgment and gross insensitivity to allow all or a majority of these positions to go to just one or two sections of the country whatever the considerations might be.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has a legacy of bad governance that the All Progressives Congress (APC) must avoid. Nonetheless, there are settled national conventions that transcend any political party in power. The principle of federal character or affirmative action to promote national inclusiveness is one of such. Having successfully thrown out the bathwater therefore, we must be very careful to preserve the baby.
It is in recognition of the foregoing that the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) proposes affirmative action in the distribution of Offices of the National Assembly to promote national stability, political inclusiveness and generate positive goodwill toward itself and its candidates. Chief Bisi Akande is not wrong to insist on merit but there must be regard for national balance and political correctness. If it is true therefore that His Excellency, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as stated by Chief Bisi Akande proposed zoning or affirmative action in the distribution of National Political Offices, then he ought to be applauded as a statesman. This is the right and commonsense approach which speaks to the sensitivity and mood of the citizens of the country. I rest my case.
MR MICHAEL OVIENMHADA IS A PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST