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PDP zoning and majority rule in a democracy

March 19, 2010

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has an arrangement for zoning elective political positions to specific geo-political regions within specific periods of time. Naturally, there are three questions that require an analytic enquiry and investigation: Is this practice in conflict with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution?

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has an arrangement for zoning elective political positions to specific geo-political regions within specific periods of time. Naturally, there are three questions that require an analytic enquiry and investigation: Is this practice in conflict with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution?
Can this provision prevent a free-born Nigerian from, at any time of his or her choosing, aspiring to, freely contesting for, and occupying an elective office for which he is constitutionally qualified in a given period of time? Does this tradition of the PDP not preclude fair play in a democracy, which constitutionally recognizes majority votes in determination of issues of governance, and majority rule as the consequence thereof?

I answer plainly. Any arrangement, within a political party, nuclear community, or a country, which places an embargo, temporarily or otherwise, on a group of people on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or social status, from aspiring to and running for any elective office is a violation of the principle of human equality and dignity. And this goes against the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, both in letter and spirit. PDP argues that what the constitution does not outlaw, it permits. A close reading of the constitution shows that our constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or religion. And in matters of election, the constitution empowers only the Nigerian people to decide who governs them. Accordingly, any practice by a political party that undermines the clarity, visibility, and purity of that choice goes against the grains and constitutes a violation of the constitution. In other words, the contamination of the soil on which choice is rooted will contaminate its fruits; in fact, it becomes a choice between all rotten or polluted fruits. This is the damage that political rotation does to the suffrage of a people.  For years, white minority rule in South Africa prevailed. Nigeria was in the forefront of efforts to end Apartheid policies in that country. But here we are in the twenty first century, with the PDP-led government in Nigeria, placing barriers across the path of Nigerians to choose to vote and be voted for. And another painful thing is that they know how to rig.

Let me state seven reasons why the zoning system by the PDP is wrong:

1.    Faulty premise: The PDP (and any political party that agrees with its practice) assumes that rotation of the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between the North and South is sufficient to establish “fairness.” The problem with this assumption lies, not only in a faulty definition of fairness, but also in a faulty understanding of the composition of Nigeria. Nigeria is not the South and North. There is no historical evidence of the homogeneity of either the South or North. Nigeria comprises more than 250 nations. How then can a simple rotation of the office of President between the North and South be a basis for “fairness”? Do all nationalities in the North of the country view themselves as being served with fairness should one of them be [s]elected President on behalf of the rest? Would the whole of the South be contented if the same thing should happen to one of the nationalities in that part of Nigeria? If we must play fair according to the simplified understanding of the PDP, it would take more than 2000 years to bring the game to an acceptably fair conclusion in the first round. Each of the 250 nationalities must present a President, who shall rule for 8 years. This renders the PDP position untenable, unworkable, and simply empty.

2.    Fallacious precedence: The history and experiences of Nigeria down the years have shown that sense of injustice, marginalization, and hurt has not been eased by rotation of political offices between ethnic nationalities. To the contrary, such practice has rather accentuated the consciousness of our deep differences deep within our national psyche. The cause of true nationhood has not been served thereby. What has not worked is ready to be discarded. Adamant insistence with an unworkable arrangement only confirms stubborn folly and disservice to the nation.

3.    False pride: False pride that comes with someone from our part of the country occupying a public office such as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has more often than not been replaced with a sense of shame due to poor governance and corruption. If the PDP-induced political rotation doctrine had served the good cause of governance, maybe some little comfort would have been derived, and yet that would never be a justification; but our sorry harvest of styles is being foisted by an endless sentence of mediocrity in leadership, no thanks to PDP in recent times.

4.    Fraudulent practice: If democracy is a system of governance that involves the people in the leadership selection process, and yet the underbelly of that process is darkened by cult selection, how more fraudulent could a process be? If I am constitutionally endowed with rights to make a choice, I must be presented with all inclined options. There must be transparent internal democracy within the political parties to guarantee open contest between all constitutionally eligible options. The people decide who would serve them; and their choice ultimately decides from which part of the country the level leader emerges for that season. It is an insidious lynching of our democracy for the PDP leadership to confer on themselves the powers of political priests, anointing their pleasure at the shrine of loyalty and pre-determined side of their induced divide.

5.    Forced pains:  When a political party deceitfully excludes some in its fold, who have had aspirations to run for elective offices for the only reason that “it is not their turn,” unwarranted pains are forced into our political circles. Human nature, being inclined to the vengeful, will seek avenues for a pay back. When trust and mutual respect and trust within a political party are thus eroded, then the party gradually wilts away. If that party, like the PDP, is running the affairs of government, that nation is bound to suffer the misfortune of distraction occasioned by plots and counter plots by wounded sons and daughters of such a party. A nation can never outgrow the excellence of the party in power. Such is Nigeria’s tragedy at the moment.

6.    Façade projections: The pretext to guarantee “fairness” through rotation is just that— a pretext. A party such as the PDP, which swears to the doctrine of political rotation, only serves the interest of a mediocre few, who cannot compete. Such a party hides behind rotation to hide the insecurity of some in their fold.  Which part of Nigeria can claim that the PDP-induced rotation has brought it economic development? What economic or social benefits has Nigeria reaped from political rotation? Have ethnic nationalities lived harmoniously thereby? The recurrent Jos crises have happened since PDP came into power in Nigeria. The MEND-induced attacks in the Niger Delta have never been more persistent than since PDP got into power in 1999, with all their political rotations, which now have enabled a Niger Delta man to be the Acting President. The very sermons in justification of political rotation by the PDP are being vitiated before our very eyes by the facts.

7.    Fake personalities:  What is the quality of the people that PDP has been putting forward since 1999 as President, Governors, legislators, and Local Government Chairmen? The personalities have been greed-controlled and not service-driven. The collapse of public infrastructure, public and personal security, and loss of public trust in government and security agencies have rubbished the PDP-touted doctrine of political rotation. The conclusion is that this doctrine has not produced high quality leadership that Nigeria deserves. We must stop this game in any way possible. It is an arrest of our senses to watch PDP foist fake personalities upon us without end.

What I have said about the PDP, I say to any political party in Nigeria which does not practice true internal democracy. The emergence of political candidates for all our political parties must be through a process which is difficult to impeach through unbiased democratic tests. In fact, I call for a review of our electoral laws, which must require primaries for the offices of President and Governor at least, to be conducted state-by-state and local government-by-local government, respectively, where all Nigerians can register to vote whether they belong to those parties or are independents. Candidates involved in the primaries must be made to campaign to be scrutinized by the electorates. Such a process would glean and mature candidates within the political climate of their political parties before they venture out for an inter-party contest; the nation gains.  2011 is not the turn of the North! 2011 is not the turn of any part of Nigeria! In 2011, Nigerians will prevail. We shall decide. 2011 is the turn of the best that Nigerians will elect at all levels of public governance. We shall return Nigeria to majority rule through majority votes at the polls.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is the President of the Nigeria Rally Movement ( ) and Assistant Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria.
TEL: +234-8055024356; Email: [email protected]

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