The committee wants it enshrined in the Electoral Act
The National Conference Committee on Political Reforms and Forms of Government, on Tuesday unanimously agreed to recommend the application of the zoning policy in all the tiers of government in Nigeria.
The Committee co-chaired by Mohammed Kumalia and Ike Nwachukwu, in a voice vote resolved that the policy should be incorporated into the Electoral Act.
The recommendation is subject to the approval of the Conference at its plenary session, which might resume on Monday.
During the debate on the issue, though some members of the committee canvassed the inclusion of the policy in the constitution, others said it should be left for political parties to decide.
A former deputy governor of Kogi State, Philip Salawu, who led debate on the issue, said the zoning principle should be put to practice at the centre, states and local government level.
He also suggested that presidential power should alternate between North and South on the basis of the country’s six geo-political zones.
“If you entrench zoning in our constitution, the quest for state creation would not be necessary anymore,” he argued.
Lawrence Agubuzu, representing the South East said the zone and the North East zone had been marginalized in terms of producing the president.
He urged the delegates to the National Conference to support the zones to produce the president with the South East taking the first shot in 2019 and later the North East.
He said, “The Presidency has continued to elude the two geopolitical zones. They should be given the chance to produce the next president of Nigeria after 2019.”
Another delegate, Jonathan Temlong, argued that power rotation would give everybody the opportunity to occupy the highest political office in the country.
He however suggested that the issue should be left to the political parties to decide.
“It should not be institutionalized because it might shut out credible individuals. We also ask the parties to include zoning in their constitutions as it affects all levels of government. It should not be included in the constitution but given legal backing beyond the constitution and it should be entrenched in the electoral law,” Mr. Temlong, a retired army general said.
Adamu Waziri, a Federal Government delegate from Yobe State, however, opposed rotation of power, arguing that it would not bring out the best people to run governments.
He canvassed for a level playing field for everybody regardless of their ethnic groups and religion.
Mr. Waziri, a former Police Affairs Minister, recounted that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected because of the qualities he possessed even as he said President Goodluck Jonathan was not a product of zoning.
“I believe that a level playing ground should be given to every Nigerian,” he said.
The strength of the nation is not in the quantity but in the quality of the candidate. Goodluck was elected against the zoning formular. Obasanjo was elected not on any sentiment in 1999 but because of certain attributes that he possessed.”
Toeing the same line, another member, Anya Anya, a professor argued that the best candidate should occupy the office of the president.
According to him, it was not necessary to have zoning in the constitution.
Seinde Arogbofa, Mouktar Mohammed, Yinka Odumakin, Binta Garba, Femi Okurounmu, Sam Egwu, Idongesit Nkang and Tunde Bakare were other members of the Committee that made contribution to the debate.
Announcing the resolution, Mr. Kumaila said rotational principle, if approved would be entrenched in the Electoral Act and the constitutions of the registered parties with a clearly defined reflection on how power would be zoned in the states and at the federal level.