By Moses Uzziah
The return of Democracy in 1999,like the birth of a new baby, brought so much happiness to the Nigerian people.
Envisaging the end to authoritarian rule under the watch of Military personnel who cared less about the opinion of the populace led to this widespread joy. Many mistakes were made in the election or maybe selection process then. Many excused those mistakes, citing the fact that a child is not expected to grow into an adult in one.
In actual fact, it sounded reasonable, as room should have been made for mistakes and corrections.
Twenty one years down the line, It seems the young child birthed to a highly expectant nation has rather than grow, proceeded on a self-imposed waning and a journey to extinction. The democracy of a people with high expectations only made some people reason that the authoritarian rule should just be brought back, a sad result of the degeneration of Democracy in Nigeria.
While some people still nurture the hope that things will get better with time, they are however forced to ask when such hope will be justified, since democracy, instead of growing, has taken a slump so bad that the deaf can hear and the blind can see just how bad it has become. Suppose you have a child that is 21 years old, and rather than grow into maturity, he/she keeps on behaving and speaking like a toddler, how would you feel? Will you jump up in happiness and nurture unfounded hope that the child will take a giant step all of a sudden and grow to maturity?
While we all hope against hope for an improvement, there are things that must be addressed, and only till those parts of the returned Democracy are taken care of, will there be little room for improvement.
One of such practices that must be looked into is the concept of zoning. Zoning in Nigeria’s Political context is the act of choosing or as they say, electing who takes power in a rotational manner, allowing for power to move round. This practice is supposed to take care of marginalization, ensuring that even persons from the minority are elected into political seats. This, to some extent, has been able to sort some strained nerves in the Nigerian politics.
Interestingly, while some people are satisfied with the results, there are some who still frown at the process. Worse yet, there are those who think they should hold on to power indefiniyely, that the concept of zoning is not properly practiced the way it should.
While the issue of whether zoning has been properly done is still in contention, zoning has led to the production of a leadership daft ruling class. While it is said that the masses elect who they wish into to seat of power, the process of choosing this ones within the party has been so flawed that we have only seen a ruling class rotating within a certain circle. Worse yet, the practice of zoning has as a matter of fact comfortably allowed this people to present who has really nothing to offer the populace under the guise that they represent the zone that should have a particular seat. The level of ineptitude within this ruling class and the lack of check is appalling. The populace voluntarily support all manner of things because they are just from their part of the country or state. This has resulted in politics of no objectivity; politics of bigotry.
What is supposed to be a liberal Democracy has been marred by this clamor for Zoning and other power-sharing arrangements as mechanisms for ethno-regional balancing. A few scholarly commentaries have alluded to the capacity of such informalities for conflict mitigation and consensus formation in plural societies.
The zoning policy has really caused a lot of political instability in the country as a result of disagreement among politicians. Meanwhile, some still believe it has something to offer to the development of the country’s democracy. Since independence 50 years ago, Nigeria has not achieved its full potential as the giant of Africa. Public services across the country are all but non-existent, corruption rife and democracy in the true meaning of the word is not being practiced, resulting in many decades of presidential politics in Nigeria being riddled with ethnicity or tribal politics, religious intolerance and more recently electoral malpractices. Well meaning and patriotic elements in the polity had wrestled with the idea of the best formula that will guarantee peace and stability in the country.
The delicate nature of the zoning process is highlighted in the following few paragraphs as opined by Samson Toromade `Not only does it fundamentally run against the course of democracy, it encourages mediocrity by caring little about the competence of aspirants.”
The Nigerian people have been forced to decide to vote for choices that have been geographically cherry-picked to satisfy regional sentiments that are largely inconsequential to how well candidates can do their jobs.
This phenomenon is as much the fault of the people as it is that of the political class that’s merely exploiting a peculiar situation.
Nigerians have, for a long time, decided for themselves to be divided along ethno-religious lines.
This is why a Muslim-Muslim ticket gets murmurings of impending doom, and a Christian-Christian ticket gets laughed out of the room.
The bias against the ‘other’ – whether religious or ethnic – has meant that zoning has not been frowned upon as much as it deserves to be.
And this makes a little bit of sense because Nigeria’s diversity has done it a lot more harm than good; hence, a rotational policy in respect to power sharing is a reasonable strategy to skirt around potential future disaster.ʼ
While the concept of zoning is not a bad idea in its entirety, for the democracy of Nigeria to grow, there must be concerted efforts to revolutionize the political system in such a way that zoning can and will take cognizance of merits. This will ensure a No to the rotation of the political nonchalance of those that hold the high offices in the country.
This people must be in a place that they can be brought to book if and when they do not live up to expectations. Till then, zoning will not only retard the growth of Nigeria’s Democracy, but will also bring it to its knees and cause a crumble that might take us back to something worse than the military regime witnessed in Nigeria during the formative days.