Friday, May 28, 2010

On PDP, Power Rotation and Federal Character

Power rotation or call it ‘zoning’ has become a very topical issue in Nigeria’s polity. The view held by some political elites is it that, ‘rotation’ is the only way to maintain political balance in a nation like Nigeria that is divided along religious and ethnic lines.

This same view was shared by the US Under-secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, when he said recently that “the United States supported the rotation principle as a guarantor of stability in Nigeria, a country of 140 million split between the Muslim north and predominantly Christian south”.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains the only party in Nigeria whose party constitution supports power rotation/zoning. Section 7(2)C of the PDP constitution states:

“In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels”.

This confirms that the PDP power rotation policy is more than just a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ as we’ve been made to believe by “AGIP” (Any Government In Power) political sycophants.

But in spite of the PDP constitutional provisions, many within the party believe that the power rotation policy has outlived its usefulness, and that it should be jettisoned altogether. Considering that these calls are coming at a time when a non-Northerner is occupying the seat of power sounds quite suspicious. In the current prevailing circumstances, the sincerity of the anti-rotation supporters within PDP will always remain questionable. I will say that the jury is still out on whether such calls are been made in the public interest or just serve the personal benefit of President Goodluck Jonathan, to remain in power beyond 2011.

It beggars belief that same political jobbers and sycophants calling for the abolition of rotation policy, after they themselves have been a major beneficiary, are same people scouting for the next Party Chairman from a particular region of the country. So why haven’t they declared that anyone can run for the post of PDP Chairmanship instead of ‘zoning’ it to the Southeast. If zoning is bad for the presidency, then why is it good for political party offices?

The hypocrisy in the PDP was further exposed by the recent announcement that Ogun state 2011 Governorship slot has been zoned to Yewa/Awori. This decision according to the party officials is in the spirit of “equity, justice and fairness”. So on one hand, we have some National Party leaders saying the power rotation should be dumped to pave way for Goodluck Jonathan, but on the other hand, we have a state chapter of the party announcing that it has zoned its Governorship slot to a particular ethnic tribe. Again, this begs the question, if zoning is not good enough for the Presidential slot, why must it be forced down the throat of state party supporters?

For how long will these Papas Deceiving Pickin continue? A Yoruba proverb says “eniyan meji ko ni padanu iro”. Which literally means, “two people cannot fall victims of lie or deceit”. Whilst the ‘deceived’ could be genuinely’ ignorant, the ‘deceiver’ definitely knows what he/she is doing.

Social and political commentators argue daily that power rotation is unconstitutional, and should not be taken seriously as it only binds members of the PDP. But that statement is not entirely true. Whilst the constitution may not be explicit on power rotation, it clearly supports the principle of federal character. Section 14(3) of 1999 constitution states

“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.

For me, there’s no fundamental difference between Section 7(2)C of the PDP Constitution and Section 14(3) of the 1999 constitution. Whether you call it power rotation, zoning, federal character principle, are all aimed at the same purpose. The single purpose, as we are made to believe, is to prevent the predominance of a particular ethnic group or tribe in political office.

Whether such a provision/clause is good or bad is a different argument altogether. In my opinion, Section 14(3) is one of the fundamental errors of 1999 constitution. Any legislation or policy that aims to restrict political office to a tribe, religion or sex only breeds mediocrity. There’s enough evidence to show that rotation, zoning, federal character principle or whatever name you call it, has contributed immensely to the paucity of development in the country. No region in Nigeria has benefitted from zoning or federal character principle. For example, Ex-Pres. Obasanjo ruled the nation for almost 10 years both as civilian and military Head of State. But I don’t think Abeokuta is any better developed than Benin.

Yes we hue and cry about how bad power rotation is. We say it’s PDP policy and no one else. We say people should be free to seek elective office irrespective of tribe or religion. But the reality is, the political landscape and machineries of government are guided by medieval and retrogressive constitutional provisions, which in fact transcends individual party policies.

It is such medieval constitutional provision that has given political parties like the PDP, the audacity to adopt a rotational policy. And until we expunge such provisions from our constitution, changes in presidential power base would only mean very little in reality.

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