An Abuja-based organisation, Zoning and Power Rotation Support Group has come up with what it has described as the “scientific model” for resolving the power sharing crisis in the country. Davidson Iriekpen writes
The concepts of ‘power shift’ and ‘power rotation’ are by no means novel in the Nigerian political lexicon. In the build-up to Nigeria’s political independence, the signs of an eventual contest for control of political power in an independent nation were evident amongst the constituent units. This seemed inevitable in a political union sharply defined by ethno-religious cleavages.
In the immediate aftermath of political independence, the parameters that ultimately defined political weight and electoral value became seriously etched in the primordial identities that originally characterised the resulting federation.
In the latter half of the post-independence era, the phenomenon has become increasingly resonant in national political debates. This, according to the Zoning and Power Rotation Support Group, an Abuja-based socio-political organisation, is tantamount to the intractable nature of the phenomenon and, more notably, the unwillingness of the political class and major stakeholders to confront the problem in a constructive way.
It observed that in the post-independence period, three major events have signposted the disintegrative potential of the unending contest and, more significantly, the failure of the political class to secure a binding resolution acceptable to the contending interests.
Thus, the civil war that raged between 1967 and 1970; the Orkah coup and the June 12 crisis were all violent manifestations of the mutual acrimony that has defined the claims to the control of political power at the centre.
Side by side with these violent eruptions, the dominant political mantra at first became that of “power shift” as each of these events invariably resulted from deep-seated and lingering resentment by one group (the South) at being perpetually dominated by its perennial adversary (the North).
As if collectively attributing the recurring eruptions to the failure of nomenclature, the political terminology gradually moved from ‘power shift’ to ‘power rotation’. It was as if the concept of ‘power shift’ connotes a zero-sum prescription that seeks to substitute the old (northern) hegemony with a new (southern) one.
However, the evolution of the modified concept of ‘power rotation’ was also due to the emergence of a six geopolitical zones structure, arising from the 1996 (Abacha) Constitutional Conference.
According to Robinson Akpan Emmanuel, National Coordinator of the group, the concept of ‘power rotation’ became “a much hospitable characterisation that guaranteed each zone equal and inevitable access to the presidency, irrespective of size, location or political pedigree.
Emmanuel observed that beyond this apparently creative re-designation, the political class has done little to address the lingering power question. It is for this reason, according to him, that the group, in its intervention has come up with what it termed ‘a scientific model’ for resolving the perennial power sharing and power rotation crisis in Nigeria.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Emmanuel observed that the nation has had to grapple unsuccessfully with a power sharing model that would be acceptable to all, largely because of the failure of political actors and stakeholders to apply intellectual rigor in engaging themselves on the matter.
Instead, he noted that much of the debate have been defined by what he termed “perpetually disruptive sense of entitlement” where the major stakeholders have been more involved in “talking past” rather than “talking with” each other.
He then pronounced that the scientific model which the group has developed offers a refreshing departure from the needlessly tendentious approach adopted by stakeholders in the past.
Presenting the proposal, the group unveiled a life-size graphic model depicting the cumulative period of presidential regimes for each of the six (6) geo-political zones in Nigeria on the one hand, and the length of time since independence that each zone had last occupied the presidency.
Both parameters are subsequently integrated to produce a cyclical chart showing a ranking and power rotation progression equivalent to the legitimate claims of each geo-political zone. Consequently, the computation places the North-east as the next zone with the most legitimate claim to the presidency in 2019.
Extending the scientific analysis to the socio-political significance of the proposal, Emmanuel explained that the empirical model does not only serve the purpose of solving the power equation, but that the resulting political inclusion/exclusion chart shows a direct relationship between the exclusion of any zone from presidential power and the degree of political restiveness and physical insecurity in that particular zone.
For instance, prior to 1999, the South-west region had always witnessed violent eruptions in the aftermath of every general election. The exception came in 1999 when the transition government successfully negotiated a compromise that guaranteed power shift to the region even before the elections. The outcome that resulted in the exercise of presidential power for eight years by the region has effectively doused tension at least as far as the agitation for the presidency is concerned.
Similarly, the South-south became very a volatile region with especially youth restiveness that threatened the country’s economic base, owing to decades of marginalisation. But this is no longer the case.
Emmanuel noted that an empirical formula which guarantees every zone in the country the opportunity of producing the president of Nigeria is the most realistic panacea to the historical contestations between the different zones and the resulting perpetual instability in the nation’s body polity.
In the same vein, the group’s Director of Communications, Mr. Mark Okafor, emphasised that the ultimate goal of the group’s advocacy is not just the institutionalisation of power rotation for its own sake. He added that the logic of the project stems from the result of extensive study carried out by the project’s Research Team which shows that “economic progress of most advanced countries does not only depend on predictability of economic cycles but more importantly the predictability of political succession.”
He therefore stressed that the ultimate beneficiary of an institutionalised power rotation formula is not just the people of the particular zone or region occupying the presidency at any material time, but the entire political and economic entity called Nigeria.
According to him, it is also a project whose benefits are projected to manifest in the long run, after the current generation would have exited the Nigerian social, economic and political scene.
“For Nigeria to achieve its dream of becoming one of the top 20 economies by the year 2020, we need to move beyond endless cycle of political crisis at every point of political transition in this country. It is the only guarantee for long-term prosperity for Nigeria and Nigerians,” Okafor said.
On the practical modalities for implementing this proposal, Emmanuel reiterated that the zoning and power rotation model readily offers a modality for implementation. He added that the practicality of the proposal is evident in the fact that the “mathematics of power rotation” already favors the South-south zone which would have completed its allotted quota by 2019.
According to him, the present political dispensation already offers a seamless transition to the next (proposed) dispensation in 2019. He advocated the rotation of the presidential seat to the North-east by 2019 having recorded a projected 53 years, four months by May 29, 2019 from the execution of her last representative, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in 1966.
South-east with 52 years, 10 months after Aguiyi Ironsi, will take her turn thereafter. North-central with 20 years after General Abubakar Abdulsalami, South-west with 12 years after President Olusegun Obasanjo and North-west with nine years after President Umar Musa Yar'Adua's demise will follow suit before South-south goes again.
He called on the delegates at the National Conference to as a matter of political exigency, propose modalities for implementation of this zoning and power rotation formula and to be included in the constitution.
Robinson held the view that though the principle of zoning and rotation is not explicitly mentioned in the 1999 Constitution, it can be said to be reflected in the federal character as enshrined in Section 13 (3) and (4) of the constitution, which states that:
“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 states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
This principle is implemented in such a way that all sections of the country are represented in government and its agencies. He noted that the guide line has however engendered peace and understanding in Nigeria. He assured Nigerians that the proposed power rotation formula, if embraced will reduce political tensions and its effects before, during and after Presidential elections in the country, adding that the principle would not breed mediocrity as argued by some persons.
Concluding, Emmanuel added that the group has mapped out a sequence of events including, seminars, conferences, road shows, among others to drum up awareness for the proposal and to secure the buy-in of Nigerians and major stakeholders in the polity.
He identified the youth as key beneficiaries of a futuristic power rotation model, as most of the present generation of youths would be the future contenders for political power, when it is the turn of their particular zone to eventually produce the president.
It would seem from the foregoing that the logic of institutionalised power rotation among Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones is strongly rooted in both conceptual logic and empirical evidence.
It also adopts a pragmatic approach that seems to be missing in the previous agitations by contending groups, each with a uniquely sectional claim to political power. The big test remains the capacity of the advocates to take the message across the length and breadth of a geographically and politically diverse federation.
What is apparently not in doubt is that the proposal holds enough permutations to attract more than a passing interest among key political players.