ANALYSIS… 10th NASS Zoning Template: Did South-East self-destruct?

The zoning template released by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the principal officers for the soon to be inaugurated 10th National Assembly has dominated national discourse for the past week, with different geopolitical zones in the country, except the South-West, making a case why they should be considered.


In the template, which many have faulted, the APC zoned the Senate Presidency to the South-South, Deputy Senate President to the North-West, Speaker to the North-West and Deputy Speaker to the South-East.

Aside the zoning, the attachment of names of preferred candidates for the principal offices, more than anything, got many tongues wagging, pitting many of the aspirants of the offices against the ruling party.

Beyond the noise emanating from several quarters, especially those aggrieved by their seeming loss of relevance in the zoning game, the plight of the South-East geopolitical zone in the zoning template has been the main talking point in the course of the week.

The South-East, which has over the years complained of marginalisation and a lack of sense of belonging in the Nigerian project, may be the worst hit in the high wired politics that is currently characterising the zoning of principal offices, as contrary to the expectation of the zone, the office of Deputy Speaker was ‘allocated’ to it.

Peeved by this development, a former governor of Abia State and top contender for the office of Senate President, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, in what appears a combination of desperate appeal and threat, demanded that the South-East must be given a significant position in the 10th National Assembly.

Kalu, who made the demand during a meeting with the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu and some other members of the party’s National Working Committee in Abuja, also veiledly threatened to disobey the party if it sticks with the zoning template.

While trying to justify the dismal showing of the APC in the zone during the February 25 presidential election, Kalu said: “Vote is not a measurement. We had a hurricane in our zone. We need one another and not the level of votes cast. Those who did not vote for the party today can vote for the party tomorrow if they are properly aligned. After all, we have made progress. Before, we used to be one or two senators but it is no longer so. This thing did not only happen in the South-East. Many people from areas where the presidential candidate came from voted along certain lines. I appeal to you people that you must cede something very reasonable to the South-East.”

Resorting to subtle threat after his appeal, the former Abia governor said further: “I am happy the national chairman, deputy national chairman, and national secretary are former senators. You know we are going to do a secret ballot on the floor of the Senate, we will vote according to our conscience. You people have done it before and we will do what you have done in the past. So, it is better, we settle properly as 59 senators of the APC. The difference is not much. If you count three or four of us out, you are losing votes already and we have the capacity to get more from the other side and from our colleagues in the party.

“What you have done (zoning formula) does not look very nice. It is undemocratic and unconstitutional to put people’s names. We are going to challenge it. We are going to say no. I am a party man and we have never disobeyed this party but this is the first time that we are going to say no on the floor of the Senate. The party should go back to the drawing board and rezone, not by name but by zones.

“It will not be right for our party, being a very big party, to be doing something that is unconstitutional. I believe the entire 109 senators-elect have what it takes to be Senate President.”

However, beyond the tantrums of Senator Kalu, which is understandable as a man with vested interest, the questions many are asking is why will the APC and by extention, the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, choose to overlook the South-East in the choice of either the Senate President or the Speaker of the House if Representatives? Is the zone again being pushed to the background in continuation of what it experienced under the fast ending administration of President Muhammadu Buhari? Has the zone, again, by its own doing pushed itself out of strong contention in the nation’s national politics?

READ ALSO:ANALYSIS: Last-minute defections in Labour Party and Obi’s chances at polls

It is certain that one of the fears Nigerians from the South-East are currently entertaining is the possibility of the five percent policy of the Buhari administration, a policy that tends to reward zones where the party got more votes over and above zones where it performed dismally electorally.

If the above fear is real and true, will it be correct to say the South-East, again, self-destruct by their voting pattern during February 25 presidential election?

A number of analysts contend that if the ruling party is intent on punishing the zone for its voting choices, it will then mean the party is overtly sectional and unable to see the whole country as its territory and people from every zone as same and equal, needing to be carried along in fairness and equitaby.

Towing the line of its obviously lopsided zoning template and sticking to it, will no doubt increase cries of marginalisation and the feeling of second class citizens Nigerians from that zone have been complaining about over the years. And of course, this may come with its attendant dangers, dangers that may worsen the current challenges facing the country, especially in the South-East.

Judging from the mood from the zone, especially with the foul mood over the loss of Peter Obi of the Labour Party in the presidential election, relegating the zone to the background again, may only worsen agitations by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and it’s sister arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) for secession, a development that will most certainly be a huge distraction for the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

The above, notwithstanding, the South-East, as a zone, must take deliberate steps to play national politics to be able to attract national dividends. Politics, no doubt, is a game of numbers and politicians don’t play the Father Christmas role. You must work for what you get!

The zone can borrow a leaf from the South-West with its long history of opposition politics until it aligned into the mainstream in 2015 through the efforts of the President-elect, Asiwaju Tinubu. That the zone is now in a commanding position today is through the deliberate resolve to stop opposition politicking and moving to align with other zones to control federal power.

The primordial and ethnic politics played by the South-East, where it put all its eggs in one basket during the presidential election is obviously the ghost that is now haunting it!

Most importantly, the incoming President, Asiwaju Tinubu has a daunting task ahead of him to assure Igbos and indeed every Nigerian that he is indeed different.

He must, in practical terms, demonstrate that he will indeed administer the country with fairness and equity, just as he has said countless times that he will govern the country with fairness and engender the unity and oneness of the country.

To do this, he must see to it that the right thing is done, starting from the leadership of the 10th National Assembly and the composition of his government.

As an experienced politician and political strategist, Tinubu should know that he can start his administration on a wrong footing, as he will be contending with time wasting issues capable of derailing his focus on the task of rebuilding the country, its economy and offering his much hyped ‘renewed hope’.

By Timothy Enietan-Matthews

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