Mallam Mamman Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, recently caused a stir across the Nigerian socio-political landscape, when he decided to comment on one of the most heated topics in the polity: zoning arrangement. In an interview granted BBC Hausa Service, Daura, a renowned journalist, had quipped: “This turn by turn, it was done once, it was done twice, it was done thrice… It is better for this country to be one… it should be for the most competent and not for someone who comes from somewhere.”
He probably didn’t know he was stirring the hornet’s nest with his comment until reactions started trickling in. Expectedly, several prominent figures from the southern part of the country swiftly condemned his postulations, alleging that such was indicative of the north’s plan to hang on to presidency beyond 2023. The barrage of criticisms that trailed the interview have been alarming, to say the least.
On one hand, the development typifies our sorry state as a nation. That we can be so vexed on an issue bordering on meritocracy in the polity is indicative of our unpreparedness for meaningful change in the country. If not anything, our backwardness as a nation has been caused by the glaring dearth of meritocracy in the system than not. We operate a system that relegates competence and extols ethnicity and other sentiments. How do we explain a situation where an applicant’s chances of getting a job opportunity hinges more on where he comes from, religious affiliation among others than what he or she can offer? From this prism, Daura made a cogent point, one that should transcend mere social media crucification and adulation to serious discussions on how we can revamp the system.
On the other hand, given the peculiar situation of things in the country, Daura may be clamouring for something out of touch with reality. To start with, the timing of his comment can only raise suspicion from southerners who are always ready to clip perceived excesses of the northerners. Why suggest an end to ‘turn by turn’ presidency when 2023 presidential election is barely few years away? His comment could only raise more questions than answers. As it stands, the predominant consensus in the south and maybe among pockets of northern elites is that power should return to the south by 2023. To this end, it would be sheer hypocrisy for the north to be pushing a narrative aimed at disrupting the extant zoning arrangement in the country — a development that largely inform the rage of many southerners commenting over the issue.
Though unconstitutional, the zoning arrangement has become an integral part of the country’s polity and has been dictating Nigeria’s political atmosphere since it’s historic return to democracy in 1999. With another general elections in the country gradually on the horizon, the arrangement is taking the centre stage among political pundits and social commentators.
If indeed we must scrap the zoning arrangement as Daura suggested, then we must be ready for a system overhaul, one that completely eradicates granting certain benefits to some people just on the sheer basis of where they come from. But that is almost impossible, for now at least, unless we develop a workable system that accommodates all the various ethnic groups in Nigeria and afford them equal chances when when it comes to opportunities.
l have maintained severally that our current system configuration inhibits sustainable growth. Beyond the huffs and puffs greeting Daura’s comment, his view should inspire more robust conversations on how Nigeria can rejig its system in such a way that nation building becomes the crux of our actions and inactions as a citizens. Daura’s comment only reignites a conversation that is long overdue in Nigeria and until we accord it the needed attention we will continue to deceive ourselves as a nation.
Ojo is a journalist at TheCable.