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2023: El-Rufai under fire over call to end zoning

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By Sylvanus Okpe

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has come under fire over his unfavourable comment about the age-long zoning of political offices in Nigeria suggesting that it be de-emphasised.

First group of Nigerians who reacted were some respected Senior lawyers and rights activists who accused the former FCT minister of flying a kite so that the North will retain power after the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s two-term tenure in 2023.

Senator Shehu Sani, who also berated those mulling the idea of the North retaining power in the post-2023 era, warned that it would amount to ingratitude not to allow power to return to the South.

Speaking during a Sallah visit to elder statesman and the Second Republic Governor of Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa.

El-Rufai stirred controversy when he said Nigeria could not continue on the same path of zoning political positions based on regions.

The governor made his position known in a prologue titled: “Defeating a determined incumbent – The Nigerian experience”, which he contributed to a book – “Power of Possibilities and Politics of Change in Nigeria” – written by the Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) Salihu Lukman.

He writes: “Even with our success in the 2015 elections, there is room for improvement. Barriers to political equality, such as our seemingly entrenched though informal rule for zoning candidacies according to regions of origin, need to be de-emphasised and ultimately abandoned in favour of an emphasis on qualification, competence and character.”

Those who spoke on the issue in separate interviews include former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN), a constitutional lawyer Ike Ofuokwu, and a group of Igbo lawyers, the Otu Oka Iwu (Law Society).

Sani reminded the anti power-shift elements in the North of how the support of southerners, particularly the Southwest was pivotal to President Buhari’s victory in 2015.

Sani said: “My view on that is very simple; it is an act of ingratitude for any northerner to think that by 2023, he or she should aspire for office in the view of the fact that, Southerners, particularly the southwest did everything possible to support the northern candidate to emerge as the president in 2015.

“It will amount to changing the rules of the game at half time, when you are leading two zero. It can also be likened to removing the ladder after you have plucked the fruit.

“The North should appreciate the support of progressive-minded nationalists from the southwest or the southern part of Nigeria who worked tirelessly to remove the PDP from power in 2015.

“We have not forgotten that President Buhari had contested three times without becoming President and on the fourth time, with the support of people from the South, he emerged the President of the country.

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