Zoning Policy And The Development Of Democracy In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Zoning Policy And The Development Of Democracy In Nigeria


Power they say corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely. The quest for political power has killed the federal character principle in which Nigeria’s democracy was built upon. Democracy is a game of number, where the most populated region tends to have numerical advantage over the less populated region in terms of political appointments and elections. In such a struggle, the weak ones are elbowed out and the strong ones get hold of power. In view of this, the advent of John Rawls‟ “A Theory of Justice” (1971) provides a procedural method of distributing political rights, economic benefits, opportunities, as well as other social goods – like health, shelter and education. The Nigerian Quota System doctrine reflects Rawls‟ theory of „justice as fairness‟, which is intended to provide modalities for the march to nationhood and enthronement of a stable democratic sociopolitical order as against the pschophant, sentiments and mutual suspicion built by ethno-political zones against each other through the nation’s political journey.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The zoning policy has really caused a lot of political instability in the country as a result of disagreement among politicians but in spite of that it still brings about development of democracy. A recent pieces in the economists highlights the system of zoning, that Nigeria employs to alternate power between the north and south of the country. In the economists word. “candidates are picked alternatively from north and south behind closed doors and presented to voters in rigged polls”. Since independence 50 years ago, Nigeria has not achieved its full potential as the giant of Africa public services across the country are all but non-existent, corruption rife and democracy in the time meaning of the word is not being practiced. For many decades, presidential politics in Nigeria has been saddled with ethnicity or tribal politics, religious intolerance and more recently electoral malpractices, well meaning and patritic elements in the polity had wrested with the idea of the best formula that will guarantee peace and stability in the country. Historically the highest political office in the land has been dominated by the countries citizen’s of northern extradition. This was made possible by subsequent military regimes whose brands of leadership has no space for democratic contraception. The zoning formula was therefore envisage to enable the northern and southern Nigeria to have an equal chance of producing the president during an eight year presidential cycle. The zoning formula was first adopted by the second civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr. Alex Ekwueme in 1979, during the first quarter of president Shagari’s second term, the military led by general Buhari truncated regime, thereby making it impossible for southern Nigerian to experience the plan. During the consecutive 15 years of northern dominated military governance, the zoning formula was forgotten for the past ten years, beginning with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian regime 1999-2007, and the administration of Shehu Musa Yar’dua and president Goodluck Jonathan 2007 to president, the (PDP) Peoples Democratic Party had started dangling the carrot of the presidential zoning between the southern and the northern sections of the country. Advocates of presidential zoning often cite peace and stability in the policy as the main reason, but Nigerians must seriously ask themselves how zoning both presidential down to even gubernitorial elections have been able to bring peace and stability (development), can zoning or quota produce the best leadership material suitable for development desperately needed at this critical time. According to professor J.T Nwabueze, zoning and rotation principle or policy is part of a democratic culture used for fair play. He went further to say that it counters the negative impulse and tendency of a group of people to remain in office as long as possible and use the resources of the nation to service its narrow and practical interest. It also offers itself as an antidote to a practice that engenders nepotism, promotes corruption, and breed inefficiency, which in turn stultifies growth abs sustainable development.

Ifedi Andi Okwenna, 2009, also opined that if power is allowed to systematically rotate between the various zones the political space will not only widen, the process will definitely throw out capable leaders who can transform our country and move it to greater height. The rotation principles on basis of zoning also strengthen loyalty to the nation because it would guarantee access to the highest office of the land to all section s of the polity but these cannot be realized if zoning and rotation does not make fairness, equity and social justice the cardinal principle in which it is practiced. Zones must come as equal and take their turn on the basis of equity, accepting that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. At the current level of our sociopolitical development, every patriotic Nigeria wants a country where things work. Zoning and rotation if fruitfully implemented will ensure a better Nigeria. The time may however, come when these considerations may matter less in our political considerations when we will begin to think more of merit than ethic or sectional origin. But this may wait until Nigeria becomes a nation state, bound by a chord outside “tribe abs tongue” by something stronger than our own brand of “brotherhood” by then rotation and term limits may be considered anachronistic. Huntington .S. (1996). Presently, a majority of Nigerians subscribe to zoning and rotation. Whatever divergent expressions seen in the political horizon are matters of personal opinion which is allowed in a democracy. Elochukwu 1988, we of the eastern leaders forum support the principle of zoning and rotation because it is very critical for the sustainable political development of democracy in Nigeria. Barrister Demaki .O, opines that the principle of zoning is nor explicitly mentioned in the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. However, it can be said to be reflected in another principle known as federal characters enshrined in another principle in section 13(3) and (4) of the constitution and it 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. For instance the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unarguable the largest party in Nigeria and also the ruling party. Any issue unresolved in the PDP may however have a reverberating effect on the political landscape of Nigeria and that is why zoning and rotation are actually enshrined in PDP constitution. Article 7.2 © of the constitution states that: “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 approximately executive committee at all levels” the contending issue here is rotation and zoning, but to clearly understand the principle of the PDP constitution, it is important to understand what a zone represents. • Report committee on zoning (1994/95). The issue of zoning has been very contentious in Nigeria, the committee recognized that in a country like Nigeria with it’s diverse political cultural and economic endowments, true federalism must reflect a genuine attempt to regulate among the groups, as well as, a reflection of these identifiable divergences within a framework of national unity.

The zoning policy/power shift is also important like the political parties in a primordial democratic state like Nigeria. Agbakoba (2011) stressed the importance of zoning in Nigeria when he posited that “the call to abolish zoning seriously underestimates and ignores the complex political character of Nigeria.” He posited further that Nigeria is a federation and also a divided society. Federalism is the only known political system that accommodates divisions and diversity; through zoning/power shift the problem of divided society can be abated. Zoning provides a procedural method of distributing political rights and economic benefits to the citizens as moral agents in any given society, especially, in a democratic set up where there is free economy and individual liberty. This perhaps aims at maximizing the welfare of the citizens, especially the worst off group. It is in accordance with Rawls‟ doctrine of procedural principles of fair treatment that Nigeria adopts the federal character or thezoning system as a formula of distributive justice which aims at achieving a fair play in politics as well as equal distribution of burdens or opportunities and other social goods (economic and social benefits). Consequently, Nigeria consists of several ethnic groups with diverse cultures, languages, religions, socio-political and economic formation as well as administrative styles, social norms, personality types and disproportionate population sizes. Although, federal structure was introduced at the formation of Nigeria to ease governance, but it is not adequate to meet with the demands of such complex composition. Through the course of its history other mechanisms such as Federal Character principle or the Zoning System were introduced and entrenched into the constitution to cater for yearnings and aspirations of the diverse cultures. The phenomenon of zoning is considered a high stake politics in Nigeria’s democracy, “this is because zoning is seen as a mechanism of uniting various diverse people. In the words of Simbine: Zoning formula seems to fit into the heterogeneous and federal nature of the Nigerian state, helping to accommodate all groups as much as possible and therefore reducing complaints of domination and marginalization. To this extent, it helps to make the system more inclusive (of identifiable groups), and therefore more supportive of the democratic culture. Hence, the research posit that, due to the sectional politics and tribalistic sentiments of each geo-political zone the mechanism still promotes the endemic problems of ethno-regional, religious and sectarian bigotry which it is set to address.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The zoning principle was adopted by Nigerians in the democratic settings to promote effective and equal representation at the federal and local level. Though many are of the opinion that it is not democratic in nature as such it application in the Nigeria setting has been questionable, as some also posit that it does not give room for the best brains to be elected. It is on this backdrop that the researcher intend to investigate the effect of zoning in consolidating Nigeria’s democracy.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to examine the effect of zonal politics and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. But for the successful completion of the study, the researcher put forward the following sub-objectives to be achieved:

  1. To ascertain the effect of zoning in Nigeria’s democracy
  2. To ascertain the relationship between zoning and democratic consolidation
  3. To evaluate the impact of zonal politics on national unity
  4. To ascertain the relationship between party politics and democratic consolidation

1.4 Research Hypotheses

For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated:

  1. H0: zoning does not have any significant effect on Nigeria’s democracy
    H1: zoning does have a significant effect on Nigeria’s democracy
  2. H02: there is no relationship between zoning and democratic consolidation
    H2: there is a relationship between zoning and democratic consolidation

1.5 Significance of the Study

It is perceived that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of great importance to the leaders of political parties in their choice of candidacy or flag bearer during any general elections, the study will also be of great importance to the political office holders in their choice of appointment into their carbinate. The study will also be of great benefit to the researchers who intends to embark on research on similar topics as it will serve as a guide. Finally, the study will be of great importance to academia’s, lecturers, teachers, students and the general public.

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of the study covers the effect of zonal politics and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. But the research has some constrain to the expansion of its scope, which are:

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher have to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

c) Organizational Privacy:

Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities

1.7 Definition of Terms

Political Party

A political party is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. The party agrees on some proposed policies and programmes, with a view to promoting the collective good or furthering their supporters’ interests. While there is some international commonality in the way political parties are recognized, and in how they operate, there are often many differences, and some are significant


Democratic consolidation is the process by which a new democracy matures, in a way that means it is unlikely to revert to authoritarianism without an external shock. The notion is contested because it is not clear that there is anything substantive that happens to new democracies that secures their continuation beyond those factors that simply make it ‘more likely’ that they continue as democracies. Unconsolidated democracies suffer from formalized but intermittent elections and clientelism


Politics is the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance organized control over a human community, particularly a state.

Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a usually hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), statement of problem, objectives of the study, research question, significance or the study, research methodology, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlight the theoretical framework on which the study its based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five

Summary Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the impact of zoning policy and development of democracy in Nigeria.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges zoning policy in Nigeria democracy.

5.2 Summary

Democracy, no doubt, improves human development by encouraging responsive leadership. This can only be made possible when justice, equity, and fairness constitute the watch word. As Skinner rightly asserts, “African countries will continue to be racked by conflicts unless leaders agree about how to govern their multi-faceted nation-states and how to distribute their economic resources equitably without compromise that would ensure ‘ethnic justice’, neither so-called ‘liberal democracy’ nor any other species of government will succeed in Africa” (Nation, 2015:6).

The federal character principle is meant to address the problems of imbalance and inadequate representation among the nations constituting Nigeria. But its application has been faulty and abused by those in the majority. Despite its “faulty philosophical premise” or congenital and operational flaws, the federal character principle has become a cornerstone of ethnic justice and fair government in Nigeria (Diamond 1987:212). The challenge is to enhance its effectiveness, and reduce its susceptibility to manipulation and misapplication by the majority segments. In particular, the federal character principle can be made justifiable in order to enable politically excluded or inadequately represented minority communities to seek appropriate judicial redress. Another additional solution would be to specify the relevant parameters for inter-group representation — for example, by linking such representation to relative ethnic group population, in the true spirit of proportionality. If these are not done, the consequences on national development could be great and devastating as it could lead to lack of congruity and national integration, and cohesion. It could also enhance ethno-religious conflict and as well reduce commitment to national goal. Finally, socio- economic objectives cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of chaos, insecurity and conflict.

5.3 Conclusion

Nigeria is not the only federal state that has maintained merit and handwork as well as accommodated sectional interest to remain a global economic, political and ideological power. No doubt, the zoning arrangement promotes national cohesion and recognizes the right of the people to be a part of the system. The abandonment of the zoning arrangement has further exposed the Nigerian state to the risk of disintegration. The adoption of the zoning formula to counteract the problem of inter-ethnic distrust arising from ethnic and religious intolerance in Nigeria appears not to have succeeded. Despite that the zoning arrangement has not translated to firmer democratic institutions and sustainable development, it has helped to maintain national stability. This is because the zoning principle accommodates the interest of the multiethnic groups that make up Nigeria. Secondly, the successive ethnic leaders that emerged as national leaders in Nigeria support the zoning principle. In the face of the strong role of the state in economic development, the leaders of the major ethnic groups rely on zoning of public offices to access political power and wealth. This explains why these leaders use all necessary resources to defend the zoning system.

5.4 Recommendations

In the light of the above discourse and the dwindling global economic condition, the study recommends that Nigeria should maintain the zoning principle until a sovereign national conference addresses the mounting problem of inter-ethnic distrust. This conference will enable each ethnic group to decide whether they wish to continue to federate or not.

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