Nasir El-Rufai

In view of 2023 presidential election, Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai has rejected the idea of zoning political offices, arguing instead that competence should be the most important criteria for leadership selection.

The governor who aired his position 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, Salihu Lukman, said zoning of political offices is a barrier to political equality.

According to him, Nigeria could not afford to continue on the same path of zoning positions based on regions.

Highlighting the factors that led to the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election, the Kaduna governor argued for a new funding model for parties as a major way of curtailing the excesses of political godfathers.

He noted that the present method of funding parties was opaque and unhealthy for democracy.

“Even with our success in the 2015 elections, there is room for improvement,” he said. “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.

“The financing of parties, candidates and campaigns remains opaque. Many African countries are marked by savage inequalities, and a handful of individuals have the wherewithal to hold the process hostage.

“We must work towards funding parties via capped and fully disclosed donations and annual dues payable by every registered party member.”

El-Rufai called on politicians to stop resorting to self-help by instigating violence and engaging in “ethnic and religious mobilisation”, noting that the experience of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2015 showed that it was possible to defeat a determined and well-resourced incumbent under certain conditions.

The governor listed four conditions, which according to him, were irreducible minimums strengthening the democratic process.

These, he said include, “A unified opposition preferably merged into a single and well-structured political party well ahead of the next election cycle, and with transparent processes and progressive policies.

“A presidential candidate widely seen as credible and reformist to provide a sharp contrast to incumbents usually fattened by years of lazy, incompetent and corrupt rule.

“Honest elections that guarantee that votes count, using a mixture of competent electoral commission leadership and, crucially, deploying technologies for voter verification that drastically reduces electoral fraud.

“Credible elections are enemies of voter apathy. They enhance democratic legitimacy and citizen participation.

“Continuous engagement of the international community, particularly in the leading stable democracies as well as in multilateral institutions, to supply a crucial external fillip to the electoral process.”

Although not written, key political offices at the federal and state levels, particularly presidency and governorships are rotated among the various ethnic groups or zones.

With President Buhari from the North serving out his second term in 2023, there are already talks about power returning to the South.