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By Etebong Akpan
The battle for Governor Udom Emmanuel’s successor started unofficially before his second term inauguration on May 29, 2019. This may be hard for none career politicians to accept but the reality is that at the end of eve y election, real politicians set the machinery in motion for another round of politicking. In short, it is a mortal crime to prevent them from congregating for the next election. The only snag is that it is morally wrong for those who are vested with the responsibility of governance to join the train. Mixing governance with actual futuristic political permutations has never gone down well with any administration. It has always been the shortest ticket to distraction and the major cause of failure for such a government to fulfil its part of the social contract to the citizens.
The discus currently going on in the state about the 2023 governorship election is not really about who will take over but where. This boils down to zoning which has become an established political culture in the state.
Akwa lbom like most states of the federation rotates power between the three senatorial districts since 1999, though ethnic jingoists believe the rotation should be on ethnic basis. Their jaundiced argument is anchored on the fact that the state is composed of three major ethnic groups, or preferably dialectical groupings. This postulation is not only flawed but a deliberate misinformation tool to grab power by a tiny minority at the expense of the larger Akwa Ibom. This minority elements believe that power is given and not taken. Moreover, their argument excludes the Obolos and Ibenos who do not belong to the three major dialectical blocs of Ibibio, Annang and Oro.
By extant political permutations, it would be the turn of Uyo Senatorial District to start the power rotation cycle again in the state. This will be possible because by 2023, Governor Udom Emmanuel would have completed his two terms and that of Eket Senatorial. Uyo and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial Districts had completed their earlier through Obong Victor Attah, 1999- 2003 and Chief Godswill Akpabio, 2003-2011. But since power is not given on a platter of gold, the argument among political jobbers is that since all the senatorial districts have taken their turns, the battle for who succeeds
Governor Udom Emmanuel should be thrown open and whoever emerges, irrespective of the senatorial district, starts the zoning process again.
This posturing does not sit well with politicians from Uyo Senatorial District who though ready for the battle ahead are bugged down with the issue of micro zoning within the zone. Uyo has three federal constituencies namely: Uyo, Etinan and Itu/Ibiono Ibom. Uyo Federal Constituency through Obong Victor Attah took the first shot at the Hilltop Mansion in 999 to herald the fourth republic. The zoning train moved to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District with Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency through Godswill Akpabio being the first beneficiaries from that zone before the incumbent from
Eket Senatorial District and Eket Federal Constituency as it is. The question is, has this zoning policy, though an invention of the Peoples Democratic Party worked. If it has worked, should it be sustained? If otherwise; can it be jettisoned for the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) method of no zoning? As it is now, the APC through its perennial gubernatorial candidate, James Udoedehe, is making claims for the seat once again.
Zoning according to the Oxford Reference Dictionary is a political practice peculiar to Nigeria under which political parties agree to split their presidential and vice presidential candidates between the North and the South of the country. It was designed to ensure that neither the North nor the South of the country is permanently excluded from power and that no one party is seen to only represent one part of the country.
The summary is that no one political zone can hold onto all the political offices to the exclusion of others. This formula is equally replicated at the states and local government levels where there is relative peace and a sense of belonging to all the component units of the state. Opponents of the zoning bug may have their grievances against the policy but it has become one of the success stories of the fourth republic. It has enhanced peace and political stability in the country. This accounts for the little or no incidence of military uprisings or coup d’etat since the beginning of the fourth republic in 1999.
However, irrespective of the lofty ideals behind zoning in the country and the attendant benefits, there are those who given a free hand can never support the concept. To them, zoning apart from being undemocratic throws up mediocre and unqualified leaders. Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), a renowned constitutional lawyer an anti-corruption Czar, says zoning is a function of political backwardness and immaturity.
He said that no democracy can be sustained by the right of tribes to misrule, misgovern, plunder and underdevelop the country.
He lamented that leadership by zoning has robbed the country of merit, standard and excellence. Sagay, speaking then as a member of the South South Development Think Tank, further said that this approach to leadership has continued to draw the country backward considering the years of misrule and looting. He urged the think tank to distance itself from zoning, maintaining that it was undesirable. Prof Sagay is currently the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against
Corruption and his views of zoning dates back about seven years ago.
The legal luminary may be right in his chosen position on the subject matter but it remains his position as the advantages of zoning far outweigh his fears.
However, zoning as is applied by the current Federal Government that Sagay is an actor has left much to be desired as his fears are so pronounced. Since the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari through mobtocracy as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the country has not been the same. We have been dramatically taken several kilometres backward to confirm the fears of Prof Sagay that zoning is a function of political backwardness and immaturity.
The Buhari Presidency has been nothing but a decoy for the Fulanisation of Nigeria. His choice of aides and policies have left much to be desired, thus confirming the position of Elder Enefiok Ekefre, the special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on grass roots mobilization that zoning simply means, “taking government to your father’s house, then share a little of the spoils with your trusted friends.” Ekefre’s position may sound pedestrian and nonsensical but it is the naked reality that the country is facing today.
However, the focus of this article is all about the merits of zoning, especially its attendant ability to reduce social tension and renew faith in participatory governance.
Without zoning as envisaged by the Peoples Democratic Party, most sections of Nigeria would permanently remain a political minority, which is a major hindrance in accessing ‘Government House’ in a democracy where majority is supposed to carry the day. Zoning has come to assure the majority that they are not being oppressed; and the minority that they are part of the whole.
The political configuration of Nigeria, no matter how micro the component is, is basically woven around ethnicity. Ideology is secondary, therefore, zoning remains the only tool of sustaining the fabrics of democracy and deepening mutual trust among the basic components of the society. A minority at the federal level could be a majority at the zonal, state, local government or village level. As majorities, the mentality is the same: domination. The only way out for a peaceful political co- existence is zoning. It gives hope to the minority and also serves as a check on the actions of the leader if not for anything, at least for tomorrow.
The PDP in its wisdom introduced the zoning concept as a political escape route to compensate southern Nigeria, most especially the Yorubas, for their loss during the June 12, 1993 political imbroglio in the country. It paid off with General Olusegun Obasanjo being the first beneficiary before he handed over to the late UmaruYar’Adua. The North South power rotation paid off so well that it produces a natural succession pattern in the country which the All Progressives Congress (APC) inherited. Initially, the APC wanted to, in their normal disregard for norms and conventions, flout the zoning arrangement but current realties have forced some of
the northern hawks within its ranks to reconsider their earlier stand.
This arrangement was replicated at the state levels since 1999 with the governorship moving through the three senatorial districts, though some ethnic jingoists are insisting that it should have gone round on ethnic basis, insisting that the state rests on a tripod. This school of thought apart from being myopic, is not wholly true as the tripod theory of the state is but an uneven tripod that excludes other minority groupings like Ibeno and Eastern Obolo. The political zoning arrangement remains the only viable option before the PDP currently in the state. As democracy continues, every federal constituency in a senatorial district will have a stake in who occupies the Hilltop Mansion till everybody has a feel of the symbol of power and authority.
The question is, will Uyo Federal Constituency allow Etinan and Itu/ Ibiono Federal Constituencies to battle between themselves for the sole ticket of the PDP in the guber race? The question becomes pertinent as the outcome of the 2019 senatorial primary of the PDP in Uyo Senatorial District come, haunting. Then it was generally agreed that the senatorial seat should revert to Uyo, because Etinan and Itu/Ibiono Ibom have done two terms each, with Uyo going only once. The essence of the campaign was to allow Uyo to complete the cycle for equity and fairness. But most politicians and members of the party from the area threw caution to the winds and circumvented the established practice for immediate gains by returning Bassey Albert Akpan from Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency. Before that miscalculation, one of the aspirants in the race from Uruan in Uyo Federal Constituency, Usenobong Akpabio, had warned that the outcome of the primaries then will determine how the battle for 2023 will look like in the area. Barely three years into the 2023 elections, the signals emanating from all the political parties platforms are loud and clear that the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district are laying claim to the guber ticket.
Though nobody has made a categorical statement or public intent on the PDP platform, politicians have since gathered irrespective of the slogan of zoning and streamlining enunciated by the outgoing PDP exco in the state during the build-up to the 2015 governorship elections in the state. To them there will be zoning as long as there was zoning, the last time. What this means is that since the party willingly allowed Senator Bassey to return for a second term which gave Itu/Ibiono Ibom to do a third term, then to hell with zoning. The argument may sound pedestrian but to an average politician, that is reality.
Assuming the party restates its stand on zoning, it must surely bring back the theory of streamlining and the will of the people via delegates who have the veto when it comes to election of this magnitude. For now, the PDP in the state is in a fix as it concerns which of the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district will present the standard bearer of the party for the guber race. The sentiment on ground is beyond the boardroom or any form of horse trading except the field. A decision on the field will leave everybody satisfied and the party intact for the 2023 elections in the state.
Anything outside this will open the flanks of the party for the opposition to capitalise
on. So as it was done in the senatorial primary in 2019, the same is expected to take place for the PDP to have a roller coaster at the general elections.
For now, with the party congresses over, it is certain where the pendulum will swing to when the bubble bursts.Akwa lbom 2023 Guber: Will Zoning Come To The Rescue?

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By Etebong Akpan
The battle for Governor Udom Emmanuel’s successor started unofficially before his second term inauguration on May 29, 2019. This may be hard for none career politicians to accept but the reality is that at the end of eve y election, real politicians set the machinery in motion for another round of politicking. In short, it is a mortal crime to prevent them from congregating for the next election. The only snag is that it is morally wrong for those who are vested with the responsibility of governance to join the train. Mixing governance with actual futuristic political permutations has never gone down well with any administration. It has always been the shortest ticket to distraction and the major cause of failure for such a government to fulfil its part of the social contract to the citizens.
The discus currently going on in the state about the 2023 governorship election is not really about who will take over but where. This boils down to zoning which has become an established political culture in the state.
Akwa lbom like most states of the federation rotates power between the three senatorial districts since 1999, though ethnic jingoists believe the rotation should be on ethnic basis. Their jaundiced argument is anchored on the fact that the state is composed of three major ethnic groups, or preferably dialectical groupings. This postulation is not only flawed but a deliberate misinformation tool to grab power by a tiny minority at the expense of the larger Akwa Ibom. This minority elements believe that power is given and not taken. Moreover, their argument excludes the Obolos and Ibenos who do not belong to the three major dialectical blocs of Ibibio, Annang and Oro.
By extant political permutations, it would be the turn of Uyo Senatorial District to start the power rotation cycle again in the state. This will be possible because by 2023, Governor Udom Emmanuel would have completed his two terms and that of Eket Senatorial. Uyo and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial Districts had completed their earlier through Obong Victor Attah, 1999- 2003 and Chief Godswill Akpabio, 2003-2011. But since power is not given on a platter of gold, the argument among political jobbers is that since all the senatorial districts have taken their turns, the battle for who succeeds
Governor Udom Emmanuel should be thrown open and whoever emerges, irrespective of the senatorial district, starts the zoning process again.
This posturing does not sit well with politicians from Uyo Senatorial District who though ready for the battle ahead are bugged down with the issue of micro zoning within the zone. Uyo has three federal constituencies namely: Uyo, Etinan and Itu/Ibiono Ibom. Uyo Federal Constituency through Obong Victor Attah took the first shot at the Hilltop Mansion in 999 to herald the fourth republic. The zoning train moved to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District with Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency through Godswill Akpabio being the first beneficiaries from that zone before the incumbent from
Eket Senatorial District and Eket Federal Constituency as it is. The question is, has this zoning policy, though an invention of the Peoples Democratic Party worked. If it has worked, should it be sustained? If otherwise; can it be jettisoned for the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) method of no zoning? As it is now, the APC through its perennial gubernatorial candidate, James Udoedehe, is making claims for the seat once again.
Zoning according to the Oxford Reference Dictionary is a political practice peculiar to Nigeria under which political parties agree to split their presidential and vice presidential candidates between the North and the South of the country. It was designed to ensure that neither the North nor the South of the country is permanently excluded from power and that no one party is seen to only represent one part of the country.
The summary is that no one political zone can hold onto all the political offices to the exclusion of others. This formula is equally replicated at the states and local government levels where there is relative peace and a sense of belonging to all the component units of the state. Opponents of the zoning bug may have their grievances against the policy but it has become one of the success stories of the fourth republic. It has enhanced peace and political stability in the country. This accounts for the little or no incidence of military uprisings or coup d’etat since the beginning of the fourth republic in 1999.
However, irrespective of the lofty ideals behind zoning in the country and the attendant benefits, there are those who given a free hand can never support the concept. To them, zoning apart from being undemocratic throws up mediocre and unqualified leaders. Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), a renowned constitutional lawyer an anti-corruption Czar, says zoning is a function of political backwardness and immaturity.
He said that no democracy can be sustained by the right of tribes to misrule, misgovern, plunder and underdevelop the country.
He lamented that leadership by zoning has robbed the country of merit, standard and excellence. Sagay, speaking then as a member of the South South Development Think Tank, further said that this approach to leadership has continued to draw the country backward considering the years of misrule and looting. He urged the think tank to distance itself from zoning, maintaining that it was undesirable. Prof Sagay is currently the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against
Corruption and his views of zoning dates back about seven years ago.
The legal luminary may be right in his chosen position on the subject matter but it remains his position as the advantages of zoning far outweigh his fears.
However, zoning as is applied by the current Federal Government that Sagay is an actor has left much to be desired as his fears are so pronounced. Since the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari through mobtocracy as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the country has not been the same. We have been dramatically taken several kilometres backward to confirm the fears of Prof Sagay that zoning is a function of political backwardness and immaturity.
The Buhari Presidency has been nothing but a decoy for the Fulanisation of Nigeria. His choice of aides and policies have left much to be desired, thus confirming the position of Elder Enefiok Ekefre, the special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on grass roots mobilization that zoning simply means, “taking government to your father’s house, then share a little of the spoils with your trusted friends.” Ekefre’s position may sound pedestrian and nonsensical but it is the naked reality that the country is facing today.
However, the focus of this article is all about the merits of zoning, especially its attendant ability to reduce social tension and renew faith in participatory governance.
Without zoning as envisaged by the Peoples Democratic Party, most sections of Nigeria would permanently remain a political minority, which is a major hindrance in accessing ‘Government House’ in a democracy where majority is supposed to carry the day. Zoning has come to assure the majority that they are not being oppressed; and the minority that they are part of the whole.
The political configuration of Nigeria, no matter how micro the component is, is basically woven around ethnicity. Ideology is secondary, therefore, zoning remains the only tool of sustaining the fabrics of democracy and deepening mutual trust among the basic components of the society. A minority at the federal level could be a majority at the zonal, state, local government or village level. As majorities, the mentality is the same: domination. The only way out for a peaceful political co- existence is zoning. It gives hope to the minority and also serves as a check on the actions of the leader if not for anything, at least for tomorrow.
The PDP in its wisdom introduced the zoning concept as a political escape route to compensate southern Nigeria, most especially the Yorubas, for their loss during the June 12, 1993 political imbroglio in the country. It paid off with General Olusegun Obasanjo being the first beneficiary before he handed over to the late UmaruYar’Adua. The North South power rotation paid off so well that it produces a natural succession pattern in the country which the All Progressives Congress (APC) inherited. Initially, the APC wanted to, in their normal disregard for norms and conventions, flout the zoning arrangement but current realties have forced some of
the northern hawks within its ranks to reconsider their earlier stand.
This arrangement was replicated at the state levels since 1999 with the governorship moving through the three senatorial districts, though some ethnic jingoists are insisting that it should have gone round on ethnic basis, insisting that the state rests on a tripod. This school of thought apart from being myopic, is not wholly true as the tripod theory of the state is but an uneven tripod that excludes other minority groupings like Ibeno and Eastern Obolo. The political zoning arrangement remains the only viable option before the PDP currently in the state. As democracy continues, every federal constituency in a senatorial district will have a stake in who occupies the Hilltop Mansion till everybody has a feel of the symbol of power and authority.
The question is, will Uyo Federal Constituency allow Etinan and Itu/ Ibiono Federal Constituencies to battle between themselves for the sole ticket of the PDP in the guber race? The question becomes pertinent as the outcome of the 2019 senatorial primary of the PDP in Uyo Senatorial District come, haunting. Then it was generally agreed that the senatorial seat should revert to Uyo, because Etinan and Itu/Ibiono Ibom have done two terms each, with Uyo going only once. The essence of the campaign was to allow Uyo to complete the cycle for equity and fairness. But most politicians and members of the party from the area threw caution to the winds and circumvented the established practice for immediate gains by returning Bassey Albert Akpan from Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency. Before that miscalculation, one of the aspirants in the race from Uruan in Uyo Federal Constituency, Usenobong Akpabio, had warned that the outcome of the primaries then will determine how the battle for 2023 will look like in the area. Barely three years into the 2023 elections, the signals emanating from all the political parties platforms are loud and clear that the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district are laying claim to the guber ticket.
Though nobody has made a categorical statement or public intent on the PDP platform, politicians have since gathered irrespective of the slogan of zoning and streamlining enunciated by the outgoing PDP exco in the state during the build-up to the 2015 governorship elections in the state. To them there will be zoning as long as there was zoning, the last time. What this means is that since the party willingly allowed Senator Bassey to return for a second term which gave Itu/Ibiono Ibom to do a third term, then to hell with zoning. The argument may sound pedestrian but to an average politician, that is reality.
Assuming the party restates its stand on zoning, it must surely bring back the theory of streamlining and the will of the people via delegates who have the veto when it comes to election of this magnitude. For now, the PDP in the state is in a fix as it concerns which of the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district will present the standard bearer of the party for the guber race. The sentiment on ground is beyond the boardroom or any form of horse trading except the field. A decision on the field will leave everybody satisfied and the party intact for the 2023 elections in the state.
Anything outside this will open the flanks of the party for the opposition to capitalise
on. So as it was done in the senatorial primary in 2019, the same is expected to take place for the PDP to have a roller coaster at the general elections.
For now, with the party congresses over, it is certain where the pendulum will swing to when the bubble bursts.

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