April 17, 2024

With the closeness of 2018 gubernatorial election in Osun state, debate is getting hot on zoning and imposition  of candidates.

On zoning, there are two legs of arguments. The first argument is that for equal access to governorship position, the position of governor in 2018 gubernatorial election should be automatically shifted to an acclaimed Osun West Senatorial District. Suggesting that governorship is rotated among the acclaimed three zones of West, East and Central senatorial districts in the state. The second argument is that zoning is undesirable since Osun people are relatively homogenous and requires capable person for governorship position irrespective of where it comes from. To put both arguments in context of the current happening vis a vis the developmental imperatives of Osun state, I have decided to join the debate by giving a critical analysis of zoning and establishing a differing position against the two popular arguments on zoning. In addition, as a concerned member of All Progressives’ Congress (APC) and a critical stake in 2018 governorship election in the state, I also herein express my opinion on imposition of governorship candidate for 2018 election in Osun state.

It is very clear that both the constitutions of Federal Republic of Nigeria and that of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) are unfavourable to zoning. Both constitutions detest denying anybody of franchise on any condition other than insanity, bankruptcy  and imprisonment. APC constitution  expresses equality of chance to contest for any position by every member of the party. While Nigerian costitutions since 1979 to date maintain  this position, Osun state in 1992 during the governorship regime of Late Senator Isiaka Adeleke divided Osun state into six zones basically for easy administration and equal regional allocation of development projects. The six zones are Osogbo comprising of Osogbo, Irepodun, Orolu and Olorunda local government areas;  Igbomina made up of Odo-Otin, Ifelodun, Boripe, Boluwaduro, Ila, and Ifedayo local government areas; Ede zone comprising of Ede North, Ede South,  Ejigbo and Egbedore; Iwo zone is made up of Iwo, Ola-oluwa, Ayedire, Ayedaade, Irewole and Isokan local goverment areas. The other two zones are Ife zone made up Ife North, Ife South, Ife East and  Ife Central; Ijesha zone made up of Atakumosa East, Atakumosa West, Ilesha East, Ilesha west, Obokun and Oriade local government areas. This administrative arrangement has been gazetted since 1992 and thus becomes basis for distributing development projects in Osun state.  It was this that was used to establish six campuses of Osun State University during Governor Oyinlola’s regime.  It was also used to establish water schemes in the six zones in the state.

Apart from the six zones, other administrative units in Osun state are the 30 local government areas which are also recognised by Nigerian constitution. There are also electoral units made up of 332 wards, 26 state constituencies,  nine federal constituencies, and three senatorial districts. While the six zones, 30 local government areas and 332 wards are sometimes used to distribute development projects in the state;  the senatorial districts, Federal constituencies, and state constituencies are used to allocate elective seats to both state and federal legislative houses.  None of these administrative and electoral units has been used to exclusively zone any political position either by appointement or by election in Osun state.

Up to date in the list of federal appointment into ministerial position Osun West senatorial district has featured more prominiently since 1992 than any other district. In Osun West senatorial district the Iwo zone has taken more slots of ministerial appointments while Osogbo and Ede zones has not produced any ministerial appointment since 1992 to date.  In Iwo zone, Hon. Olasunkanmi Akinlabi and Hon. Jelili Adesiyan from Ayedaade local government area of Iwo zone were once ministers. Other zones that have produced ministerial appointments are Ife, Ijesha and Igbomina zones.

In these zones ministerial appointments were given to Hon. Femi Fani Kayode (Ife); Chief Ebenezer Babatope (under Abacha’s regime ), Prof. Isaac Adewole (Ijesha) and Chief Sunday Afolabi (Igbomina).

The point here remains very clear, that there has not been anytime when either administrative or electoral  division of Osun state was used to rotate position either by appointment or by election.

Recently,  debate on rotation of governorship position among the three senatorial districts in Osun State surfaced in political negotiation for 2018 governorship position. The proponents have consistently canvased that Osun West Senatorial District has been elected  governor of Osun state for only two years since the creation of the state in 1992, whereas Osun central Senatorial District ran the governorship office for about ten years with Osun east senatorial district running the same office for eigth years. To the proponents of this argument it is desirable if APC should be fair to all to concede and zone the 2018 Governorship to Osun West senatorial district.

Against the zoning it is argued that zoning will lead to disenfranchisement which is  a breach of constitutional rights of an individual. It will also rob the state of access to quality governance since zoning may not provide opportunity of accessing and sampling the best quality person as governor. Some also hold the view that in as much as Osun state is mostly culturally homogenous,  zoning will cause cultural and political intimidation and deprivation which may in turn cause political acrimony among the relatively homogenous people of Osun state.

From whatever perspective zoning is viewed, it is clear that modern democracy requires intelligent, skillful and quality leaders, which zoning will deprive. Especially going by the challenges of governing Osun state as from 2018, a very strong person has to be sought for, irrespective of the zone  where he or she comes from. Even within the  APC party in Osun, I doubt if zoning the 2018 governorship to Osun West can produce success for the party. This is because the 2017 senatorial bye election in the west senatorial district was a humiliation to the party, in which no redress has been made by the party since 2017 to date. It is clear that if the governorship ticket is zoned to Osun West, the party may still experience more defeat. This view is further supported when looking at the voting strength of each of the senatorial districts. For instance Osun central senatorial district specifically Osogbo zone pooled the largest votes in the previous election. Thus, if this zone is deprived of contest, that may likely have effect on the voting strength from the zone.

In addition, in APC,  perception of zone based on the three senatorial districts is also cynical and politically ill- motivated towards tilting the governorship ticket to a particular interest. Thus, clamouring for zoning is not based on common interest of the state or in favour of west senatorial district as a political space that has less occupied the governorship position  in Osun state.

Within the APC in Osun state debates on zoning has accelerated heat with those opposing the idea, wittingly fighting those who propose the idea. For instance, when the elders’ forum of APC  came out to categorically state that 2018 Governorship be zoned to west senatorial district the elders are pitched against some powerful interests in Osun APC on the 2018 gubanatorial contest. Similarly candidates from other zones that are interested in governorship race sees the zoning  as a deprivation of their constitutional rights and vowed to defend their rights. Further argument suggests that there is a misconception on zoning and district. As mentioned above there are six zones as administrative unit of Osun state,which were established and gazetted in 1992. Based on this only Ede (1992-1994) Igbomina (1999- 2010) and Ijesa zone ( 2010- 2018) have produced governors. Only Osogbo, Iwo and Ife are yet to produce governor since 1992 to date.

Of these three zones that have not produced governor, Osogbo zone has more electoral value and voting strength. In previous elections such as 2014 elections, Osogbo zone declared about 90,000 votes  for the winning APC, out of the total of about 390,000 votes that led  the party to victory. It is also one of the political space that has kept strong faith in APC since it has not lost any of his seats in elective political offices since 2014. In this category is also Igbomina zone, whereas in Ijesha, Ife, Iwo and Ede zones APC could not claim the same faith as expressed in  Osogbo zone simply because the party has lost elections serially in Ijesha where a federal constituency election was lost to PDP in 2015. Similarly in Ife zone the party lost both federal constituency and state honourable  election to PDP  in 2015 and 2016 respectively; and in 2017 the humiliating defeat of APC in Osun west senatorial bye election suggests an expression of lost of faith in APC in both Iwo and Ede zones. Thus, it would be dangerous to zone governorship to Osun west senatorial district or any of the zones in the senatorial district.

While the zoning is ranging and threatening the strength of APC  in Osun state, plans to impose  candidate is more worrisome and capable of resonation to a big crisis in the party. The tradition of the progressive political elites in southwestern Nigeria is imposition of candidates, suggesting that candidates standing for election are not usually elected by popular votes among the party members. Usually the party leaders would only meet to agree on their candidates for election. This traditional is being challenged as the political gladiators are clamouring for transparent primary election  that can produce the govrlernorship candidate for 2018 elecion in the state. While the generality of the party membership clamour for this, actions of the state party executives tend towards imposition of candidate. Such actions include placing ban on intra-party campaign  for 2018 governorship primary election in the state.  This trend is also generating heat  in APC.

In conclusion, the modern democracy should be all inclusive and developmental. APC needs to seek for a popular and most credible candidate for 2018 governorship election. This can only be achieved by allowing all aspirants in the party an equal chance free of zoning and imposition.  A transparent primary devoids of manipulation of delegates must be held.

Prof. Aderemi Ajala
Dept of Archaeology and Anthropology
University of Ibadan

&
Special Adviser
Constituency Relations Department
Office of the Deputy Speaker
House of Representatives
Abuja.

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