BY FELIX NYERHOVWO JARIKRE
One emergent scenario that the clear enthusiasm across Nigeria for Peter Obi’s candidacy on the platform of Labour Party revealed is that the ordinary Nigerians have abandoned the false concept of zoning in their hearts. How, you may ask. The story of how Peter Obi as governor for two terms managed the resources of Anambra State with prudence and accountability clearly resonates with many people, across ethnic divides or religious persuasions. Political analysts are welcomed to interrogate his story. Yet what is discernible from the almost religious fervour and zeal with which Peter Obi’s fans respond to his message is that many Nigerians are absolutely fed up with the opaque, uncommitted and mediocre governance replicated across the states from the federal level. Many wonder aloud with despair if they would ever experience anything close to decency and orderliness from the way they are governed in their lifetime. To combat this creeping despair, a growing tribe of enlightened citizens has arisen whose defining motif is a crave for integrity, commitment, transparency, accountability, empathy, justice, equity and fair play in governmental leadership. This erstwhile silent but growing tribe of enlightened citizens has no room for ethnic parochialism or religious bigotry. When they see their fellow Nigerian, they see a common humanity instead of the ethnic origin or religious persuasion of the person. It’s this enlightened tribe that has coalesced to raise a rallying cry for the election of Peter Obi as President of Nigeria come 2023. To them, Peter Obi is a symbol of their protest against the complacency, ineptitude and impunity characterised by the big parties of APC and PDP. Inadvertently, they have also cancelled the ZONING of political leadership in Nigeria. So, indeed, I say it is right for every reasonable Nigerian to sing Nunc dimittis over the imminent demise of zoning in our political system.
Because it serves their purposes, the politicians might pretend not to observe this emergent scenario, but even their ignorance will not wish it away.
This is ironic considering that Peter Obi not long ago publicly expressed his reluctance to contest for the Presidency unless his erstwhile party zoned the Presidency to the South East. Still without waiting for the clamour of zoning the Presidency to end in favour of the South East, Peter Obi threw his hat in the ring as a presidential aspirant on the platform of PDP. We were not told what informed his change of mind, but no matter. Just before we caught our breath, he announced his sudden departure from PDP, showing his distaste for the monetization of “delegate votes” and how the presidential candidature was allocated to the “highest bidder.”
Trite to say, perhaps, to some ears, but God just might have nudged Peter Obi to realise that reliance on zoning is a road of opportunism to be avoided. That he should take the much more difficult, but immensely rewarding road where his purpose and passion can be known through his exemplary track record of competent performance, transparency and accountability. That he can easily point his antecedents to any person or group questioning his talks of personal commitment and integrity in government. That he is not a mere theorist, but a man who has walked his talk. The truth is, the ordinary Nigerian, whether he is Urhobo, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo etc is looking for a “messiah” in government. And it’s not an unrealistic expectation. Don’t let the politicians dupe you and try to dampen your expectations by telling you they are not “magicians or miracle-workers.” If they cannot fetch water from the rock for you to drink when there is no option, let them stay in their little corners of anonymity instead of trying to impose themselves as leaders!
A “messiah” in government will not send his children to be trained in elite schools in Europe while universities and schools in Nigeria are lowly funded: and teachers are on prolonged strike because they lack basic tools to function.
A “messiah” in government will relentlessly work to build an adequate healthcare delivery system that can attend to both rich and poor without discrepancies. Yes, a “messiah” in government will strive to build hospitals and staffed with medical professionals that he can submit himself to for medical treatment without fear. A public officer who jets off to the U.K. or America for medical treatment at the hint of any slight ailment is not a patriot but a traitor. Such a person is a leach, and not a leader. A “messiah” in government will galvanise engineers to build durable roads everywhere they are needed in his state or country with minimal, scaled-down costs, realising that Nigeria is in emergency. A “messiah” in government will strive in all his powers to increase food production to such an extent that prices of food are drastically reduced and affordable.
Primal ethnic loyalties anywhere cannot frustrate the leadership ascent of a governmental messiah. Religious bigotry will asphyxiate itself before a governmental messiah. Everybody is looking for a helper. When they are able to see one, their spontaneous cry is: “Be my leader.”
When the Hausa man or Yoruba man or Ijaw man or Ebira man sees an Igbo man who is a “governmental messiah,” their primal ethnic loyalties would instantly melt away, as they spontaneously clamour for the leadership of the Igbo man!
This is not to vaunt Peter Obi’s leadership credentials or elevate him to the status of “governmental messiah.” That’s far from my intention. Even as I suspect he himself might be wary of wearing the toga of “governmental messiah.”
What cannot be denied is that Peter Obi standing head and shoulders above many national politicians today speaks not necessarily about his acclaimed performance, but is actually a loud rebuke against the deep contempt towards the people, the complacency, ineptitude and open roguery from our governors and ministers.
The bravery of Peter Obi comes from his conviction and attitude that ordinary Nigerians don’t care one bit about zoning or micro zoning of political leadership or Presidency. That his exemplary track record of competent performance as a two-term governor is well enough for that Hausa muslim, that Ibibio man, that Itsekiri man, that Yoruba muslim etc to say: “Come be my leader and my President.”
Zoning is an aberration. How do you zone political leadership? Zoning as a concept is even strange and hazardous as far as the theme and tenor of the Bible are concerned. The focus of the Bible is how the righteous can be groomed and propelled to hold formal authority. Seriously, in what way has the zoning of political power helped Nigeria? Practically, from what we have seen so far, is it that hard to realise that zoning is an elite consensus or conspiracy for our politicians to steal the commonwealth without being called to question? That zoning is a sanitised form of TURN-BY-TURN corruption and looting among ethnic irredentists?
We must kill zoning quickly before it kills Nigeria.
To be continued.
Felix Nyerhovwo Jarikre, a leadership consultant and author of the successful book, How to be a Wealth Controller, lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the pioneer CEO, Perfect Report, a leadership training group.
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