Posted by News Express | 8 March 2020 | 1,616 times
Unless the 1999 Constitution, under which the current democratic dispensation operates, is altered, it will be difficult, if not impossible for a southern president to emerge, investigations have revealed. However, lawyers are divided over the provisions of the Constitution.
Former Minister of Aviation in the First Republic, Chief Mbazuruike Amaechi, said lack of equity in the number of local government areas in the country has made it difficult for a candidate of Southern extraction to emerge adding that the South East geopolitical zone was short changed.
Amaechi also urged the National Assembly to as a matter of urgency, correct the imbalance in order to reflect fairness and federal character in the country’s polity.
“This is one of the reasons why I have continued to emphasize that the no victor no vanquished statement of the then military government of General Yakubu Gowon was more of a ploy to create a situation of unity while it was not true.
“When you look at the number of local government areas in the North and that of the West and South East, you will discover that the Igbos were short changed and this also reflected in the creation of states and even the Senatorial Districts and Federal House of Representatives.
“This has also affected the revenue sharing formula in the country where states and local government areas are determined based on land mass and not population, and the South East is the worst beneficiary.”
He noted that the lop-sidedness has also given rise to the agitations of the Igbos of the zone for separation and the activities of the Niger Delta youths in the South South.
Amaechi posited that the correction is an act of the National Assembly, adding that the Federal Government should see these corrections as part of the way forward towards confronting the litany of agitations in the South East.
“You don’t beat a child and expect him not to cry. The child has to cry against the imbalance in the country and the earlier this is done, the better for us as a nation.
“It is even clear going by the results of the last general election that with the number of local government areas in Igbo land anybody can win the Presidential election without the votes of the South East and the zone cannot produce the President of Nigeria with such number.
This has also affected the country’s population census figure for the South East zone because the feeling in some quarters indicates that the South East with few local government areas cannot produce such a census figure.
He finds a soul mate in a legal practitioner, Chief Loye Olowokere, who also said that the unequal distribution of the LGAs is a major minus to the South as far Presidential election is concerned.
“We have experienced it several times. It even happens during census, when the figures of the Northern states were inflated to reflect that the region has the highest number of people.
“With the North having the highest number of LGAs, to get an evenly distributed voters that will strike a balance between the Southern and Northern Candidate will be a bit difficult.
“I quite agree that the 1999 Constitution favours the North, more than the South.
“Not only in politics, even in other areas, have we experienced the same. That is why we have been clamouring that each state should be given autonomy. Let them determine what they do and how they sustain themselves.”
Lawyers divided over constitutional provision
However, another legal practitioner Dennis Nwankwo completely disagreed
The Abuja based Nwankwo said it is not true that local government distribution is against emergence of a Southern President.
“Law is different from common sense or permutation. The distribution of LGAs is not a factor in deciding who emerges as the President.
According to him:” For the purposes of electing the President, the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Commission’) in exercise of the powers vested in it by Section 4 of Decree No. 17 of 1998 as amended hereby makes the following guidelines.
“There shall be Presidential and National Assembly election at which:
(a) a president shall be elected for the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
“Qualification for Election
2. A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if:-
(a) he is a citizen of Nigeria;
(b) in the case of President, he has attained the age of 40 years;
(c) he has been educated up to at least the School Certificate level or its equivalent; and
(d) he is a Member of a Political Party and is being sponsored by that party.
“3. A person shall not be qualified to contest the Presidential and elections if:
(a) Under any law in force in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a lunatic or is otherwise declared to be of unsound mind;
(b) he is under a sentence of death imposed upon him by any court or tribunal in Nigeria, or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or for any other offence (other than misdemeanor of simple office ) imposed on him by a court or tribunal;
(c) he has been found guilty of contravention of the Code of Conduct under the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Decree 1989
(d) he is an un – discharged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in any part of Nigeria or any other country;
(e) being a person employed in the public or civil service of the Federal or of a state or of a local government area council, he has not resigned, withdrawn, or retired from such employment thirty days before the date of the election;
(f) he is a member of a secret society:
(g) he has been indicted for embezzlement of public funds or for bribery or fraud by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, an administrative panel of inquiry or a tribunal under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act or any other law set up by the federal, state or local government which indictment has been accepted by federal, state or local government respectively.
(h) he has presented forged certificate to the commission. (I) he has been dismissed from the public or civil service of the Federation or of a state or of a local government or Area Council;
(j) he has been found guilty of an offence involving narcotic drugs or any other psychotropic substance by any court or tribunal in Nigeria or in any other country; or
(k) he has been adjudged guilty of treason or treasonable felony by any court or tribunal in Nigeria.
Additional Qualifications for Contesting Election
4. A person shall be qualified to contest the Presidential elections if:
(a) he is ordinarily resident in the constituency in which he intends to contest the election or is an indigene of that constituency;
(b) he is registered as a voter in the Constituency in which he intends to contest the election or is an indigene registered anywhere in the country;
(c) he produces evidence of tax payment as and when due for a period of three consecutive years immediately preceding the year of the election or is exempted therefrom;
(d) in the case of Presidential election, he is nominated in writing by 60 persons spread in at least two-thirds of all the states of the federation whose names appear in the register of voters for their respective wards;
“With all the above, it does not show any where that the LGAs are factors that determine who wins Presidential election.
“In this same country, we have had Southerners who won elections,” he said.
Blame the military for the imbalance – ADC
Also weighing in, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) put the blame at the door of past military leaders.
The party said military leaders from the North, adopted a constitution that favours the region against its southern counterpart both in number of states and local governments as well as in the distribution of the nation’s resources.
Quoting the Constitution to buttress his claim, the National Coordinator, Electoral Matters and INEC Liaison of the party, Chief Anayo Arinze, said Section 3 (1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) says Nigeria shall have 36 states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Seventeen of these states are in the south while 19, including Abuja, are in the North.
Also, section 134 (1)(b) of that same constitution says to be elected president of the country, the candidate shall, in addition to scoring the majority of the votes cast at the election, “has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
Also, he said it would be easier for a northern presidential candidate to meet this provision than his southern counterpart because of the number of states in the region. Two-thirds of 36 states is 24.
Furthermore, he argued that the imbalance is not only noticeable in the spread of the states and local government areas but in the delineation of states and federal constituencies, as well.
He stated that even though the senatorial constituencies are equal (that is three per state), “but the difference becomes very clear when the senatorial seats are pulled together on geopolitical zones, regional or North/South divide.
“For instance, while the South East zone has only 15 Senators, the North West has 21 while the rest of the regions have 18 each.
“On North/South divide, while the south has 51 senators the North has as many as 58. So when it comes to voting on regional interests, the North will always win.”
In addition, Arinze, wondered why Kano State, which was created at the same time with Lagos State, has more local government areas.
“Today, Kano has 44 local government areas while Lagos is still left with the same 20 local government areas. This notwithstanding the fact that Lagos population has multiplied over a thousand times since 1967 when it was created,” he added.
Apart from more local government areas, Katsina and Jigawa states have been carved out of Kaduna and Kano states since then, while Lagos remained as it was created. Katsina has 34 local government areas while Jigawa has 27.
To correct this, imbalance, the ADC chieftain called for additional two states in the South, maintaining that without that, democracy, which is a game of numbers, will always favour the North.
He disputed the claim that the North has a larger population than the South, as he argued that the Igbo, apart from the indigenous population, are second in all the states outside the South East.
“I am also of the opinion that if the imbalances in Nigeria must be corrected, the nation must be restructured into true or fiscal federalism as it were during the First Republic.
“It was the military, which believes in a unitary command structure, that transformed Nigeria into a unitary federalism for ease of governance.
“But now that the country has returned to democracy over 20 years ago, the nation has to equally be restructured and returned to fiscal federalism with some of the powers being exercised at the centre, devolved to states and local government areas,” he suggested.
However, Elder statesman, Mallam Tanko Yakasai, said that whether 1999 constitution is amended or not, God, in his mercy, has blessed the Northern Nigeria with population and spread of land allocations.
Tanko Yakasai said God has divinely created Nigeria and blessed one part that it can survive without another part unlike others that cannot survive without the other part
The one-time aide to former President Shehu Shagari, said that the systematic adoption of the Zoning and Rotational Presidency by the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), in 1979 was the best option for Nigeria.
He said: “The plans then was for Shehu Shagari to spend eight years and hand over to the late Alex Ekwueme to also serve eight years, as this would have allowed the nation to fully stabilized.
“But unfortunately, General (Muhammadu) Buhari and his allies truncated the government, thereby reversing the whole arrangement and today we are where we are”.
As a way out of the quagmire, Yakasai said it was for the nation to adopt the parliamentary system of government where there would be a President and Prime Minister although more powers would be given to the Prime Minister.
“Our plans in NPN were after Shehu Shagari to have a Southerner, who would spend eight years, then it would come back to North and we will take eight years smoothly without any hitches, but the military just truncated our plans.
Explaining why the odds are stacked against the South, he said: “the South is openly divided into three with the Yorubas, Igbos and indeed the rest of the minorities; the North which is still a block cannot be played with when it comes to the Presidency.”
Also, he said that when he supported former President Goodluck Jonathan, many did not understand his intentions.
“I wanted Nigerians to allow him finish his eight years, then it would be the turn of the North and it would go on like that.” (Sunday Telegraph)
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