A United States diplomat, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has said the ”gentleman agreement” of zoning of leadership in Nigeria may prompt a tougher electoral process in the next general elections in 2023.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield who said this on Tuesday while speaking at a two-day conference on Nigeria’s ’20 Years of Democracy’ in Washington DC, described Nigeria’s political system as an ‘old men’s club’ the Cable reported on Tuesday.
The event themed ‘Nigeria’s Democracy at 20: Reflections and Reform’ was organised by National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in partnership with Ford Foundation and YIAGA Africa.
“Nigeria’s politics is an old men’s club. There is also a gentleman’s agreement to rotate power between the north and the south,” she said.
“The next election will be a challenging one because of a gentleman’s agreement to rotate power,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said.
Although the Nigerian constitution does not provide for zoning of political leadership, key political offices at the federal and state levels exercise are ‘zoned’ for fairness within regions and ethnic groups.
Zoning of the Presidency has remained a norm -with powers constantly rotating between the North and the South regions in the country’s two-decade electoral process.
With President Muhammadu Buhari from the North serving his second and his last term as allowed by the constitution, it is expected that power will shift to the South in 2023.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai in August called for the abandonment of zoning arrangements for political offices as adopted in the country.
He said the selection of a candidate should be in line with competence alone, not ethnicity.
Also, a Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and Chairman, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Ango Abdullahi, had reportedly said the region would support a candidate only from the North in the race for Mr Buhari’s successor come 2023.
Mr Ango, a professor, added that zoning has no place or ground in the constitution of the country.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield, who was the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs between 2013 and 2017, also frowned at the level of violence in the 2019 general elections, describing it as a huge step backwards for Nigeria’s democracy.
According to observers, the last general elections were marred by vote-buying, intimidation of voters and other irregularities.
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room in its 2019 election report in July, said an estimated 626 persons were killed across Nigeria in the six months between the start of the election campaign and the commencement of the general and supplementary elections.
“Nigeria made a huge step backward to violence in 2019. I read that 30 people lost their lives to electoral violence but I think it would be higher than that,” she said.