Ordinarily, the most important quality you’d expect of someone hoping to become the president of a country of over 200 million people is that they’re smart. It helps if they also have swag or can pretend to be a hairdresser, but it’s critical that they’re a problem-solver and know what they’re doing.
Also helps if they can create memes.
After eight years of Buhari, Nigerians will get the chance to choose a new president in 2023. With less than one year to go before that decision is made, a pattern is starting to emerge about what will be the most important quality of the person that takes over.
On the list of priorities that have been considered by those in political circles, regional identity sits at the top. Since President Buhari is a northerner, there have been demands that the next president comes from the southern region.
This is what’s called zoning. We’ve already explained what zoning means — an unofficial arrangement to rotate power between northern and southern Nigeria. There have also been calls to micro-zone the position to a geopolitical zone like the southeast region that hasn’t produced a president or vice president since 1999, when zoning first became a thing.
The zoning debate has been causing friction within Nigeria’s two biggest parties — the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). We look at what politicians — who have vested interests in where Nigeria’s next president should come from — have said about zoning.
Dele Momodu — presidential aspirant
I believe that allowing all aspirants to buy their forms at ₦40 million suggests that the race is open to all, regardless of what part of Nigeria they come from. It’s practically and legally impossible for a political party to disqualify an aspirant on account of zoning after collecting a whopping ₦40 million for services not rendered. I’m expecting a level playing ground for all aspirants.
Governor Nyesom Wike — presidential aspirant
We’ve always done zoning in the PDP. You cannot stop it. If the party says they’re zoning to the north, I have no problem. I will obey the party but what I don’t agree with is for people to say that there shouldn’t be zoning.
Hope Uzodinma — Imo State governor
Nobody will get a presidential ticket because he spoke good English on television, or abused people on television. It’s the decision of the party and many factors will be responsible. The ticket will be given to a name that can win an election.
I’ll rather see a situation where merit is allowed to drive the process of determining who occupies a public office in the country rather than where you come from. We must use our diversity to strengthen national unity, not to divide the nation.
Donald Duke — former Cross River governor
Ordinarily, I’m not a proponent of zoning, but I’m a proponent of equity and that takes precedence to zoning. Beyond that, our country is in a very desperate situation today and you need a leader that’s formidable and can make things right.
Atiku Abubakar — presidential aspirant
The PDP has the right to determine its rules on how the party should be governed. The people of Nigeria also have the right to determine who governs them. Where the president comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria, neither will it be the solution. There’s no such thing as a president from southern Nigeria or northern Nigeria. There’s only one — a president from Nigeria, for Nigeria, by Nigerians.
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Bukola Saraki — presidential aspirant
I’m not saying that zoning is not a criterion that must be considered when you talk about where power comes from. What I’m saying is that in 2023, zoning and other issues must be considered. We’re at a defining moment in our history where, aside from where you come from, what also really matters is how to prevent our country from becoming a failed state. As we address the issue of where you come from, we must also put that energy into who and what kind of leadership we need now.
Kingsley Moghalu — presidential aspirant
I’m running for President of Nigeria. I’m not waiting until the presidency is zoned to anywhere. I’m running on a vision, not on ethnic identity politics. I’m as good as anyone in Nigeria — north or south — to be President.
Nasir El-Rufai — Kaduna State governor
I’ll support any APC candidate if I’m satisfied that he’ll do the best for Nigeria. It doesn’t matter whether he’s from the southwest, southeast or south-south; the APC is what matters and the quality of the person. The discussion we’re having is that the Presidency is zoned to the south.
Iyorchia Ayu — PDP chairman
PDP has a history of rotating our offices. Anybody who doesn’t get it this time should wait after the tenure of whoever will be our next president.
Rotimi Akeredolu — Ondo State governor
I believe that any party that picks somebody from the north would have to face the whole southern region because they’ll not support it. We’re saying that there must be what I’ll call “rotation”. The justice of it and the fairness in it are what we’re preaching. If President Buhari has been in office for eight years, the next president can’t be from the north.