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Lazy Man’s Road To Power: Ten Reasons To Dump Zoning

By Franklin Otorofani, Esq.  - Published July 26th, 2010

The urgent task before the nation is the transformation of mini-nations into an all inclusive nation-state by working to dissolve or whittle down regional and ethnic allegiances rather than working to cement them with zoning.---Franklin Otorofani

No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.---Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Since Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as president, the Nigerian polity has been subjected to unnecessary, unproductive, yet all-consuming national distraction in the form of the heated debate regarding the alleged zoning agreement of the PDP, the ruling party at the center. Just when the nation is gearing up to launch itself on the path of sustainable development after recovering from the Yar’Adua saga that almost rented the very weak fabric of our nation, agents of darkness have suddenly introduced an utterly divisive issue that is currently sapping out vital energies from our developmental efforts.

That’s right. Just when the nation is settling down to the serious business of nation building, ethnic jingoists and political renegades many of whom are clearly responsible for the nation’s retarded development have again ambushed our progress by provoking yet another crisis to divert our attention from the urgent tasks at hand. They seek to arrest our progress by dredging up and breathing life into an already dead and buried issue that no one remembered in 2003 and 2007 general elections. The moribund issue of zoning long forgotten by the PDP itself has suddenly been exhumed and activated by complete outsiders who do not even belong to the PDP in the first place all because some Nigerians from certain sections of the country are afraid that a fellow Nigerian from another section of the country might declare his intention to run for the presidency of his country in the next election. That and that alone has been the sole basis for their morbid fears for which they have launched a blistering campaign of disinformation, intimidation and pre-emption. Unfortunately for them the nation long used to their diabolical ways isn’t buying into their cheap tactics of crying wolf where there is none this time around. They’re on their own out to feather their own political nests and the nation will not be dragged into their own selfish political ambitions.    

But would it have made any difference to them had their target, Jonathan, not ascended the presidency already? Would these individuals who have suddenly lost their minds and gone totally berserk at the prospects of a fellow citizen running for the presidency lost any sleep if it was an ordinary Joe from Niger Delta involved in the race? Would they have suddenly developed high blood pressure overnight if, for example, any of the governors or some other politician from Niger Delta had indicated his intention to run for the presidency in 2011? If recent history is anything to go by, there wouldn’t have been even a whiff of protest if that were the case and not Jonathan. History tells us loud and clear that these same individuals were there in 2007 when then governor of River state, Peter Odili, threw his hat into the ring and instantly became the PDP’s front runner in the party’s primaries. This man, Odili, launched a blitzkrieg of a campaign throughout the length and the breadth of the nation and got endorsements from the high and the mighty across the land including, you guessed right, traditional rulers and leaders of thought in the northern parts of the country when the office he was gunning for was supposed to have been zoned to the North. Or was it not? Would he have thrown in such enormous resources and waste his time campaigning if his party had zoned the presidency to the north and had insisted on enforcing it? Obviously not. 

And these same individuals kept mum also when another governor from Niger Delta, Donald Duke, launched his presidential campaign and a whole bunch of other candidates from the so-called south, including Mr. Okorocha, who in fact came second in the PDP primaries held in Abuja threw their hats into the ring before Yar’Adua clinched the deal, courtesy of OBJ support. None of these ethnic bigots running around crying blue murder against Jonathan’s candidacy for 2011 questioned the candidacies of those presidential hopefuls from the south back then. The worst of them all is former VP, Abubakar Atiku, who had granted an interview to the BBC outlining his options which he said included contesting the PDP primaries with OBJ with PDP governors lined up behind him to disgrace OBJ out his second term. Atiku was dead set to displace OBJ in 2003. He wasn’t aware of the presidency being zoned to the south for eight years by the PDP then. He faked suffering from amnesia then. Now he has been cured of his disease and suddenly remembers the zoning formula! This is the same man talking trash about the north completing its eight year term and seeking to exclude Jonathan from vying for the presidency on ground of zoning that he had paid no mind to.

And what’s more? We didn’t get a whimper from them either when the late Abubakar Rimi and Barnabas Gemade stood against OBJ way back in 2003 when the presidential slot was supposed to have been zoned to the south. Or was it not? All of these are the clear facts of history that would continue to hunt the PDP latter-day zoning champions, in particular Atiku.  No matter how much they grandstand and try to intimidate, the clear facts of history are starring at them unblinkingly in their faces from which they cannot run away from or simply wish out of existence. They cannot rewrite the history of their own parties or pull wool over our eyes because the records are there for all. They will live by the records.

And that inevitably begs the question as to why now and why Jonathan? If they had no problem with Peter Odili who was close to OBJ, Donald Duke and Okorocha amongst others in 2007, why Jonathan who has not even declared his intention to run for the presidency come 2011? Why the hysteria against Jonathan in particular? Why are they hunted by his shadows? What do these people have against him? The nation needs an urgent answer before our house is set on fire.

However, there are legal considerations appurtenant to the sudden angst against Jonathan’s possible candidacy which must be examined and duly taken into account before we proceed any further. By the clear operation of the doctrine of estoppel active in the common law of tort and in particular in the area of trespass to land, an individual who has clearly condoned or acquiesced in the existence of a certain condition or state of affairs that is in breach of his legal rights in the past is prevented, that is to say, estopped from pursuing a claim based on the existence of the same condition or state of affairs in the present and in future. And that is hinged on the legal axiom that no one will be allowed to approbate and reprobate at the same time. All legal authorities are in agreement on this. Thus no individual who, having full knowledge in the existence of a tortious condition or state of affairs in the past in relation to his person or property, would be heard to complain about the existence of the same tortious condition or state of affairs now and in the future by seeking to use the same as a basis for founding a claim and seeking redress in the court of law. In other words, acquiescence simply translates to forfeiture of the right to seek and obtain redress for a tortious act that had been acquiesced to in the past by the plaintiff.  The right is lost and lost forever. This is the case also in matrimonial causes where a petitioner is adjudged to have condoned the acts of his/her spouse complained about, which acts the petitioner seeks to use as a basis for seeking certain reliefs in court including dissolution of marriage on grounds of the such previously condoned acts. In the case of the PDP and its leadership and membership this acquiescence has been on way back since 2003 right up to 2007.  On this ground alone, zoning, if it ever existed in the past, should be history by now because no one believed in it in the past and no one should suddenly believe in it now. It has long been dead and buried and cannot therefore be resurrected to prevent anyone from running in 2011.

This is why the vicious campaign against Jonathan is utterly provocative and therefore capable of setting the nation on fire if not urgently nipped in the bud by immediately calling to order these virulent Jonathan detractors. If they want to campaign against him as a candidate if and when he declares his intention to run in the normal course of electioneering campaigns, they’re welcome to it. But campaigning to summarily exclude him from running at all is utterly provocative and unacceptable to Nigerians not just Niger Deltans alone because fair is square. Niger Delta or the south/south is not involved as a region in any organized campaign against any candidate from the so-called north because the region does not believe in the politics of exclusion but inclusion. And come to think of it, Niger Deltans have made it possible for Northerner to rule this nation since independence. They have staunchly and unflinchingly supported every Northern candidate to get to throne at all times. Why then is the north doing this to the south/south and Niger Delta in particular? What issue has the north against the south/south or Niger Delta for that matter? This is worse than betrayal. This is cruel and unkind cut. And Niger Delta is hereby serving a notice that it will take it no more.

And I would need these people to answer this simple question: Assuming for a moment that the PDP denies the presidential slot to Jonathan on ground of zoning would the PDP also prevent Jonathan from moving to another party as in fact did Atiku in 2007 to contest the presidential election in another party platform? The answer is absolute no and the PDP knows it. The PDP also darn well knows that should Jonathan move to another party, it will spell death for the PDP as we know it. That will be the very end of the party. So let’s get our bearings right before we begin to make stupid moves in the name of zoning. The PDP can keep its zoning if it likes in spite of its well documented records of breaching the rule in the past as indicated above. But what it cannot keep in its fold is Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan. It’s not a threat but a promise. Got the message? Fine, we’re good!

It is a matter for regret that given the state of under development in the nation, particularly in the Northern parts of the country, certain individuals have been holding clandestine meetings for the purpose not of articulating a development blueprint for the North and the nation but for excluding other parts of the country from fielding candidates for the forthcoming elections. And to think that these are the same individuals who have been in power since the nation attained independence and who have held down their region all along is clear indication that something serious is wrong somewhere. It’s little wonder then that the younger generations in the North have had enough of the divide and rule tactics and have come out to, in effect, disown these so-called leaders. That is a tectonic shift in the north. The political equation has changed forever. What Abiola did in 1993 will be repeated in 2011. 

Why it is understandable that those who seek to reap immediate political benefits or advantage over their potential opponents would latch on to any suggestions or instruments to achieve their political goals, it is patently evil and diabolical for anyone to actively seek to prevent his fellow citizen from vying for any political office in his own country. This is stranger than fiction and can only be imagined in our part of the world. No Nigerian, regardless of his place of birth should stand for this because if it is Jonathan today it could be another from his/her part of the country tomorrow. And the man dies that keeps quiet in the face of tyranny!

 

The Looming One-Party-State

That said, the fact that all Nigerians are now consumed by the goings on in the PDP to the total exclusion of other political parties is clearly indicative of the degeneration of the nation into a one-party state. Let’s face it:  AC is essentially a one-state parochial party with Lagos as its forte. And don’t you dare count in Edo state on the side of AC because Governor Oshiomohle who is busy positioning himself as IBB’s running mate in the 2011 presidential election cannot be counted on to hold the state for AC.

You’ve got some opportunist down there in the executive mansion who has been known in the past to switch parties like a pair of pants at the drop of a hat. Besides, Edo state is traditionally PDP to begin with so AC is just a bird of passage in the state. When the chips are down the chickens will come home to roost. ANPP is a living dead and a shadow of its former self. It’s a tragedy of the Nigerian political class that a party that was on equal footing with the PDP at the beginning in 1999 has been reduced to a walking corpse. PPA was a one-man family phantom show that has since fizzled out as all phantoms do with its Imo and Abia states gone for good and left to hold an empty can. The once prized Kalu family’s political estate business with Mama Kalu unofficially its president and CEO has gone up in smoke.  And we can still see its thick, black smoke billowing in the air over the liberated Abian sky-scape and its debris strewn across the Abian landscape forcing Kalu to eat his own vomit by seeking refuge in the PDP that is still under the iron grip of OBJ his supposedly arch enemy. OBJ must be having the last laugh with Kalu’s shameless vote face.  

Nigerian politicians are shameless and utterly unprincipled and Orji Kalu is the archetype. He was reported to have declared with a straight face that he had no shame going back to eat his former vomit. What a disaster for an unprincipled, crass survivalist! The nation is bristling with thousands of Orji Kalus and that’s reason number one why its politics has remained primitive, crude and mercenary.

Kalu’s volte face in going back to lap up his vomit after saying unprintable things about the PDP as did Abubakar Atiku, his political godfather, exemplifies and magnifies the ills of Nigeria’s political class whose only pre-occupation is political survival. And his outright rejection by the Abia state PDP as indeed was Atiku by the Adamawa state PDP is clear indication that both have become shameless political prostitutes who are more of liabilities than assets to whoever harbors them. In our culture a prostitute has no honor even in his own home and so are Orji Kalu and Abubakar Atiku. The duo will soon discover that the sun has already set on their political careers at least in this dispensation. With the PDP chair, Nwodo going for the Abia governor, Kalu’s very own nemesis, it’s only a matter of time that Kalu becomes history in Abia state very much like Jim Nwobodo in Enugu state.    

It’s needless to waste our time mentioning the other no-name political contraptions. The only one exemption though exhibiting a semblance of life and having some kicks to it is APGA and that’s by the grace of the Nkemba of Nnewi, the venerable Dim Emeka Ojukwu. Ojukwu’s aura has somewhat positively robbed off on the hitherto struggling and crisis ridden APGA to heave a breath of fresh air. Like its leader, APGA is waxing stronger by the day not just with the victory of its case in Anambra but in political party acquisitions. Like a corporate predator, APGA is on an acquisition binge and has so far gobbled up PPA’s prized state of Abia literarily for pennies on the dollar. And Ojukwu was on hand to receive the governor of its prized acquisition, Chief Theodore Orji, at a rapturous political event at the Abia Township Stadium, which was appropriately dubbed the liberation of Abia people from the clutches of the Kalu caliphate, or political empire if you like. Which other political acquisition is APGA considering lately? Hard to tell but AC is as good a candidate as any or perhaps Bafarawa’s DPP.

There are so many political deadwoods floating around in Nigeria’s political waters for APGA to gobble up and as elections draw near they might begin to make notice-me splash to attract suitors like APGA for a decent price. For now, however, APGA is keeping its business expansion plans close to its chest as all savvy businesses do. It doesn’t need to be in a hurry but must do due diligence on the viability of its potential acquisitions from the motley crowds out there masquerading as political parties because not all that glitters is gold.  Some might turn out as plain dross out and out. But don’t be surprised if you wake up tomorrow to the breaking news that APGA has done another acquisition. The party’s growth model appears to be lateral rather than vertical expansion. The PDP is in the game too. It has just gobbled up the remnants of Kalu’s PPA and there are rumors of other acquisitions in the pipeline. In fact it may well goggle up Ojukwu’s APGA in the end if latest indications are anything to go by. However, if both parties stay true to this model, the nation might end up with PDP and APGA. Who says acquisition is the game of the corporate world alone?

That said, the PDP will still maintain commanding control of the polity regardless of the APGA challenge and Nigerians may very well end up getting conscripted into the ruling party by default. Quite prophetically, this was my warning more than a year ago that the inability of the opposition to get its acts together might result in the nation ending up with a one-party state and that’s pretty much where we are today.  With the much orchestrated political alignment resulting in a mega party practically dead on arrival and several parties outdoing themselves dissolving into the PDP, a de facto one party state has indeed arrived even if Nigeria is still officially a multi-party system.

 

Presidency Not a Party Affair

It is, therefore, not completely out of place for Nigerians to be concerned about goings on in the ruling PDP because we’ve all by default become PDP members or, if not members, subject to the dictates of the party at the very least. As such, its acts of commission and omission affect us all. At the moment, however, zoning is at the heart of the PDP game plan and therefore deserves to be examined in some details. We have been told that the party had adopted a policy to “rotate” the presidency between the so-called north and the so-called south and the buzz word for that is “zoning”.

It is all well and good for the PDP or any other party for that matter to share its offices among its membership in any manner it deems appropriate. But the nation’s presidency is not a party office to be doled out by any party. It is a national office that is bestowed on any individual from any part of the country whom the Nigerian electorate as a whole has judged as worthy of the office and chosen to rule over them in a duly contested election. No party can, therefore, purport to arrogate to itself the power to dole out that particular office to any individual or part of the country.

When and where then did the nation consider zoning or rotational presidency and adopted it as a national policy? I know the nation debated IMF during the IBB regime. I know the nation debated third term during the OBJ administration. I also know that the nation organized a Political Confab during the OBJ administration where various issues were debated. And more recently, the nation debated the question of transfer of power to Jonathan when the late president, Yar’Adua was hospitalized abroad.

But to the best of my knowledge and information never has the nation embarked on a debate about zoning political offices or rotational presidency. At best it is a party issue and it should remain a party issue because that is where it belongs. It is therefore up to the PDP to either keep it or dump it as it deems fit. But on no account should anyone or group seek to transform through the back door into a binding national policy an unwritten gentleman’s party agreement which has not been introduced to the nation, debated and adopted by the representatives of the people in the National Assembly. Whatever belongs to the PDP belongs to the PPD and whatever belongs to the nation belongs to the nation including the PDP and that’s the constitution of the Federation Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

It’s against this backdrop that I’m offering these ten reasons why the zoning of the nation’s presidency is a terrible idea that should be placed in the dumpster.

 

Reason #1: Unconstitutional

The biggest and more fundamental reason for throwing zoning out the window warts and all is that it is patently constitutional and therefore null and void ab-initio. Constitutionally, zoning has no redemptive feature that could save its neck from the hang’s man noose. And while this might be a no brainer, it is necessary to examine the constitutionality of the formula a little more closely for the purpose of enlightening members of the public who might not be abreast of just what it means when it is said that the policy is unconstitutional, null and void.

Let us call in aid section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as now amended, which provides as follows:

 131. A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if -

(a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;

(b) he has attained the age of forty years;

(c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and

(d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.

The above provisions are clear, unambiguous and self-explanatory enough. They do not therefore require a legal genius to explain or interpret. As far as the supreme law of the land is concerned, whoever satisfies the above requirements is eligible to vie for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria notwithstanding anything to the contrary because it is the supreme law and its provisions override the provisions of any other law, rule, custom, practice, convention, contract or agreement to the contrary.

And this is so expressly stated in the very first provisions of the constitution in section 1(1) & (3) thereof as follows:

1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Again the above provisions are clear, unambiguous and self-explanatory enough. They do not therefore require a legal genius to explain or interpret. Thus the only questions permitted to be asked and answered of a presidential aspirant is whether he/she satisfies the requirements for election into the office and anything else extraneous to the above requirements are null and void and of no effects whatsoever.

The onus lies squarely on the proponents of zoning to show that a party agreement, contract or rule is superior to the express provisions of the constitution and failure to discharge that onus is fatal to their case. And if they cannot come forward to discharge that onus they should forever hold their peace and allow our young democracy to breathe the fresh air of freedom and liberty and not be subjected to illegal and unconstitutional strictures  that have no place in any democracy the world over. They will not be permitted to, in effect, amend the express provisions of the constitution through the back door. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

These constitutional provisions without more have therefore put paid to the posturing of the proponents of zoning regardless of the purported merits of their case whatever they might be. However, there is another constitutional hurdle negating the position of the proponents of zoning and it has to do with discrimination. Section 33 of the constitution provides as follows in section 42 (1) & (2) thereof:

42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-

(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or

(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.

(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.

Subsections (a) and (b) cut both ways to-wit: that no person shall be subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.

This is the six inches concrete nail on the zoning coffin. The provisions of subsection two are worth repeating for the sake of emphasis. And subsection (2) lodged the final nail on the coffin: “No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.” Chikena? What more does anyone need to move zoning to the physician’s office for euthanasia?

By the combined effects of these express therefore, no citizens shall be subject to any restrictions or disabilities or be accorded any privilege or advantage that are not applicable to citizens of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions. Zoning is a direct contradiction of the above provisions in that it seeks to place restrictions and disabilities on citizens of particular sections of the country during elections that are not placed on citizens from other sections of the country while at the same time conferring privileges and advantages on citizens of particular sections of the country that are not conferred on citizens from other sections of the country. It simply cannot stand unless we have chosen to throw our constitution to the dogs. The only way zoning will stand is to amend the constitution and that’s already too late in the day. The constitution stands as it is and these provisions are binding on all authorities in the land including all our elected and unelected officials who have sworn to an oath to protect and defend the constitution. They are no less binding on the PDP.

 As stated in section 1 of the constitution reproduced earlier above: “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

It therefore behooves President Jonathan and the PDP to give full effects to the constitutional provisions because zoning or so-called rotational presidency is a direct assault on the express and unambiguous provisions of the constitution.

No more need be said on this issue but there are more reasons yet why zoning should be made to pass away quietly without much ado because it is a total embarrassment to our dear nation and young democracy that should be set on a proper and enduring footing rather than on some illegal ad hoc contrivances.

 

Reason #2: Outdated and Anachronistic

Although the zoning arrangement is usually associated with the PDP in this dispensation, PDP is by no means the author of the formula. Zoning came into the nation’s political lexicon back in 1979 as far as this writer could remember and it was introduced by the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to share the spoils of office. Then the party zoned the presidency to the North which fielded Alhaji Shehu Shagari to clinch the presidency. The position of National Chairman was zoned to the South/West and Chief Meredith Akinloye emerged as the party’s chairman. The position of vice president was zoned to the South/East with Dr. Alex Ekwueme emerging as Shagari’s running mate to clinch the presidency. The position of Senate president went to Dr. Joseph Wayas from the South/South while that of Speaker of the House of Representative also went to the South/East with Chief Umeh Ezeoke at the helm, and so on and so forth.

However, when Chief MKO Abiola sought to contest the presidency under the party’s platform in 1983 at the end of Shagari’s tenure with the understanding that the presidency would move to the South, NPN suddenly began to sing a different tune and an angry and disappointed Abiola had to quit the party in protest only to come back to win the presidency ten years later in 1993 under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which was however annulled by IBB.  This shows how the North had been using zoning as a convenient pretext to hold on to power. When it is convenient to it, it deploys the zoning tool and when it is not convenient to it, it finds a way to circumvent it.

I can tell you this point blank: had Yar’Adua not died and proceeded to complete his first term and gone for another four-year term, at the end of the second term, the North would have devised some means to hold on to power because it doesn’t really believe in zoning. It does so only when it suits its political designs and spits it out like a hot potato in its mouth when it no longer serves its political interests. That was what they did to Abiola at the NPN Convention in 1983. And that’s what they almost did to OBJ even in his first term, first, in trying to impeach him using Na’Abba Ghali the former Speaker as the arrow head and when that failed recruited then VP Abubakar Atiku now turned zoning champion, Abubakar Rimi and Barnabas Gemade to challenge OBJ in the 2003 presidential election even when the party’s zoning was supposedly in place.  Or wasn’t zoning in place then? Who is fooling who? Had OBJ been impeached or successfully challenged by Atiku at the PDP primaries, the North would have had the presidency on a platter, zoning or no zoning. A supposed party arrangement that is observed more in breach than in compliance is not worth the paper on which it was written and that is if it was written at all. In this case no one has tendered the written agreement for public consumption to prove its existence in the first place.

When you’re doing zoning, you’re doing zoning and you don’t turn around to secretly sponsor or allow candidates from your zone to gun for the presidency that was supposed to go for another zone and look the other way only to come back later to claim it is your turn when you fail. You can’t have it both ways for no one can eat his cake and have it. If zoning is a malleable tool in the hands of power brokers to be tweaked, bent, molded and twisted to suit their moods, it is better discarded because it has all the potentials of introducing instability into the system as it is now doing.   

It could be seen from the above that zoning is an historical legacy of the corrupt NPN administration that was booted out of power in 1983 by the Buhari military junta. We cannot go back to the NPN politics of zoning as the nation has moved beyond that. Nigeria cannot be condemned to such anachronism in the name of stability.

It has been observed that the black man would rather look for a way to go around an obstacle rather than surmounting and breaking through the obstacle itself by sheer will power. In other words, the black man always prefers the easy but ineffective way out that merely papers over cracks rather than sealing them. It takes daring minds to move mountains and break barriers not wimps. And to the extent that the black man is not ready to dare the elements and break barriers like other races by always seeking soft and easy ways out without really getting out, he will at best achieve mediocre results if at all.

Zoning is cheap attempt to paper over our mutual ethnic suspicions and lack of unity and nationhood. The most touted argument for zoning is that it will allow every part of the nation to produce a president and thus give all a sense of belonging. This is a spurious argument at best. Sure, everyone and every part of the country wants to and should be made to feel a sense of belonging because the country belongs to all of us and to all of its parts equally. But who says every part of the nation must produce a president for it to feel a sense of belonging? And who says zoning would afford every part of the country a chance to produce a president, anyway? At best only a part of the North or South as the case may be would wind up producing the president at a time, not every part. For every part of the country to produce a president it will take 48 years! This is so because every part wants to rule for 8 years in its turn and we simply multiply that by the six zones to get 48 years. It will take the last part or zone 48 odd years to produce the president.

Let no one fool you by claiming it is simply a rotational arrangement between North and South. That is not true because there is no “North” and no “South” in Nigeria. These are completely fictitious entities that are unknown to law and the constitution. Where is the North and where is the South? Is the north and the south defined by religion, ethnicity or geography or all of the above? If so, where is the boundary between the North and South? Who is a northerner and who is a southerner in Nigeria? Which ethnicities are in the north and in the south in Nigeria? Are the Yorubas in Kwara and Kogi states, for instance, northerners or southerners? What about the millions of “southerners” many of whom were born and bred in the North by southern parents? What about the millions of northerners in the south many of whom were born and bred by northern parents? Are they northerners or southerners? What if a son of southern parentage in the North is fielded to run for the presidency when it is zoned to the North, would he be prevented from representing the “north” and denied a chance to run in the north or must he relocate to the south to run for the south or vice versa?

Let’s be clear about our terminology. When we speak of the North and the South are we speaking in terms of one nation or in terms of two nations as in North and South Korea, for example? Who wants Nigeria perpetually divided between north and south? Who wants to maintain that dichotomy to prevent Nigeria from becoming a one nation?

Is this not such a monstrous contraption that will quickly unravel the fragile unity we have and throw up unintended ethnic cleavages that would hold our nation down perpetually? Hillary Rodham Clinton moved from the state of Arkansas to New York barely six months and was allowed to contest and represent the state of New York in the US senate. She proceeded to contest the Democratic Party primaries and but for Obama would have been occupying the White House today.

How long will Nigerians have to wait before citizens are allowed to contest elections freely in their places of residence to represent their fellow citizens? How long shall we continue to play these ethnic cards? Has anybody thought through these questions and answered them faithfully and sincerely or we’re just looking to secure power to our zones without caring for the consequences down the road? Where does north begin and where does it end? Where does south begin and where does it end? There are only states (36) and six zones. The terms North and South are only convenient expressions and not distinct geographical entities imbued with political and legal rights as the states. The same can be said about zones. However, the zones while not imbued with distinct political and legal rights are nonetheless distinct geographical entities that have been officially recognized as such in official dealings even if not legally and constitutionally so. So we should be talking about “zones” and “states” not “North” and “South” strictu sensu.

 It is, therefore, fraudulent to make an unrecognized and ill defined geographical expression as a basis for sharing political offices at the national levels. If anything, the states and the zones would be the true, definitive and recognized basis for crafting such political equation if at all. No governmental policy is crafted on the basis of North and South but on the basis of states and the zones to ensure even spread and the federal character of our nation, not North and South.

This is the reality starring us in the face should we go for zoning the presidency. The zones are there already and all the zones would be fighting to produce the president at each and every turn regardless of whether it has presidential materials or not. Thus in the Northern part of the country, the North/West, North/East, and North Central would all be fighting for the presidential slot to come to their zones. Ditto for the Southern part of the country with the South/West, South/East, and South/South fighting amongst themselves to have the presidency when it comes South. One can only imagine the intense acrimony and the bad blood that would be dredged up by the cut throat competition that would ensue at the zonal level. Zoning carries with it in its core the seeds of political instability that the nation cannot afford when our focus should be on development and catching up with the rest of the world that has left us behind.

No part of the country deserves to feel alienated by reason only that its son or daughter is not in the presidency for the time being. That is the kind of backward leadership that has been the bane of our nation building efforts which must be done away with rather than seeking to legitimize it through zoning. The nation cannot give up on her quest for good governance that is representative of all sections of the country to promote a sense of belonging without necessarily having their sons and daughters in the presidency as president and vice president. Sense of belong does not necessarily have to be fostered and promoted through an illegal and unconstitutional contraption that seeks to exclude certain sections of the country from participating in fielding presidential candidates in particular elections. No, it doesn’t have to come to that sorry pass. 

We must do away with such primitive thinking which is at the heart of the zoning proposition. The government exists for all Nigerians and for all parts of the country. That kind of reasoning is an admission of the failure of past leaders to promote even development in all parts of the country as required by the constitution and appointments into national offices from all parts of the country regardless of where the president hails from. Shouldn’t the nation be promoting inclusive rather than exclusive leadership that zoning entails? Zoning is a home grown apartheid system that must be extirpated from the body polity by whatever means necessary otherwise we will all be treated as strangers in our own country.

Nigeria has no business getting itself involved in such a primitive arrangement. A candidate from any part of the country whether from the majority or minority ethnic group can win an election any day if he or she is acceptable to the majority of Nigerians. And that’s what democracy is all about. Barack Obama from the minority racial group has just proved it in the US. And Chief Abiola proved it before him in Nigeria in 1993. Past experience has shown without a doubt that Nigerians are not irredeemably sectional in their voting habits otherwise late MKO Abiola could not have defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa in his own backyard in Kano in the 1993 presidential election annulled by the self-styled evil genius, IBB, now a champion of zoning because he has figured he would be the greatest beneficiary of the formula. Too bad he has miscalculated yet again as he did in 1993 with June 12, and again in 2007 when he was forced to withdraw from the PDP primaries for Yar’Adua, because that is not going to happen in 2011.

 Reason #3: Divisive and Antithetical to Nation-building

Nation building involves the development and active cultivation of centripetal as opposed to centrifugal forces that tend to tear or pull the nation apart. With zoning in place nation building becomes a mirage. It is the permanent ossification of our ethnic differences that would prevent the nation of nations from ever attaining the status of a nation/state. It should not be forgotten in a hurry that the major reason for the abolition of the regions in 1967 at the onset of the Nigerian civil war was to promote the unity of the country by discouraging sectional allegiances, which regionalism promoted. The creation of twelve states from the regions which have now been increased to thirty six was a deliberate effort to whittle down centrifugal forces that had threatened to tear the nation asunder.

The nation has since outgrown regionalism which has since been replaced by statism, if you like. Zoning is bringing regionalism back through the back door and harkens to the Luggardian era of Northern and Southern protectorates. Zoning is bound to produce sectional/parochial rather than national leaders because the very idea of “our turn to rule” carries with it the insidious implication of the leader taking care of the interests of his own ethnic group or section first before others while it lasts before power moves away to another section. This cannot by any stretch be good for Nigeria. The nation deserves better. The nation deserves a national not a sectional/parochial leader and that is what she will get as progressive Nigerians band together to defeat the forces of reaction. Nigerians do not want Igbo or Yoruba president. They do not want Hausa or Ijaw president. They do not want Urhobo or Fulani president. All they want and deserve is a Nigerian president. The urgent task before the nation is the transformation of mini-nations into an all inclusive nation-state by working to dissolve or whittle down regional and ethnic allegiances rather than working to cement them with zoning.

Reason #4: Disenfranchisement of Nigerians

When an individual is legally empowered, that is to say, conferred with the rights to vote and be voted for in an election, the individual is said to have been enfranchised. Enfranchisement therefore means the right to vote and by voted for as an electoral candidate to whatever office the individual is running for. In the tortured history of world of democracy there were epochs when these basic rights to vote and be voted for were denied to certain racial and gender groups as a matter of course. Examples are rife but the cases of blacks and women in the United States and South Africa are still green in our memories. And back home in Nigeria universal suffrage was not introduced until the 70s. Our constitutional history is fraught with instances where these rights were denied to citizens on the basis of gender, property ownership or taxation just to mention but a few.

It is submitted that the introduction of zoning that is meant to deny certain individuals from certain parts of the country their right to be voted for in a presidential election amounts to disenfranchisement through the back door and therefore unacceptable. When a party contends that an individual from certain parts of the country cannot contest an election into a particular office that is otherwise available to those from other parts of the country, a case of disenfranchisement has therefore been established against the party in question.

 As the constitutional provisions reproduced above clearly state, no Nigerian shall suffer such disability or restrictions in the enjoyment of his fundamental rights conferred by the constitution. In other words, no Nigeria shall suffer disenfranchisement in the hands of a political party by whatever name called in the name of a party arrangement unless of course the individuals affected acquiesced in the abridgement of their rights. And as in all such cases acquiescence may be express or implied as the case might be as where the individual actively refrains from putting himself forward or otherwise voluntarily withdraws his candidacy from an election. However, where an individual takes practical steps to actualize his political ambition by putting himself forward for an election in his party primaries, any purported acquiescence to the abridgement of his right is ipso facto ruled out.

Political parties in Nigeria should be mindful of the rights of all Nigerians to vote and be voted for in any elective office in the land and should therefore be at the vanguard of safeguarding these rights at all times and not be seen to promote their abridgement in the name of zoning. Zoning is tantamount to disenfranchisement of Nigerians and for that reason alone, without more, cannot stand. But there are other reasons yet why it should be dumped at least so far as the nation’s presidency which is they symbol of our collective existence as a nation is concerned.

 

Reason #5: Belittles the Presidency and Reduces the Nation’s Stature

How would Nigerians react when the world comes to know that Nigeria is practicing a home grown form of Apartheid it calls “Zoning” where only one part of the country is allowed to rule at a time and treats our supposed national leader as an “Igbo” or “Hausa” or “Yoruba” or “Urhobo” or “Bini” president, in international fora? And how would the leader himself feel when he and his country becomes the butt of jokes as the only odd man out in a gathering of democratic nations when those who know begin to tease him about his coming to power through contrived zoning rather than through a real democratic contest?

It would be such a huge embarrassment. That has got to be troubling indeed because nothing we do in Nigeria is hidden from the rest of the world. Nigeria was the butt of jokes during the Yar’Adua saga when he refused to hand over to his deputy as other democratic leaders would have readily done and the practice all over the world. Are we always so odd in our ways in the name of ethnicity? Is ours the only ethnically diverse nation on earth? We must change our ways. I’m not out to bash the entire North here because I’m aware that only a tiny elites in the region are proponents of zoning. And I’m not unmindful of the fact that many influential northerners are equally opposed to zoning including the youths.

 Even so it must be asked why is it that the North is always putting us into these unenviable odd situations? Why is the region always causing our nation international embarrassment at every turn? Is that not an indication of the backward thinking disposition of many even if not all in the region that has held us backward for almost fifty years of independence? When a region that thinks and acts this way rules a nation, what progress can be expected in such a nation?

Some would argue disingenuously that zoning does not mean the president would be elected by his zone only but the entire country and it’s just that only his zone was allowed to field candidates and he was chosen from among other candidates from his zone in a democratic election. Bullshit! Yes the president may have been elected into office by the entire nation, but he was the only one allowed to contest with his inconsequential kinsmen as more qualified potential candidates were blotted out of contention with zoning. That is not democracy. Tell me how that would enhance the stature of our nation and the nation’s presidency? Tell me how that squares up with Nigeria’s leadership role in Africa and the world in general? Tell me, for that matter, how that squares up with democracy? Are we serious at all or we’re just a bunch of clowns and political nitwits? Someone has got to be kidding me with zoning. It just doesn’t fly at all.  The Nigerian presidency will not be reduced to an ethnic enclave in a turn by turn presidential formula. Nigeria has not come this far only to relapse in this day and age into regionalism or “zonism” if you like.

You exclude all other candidates from other sections of the country and put up a man as your anointed candidate and allow some inconsequential from the same zone to stand against him knowing they do not stand a chance in hell against him and then call the entire country to rubber stamp your choice and you call that democracy?  Give me break!

 

Reason #6: Fraught with Booby Traps and Uncertainties

One of the strongest arguments to be made against zoning is that it has yet to be thought through and thoroughly subjected to meticulous analysis. And that is because as indicated above the issue was not brought out in the open for public scrutiny but surreptitiously introduced by the ruling party without clear cut parameters set for its operation. At present the policy is at best ad hoc and nebulous in that it does not even pretend to provide guidelines as to what happens when “X” and “Y” happens or for that matter how long the policy would be in operation. And because it has no clear cut provisions, the nation is left to improvise along the way when unforeseen events happen in the presidency. A policy of that importance should provide for what happens if a president from a particular zone dies in office. Constitutionally, the VP takes over to complete the term until another election is held. But what happens to the term of the zone? Does death of a president from a zone automatically terminate the presidential slot for that zone? Or does it entitle the zone to produce the president in the next election to complete its term? And what happens if the VP decides to exercise his or her constitutional right to present himself/herself for an election after completing the term of the dead president? That is the possibility that is facing the nation at the moment. Would he/she be denied his/her constitutional right to run for the office? That’s simply impossible because no party arrangement can override the provision of the constitution. But why would a zone whose president died in office seek to remain in office anyway? The office should automatically be moved to another zone if zoning is all we want. No one can eat his cake and have it back still. It is unfair to keep other zones waiting for a zone to replace its dead or impeached president. It’s like a side in a soccer match being asked to wait for the other side to replace its dead or wounded player. No such replacement is permitted. The side must do with its players minus the dead or wounded. Isn’t that the rule of the game? And isn’t that part of the reasons why some sides play with incomplete teams?

Besides what happens, for instance, when a president and his deputy die in office as happened recently in a plane crash in Russia killing the Polish president, his deputy and almost an entire cabinet including even his wife? What happens to the zoning in such event? And what happens if the president is impeached as the House of Representatives sought to do to OBJ in his second term? His vice takes over to complete the term and the zone would be allowed to produce the next president to complete its term or what? What term would he be completing anyway? Is it the uncompleted first term or the second term or both? This is absolute madness. And what if a zone has no presidential material to present for the office? Must the nation be forced to settle for nonentity, a mediocre or extremely corrupt and discredited past leader in the name of zoning? Is this what they mean by zoning bringing “stability” to the system? I would rather settle for the instability and excitement that competition would bring if this is the type of stability that zoning would bring to the table. The nation is headed for political wilderness with this zoning bullshit.

There are so many other scenarios that could potentially throw the nation into great uncertainties in the future. For example, what if the nation is at war or there is a disaster that prevents an election to be held? Would a sitting president from a particular zone who is about completing his last term be allowed to continue in office and thus deprive another zone from producing a president? And if that happens would the zone that is so deprived be compensated with an elongated tenure when it eventually produces the president? These are all booby traps and minefields on our tracks that could detonate to throw us into trouble, uncertainties and political instability thus seriously undermining the case of stability made in favor of zoning. Nothing can be farther from it. It’s an agent of instability. 

These issues have never been articulated and addressed before the PDP forced this formula on the nation or on itself, I should say, because the nation has yet to buy into it until it is presented, debated and adopted as a national policy and that would involve an amendment of the constitution for it to have a binding effect on the nation. 

Reason #7: Undemocratic

Participatory democracy is not a theoretical but a practical thing. And its practicality is indicated in the participation of the people in the nomination and election of their representatives in both the legislative and executive branches of government. In some jurisdictions, even members of the judicial branch are subject to the ballot as well.  And participatory democracy operates at two levels—at the level of electoral candidacy where an individual puts himself or herself forward for election and the level of the electorate where individuals take part in the election of the candidates who have placed their names on the ballot.

In either of the two levels, no artificial restrictions or barriers are placed on either the voter or the candidate except as provided for under the law and the constitution. Thus any individual who meets the constitutional and legal threshold is free to vote and/or be voted for in any election in which he/she has chosen to partake. Therefore, the attempt to exclude certain sections of the nation in any presidential election is ab initio undemocratic, unconstitutional and illegal. Some have put forward the puerile argument that if members of a party agreed to be restricted and barred from contesting elections into particular offices at certain times, that decision and its aftermath is democratic because they have freely given up their rights under the law and the constitution. The CBN governor Mr. Sanusi advanced this argument in his published presentation. While it is true that an individual may elect to give up his her constitutionally guaranteed right for whatever reason, unless and until it is shown that a particular individual(s) did in fact give up his or right to contest election into any office in a given timeframe, that  argument or proposition falls flat on its face.

Therefore, the onus is on those who advance such spurious proposition to show that certain individual or group of individuals as the case might be, have indeed given up their rights to contest election into any offices in Nigeria in 2011 or any other date for that matter.  The same would apply where a section of the country has undertaken to yield its right to field candidates for election into a particular office within a given timeframe. A pertinent example of such proof can be found in the reported declaration by governors of the South/East not to present themselves for the presidential election in 2011. That declaration, which has drawn criticisms from certain quarters was widely publicized although it is hardly legally binding on the South/East. At least it is a declaration on record that could be pointed to as representing a position of certain individuals in a zone.

The minimum evidential proofs required of the proponents of this fraudulent position is a declaration either by any individual, group or section that he/she or they would forgo the presidential election in favor of another individual or section of the nation. We demand that proof today from the proponents of the PDP zoning, where the South or parts thereof or individuals from the south or parts thereof signed out their rights to vie for the presidency in 2011 or any other time for that matter. And failure to come forward with such minimum proofs is fatal to their case as no party or individuals no matter their positions or influence can decide for another individual or section of the country not to field candidates for any national offices. And I dare say that it is because the PDP itself is aware of the undemocratic character of its zoning that it has not yet prevented anybody that insisted on contesting the presidential election under its platform from going ahead. And the cases of Abubakar Rimi and Barnabas Gemade as well as Chief Okorocha and many others including Peter Odili and Donald Duke in the PDP primaries already alluded to above are still fresh in our memories. Case dismissed.

 

Reason #8: Stifles Competition and Promotes Mediocrity

The beauty of democracy is in its competitive character. When the element of competition is removed or unduly constrained, democracy is bound to lose its luster. And its competitiveness is not meant for showmanship but for the serious and important purpose of sorting out leadership materials by affording the electorate a chance to evaluate potential leaders prior to their election.

Election is a process of leadership recruitment at the various levels and no employer would seek to exclude certain section of a nation from applying for a job by reason only of its geographical location. And if it is bad business and indeed illegal for an employer to do so it would worse business and indeed a tragedy for a nation to indulge in such Apartheid policy. On the contrary, it is the duty of our government and the nation as a whole to actively seek out the best and the brightest materials from available pool of candidates rather than promoting quota democracy because democracy is not by quota but free for all contest within the laws of the land. 

The more candidates the merrier and the more diverse the candidates’ profile the greater and more robust our democracy would become. Thus just as no restrictions are placed on the right to form political parties in Nigeria as guaranteed by constitutional provisions of the right to freedom of association, no restrictions can be lawfully placed on individuals to vie for an elective office in Nigeria save as provided for under the laws and the constitution. It would be a shame to tell our children that they could not aspire to become president of the country when they grow up not because they are not qualified but because it might be zoned to another part of the country other than their place of birth. Such apartheid policy must never be allowed a foothold in Nigeria under our watch. It is an inherent evil that is being dressed up as a blessing to advance sectional agenda that is totally inimical to our national aspirations. 

Reason # 9: Lazy Man’s Road to Power

If I had a presidential or gubernatorial ambition and I knew that others too had similar ambition in free and fair electoral contest, what would I do? I would prepare well for it and throw in the best intellectual, social and material resources at my disposal to sell myself and my programmes to the electorate in order to persuade them to vote for me rather than my opponents. That is the essence of elections. It is not a complicated matter. It’s either we’re practicing democracy or something else. We tend to complicate matters unnecessarily in that part of the world just as we did during the Yar’Adua saga. The bottom line is that, I, as a candidate would do all in my power to market my candidacy to the electorate and let the chips fall where they might. Win or lose, I would have given it my best shot. The electorate is never to blame for the failure of a candidate. The blame rests squarely at the doorstep of the candidate for failing to do all that was required and necessary to close the deal.

But suppose the office I was gunning for had been reserved (zoned) to my neck of the woods, what would I do? Why, sit back and wait for my inauguration of course! What else would I do, campaign? For what, votes? Nah! I don’t need to campaign for votes because the votes will come my way on their own anyway. How much campaigning Yar’Adua did before he was crowned King of Nigeria? The voters have no choice in the matter but vote for me or waste their votes on some non-entity from my zone who has been put there for window dressing to “fulfill the books” and who fancies himself a candidate too!

 It reminds me of frustrated American voters who are stuck with either the Democrats and the Republicans—two sides of the same coin! The voters have no choice but to go with either of them or remain at home on election day. If anyone wants to know the reasons for the low turnouts during elections, that is the reason. Opinion polls in the US have indicated extremely low approval ratings for the ruling Democrats and worse still for the Republicans. Yet the voters are stuck with them. I once heard a Republican Talk show host blatantly asking of his frustrated party men and women who were complaining about their leaders in Washington: “Where else would they go?”  It would be a whole lot worse with zoning in Nigeria. If you thought that was horrible, wait until we got ditched into the zoning pit.

Power brokers and power merchants in a zone would simply dust up some old, washed out, discredited horses, and dump them on the nation and ask voters to rubber stamp their favorites whether they like them or not. They have no choice other than to stay at home and complain. God forbid, that is not the democracy that Chief MKO Abiola and Gen. Musa Yar’Adua and others sacrificed their lives for. That is not the democracy that has been watered with the blood of our compatriots. And that is not a democracy that should be worth our while either.

The nation’s presidency will not be bought on the cheap. Anyone seeking to become the First Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had better be ready to square up with similar contenders from all parts of the country and slug it out in the ring. No lazy bum will be allowed to ascend the presidency on the cheap by hoping for and relying on zoning to get there. It will not happen. Period! Those like IBB, who had quickly jumped into the race upon Yar’Adua’s death while hoping and counting on zoning of the presidency to their region because former PDP chair Vincent  Ogbulafor thoughtlessly shot his mouth wide, had themselves to blame.  

Reason #10: Declaration of War on South/South

It’s clear even to the most naïve that ominous clouds are hanging over the nation at this moment due mainly to the forthcoming general elections. General elections in Nigeria are contentious and destabilizing enough on their own. It would be treasonable to add another layer of instability into the already unstable situation by introducing zoning. Zoning is a combustible issue that is best left out of the equation because it is a harbinger of disunity as noted earlier. And in particular, zoning out the South/South and indeed the entire South out of the presidential election would be tantamount to a declaration of war on the South/South capable of throwing the region into a full scale war with the North and the rest of the nation. Zoning is not worth the trouble it will bring. The price is just to hefty for the nation to even contemplate. The south/south will not sit idly by while it watches her sons and daughters denied a shot at the presidency on ground of some nebulous formula. If it will not produce the next president, let the electorate determine that in a free and fair election, not the PDP or the North.

No one has prevented the North/East or North/West or North Central, indeed the entire North from fielding presidential candidates at any time in our history not even during the OBJ era where Northern candidates stood against him at every turn and the South/West and the South as a whole did not cry foul. Therefore, no one should in his right senses even attempt to do deny the South/South the right to field as many presidential candidates as it deems fit in the forthcoming elections in any duly recognized parties of its choice. The issue doesn’t even arise in the first place.

It’s up to any region or candidate to devise a winning formula for itself and that shouldn’t be the concern of anybody. Whether or not the “North” would vote for a South/South candidate is not the business of anybody in the North, but the business of the South/South. What matters is that all regions and individual candidates are going to the polls on equal terms and no part will be accorded undue advantage or suffer undue restrictions or disabilities as the constitution has provided for. 

Thus the idea that the North will bail out enmass of the PDP should someone from another zone be fielded as its presidential candidate is only designed as a scare tactic to frighten and intimidate the PDP in adopting zoning. The PDP is not the party of the North. If ever there was a party of the North strictly speaking, it would the ANPP formerly led by Buhari and not the PDP. The North is not a monolithic bloc either, that would break away from the PDP like an avalanche and move to another party should a southerner be fielded as its presidential candidate. It’s a red herring.

However, whoever feels so strongly about zoning is of course free to leave the PDP and pitch his tent with another of the 50 political parties or form its own party or run as an independent candidate. There are enough political parties to choose from and there will be enough candidates to contend with as well including those from the South/South, South/West, South/East, North/East, North/West and North/Central. No zone is excluded and if any zone wants to stay out for now for strategic reasons, it is all well and dandy for democracy provided of course it was not excluded against its will. I know for certain that the south/south is not thinking of chickening out of the presidency. Will the real candidates stand up and be counted? Zoning is dead and buried. May its tortured soul Rest in Peace.

Good riddance to bad rubbish!

    

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. contact: mudiagaone@yahoo.com


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