“We don’t care where the president comes from,” shouted one woman above the din of electricity generators installed in the market because of the failure of the state to provide adequate mains power.
“We don’t care if he’s from the north or the south – if only he would provide us enough power.”
“Zoning is not democratic. It’s manipulative,” said another young woman.
“What we want is the best person for the job – the most intelligent person. It’s not about north or south.”
‘Blessing in disguise’
The concept of zoning the presidency – and a whole series of other top jobs – was presented by its architects as a way of ushering in political stability.
If the northern and southern politicians could agree to share posts, it was argued, it would spell an end to any excuses for further military rule.
In that sense the system has worked.
But many Nigerians say zoning has pandered to regional sentiments rather than picking the best man or woman for the job. They say the backroom deals between politicians in the PDP party are not democratic.
“The zoning system is nonsense as far as democracy is concerned,” said political science lecturer Sadiq Abba in the rundown campus of the University of Abuja.
“I am a northerner but I don’t see why Goodluck Jonathan shouldn’t aim to stand for the presidency next year.
“The average Nigerian doesn’t mind who his or her president is – their main concern is that they are being beaten black and blue economically. They simply want a government that will provide decent services.”
Mr Abba said democracy in Nigeria was a “sham.”
“May Allah bless Umaru Yar’adua’s soul”, the Muslim political scientist said.
“But his death may be a blessing in disguise for our democracy because for the first time it has exposed the mischief and the deception and the lies that have been taking place over the heads of the average Nigerian.”