By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
ABUJAâ€”FORMER Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, SAN, weekend, described the controversial zoning arrangement of the Peoples ‘Democratic Party, PDP, as a distraction and unconstitutional.
Aondoakaa, who returned to the country from Rome on a United Nations’ assignment since leaving government also urged Nigerians to rally round President Goodluck Jonathan to enable him deliver dividends of democracy to the electorate, stressing that Jonathan remained the most appropriate candidate to ensure peace and stability.
The top loyalist of the late President Yarâ€™Adua who described PDPâ€™s zoning policy as discriminatory, argued: â€œFundamentally, a zoning policy of any political party is a sort of an agreement which appears to be in conflict with the provision of the 1999 Constitution.
â€œIf you zone the Presidency to a particular zone, it means you are creating discrimination, which is fundamentally a violation of the 1999 Constitution which gives the right to any Nigerian who is qualified to contest.â€
Zoning infringes Jonathan’s rights
Asked to be specific on whether President Jonathan could contest the 2011 polls, Aondoakaa said it would be unfair for anyone to ask Dr. Jonathan not to run on the basis of an unconstitutional arrangement by a political party.
He said: â€œWell, if it is on the basis of the zoning that they are talking, they will be unfair to ask him not to contest and will be infringing on his constitutional right. It is a right given to him by the Constitution which he has a sole discretion to exercise.
â€œAnd ideally, political parties should not come up with guidelines and policies that directly infringe on the Constitution. Honestly, the issue of zoning is a distraction and unconstitutional. Nigerians at this stage should be talking of credible elections and free participation. Credible people should be allowed to participate in the election.
â€œI come from Tiv, a minority tribe, and if we start talking that the minority cannot have their way, we will be creating a bigger problem for this nation. The moment we allow everybody to contest, the issue of settlers or non-settlers will stop. I think we are on course. The choice of who should be elected as President should be left to the electorate.â€
Aondoakaa added that if the late President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua was alive, he would have run on the same ticket with Dr. Jonathan and that from a rational viewpoint, as well as international best practices, nobody should stop the President from seeking re-election, next year.
He stressed thatÂ PDP should allow President Jonathan to pursue the seven-point agenda enunciated by Yarâ€™Adua to a logical conclusion, given that appreciable progress had already been recorded in some key areas such as the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis, electricity supply and electoral reform.
Aondoakaa said: â€œIn America, an incumbent President can only be denied the right to contest Presidential Election only if there is glaring evidence that he cannot carry out programmes of the party.
And over the years, incumbent American presidents always had the right to seek re-election.
â€œThe most rational thing which Nigerians and even members of the PDP should consider is that PDP government came in 2007 with a seven-point agenda that could deliver dividends of democracy and between 2007 and till ex-President Yarâ€™Adua died in 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan was the co-pilot of the agenda.
â€œHe appears to be in the knowledge of the seven-point agenda more than anybody. He also participated in the implementation of the seven-point agenda with Yarâ€™Adua more than anybody.
â€œAnd the actual implementation of the seven-point agenda has commenced with the Amnesty Package in the Niger Delta; enhanced security; power; electoral reform and food security. All these have taken off in the last three years. One would expect that a person who will ensure the full implementation of the seven-point agenda should be the President in 2011.
This is the naked reality and we must accept that naked reality because Nigeria has suffered from so many abandoned programmes and we must ensure stability.â€
The former AGF who was seen as one of the greatest obstacles to Dr. Jonathanâ€™s ascension to the position of Acting President at the peak of Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s ailment, said all Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s loyalists should support Jonathan.
His words: â€œAnybody who was loyal to ex-President Yarâ€™Adua and genuinely felt that his programmes were good for this country should give support to Jonathan to ensure the full implementation of the seven-point agenda. That is the only way to pay tribute to the late President.
In otherÂ words, any other person, who was a supporter of Yarâ€™Adua and has moral conscience should leave politics aside and look at the naked reality of who is in a better position to implement the seven-point agenda and bring peace.
â€œIf anybody really loved Yarâ€™Adua and cherished the seven-point agenda, I believe it will be unwise to work against President Jonathan because he is the one implementing the seven-point agenda. I am talking of what I feel.
My passion is that the ideals that were conceived by the late President and his co-pilot should be fully implemented. Except someone has his own private motive, President Jonathan should be allowed to continue.â€
On his political ambition, Aondoakaa said he wonâ€™t contest Benue State governorship election, come 2011, as according to him, he had confidence inÂ Suswam.