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Zoning: Don’t kill Jonathan

MY concern on this subject matter is that President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria must save himself and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) today and secure a more weighty political honour that will benefit the South-South political zone better in the future than now.

This is because those who are against him (contesting for the 2011 presidential election) in the Northern part of Nigeria are not only dangerous, they are desperate.

Also, their argument is based on principle and this is more powerful. On the other hand, those who want him to contest the 2011 election base their arguments on greed, crafted out of opportunism and sentimentalism.

When it comes to the terminal price, it is Jonathan who will solely pay it. For example, will they die with Jonathan if his presidential plane is caused to malfunction and crashes or if there is a military coup and he is eliminated or if he is poisoned or assassinated by his guards, etc?

So, let us examine the zoning debate based on principle or greed. One of the intellectual criticisms against the Nigerian political elites is that politics in Nigeria appears to be ideologically-empty. But the zoning debate has revealed that the PDP is not ideologically void. Note that zoning of the presidency has arisen due to the fear of smaller ethnic groups of political domination by the bigger groups.

The solution so far provided before 1998 when Nigeria began to prepare for civil rule has been unsuccessful. Hence, the PDP in 1998 considered it very important to provide a political ideology-solution that will address the fear of domination or access to the presidency.

That solution was the zoning principle. It states that all ethnic groups in Nigeria within the PDP can have access to the president position on a rotatory basis for a maximum eight years at a time. Its key objectives are to guarantee political equity and accommodation in Nigeria.

To achieve its smooth implementation, the PDP divided the country into six geo-political zones, three each to the South and North. Indeed the PDP zoning principle is the only genuine political ideology of the party that makes it different and relevant in Nigerian politics today.

It provides a democratic understanding for power sharing in a federation of diverse and different peoples that need to be equally fairly treated, respected and accommodated.

Based on this principle, the South was allowed to rule and it enjoyed its full eight years presidency from 1999 to 2007. In 2007,  power was rotated or shifted to the North and Jonathan (from the South) became the Vice President (VP) of Nigeria with the late Umaru Yar’Adua (from the North) as president and the full circle of this latter tenure is 2015. Unfortunately, we lost our president just after about three years in office.

The periodic price the North has to pay for the untimely death of Yar’Adua is the loss of one year to Jonathan. It is therefore preposterous, illogical and deceitful for some people to say that Yar’Adua’s death “has naturally re-ordered the course of the zoning system…”.

It did not! By PDP’s zoning principle, the North is still entitled to the remaining four years to 2015. To progress as a political group, Nigeria must be patient and allow political principles be.

If Jonathan contests and succeeds to become president on May 29, 2011, he would have destroyed this beautiful idea and will unnecessarily cause unquantifiable damage to the political development of Nigeria under the PDP leadership. This certainly will be a very sad, ugly and sorry history for the South-South in Nigeria. Jonathan must know that principles build; greed and sentiments destroy.

Jonathan and I are from the same geo-political zone: the South-South in the Southern part of Nigeria. As a “brother” from Ikwerre, I sincerely advise Jonathan never to fall to this seductive trap being set for him by his enemy friends in and out of politics.

The tempting arguments they present are based on greed and illogical history. You should know that Nigerians did not vote for you as a President in 2007; rather as a VP. That you are a President today was by default and this default must not be stretched too far.

Also the one year period you have to spend as President rightly belongs to the North based on the zoning principle of the PDP. Jonathan must not go for or aspire to take what does not rightly belong to him or the South-South. To contest next year’s presidential election under the PDP means that you do not respect principles and orderliness.

The right to vote and be voted for must be within agreed political principles, otherwise the right becomes a source of trouble.

Some political idlers, ignorant opportunists, greedy political prostitutes and unserious minds have argued that zoning is undemocratic and abhors merit.

There is nothing more undemocratic and lacking in merit to have one ethnic group rule and dominate Nigeria’s political landscape for over 30 years of its political independence, while the rest grumble, fear, agitate and play second fiddle.

Truly, in a federation like ours, zoning is more democratic because it addresses some of the key issues in federalism: fairplay and accommodation of all for national unity and stability.

With zoning, it is expected that Nigeria, through the PDP, will gradually, consistently, turn-by-turn tap into some sound political minds that abound in the ethnic groups across the country. When the presidency is zoned to a group, that group is expected to present their best candidate.

This is where the PDP needs to do some further works to ensure that a zone must give its best candidate to the party. What happened in the case of the late President Yar’Adua was that PDP, out of some intimidating respect for Obasanjo, allowed him to decide the matter alone

What should have been respected was the process and not the driver of it. At all times, the party, her principles and processes must be seen above the individuals who make up the party. In the process that produced Yar’Adua, Obasanjo was given a blank cheque to choose whoever he deemed okay as long as the person was from the North. This was expensive and the rest is now history.

On the other hand, some people strongly feel Jonathan must contest the presidential election next year. Their political interest is greed. But political greed is different from political interest. Political interest is pure and it is ready to be achieved through legitimate principles and processes that are ethical and acceptable.

Mr. By Okachikwu Dibia , a  political analyst, writes from Abuja.


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