By Ben Agande

As a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, what exactly was the arrangement in terms of zoning of the office of the president in terms of rotating between the north and the south?
This issue of rotation between the north and the south came about as a result of what you will call an arrangement of necessity which came as a result of the marginalization cry by many Nigerians when we were doing what turned out to be the 1999 constitution. The hue and cry the in the country was that of marginalization arising mainly from the June 12 election in 1993. When we came for the 1994 constituent assembly, everybody was struggling and fighting to have relevance. I personally elected to back full rotation of the presidency to all the geo-political zones and at that time we were canvassing for eight zones. Finally it was agreed on six zones. We canvassed rotation amongst these zones because for many minorities in the North and the South, if there is no rotation, they can never be remembered. If you talk about the North, it is only the majority tribes that would be considered.

The same thing with the South. So this issue of rotation which was eventually adopted as a gentleman agreement which we called zoning rather than rotation, there was no formula that was adopted. There was only an arrangement of zoning which gave the party an opportunity to zone the positions each time elections were coming.

In 1999, we zoned the presidency to the South and specifically to the South West and this was because of the June 12 election. The South West was complaining about the cancellation of the election, marginalization of their people and we needed to solve the problem. That was how President Olusegun Obasanjo came on board.

Thereafter, one just believes that each time there is an election the party must meet and agree on a zone. I think that zoning should always be an issue of dealing with what people consider at that moment as problems of the country. That was  why the South West got its slot in 1999 and the North got the slot in 2007 because the North was saying it is now time for us to have the presidency in the North and of course they got it. That was why President Yar’Adua
was able to be there.

With the turn of events especially with the death of Umaru Yar’Adua, do you think that the issues that made zoning imperative in 1999 are still tenable for the next elections in 2011?
If the party wants to pursue its gentleman’s agreement of having zoning for each election, then it is proper for the party to sit down and consider it. But it is not only man that can zone. God also zones. And if God has zoned, you will see that it is very difficult for man to say I don’t like the way God has zoned this matter. I think we need to consider that. But zoning is an issue that we must sit down and look at it. People should not just say I know this was the formula, this was what was done. It is debatable.

At any given time there would be enough people who will tell you that what you are4 saying is not correct.

There have been agitations that in view of the zoning arrangement in place, President Goodluck Jonathan should not contest in the next election. As an elder statesman, what will you say about that?
Any comment on that matter should be looked at from the view point of somebody’s fundamental human right. You cannot tell somebody not to contest an election because he has the right guarantee by the constitution. I am not for barring any body from contesting an election.

Do you think that the North is justified in insisting that it should produce the next presidential candidate for the 2011 election?
Every section of the country would want to have their man there for as many times as possible. If they want to have a shot at the presidency in 2007, that is their right. But I do not think it is a matter of saying since I want to contest, you should not contest. That is not proper.

I think people should be given the freedom to be able to choose what is good for them. And in this case, I do not think anybody should try to bar Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from contesting in the 2011 elections.


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