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Clay-footed support for zoning

By Jide Ajani

The problem with those promoting zoning is that they have vested interests. The NPLF, in a statement, signed by Third Republic Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, declares what some have described as war on those who want to throw away zoning.

Said he: “The leadership of the forum shall meet and address the Northern Governors Forum and the Northern Legislators Caucus in both Houses of the National Assembly as well as Emirs and Traditional Rulers to appraise them of the objectives of the forum and the task at hand.

“That the North is calling on politicians and other stakeholders to respect political agreements and allow the principle of zoning to run its full course, should not be construed as weakness on its part. Northerners have all it takes to win free and fair elections without special arrangements”.

For all its posturing, the north, which was known to be more strategic in its handling of matters political, may be losing it.  First, it was their confrontational statement on zoning that gave President Jonathan a window from where he shot back at them, labeling them bigots.

But even in their congregation, the most visible personalities are known to be supporters of the arrow heads of the NPLF. General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) and Atiku Abubakar are known to be nursing presidential ambition and most of those who populate NPLF are their known loyalists, supporters or friends.  Add to these men another two – General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State; and a possible third – General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd), the NSA. (See North’s Weapon Against Itself?)

To further drive the point of a shambolic north home would be the fiery Dr. Usman Bugaje and Colonel Hamidi Ali of the Coalition For Social Justice. In an advertorial entitled THE NORTH, ZONING AND THE NATION: THE NEED FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT, they lampooned their northern brothers, whom they described as charlatans.

“We are particularly concerned that some of these self appointed leaders of the North have not been known to have stood-up for the North at its most difficult times.  They have not distinguished themselves in the fight for the rights of the North, if anything at all, they seemed readily available for hire. That people in their 70’s should be willing to be mercenaries is a double tragedy. We cannot continue to be hoodwinked. The North has suffered in the hands of these charlatans for too long. As a Nation it is time to reassess and re-examine the value of zoning. It may bring the peace and sense of belonging but that will appear to be at the expense of quality of governance and development.

As a Coalition for Social Justice, we strongly believe that our choice of leaders must be based on their competence and abilities and not the part of the country they come from”, their statement said. And not to be confused for supporting some southerners who are saying zoning should be junked, the statement made it clear that “We must warn these opportunists who wish to ride on the back of Northern or indeed Southern sentiments to power to desist from doing so”.

When Sunday Vanguard contacted Dr. Bugaje on the possibility of being misconstrued as a supporter of the speculated ambition of Jonathan, he charged: “Never! Why should I support Jonathan’s aspiration?  Even his election as Vice President I still do not believe in.  What we are saying is that we as Nigerians should begin to talk about the quality and substance of whoever will become president and not on a warped arrangement of zoning.

All we are saying is that some people can not just sit down because of their own selfish aspirations and arrogate to themselves monopoly of the desires of northerners.  These people have been known to be political prostitutes.  I am not supporting Jonathan and I will not support him if it is going to be on the basis of zoning or no zoning.  If the PDP has agreed on zoning, that is their problem; they should not make PDP’s problem that of Nigeria and force it on us.  It is not acceptable”.

In an interview with Sunday Vanguard, former majority leader in the Delta State House of Assembly who now serves as the National Coordinator, Goodluck Jonathan Support Group, Chief Aneke Ifemeni, told Abayomi Adeshida of our Abuja Bureau that “we are now into a different dispensation, even though we just lost our President; of course, our mandate is mainly continuity mandate group. We felt that this government should be a government of continuity based on the foundation that the Late President Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan have laid in the last four years or thereabout”.

Options before Jonathan
With the momentum being gathered by the Jonathan For President campaigners in the country, Sunday Vanguard was told by a leader in PDP that “with the way things are going, only God can stop Jonathan from contesting”.  The operational word is “CONTESTING”. How would Jonathan achieve this in a country where number is the name of the game?

Firstly, even as the noise about Jonathan becomes deafening, the President has not come out to say he wants to contest.  Yet, many point to his body language.

But Jonathan may opt not to contest. Nothing stops him from pulling his weight behind any candidate of his choice from the north.

The 1999 Constitution is also very clear.  Jonathan could do the unthinkable by subsuming his ambition and allowing a northerner emerge as the candidate of the PDP, in which instance, he would play the smart game of zoning with the north.  He could seek to be a vice president for a second time, after which he can seek the presidency – in so far as there is an understanding between him and the president.

That way, Jonathan would remain in the corridors of power in anticipation of being in power proper.  Events are still in a state of flux but as Chief Anenih puts it, “The ball is absolutely in the court of President Jonathan and Vice President Sambo, a situation that presents a rare opportunity for both men to make history. If they are able to organise a free and fair election, ensure excellent performance in governance and do justice to all without discrimination, the sky will certainly be their limit.

“Therefore my advice to President Jonathan is that if he decides to take advantage of this rare and uncommon opportunity to run in 2011, he should for now focus his attention on good governance in the areas of electoral reforms, power and energy, even development and peace in the Niger Delta region as well as social stability all over the country.

“On a final note, President Jonathan must bear in mind that the attainment of the above goals will require a lot of personal sacrifices and, sometimes, decisions that may be unpleasant to political allies, relations and friends. It is his ability to manage these interrelated and, often conflicting forces in pursuit of the goal set for him by Divine Providence, that will make him one of the greatest political leaders ever in the history of our nation. This is the situation that our uncommon circumstance has presented, and it must be understood by all”.

Therefore, which way President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan?

ZONING: The Ying and Yang

The following are the arguments in favour of and against zoning

Arguments in favour of zoning:
It engenders equal representation
It allows for a sense of belonging
It creates a stake-holding feeling in the polity
It takes care of the interests of the minority in the area of power sharing
It creates a feeling of organization in its abnormality
It stabilizes the polity
It removes the fears of domination by any one section of the country
There is a certainty of climbing the ladder and sitting atop at some point

Arguments against zoning
It short circuits the search for a qualitative political engineering in the polity
It limits the search for quality within any time frame
It disenfranchises prospective competitors from other parts of the federation other than the area where the office has been zoned
It creates a negative feeling of de javu in the zone where power currently resides
Creates a sense of absoluteness in  the zone or the occupier of the office
It forces a candidate from a particular zone on the polity
It is discriminatory
It is a cheap and lazy way to attain power
It pigeonholes criticisms against occupier of the office on sentiments of ethnicity, especially from those of other ethnic groups
There is no guarantee that a leader thrown up by such would not become a bigot


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