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How Jonathan, OBJ, others reached zoning accord

Sequel to the exclusive report which presented a secret position paper inspired by the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, in 2002, which we published last week, we bring you in this edition minutes of an expanded caucus meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which had Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan in attendance whereupon it was decided by a landslide vote that zoning should be observed and adhered to.  In the light of the raging arguments for and against zoning, this report brings an uncommon illumination on the issue of zoning, its merits and demerits, its implications as well as the denial that zoning was never agreed to by the PDP.

By Jide Ajani , Deputy Editor

Perhaps, President Goodluck Jonathan should have known better – he may still know better.  But he was still wise about it.  From far away Toronto, Canada, Jonathan threw some jabs at members of the so called Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, calling them bigots.  They have since responded by expressing their disappointment at the president’s statement.  All these about the hoopla called ZONING.


But the story of zoning and its validation by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which predated 2003 and 2007 presidential elections, engaged a different gear at the height of the attempt to impeach then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

A letter from the Leader
Tagged secret, a letter emanated from the office of the then minister of works, Chief Anthony Anenih.  Dated August 5, 2002, it was addressed to the “National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP” and entitled “PDP ZONING ARRANGEMENT”. The letter reads:
“You will recall that the sanctity of PDP’s zoning arrangement was obeyed to the letter in 1998/’99 General Elections.  It was the zoning, which is still valid, that gave the principal officers both in the party and executive the following positions in 1998/’99:
“National Chairman        -     North
President                              -     South
Vice President                     -    North
President of the Senate           -   South
Speaker, House of reps           -   North
National Secretary                   -    South
Dep. Senate President              -  North
Deputy Speaker                          -  South

“As it was in 1998 up to date, only candidates from the north were allowed to contest for the post of National Chairman.  In the same vein, only candidates from the south collected presidential nomination forms.  The only aspirant from the north, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, withdrew from the race before the convention.  As a result, only Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Graham Douglas and Chief Don Etiebet, attended the convention in Jos and contested.  Of course, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo won and became the party’s presidential candidate. “I am writing this to put you on notice so that you will remember when you are considering the guidelines for the presidential primaries that the above zoning arrangement stands till 2007 when the reverse will be the case”.

This was in 2002. But something was to happen and it shocked even Chief Anenih. Despite this letter to the national chairman of his party, some northerners flagrantly disregarded the zoning arrangement in the PDP.  Thus, at the presidential primaries of the party in January 2003, and despite the zoning arrangement that ceded power to the south for another four years, then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Alex Ekweme and Chief Rochas Okorocha from the south collected the forms, while, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and Chief Banabas Gemade, from the North also did. Again, in 2007, inspite of zoning the presidency to the North, whereas 14 aspirants picked the nomination form from the North, 16 aspirants from the south picked the form, further validating Anenih’s submission that the zoning arrangement was observed in the breach rather than observance

Therefore, when Chief Anenih, penultimate week, provided an insight into the boiling issue of zoning via an advertorial, a source close to him said “the chief was merely putting the issues in their proper context”.

Reading from Anenih’s statement, the source added: “A careful analysis of the above tables shows that the purported zoning arrangement was observed more in breach than in practice, especially in 2003 and 2007. The fact that some aspirants stepped down for others is not a sign that the purported zoning was respected”.

Anenih’s position, Sunday Vanguard gathered, drew strength from what the source described as “the flagrant disregard for zoning, even after it had been agreed to by the party”.

How Zoning Was Agreed Upon
The minutes of the expanded national caucus of the PDP, which met on December 2, 2002, at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, where the decision to accept zoning as a directive principle of power sharing between the North and South was taken, is exclusively presented, unedited:

“The national chairman (Chief Audu Ogbeh)explained that he has been inundated with calls seeking clarification on the subject.  The matter had also been discussed at the last caucus meeting and a position taken.  The national secretary was asked to read the caucus position which in summary stated that “The national caucus generally decided that the 1998 zoning of the positions of the President, Vice President, Senator President, Speaker, Party Chairman, Party Secretary, etc, should remain as it would stabilize the party but advised that it be presented to the larger house”.

“The National Chairman explained that it was brought to the enlarged caucus meeting because of the need to discuss the matter with an enlarged audience.

Contributing, the Speaker said that in 1999, the zoning arrangement was determined by the presidential election.  He was of the view that the presidential election should be open to everybody this time around adding that the flag bearer must be somebody capable of winning elections for the party.

“Chief Tony Anenih, however, clarified that the zoning arrangement did not revolve around the presidential candidate in 1999.

“It went down the line even to party officers.  Even at the last national convention of the party where national officers were elected, the chairmanship of the party went to the north.

“The National Organising Secretary (Hon. Inuwa Labaran) stated that the fact that the north produced the current national chairman has made it clear what the zoning arrangement is.

“The National Youth Leader (Farouk Bibi Farouk), however said that the laws of the country did not allow disenfranchisement through zoning.  He wondered whether PDP was ready to convince the court that by zoning it was not discriminating against those affected, adding that it will be tactically wrong to zone out anybody.

“Niger State Governor (Eng. A A Kure) wondered whether whatever decision taken on the matter would be binding.  He said if the position of the President is zoned, the same must be done for other positions.  He said he supported the south to produce the next President but let nobody support any Governorship (read Presidential) aspirant from another zone against him.

“Alhaji Lawal Kaita explained that zoning was a gentleman’s agreement which started at the constitutional conference. The minorities fought hard to have it zoned to them but at the end it was agreed that it should be between the north and the south.  He said that they in the north persuaded northerners not to put up candidates in 1998/1999. He then moved that the party allow the south have eight years after which it would then return to the north where it would stay for eight years.

“National Vice Chairman, (SS) (Aminasoari Kala Dikibo), explained that in a party situation, a party has the right to make rules that would enable it manages its affairs.  He said people must make sacrifices for the unity of the country. He said zoning was being done even at local levels and aligned himself with the views and motion of Alhaji Lawal (Kaita).  He emphasized that even the national officers were products of zoning, adding that if people wanted to change the zoning arrangement, they should have raised it at the last convention.

“National Chairman, (Audu Ogbeh) pointed out that zoning ended up in the 1999 Abacha constitution.  It was five-year single term to be rotated among the six geo-political zones.

“Vice President (Atiku Abubakar) highlighted that the thinking then was that at the end of 30 years, every geo-political zone would have produced a president.  He said caucus should take into consideration that there was already a move to amend the constitution, introduce a single five-year term.  He reasoned that if it was agreed that the south should hold the presidency for eight years and the constitution is amended to a five year term, the north would be shortchanged.

Akwa Ibom State Governor (Victor Attah) said zoning as an arrangement can not be fixed for the future. It is an issue that we must agree on when each term expires.  There can be dissidents but the party would know that it has decided on a particular. He said the south should be allowed to have a second term.

“Rivers State Governor (Peter Odili) while noting that every human organization functioned in groups said group laws were made for man.  He noted that the wisdom of the founding fathers created the situation we have today.  He suggested we stick to what we have as it is good for the country.  After eight years, the matter can be looked at again.

“Chief Solomon Daushep Lar emphasized that if it is eight years for the south, it must be eight years for the south.

“The Speaker (Ghali Na’Abba) while aligning himself with the views of Alhaji Lawal Kaita, however, suggested that each zoned should be allowed to go and discus the matter.  In the alternative, he said politicians should sacrifice their (ambitious) sic and settle for the VP’s option of amending the constitution.

“The Ebonyi State Governor (Sam Egwu) however pointed out that those who were arguing that the north would be shortchanged should remember how long the north ruled.

“The Governor of Nassararwa State (Abdullahi Adamu) noted that zoning was a weighty issue which demanded immediate attention.  He country has not gone too far away from democracy and its institutions were still very fragile.  He said the eight year zoning arrangement should stay provided it would be eight years for the north also.  He said changing the constitution to a five year single term is a kite, which barring unforeseen circumstances, can not go through.

“Senator Maina Lawan said the idea of zoning was excellent.  He supported the views of Alhaji Lawal Kaita and suggested that a firm decision be taken immediately.  He expressed fears that the five-year single term proposal may not be the solution to the nation’s problems.

“Nze Fidelis Ozickukwu (Nat. Vice Chairman, SE) noted that leadership entails a lot of sacrifices.  He pointed out that power sharing was historical, tracing the arrangement from Balewa to Shagari and the fact that Shagari was allowed to go for a second term.  The NVC (SE) aligned himself with the views of Alhaji Lawal adding that the south should be allowed to have two terms of four years each.

“Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu, reacting to opinions that when power returns to the north it should not be to north central because the zone had dominated power said the circumstances that led to north central ruling for about 20 years were different.  It was under the military and the people shot themselves to power, stressing that north central has never produced a democratically elected president.

“Chief Sunday Afolabi then formally supported Alhaji Kaita’s motion to retain the present zoning arrangement in the party and for the south to have two terms of four years each after which it would return to the north for the same number of years.

“Chief Tony Anenih, in also supporting the motion gave the following reasons:

i.    If the PDP as a party, wants to retain the eight year zoning arrangement, it can be done
ii.   Five year single term would promote acts of indiscipline
iii.  It could lead to abandoning the party manifesto.
iv.  If the constitution is amended, it can not be backdated.  This can result in a situation where a president may end up spending 9 years instead of maximum eight
v.  Retaining the zoning arrangement would be in the interest of the unity of the country.
“National Youth Leader (Bibi Farouk), however, moved a counter motion saying in view of the fact that zoning was unconstitutional, it should be thrown out.

“The national chairman (Audu Ogbeh) then asked those who wanted the party to ensure that the south had two terms of four years each beginning from May 1999, after which power revolves to the north for the same period to raise their hands.  The following results were recorded.

Those for = 47

Against = 2

Abstention = 2”

The question to ask is: Did everybody speak in favour of zoning, according to the minutes of the December 2, 2002, expanded caucus meeting of the party?  The answer is no.  And which explains why two people abstained from voting while another two voted against zoning. Meanwhile, in the Preamble to the PDP Constitution, 2(c), it states: “to create socio-political conditions conducive to national peace and unity by ensuring fair and equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, to conform with the principles of power shift and power sharing by rotating key political offices amongst the diverse peoples of our country and devolving powers equitably between the Federal, State, and Local Governments in the spirit of federalism”.

On Zoning We Stand?

….Before! Before!!
The list of the 47-member expanded national caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which met on December 2, 2002, at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa where the decision to accept zoning as a directive principle of power sharing between the North and South. Today, most of them, based on reasons best known to them are speaking tongue-in-cheek.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, National chairman
Olusegun Obasanjo, President
Atiku Abubakar, Vice President
Ghali Na’Abba, Speaker
Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu, Dep. Sen. President
Alex Ekwueme, Chairman, BOT
Chief Solomon Daushep Lar, Adviser Emeritus
Chief Tony Anenih, member, BOT
Prof. Jerry Gana, Secretary, BOT
Chief S M Afolabi
Joshua Chibi Dariye, Gov. Plateau State
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Gov.  Kano State
Abdulahi Adamu, Gov. Nassarawa State
Dr. Peter Odili, Gov. Rivers State
Chief Ufot Ekaette, SGF
Hon. Inuwa Labaran, Nat. Org. Sec.
Nze Ozi F. Chukwu, Cat. Vice Chairman, (SE)
Senator Abubakar Sodangi Danso
Eng. Muhammed Abba Gana, Minister FCT
Senator Victor Kassim Oyofo
Chief (Mrs) Josephine Anenih, Nat. Woman Leader
Prince G N Iweka, SAP/NO
Alhaji Shuaibu A, Oyedokun, Dep. Nat. Chairman (S)
Hon. Umar Kareto Lawal, Nat. Treasurer
Chief Mao Ohuabunwa, Dep. House Leader
Hamed Mohammed Makarfi, Gov. Kaduna State
Eng. A A Kure, Gov. Niger State
Senator E O Elayo, member BOT
Dr. Sam Egwu, Gov. Ebonyi State
Boni Haruna, Gov. Adamawa State
Chief Achike Udenwa, Gov. Imo State
Chief Victor Attah, Gov. Akwa Ibom State
Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, Sen, Dep. Chief Whip
Senator Adawari Michael Pepple, Sen. Chief Whip
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Dep. Gov. Bayelsa State
Hon. Sadiq A. Sanusi, Dep. Chief Whip (HR)
Senator Haruna Abubakar
Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi
Alhaja Chief (Mrs) Sinatu Ojikutu
Dr. Prince D. Okonkwo
Okechukwu Itanyi, Dep. Gov. Enugu State
Prince Chinedu Emeka, Dep. Gov. Anambra State
Aliyu G. Mohammed, National Security Adviser
Farouk B. Farouk, Nat. Youth Leader
Chief Aminasoari Kala Dikibo, Nat. Vice Chairman (SS)
Chief Rowland Oritsejafor, Dep. Nat. Secretary
Hon. Arc. Innocent Agbo, Nat. Auditor


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