By Tony Momoh
No, it is not the Audu Ogbeh you know that has returned.  The name of the one I have in mind is Okwesilieze Nwodo.  He did something on July 7 which threw me back into the past, into the arms of Audu Ogbeh.  What both of them have in common is the PDP, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria, which they have both led. 

Nwodo was secretary of the party in 1999 and I was in Jos when the primaries to pick the flag bearer for the party were held at the stadium there. Nwodo says the fairness of those days are back during his tenure. But for reasons we do not need here, because they will interfere with what is so important that we had to drag in Audu Ogbeh as metaphor, I would concentrate on what Nwodo has done this time around and what Ogbeh did.

On  July 8, all the papers reported Nwodo as saying that there is nothing like zoning in the PDP, and that zoning came in 1999 and served its purpose and supposedly ended in 1999.  This statement is more earthshaking than you can now imagine, and the proof will manifest when  the rumblings from the bowels of the earth become louder each passing day; when those who  live by zoning start mounting road blocks   on our political terrain.

You will then come to appreciate another ugly dimension to greed which I say we have nourished into an art form, osami.  You will know that greed (osami) has no timeslot for its hold on the possessed.  Like the leech sucking the blood of the cow, it has to be pulled forcefully from the body of its victim.

That body will bleed for some time, but it were better done, however late, than not done at all, because when its victim dies, it enters the grave with it and gets buried, too.  Nwodo is trying to stop the leech from its haunt, structured into our life even by the documents that regulate our affairs.  That battle to undermine the import of osami is what will dog the tenure of Nwodo.

But let us show how he is our latest Audu Ogbeh.  A gentleman to the core, focused, disciplined, dependable, honest, Audu Ogbeh as chairman of the PDP was a song of praise to the party.  But we mistook the words of the elders of the party as emerging from their hearts.  We knew not that their smiles were perfect clothing that made you take the hood for the monk, that they were as dirty as they had been; and that nothing would change them.  Audu identified the PDP as a rally, not a party.

He wanted to make a party of that huge rally that it was, so that it could truly claim to be Africa’s biggest party.  When his actions to bring discipline into the party, to pursue the constitutional guarantee of due process and help tend our walk on the democracy highway, some felt he was overstepping his bounds.

The exchanges to establish who was the leader of the party, the chairman or the president, were papered over at a place where Baba and Audu shared pounded  yam with egusi soup.  But the very following day, just like it happened to Okadigbo in August 2000 when he lost his leadership of the Senate of the National  Assembly after Baba had waltzed with his wife at a celebration of settlement of differences, Audu resigned his chairmanship of the party.

Thus, he failed to make the PDP a party of his dream.  So, like I said in my piece on Strengthening the PDP, published in this column on October 9, 2005 (see page 40, Vol 2, Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary), I repeated an earlier claim in 2004 that Audu Ogbeh was focused and serious-minded enough to turn the PDP from a rally to a party, and added, “but in a rally there are many who have their reasons for being present.

Will those who believe more in rallies than parties let Audu and his team build the PDP into a party, into a body energised by a soul?”   Well time did tell that the PDP made a choice by ditching Audu Ogbeh, to remain a rally it has been very proud to be.

Can you see what the new PDP chairman has pushed himself into by telling us that there had never been any zoning plan by the PDP since the ad hoc arrangement of 1999?  What I understand Nwodo to be saying is that even if there had been an understanding to zone offices, or specifically the office of president, that arrangement had lapsed.  It was mooted in 1999, enforced in 1999 and thrown out after 1999.

In 1999 those who did not accept zoning in the PDP and sent in money for nomination forms were overruled and their money returned.  In 2003, those who wanted to contest, denying the existence or constitutionality of zoning, did contest and were defeated at the primaries in Abuja.  In 2007 many, many more candidates, from different parts of the country, expressed interest in flying the flag of the party.

In a free and fair election, they lost to Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who became the flag bearer of the party and picked Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as his running mate.  Nwodo says if anyone wants zoning to be part of our life, they can initiate moves to make it so. In other words, the promoters of zoning must start afresh to push for zoning, and he clearly spelt out the procedures which are tortuous enough to last four years!  All that is happening may well be to pave the way for President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2011 elections.

Nobody should be worried about his qualification so to do, but I have always tried to look beyond my nose when I look at issues.  If he contests, he would like to win, naturally.  The record of PDP shows that they have written up results and will continue to do so unless someone comes around to check such immoral and invidious acts.  I believe Jonathan can do so more credibly if he does not contest than if he does.

He will also be the messiah he can be if he contests only if he loses and so declare himself!  But the problem we must face in the next few months is the crisis Nwodo’s denial of zoning will cause.  Of course there is zoning in our constitution, in the PDP and even in nature. Section 14 (3) and (4) of the Constitution entrench zoning in the running of government at the national and state levels.  Section 153 (1)(c) of the Constitution provides for the creation of a Federal Character Commission to give effect to the provisions of section 14.

For ages, we have accommodated the North’s push to provide the president.  Even when Obasanjo was elected in 1999, some leaders in the North gave the impression that the sojourn in the south of the presidency was a time out only and that once it returned to the North, it would never leave there again!  They said the North must retain political power just as the  West had controlled the economic power and the East the commercial power.

The argument was reinforced and enforced by the population of the North which they claim they can move to decide who rules Nigeria.  I am beginning to hear that the South South are saying that they have the oil which they can decide who takes control of!  They say you must use what you have to get what you want.  So, you see, the stakes are rising.

Why?  Because zoning, naturally for service delivery in nature, has been  redesigned by us for looting. We will watch if Nwodo, himself a product of zoning, will suffer the fate of Audu Ogbeh.

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