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Zoning, Jonathan and presidential politics

By Tonye Timi

DR. OKWESELIEZE Nwodo, the new Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in an attempt to stymie the raging controversy on zoning, was quoted in almost all the national newspapers of July 8, 2010 as saying: “There is no zoning on the ground now,  absolutely, there is no zoning”.

He continued: “In 1998, there was zoning and only one Northerner insisted on his inalienable right in the 1999 Constitution to contest against the then zoning arrangement of the PDP”. Read jointly with Chief Tony Anenih’s well thought-out letter to PDP national working committee that indeed, there was a zoning arrangement that was observed “more in breach than practice”, it becomes very crystal clear that there was indeed zoning arrangement in the PDP.

Now, a corollary to the aforementioned presentation is the raging debate on the propriety or otherwise of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest in 2011 based on this purported arrangement? My position is that he can contest!

I take solace in Chief Solomon Lar’s position, who like the sage  he is, has shown the way forward when he stated that “we have to look at the agreement in view of the circumstances at hand, which is now a situation that was not foreseen.  Let PDP politicians sit together and negotiate”.

This recourse seems more appropriate, realistic and patriotic.  To Chief Lar hysteria being displayed by hard-line Northern leaders on this issue is uncalled for, and crystally unpatriotic.  It is clearly the disposition of a people who have too high an opinion of themselves with little understanding for others.

It will be unfortunate if they give the impression that there is a gang up against the person of President Jonathan.  This is not right.  President Jonathan should not be limited to pursue his right to contest the presidential election.  He should be free to exercise his right, even with Northern support. Doing so will be the beginning of the Nigeria of our dream; one of truly “beautiful people and a great nation”.

The critical question those opposed to a Jonathan Presidency in 2011 ought to ruminate on is, did the agreement that created the zoning policy foresee a situation where the incumbent president would die or did it.  Did they also consider that the Vice President who is constitutionally provided for to take over may decide in exercise of his inalienable right to contest the presidency if he so desires? It did not.

If the convention from the presidential politics of the United States is any thing to go by, a sitting president who has another tenure, and shows sufficient interest to run for possible re-election is never denied that right, rather the party machinery is mobilized to support such a candidate.  It is in this light that in my humble opinion that I canvas the point that zoning as a policy not withstanding, it is quite logical to show more sagacity in our approaches when unanticipated situations develop.  Hence, the unexpected but peculiar situation that arose with the emergence of Jonathan as president following the unfortunate death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is an indication that the zoning arrangement cannot be sacrosanct.  The message of the Jonathan presidential challenge is that the PDP zoning must be re-examined and modified. The party as a democratic organisation need to sit down again and evaluate all conditions precedence that led to decisions of zoning in the first instance and conditions prev
ailing now, in the context of a sitting President whose body language has shown that he may be interested in contesting for the presidency.

The press, indeed, must be commended for rising up to the occasion through unrelenting and dogged search for interviews and publication of same.  From some of the interviews Nigerians and other observers of the nation’s political terrain are becoming better informed and educated on the PDP zoning issue, and can therefore come to better informed opinion about whether it is right or wrong for President Jonathan to contest the Presidential election, himself coming from the South-South region.

From the debate so far, it is apparent that Nigeria is blessed by God with some courageous, down-to-earth persons with fond memories for the transformation of our nation.  I speak of statesmen with genuine disposition for the good of this nation, and who have remained passionately focused on the process of seeing Nigeria emerge as a strengthened and formidable country where peace, harmony, understanding and unity reign.

It should be recalled that historically, the story of Nigeria is one of perceived injustice from independence, where the colonialists for their own myopic interest,  foisted one section of Nigeria over the others.  This has led to a sustained clamour for power rotation and correction of power imbalance.  This experience led the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) administration to take time to examine and implement power rotation in a seamless manner without confusion.

It seems imperative now that under the current situation, the PDP must in all argument come to terms with the fact that whatever arrangement that existed under the zoning policy never took into cognisance the unforeseen circumstances that we presently find ourselves. Politicians from all geo-political zones must begin to understand that if Nigeria must progress as a nation, it is necessary to reduce myopia and be large hearted.

The point must be made that of all the geo-political zones, it is only the South-South zone that has not produced the president. A Jonathan presidency, aside the stability it will bring will also solve this injustice against the South-South zone, which incidentally is the “goose” that lays the golden eggs.  Nigerians should support President Jonathan if he so decides to contest for the presidential elections.

Hon. Timi is chairman, Delta State House of Assembly Service Commission, Asaba.


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