By Ocherome Nnanna
THE issue of zoning: to be or not to be, is now being taken away from the discussion or debate level. The two sides to the dispute: the South-South and the conservative section of the Northern political class, are now sabre-rattling. They are mobilising their instruments of intimidation with a view to coercing the nation to succumb to their respective demands.
In the South-South, apart from the unanimous decision of the six states there to support President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s undeclared bid for the presidency, the ex-commanders of the militant cartels have, after series of meetings, issued a warning that there would be war of Jonathan is frightened out of the presidential race.
On the other hand, following the voting by 10 to seven in favour of zoning by the Northern Governorsâ€™ Forum last week, the hawkish Northern conservatives have become more emboldened to raise the stakes and force the nation to make a Northerner the president of Nigeria in 2011.
According to a story published in the Monday issue of Vanguard newspapers, a prominent traditional and religious leader from the North West has been enlisted to, in effect, incite the people of the North by telling them that if Jonathan becomes president next year in spite of their agitation their land, culture and religion would be â€œjeopardisedâ€.
I hope this is just one of those harmless newspaper speculations. If it is true that this unnamed foremost traditional ruler has allowed himself to be roped into this dangerous regional game that could threaten the future of this nation, then we really have to watch it.
It will be a matter of considerable shock to me if, indeed, the royal father thusly described will allow himself to be enlisted by desperate politicians to meddle directly in the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose zoning arrangement is at issue.
It will be surprising because since he ascended to the throne of his ancestors a few years ago, he has been a major bridge builder across the various divides of this beleaguered country. People like us have already started looking up to him to call in the dogs when things begin to get out of hand.
It will be a pity if it is the dogs now calling him to join their regional army where a section of the North will be pitched in a winner-takes-all war of nerves with a section of the South.
When traditional rulers who also represent religious authority become involved in a mundane issue such as the zoning controversy, the danger is that very soon the masses will be called to action, especially in a volatile environment such as Northern Nigeria. More dangerous than that is that the military could become negatively affected by primordial sentiment and intervene in a way that could lead to the Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Liberia, Burundi and Rwanda scenarios.
Our royal fathers and the clergy should keep out of the politics of PDP in their own interest and that of the nation. Let them remember our history and be cautioned by the famous Yoruba adage that says the person who rides the tiger will surely end up in its belly, as tigers are not meant to be ridden like horses. Let them also be warned by another popular Yoruba proverb that says the person who crowns the king is often the first to be destroyed by the king.
The masquerade you dressed up could turn its cane on you first. If it is true that first class traditional rulers are enlisting in the army of the political desperados, let them be reminded that it was these same people who, while in military uniform, deposed and enthroned Sultans of Sokoto at will. They brought down the prestige of that institution and demystified it.
It is only the noble efforts of Sultan Saâ€™ad Abubakar III that is gradually restoring the Sultanate.
We should dump this zoning noisemaking and encourage all interested aspirants to elected office to tell us how they intend to repair Nigeria to enable us choose who to vote for. That is what we want to hear. This land belongs to all of us.
We all have religions and cultures we are proud of and will defend if need be. We will not be intimidated by anyone. If zoning is all that politicians have to talk about they should shut up and take a walk.
For Jonathan, food for thought
ONE of my readers sent me this text message which I hereby share you. It says: â€œNnanna, I woke up this morning to realise that no journalist has written on the failed attempt to kill President Jonathan! I read in The Punch newspaper few days ago that the Presidentâ€™s plane developed fault in the air. Nagging thoughts have since assailed my mind.
Supposed the plane had gone far and reached highest altitude before the discovery of the fault? Who checked the plane and certified it airworthy in Addis Ababa? Who in Nigeria checked and certified the plane fit for the journey?
When and how did the fault develop? Samora Machel of Mozambique was killed when his plane exploded in the air. General Zia Ul Haq of Pakistan was killed in a similar manner. The deaths of both presidents were planned and clinically executed.
They donâ€™t want Jonathan to run for 2011 election and the man wants to contest. So, Jonathan is being targeted for eliminationâ€¦â€.
Let me translate an exhortation over Radio Biafra rendered in Igbo during the war. Jonathan will do well to heed it: Onye ndi iro gbara gburugburu na-eche ndu ya nche mgbe nâ€™ile. Umu Biafra, onye arahulâ€™ura! â€œHe who is surrounded by enemies guards his life at all times. Biafrans, never fall asleep!â€