By Alexander Ike-Chijioke
Few months from now, precisely five months away Nigerians would be on the march again to elect thousands of men and women to occupy various political offices at both the Federal and State levels, for four years thereafter.
Ordinarily, this political ritual should hardly call for any disruption in the daily living of the people of this country. Put differently, the election of men and women who voluntarily gave themselves up to do public service, should be the least of our distractions as a nation.
Indeed, April 2011 should pass as another political and civil obligation routine conducted in strict obedience to our civil obligation to the nation and total adherence to the constitutional provisions.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly so because Nigeria’s democracy has been described as an evolving experience and most of the people who are supposed to serve in it have hardly made the process of electing public office holders as exciting as it should be. Thus, 2011 in the minds of Nigerians is another year of fears and threats of continued nationhood.
Painfully, what in the wisdom of the founding fathers of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a soothing balm to an implausible mistake of our immediate past is once more being exploited for selfish gains of a few politicians.
By 1998, it was obvious that the nation through certain misadventures has forsaken the immutable laws of equity, justice and fair play; and it was almost a national consensus that these wrongs must, as a prelude to returning Nigeria to the path of greatness be made right.
As a people, we must remember that the annulment of the famous June 12, 1993 Presidential Election obviously won by late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola was not the beginning of the numerous injustices that had been perpetrated by past governments since the nation’s independence on October 1, 1960; rather that election and its annulment was an accumulation of these wrongs.
So, when election for the office of the President of this nation was announced, there was not a doubt in the minds of many people that the zone which has been most recently hurt in a most glaring display of these injustices, that is the South of Nigeria, must take the first shot at that office. And the South West geo-political zone was most favoured on account of what took place on June 12, 1993.
In doing this, it must also be borne in mind that the annulment of that election was not out of any known Northern people’s agenda just as it could not have been a personal project of General Ibrahim Babangida, after all, he never acted alone.
It is therefore another mistake of the elite and indeed of greedy politicians to struggle all that while and even as some are still struggling today, 17 years after, to narrow the June 12 implosion to a mere agitation for power shift thereby completely marginalising the larger picture of enthroning a sustainable democratic order.
Therefore, that the two respectable Nigerians with verifiable track records of service to fatherland who emerged as the most favoured candidates in the 1999 Presidential elections were Yorubas; did not cause any stir. Instead, such an arrangement borne out of some genuine and patriotic concession, was necessary if the nation of Nigeria was to march on with renewed assurance to the various groups.
The vastly opposed pasts misdemeanours of President Olusegun Obasanjo notwithstanding, the strong opposition of his choice by the people of the South West of Nigeria not taking for granted; he still emerged the preferred candidate against the comparatively more humane Chief Olu Falae.
Once more by the Presidential elections of 1999, Nigerians demonstrated their abilities to build consensus when it mattered most, reminding each other that the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election was not the machination of the population of Nigerians from Kaura Namoda in the north, Nembe people in the deltaic south, nor of the peasant farmers of Shaki at the extreme of the south west and the remote people in Uwana in the south east parts of the country.
And to concretise this kind of arrangement which restores hope and confidence in the various people of the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) founded as it were then by eminent men and women drawn predominantly from the G34 and similar groups who risked their welfare for the common good, ascribed to a system of zoning the highest offices in the land and in the party at every season in such a way as to give every section of the country a sense of belonging.
In its simplest form, the PDP arrangement was designed to grow in the country a sense of trust, justice and equity with a hope that this in time will forge a stronger democratic culture when the groups in obedience to the culture of fair play must have had a fair share in the control of various constitutional powers available in the land and in that party’s hierarchy; among other benefits.
Therefore, as Nigerians from different walks of life witnessed and supported the strengths of the Obasanjo eight years and tolerated with democratic confidence its weaknesses as well; it was with a knowing that the next eight years would provide an option in a candidate from northern part of the country.
And in fairness to former President Obasanjo, in spite of the challenges and illusions that may have presented themselves in making that transition a reality, in 2007, Nigeria took a bold march towards becoming a strong member of that growing club of democratic nations when in a manner depicting of sincerity to a common agreement, a northerner in the person of Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua was elected President of Nigeria.
With that singular effort at sustaining an agreement reached in nearly a decade before that election, the PDP and its leadership proved to Nigerians and to the rest of the observing world that there is still hope for Nigeria as a nation. A hope founded on trust and justice.
The emergence of President Yar’Adua like the election of any other leader anywhere in the world had its opponents some of whom felt that the election was far from an expression of the whole truth that they expected. But the late Nigerian leader proved a gentleman all through the period as he assured that if his election was upturned at the various trials, he was willing to obey such judgements.
Unfortunately, President Yar’Adua died in office without an opportunity to exercise fully his leadership capabilities, a gleam of which he has displayed in his servant – leader dictum.
Indeed, it is quite difficult to say the much good the late President had in store for the country. Given his disposition to the core development issues of energy, security, economy including fight against corruption, those few months of the Yar’Adua era was without doubt a reflection of a man of integrity with obvious good intentions for Nigerians and its young democracy.
While it is not given to mortals to know the reason for any one’s death, the death of President Yar’Adua in office remains one of the country’s greatest losses in recent times.
It is therefore understandable and within universal consensus that the vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan assume office as President, soon after. In the same way, in line with the PDP spirit of zoning and a deliberate effort at striking a balance in public office sharing that the former Kaduna state governor, Namadi Sambo fill in the office of the vice President.
Ironically, this seems to be the farthest the PDP under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan is willing to go. What a sad development it would be, if this arrangement is jettisoned prematurely.
The President and indeed the party leadership must be reminded that zoning the office of the President and indeed other offices held by the PDP as a party should not be aborted by the matter of the exit by death, impeachment or removal of such an office holder.
In the last 11 years, this principle has been upheld even in the face of the most tumultuous and rancorous exit of prominent public office holders. Succession to such offices has always been made from the particular zone where the immediate incumbent hailed from.
The PDP should not forget in haste the cases of former Speaker of the House of Representative Salisu Buhari, former Senate Presidents Chuba Okadigbo, Evan Enwerem, Pius Anyim Pius and Ken Nnamani.
This commitment to the spirit of zoning that has stood out the ruling party as having the interest of the nation uppermost in its dealings, has been carried further into the appointment of personnel into key public offices like the Nigeria Police, Immigration, Customs Services, Prisons, etc.
And this is further in line with the quota system that has been in existence for as long as many Nigerians would remember and which has restored hope and confidence in the unity of the country as one indivisible unit.
Painfully, it is this same novel arrangement by the PDP that brought about the selection of President Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President, in the first place. It would therefore be implacable for the man who rode on the crest of zoning system of the PDP to trod under the foot that arrangement to deny its salient values.
Worse still, that President Jonathan could be encouraged by whosoever his advisers be, to lampoon the arrangement on account of the demise of an occupant and deny a zone its legitimate right, will amount only to denigrate the same ministry that brought him to power.
It only smirks of simple opportunism if the President should go on after concluding the remaining part of the Yar’Adua mandate to turn around and abandon the subsisting PDP zoning arrangement on an unsustainable claim that another four years of Goodluck Jonathan Presidency could mean the same thing as a second Yar’Adua Presidency.
Such claims cannot be substantiated. Nigerians must understand, and the PDP leadership ought to know that the critical element of the zoning formula as argued by those in support and against the principle within and without the party is the supreme position of the zone over and above the candidate that it throws up.
On account of this PDP arrangement, Goodluck Jonathan does not qualify to represent the north. The thin umbilical chord binding him with the earlier mandate with late President Umar Yar’Adua would be completely severed on midnight May 28, 2011. Thereafter, if the PDP were to win the next Presidential election, he or she ought to a northern candidate.
For President Jonathan, his path in history was defined by providence as the man who should restore hope in what should be the Nigerian future leadership system. His place is to utilise the remaining 10 months in the Yar’Adua administration to put in place a credible electoral system, put into right footing the power sector and ensure a final return of peace and reconciliation in his native Niger Delta.
After these laudable achievements, he ought to sit back and become the ultimate candidate of choice when after 2015, when it would be the turn of the south to put forward its best candidate. Such patriotic effort in 1979 paved the way for the second coming of President Olusegun Obasanjo, and it presents him the surest and best choice.