By Kingsley Omonobi Ikechukwu Nnochiri
He should abide by PDP NEC decision—Jonathan’s team
ABUJA—THE ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, maintained that it would not be blackmailed by anybody to foreclose any of its members from vying for the presidential slot of the party in the forthcoming general elections.
It said that former President Ibrahim Babangida was being unnecessarily petty over the issue of zoning even as Jonathan Campaign Organization said the threat by General Babangida was like a drowning man clutching at the straw of zoning of the PDP to survive
The party which made the position known through its National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, insisted that those clamouring for an enforcement of the zoning arrangement of the party were merely championing sectional interest, stressing that membership of a political party has always been a voluntary decision of an individual.
Oke who spoke to newsmen at the end of Lex Fora’s first annual lecture for legal practitioners held in Abuja, said the party intended to dialogue with the ex_military president, with a view to convincing him on the need to shelve his plans to decamp from the party over the controversial zoning matter.
Babangida had, Tuesday, threatened to pull out of PDP should it fail to adhere to the principle of zoning and rotation as enshrined in Article 7.2 (c) of its constitution as amended in 2009.
However, Chief Oke said: “Though he has not formally made the threat to the party, it will be petty for a man that has tasted power before as a head of state of this country to be seen as championing a sectional interest to the effect that he will abandon the PDP if a northerner failed to secure the presidential ticket of the party in the 2011 general elections.
“He is fully aware that the issue of zoning can only be determined at the national convention of the party; I wonder why he has decided to issue threats on the pages of the newspapers. I will not say that we are going to enlighten him; our first approach will be to convince him that this time around cannot be different from the other occasions.
There had never been a time when that office was exclusively zoned to any part of the country, the last time when Yar’Adua contested, the next person that came second was from the South.
“However, we intend to convince him and let him understand that the North is not being shortchanged in any manner. Am very sure that after that understanding, he will not leave the PDP, moreover, membership of a political party has always been the decision of an individual.
“As one of the founders of the party, we believe that he will not destroy the house that he has built over an issue that is not nationalistic at all.
It’s an issue of a section, we believe that as a nationalist he would see the point in not becoming the champion of a sectional interest and on that basis abandon the platform of the party. I think he will be convinced not to carry out his threat, but as I said, to belong or not belong is his decision.”
On the issue of whether PDP will eventually succumb to the threat and give its mandate to a northerner in 2011, Oke said: “If it is the view of the generality of the party that its presidential candidate in the next election should come from the North, the desire will be reflected in the election of delegates that will participate in the national convention.
“We cannot foreclose anybody from contesting and it is very bad that people are isolating the office of the president alone while advocating for the zoning arrangement. We have always zoned both political offices and party offices, but for some persons to now narrow the issue of zoning to the office of the presidency is totally wrong.
“We are going to zone as we have always zoned, we will put all the offices on the table and zone them as usual, but where the President will go is the issue of the national convention and where the Senate president will come from will be a decision of the party, if it will be done by voting it will be done so.”
Jonathan campaign teamreacts
The Jonathan Campaign Organization in its reaction to the letter written by General Babangida to PDP chairman noted that regional politics at this time of Nigeria’s history, was the least expected of a man who once held the highest position of head of state of Nigeria saying, “If IBB and his cohorts had taken their time to read and understand the judgment of the federal high court, they would have seen that the judge, while accepting that zoning and rotation exist in the PDP constitution, declared that the provision was too vague to be enforceable”.
A statement signed by Mr. Sully Abu, Director, Media and Publicity of the organization and titled ‘What is IBB Talking About?,’ said, “Contrary to the claim by IBB that the Federal High Court in Abuja had given a ruling on zoning and rotation in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that should be enforced by the chairman of the party, no such ruling exists”.
Abu said that “for over three months, the Mallam Adamu Ciroma_led Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, searched for a consensus candidate of a northern extraction from among four candidates, which included General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, General Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki.
“When Atiku Abubakar emerged as the consensus aspirant of the NPLF, IBB and two other aspirants accepted the verdict and pledged to give full support to the aspiration of Atiku. Now, IBB is singing a totally new song”.
Sully Abu referred to the letter addressed to the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, in which IBB restated the existence of rotation and zoning in the party’s constitution, and urged the National Chairman to enforce the principle.
His words: “If IBB and his cohorts had taken their time to read and understand the judgment, they would have seen that the judge, while accepting that zoning and rotation exist in the PDP constitution declared that the provision was too vague to be enforceable”.
Emphasizing that the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the PDP had already taken the same position as that of the Federal High Court Judge, Abu said: “There is, therefore, nothing new to enforce. While zoning and rotation remain cardinal principles of the PDP, they, by no means vitiate the right of any person, from any part of the country, to contest”.
He said that the Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organization sympathizes with IBB’s predicament, adding: “Having lost to Atiku in their so_called consensus arrangement, he must have been thrown into confusion and desperation at the prospects of impending political oblivion.
“Clutching at the straw of zoning seems attractive to a drowning man. But regional jingoism is unsuited for a man who once held the highest office in the land.
“IBB should learn to live with his changing political fortune and not further diminish himself by playing games which only political novices should play. If he wants to go to another party, he does not need to blackmail anyone to do so. He should just go. The PDP has taken a decision on zoning and rotation; IBB can either live with it or leave the party”.