By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has requested Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and other Peoples Democratic Party, PDP principal officers in the House of Representatives to resign from office in two years to allow the rectification of the party’s zoning policy truncated by the present set of officers.
Obasanjo who is chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP told party elders at the BOT meeting last night that the violation of the zoning principle was a fundamental breach of the party’s constitution which he warned that if not rectified could eventually destroy the party and other national values such as federal character.
Among his hearers yesterday at the meeting which took place at the presidential villa was President Goodluck Jonathan who he said was elected on the principle of zoning just as late President Umaru Yar‘Adua and himself, Obasanjo.
Zoning is basic party policy
While noting that it was a basic policy of the party to distribute the six major political offices of President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and National Chairman of the party among the six geopolitical zones, Obasanjo described as untenable the situation where one zone would hold two offices at the expense of others. He as such said that no zone should be “insulted by any offer of an unacceptable substitute.”
President Obasanjo’s emotive speech followed last June’s decision of the House of Representatives to elect Speaker Tambuwal from the Northwest at the expense of the zoning principle of the PDP which had reserved the position for the Southwest geopolitical zone.
He equally described as disturbing, the fact that the party’s chosen candidate scored less than 25% of the votes in the PDP controlled House, a development he said demanded soul searching. He equally described as indefensible suggestions that the Southwest was overlooked because of the PDP’s recent poor electoral showing in the zone as he noted that the Southwest and Northwest had worse electoral showing prior to the zoning of the presidency to the zones in 2003 and 2007.
Speaker Tambuwal who is attending the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CPA conference in London was not at last night’s meeting.
Noting his responsibility as the chairman of the BOT, a body he described as the conscience of the party which should ordinarily keep the party in line with its fundamental objectives, the former President said:
“I, as the Chairman of the BOT decided to point the attention of the Party and the Government to this issue not because it affects the zone which by accident of birth I come from, but because it has great and grave implication for the future of the PDP as a political Party, the PDP Government and, by extension, for the country.
If the situation is left unattended and uncorrected, we may take it that the pillar on which PDP stands is mortally impaired. A bad precedent would have been created and, in due course more will follow and, before long, the edifice will collapse.
We can save the edifice by correcting what has gone wrong or by deciding to formally jettison zoning, rotation and, by extension, federal character. After all, other political parties have not instituted it in their constitution or be so vocal about it. it is better we jettison than observance by breach.”
Noting the historical role of zoning in the PDP, Obasanjo said:
“Mr. President it is that policy that brought me up as President in 1999, and brought President Yar`Adua up in 2007 and you up in 2011. It has given us some element of predictability, stability and order,” the former President submitted.
“Since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, six offices are known to be zoned and/or rotated by PDP among the six geo-political zones, i.e.
President, Vice-President by election and normally followed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by election at the National Assembly, but in line with the direction of the Party, followed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation by appointment and finally the Chairman of the Party by appointment confirmed by election. Until now, on no account have two of these offices gone to one zone.
It has been so carefully observed and kept sacrosanct. Even when the personality holding the office has to change, the holder remains in the zone to which the office is zoned. To move away from this hallowed convention and practice is a very bad and dangerous precedent.
The earlier we can correct it, the better. Again, the stability that PDP has enjoyed in spite of many odds is substantially based on the sense of belonging engendered by the inclusiveness that the zoning of those offices entails and signifies. And no zone should be insulted by any offer of an unacceptable substitute.”
Dismissing claims of the party’s poor showing in the Southwest as a justification, Obasanjo said yesterday:
“I have heard unsubstantiated report, either at the Party or Government hierarchy, that the Party’s performance in the Southwest zone was the reason. To such lose and uninformed talk, I will point out that when in 2003, I was the Party’s candidate for the Presidency, the South-West was in a worse situation than it is today in electoral result terms of 1999.
And in 2007, when President Yar`Adua was a candidate, the North-West had control of two out of seven States as the electoral results of 2003 reflected.”
Continuing, the former President said: “whatever may be the reason for the event of 5th June 2011 in the House of Representatives, the Party must be strongly advised to go into it, identify the root cause and make amends.”
“I am not recommending collective punishment or individual punishment for what had happened that should not have happened. Rather, I am recommending that the Party, as a family, should put its house in order. We should appreciate where and how the Party has failed and correct ourselves. We should not do anything to put insult on injury. That will do more harm than the harm already done.”
Noting Article 21.2 of the party’s constitution providing remedies for infractions, he said:
“I believe that we should seek a win-win remedy to get us out of the situation we found ourselves. It is a quagmire and to do nothing is to sink deeper in it. The present PDP officers of the House of Representatives and all their supporters – open and covert – should express the reasons for doing what they did and the Party, with Government, should express the reasons for doing what they did and the Party should then seek remedy.”
The former President nevertheless proceeded to proffer his own remedies to redress the situation adding that the party elders were equally free to offer better suggestions.
He thus suggested four remedies including:
a) The present Speaker and other PDP officers of the House of Representatives should remain in their respective positions for two years, up to 5th June 5, 2013 when the Party policy, programme and decision of zoning to Southwest should be implemented.
b) Any other adjustments that may be deemed necessary may be carried out thereafter and in some future date.
c) Whatever the grievances on the side of the PDP members of the House of Representatives should be addressed and their points of view noted.
d) With this remedy or any other acceptable remedy approved by the Party and the legislature, the issue should be put behind us for now as a Party and then we move forward sure-footedly together.
Noting that failure to effect a remedy could be costly, he said:
“Failure to address this issue, with an acceptable remedy, will mean that PDP, as a political party, has said good-bye to the platform of zoning and rotation upon which it came into being and which has stood it in good stead up till now. That could be a serious and deadly mistake,” the former President said.
Obasanjo did not spare the party leadership in what he affirmed as a dereliction of duty.
Noting party provisions on loyalty by members in public office as enshrined in Article 8 of the PDP constitution and stipulations for breach of such as provided for in Article 21 of the constitution, the erstwhile President emotionally asked from those present where responsibility to uphold the breach should be laid.