It would be in the best interest of Northern political elites to support President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid in 2015 to ensure that the affirmative zoning by the PDP in 2019 is without equivocation. This is to ensure stability in Nigeria by strengthening a tradition of peaceful transition and democratic consolidation. The North cannot be blamed for insisting on central power after eight years of democratic leadership by General Olusegun Obasanjo, a period in which most Northern elites ceded political competition for central power to the South West, and consequently the South.
However, upon retrospection, given the existing constitutional laws of Nigeria and the equity expectations of the PDP zoning guidelines, one cannot also wholly blame the South-South and President Jonathan for insisting upon his right under the Constitution to run for the presidency after the unfortunate demise of President Umaru Yar’Adua. Much has occurred in that time, which given the lengthy political collaborations of the North and the South-South prior to that event, was quite unfortunate.
In any event, in 2015, key Northern members of the PDP should mobilise support for President Jonathan for a second term in the presidency because, having served a first term, it will be better for Northern political establishment to allow Jonathan a second term for key reasons that are guided by the enlightened self-interest of the Northern people.
One principal reason, is that given the two terms served by General Obasanjo, stopping candidates from the South-South for the presidency at this point will provoke a continuous regional rivalry for the position for another 12 years and possibly beyond.
While the Northern region will ordinarily not shy away from a healthy competition for power, a continuous fractious struggle for central power will be counter-productive for several reasons. First, assuming the North pushes the struggle with extreme vigor and does win, it may win power but lose vital allies required for nation building and sustainable development. The South-South has been a key economic and political ally of the North.
The lesson of ceding power to the South West during the Obasanjo regime has shown that, even at street level, when the two full terms of that regime came to an end, there was general acceptance that the Northern region deserved a power shift and the political ambiance sustained this expectation.
Given the developmental aspirations of all Nigerians, it was clearly best to share power affirmatively with the acquiescence of all parties, than from the pyrrhic victory of fractious regional political conquest. In this connection, it will be recalled that despite the resistance of the opposition, the PDP as a party gave full voice to the Yar’Adua presidential bid. Developing a settled norm of affirmative power rotation will serve the sustainable developmental interest of all zones as each zone will protect the zoning to every other zone to guarantee its sustained access to central policy-making.
For the aforestated reasons, the Northern political estabishment particularly the PDP should ensure a clean break from the adversarial competition for power, when it stakes its claim out of affirmative equity for central power once again in 2019. Many within the North do not accept this position, insisting that the North was bypassed, cheated and made to play second fiddle when President Jonathan failed to step aside in 2011.
While this position is understandable, it does not wholly address the core issues of 2011 having regard to the Constitution that provided for a Vice President that should step in, in the event of resignation, impeachment or death and the failure of the PDP constitution to align with the constitutional provision of Nigeria. And addressing that core issue must form part of Northern support for Jonathan in 2015.
The core issue of 2010/2011 was that the North, and indeed all zones which hope to benefit from zoning, failed to insist on a cast iron zoning agreement before ceding power affirmatively in 1999. A cast iron zoning agreement will not admit a loophole which does not address what happens to a zone if an incumbent exits power pre-maturely.
In preparing the PDP zoning formula, a grave omission was made regarding the mortality and fallibility of incumbents and the institutions they represents. Hence, while the Constitution made allowances for a transitional process in the event of death, incapacitation, impeachment and such uncertain possibilities, the PDP zoning formula did not, and still does not address this issue with reference to what happens to the zone which loses an incumbent.
In failing to include remedial caveats to the zoning formula on this matter, the PDP has muddled-through this issue with the case of Taraba State still festering. Using President Jonathan’s example and the Kaduna State examples, it can only be stated that currently, a convention exists that in the case of the early exit of an incumbent, the deputy or vice acts in the stead of the incumbent.
But such a convention remains fluid and uncertain because nothing stops the situation of 2010 from repeating again even if the North insists on power in 2015 and wins, or if it cedes competing for central power until 2019. This is why in supporting Jonathan in 2015, for a clearer operation of the PDP zoning formula with a reset from 2019, devoid of regional adversarial contestations, the key members of the PDP Northern elites and policy networks could insist upon a caveat that there shall be an unequivocal commitment of all geo-political zones, by embedding provisos to the zoning formula to address what happens to the equity deficits, if a zone prematurely loses an incumbent.
The task of analyzing all such possible scenarios and making effective remedial recommendations by an objective team of legal and administrative experts should be part of the preliminary agreements motivating the current support for Jonathan’s bid in 2015.
If the core issues are addressed, another issue that should motivates the support of northern political elites especially the PDP for Jonathan should be willingness to promote a new arrangement which assures an Election-day to Hand-Over day continuous engagement of youths in ward-level cells from which youths who form the most active members of the party during elections can assess the benefits of governance in terms of education, continuous re-skilling as well as projects which target youths specifically by mainstreaming their issues in the development agenda.
In the past few months, a continuous engagement with key elders of the South-South on these issues has been initiated, in several meetings in which both sides accepted that it was important explore this further by having in attendance both current leaders and a crop of future leaders who must be under 30 years and who are currently engaged in the political process, and who must be mentored to carry-forward the intentions of these understandings.
It is therefore in the spirit of strengthening this ongoing rapprochement that the Northern political elites particularly in the PDP should mobilize critical mass of supporters who bring out the northern votes for Jonathan in 2015 for a rancour free 2019 transition of power to the north.
Mohammed Abdulkadir, a political analyst, wrote from Kano.