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Revisiting Anenih’s position on zoning

The assumption of the Presidency by Goodluck Jonathan, following the death of Yar’Adua, about a year to the end of the first term of the…

The assumption of the Presidency by Goodluck Jonathan, following the death of Yar’Adua, about a year to the end of the first term of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan presidency, is at the root of the current apprehension and silent agony in the northern part of the country.

But Jonathan’s emergence is in sync with the provisions of the extant 1999 Constitution and therefore there was nothing anybody whether from the North or the South could have done to stop it.  Therefore, a Jonathan presidency to complete the first term of the Yar’Adua administration is a settled issue.

What appears yet unsettled is a Jonathan presidency beyond May 29, 2011.  This is the position against which some leaders of the North are rallying opposition.  Should Jonathan run in the 2011 presidential election or should he not run?  Is he qualified to run or is he not?  Does the PDP zoning arrangement preclude him or not? These are questions that have engaged attention of stakeholders of the Nigeria Project.    

The issue has become very topical and the debate is raging.  While the debate is on, Jonathan has refused to be dragged into it, preferring to focus on governance; and, it is a fact that he has not left anyone in doubt that he is on top of the real administrative, economic and socio-political issues confronting the polity.

He is equally contending with the pressure and stress of statecraft.  Settling into office to provide good governance within a short period is an arduous task, especially in a political environment that has been rendered somewhat tentative by his presidency which was thrown up by an unusual circumstance.

The unusual circumstance has led to the disruption of the zoning arrangement within the PDP and members of the party are locked in a battle of wits and grits to ensure that the zoning arrangement which ceded the presidency to the North for a period of eight years from 2007 to 2015 was respected.

The good thing about the arrangement is that it was a product of an agreement reached by gentlemen within the party.  To that extent, it can safely be renegotiated in the light of the current political development in the party and in the country in order to stabilize the polity.

The renegotiation must be thorough and promise should be extracted that agreement reached would be kept.  It should not be a replication of the zoning arrangement which has been observed by party members more in breach than in practice.

This was the point succinctly made by a former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih in his well-publicized letter to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.  Anenih is well positioned in the party to know how the zoning arrangement has helped to stabilize the party.

In fact, his effort at making sure that the jostle by all sections of the country for the presidential ticket of the party did not upset the cohesiveness of the party is on record.  In 2002, he wrote a letter to the Audu Ogbeh led NWC of the party, which was published in some newspapers, particularly Daily Trust, to remind it of the zoning arrangement, which ceded the presidency to the South.

For him, an agreement should be respected even if it does not have a binding force of law.  Despite reminding the party of the agreement, it could not enforce compliance as some aspirants in the North bought presidential nomination form and contested in the primaries against the spirit and letter of the zoning arrangement.

In the letter to the PDP NWC dated June 14, 2010, Anenih reportedly said: “May I recall the peculiar circumstances that stared at the faces of PDP leaders leading to the decision to zone the Presidency to the South-West in 1999. Such circumstances included: the hue and cry from the South-West as a result of the annulment of June 12th Presidential Election of 1993; sympathy for the South-West  to pacify the Yorubas; flood of aspirants from all zones; enforcement of discipline; the situation in the Niger Delta Region with genuine demand for resource control; and the calibre of Aspirants

 “In 1999, as a result of the zoning, seven aspirants from the South paid and collected forms while one aspirant from the North collected form.  While the purported zoning to the South was still subsisting in 2002/2003, those from the North who had collected forms were told by the party to withdraw their nomination forms; they refused. Among them were Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of blessed memory and Chief Barnabas Gemade.

“There was a court action instituted by someone from the North to stop the 2002 convention so as to allow new entrants from the North to submit their nomination forms. I still remember vividly that 10 Governors who, less than 3 days to the convention – for Obasanjo’s 2nd tenure – met Chief Audu Ogbe in his house that evening after having a meeting with the then Vice President, asking Chief Audu Ogbe to postpone the convention to allow new entrants to come into the presidential race.

The PDP leader has hit the nail on the head and defined a useful trajectory for Jonathan to tread.  If Jonathan runs the course, his performance will no doubt speak for him.  It will submerge the hue and cry of a purported zoning arrangement.  What Nigerians want is good governance, practical development of all infrastructure, especially power and road, as well as their general wellbeing.  I concur with Anenih’s positions.

Onigbogi, a political analyst, wrote in from Kaduna

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