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Date Published: 05/27/10

Presidential Zoning and Rotation Formula of the top by JUDE MIGHTY CHUKWUEKE

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My names are JUDE MIGHTY CHUKWUEKE (Okwu Owerri), native of Ndegbelu-Awaka in Owerri North LGA of Imo State where I reside.

I am a Foundation member and Chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State. I was a 1998 CNC Candidate and a 1999 PDP Contestant for the position of Federal House of Representatives for the Owerri  Federal Constituency, and I intend to re-contest the same position in 2011. I was also present at the Jos 1999, Abuja 2003 and Abuja 2007 PDP National Conventions, and I am in the habit of following, very closely, the developments and happenings in the PDP.

One is alarmed at the intensity and ferocity of the on-going National discourse on Zoning and Rotation of the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the resultant over-heating of the Nigerian polity. Accordingly, I wish to throw-up the facts of the matter from a testimonial and evidential viewpoint, so as to help promote the debate of the matter along lines of fact, truth and reality 

The issue of Zoning and Rotation was brought-up on the Floor of the 1999 Jos Convention of the PDP. Many people spoke on the issue which was thoroughly canvassed and unanimously agreed-to by a Voice vote. The tenets of the agreed issue are six-pronged, viz:-

1.     That power shall shift on the basis of the six geopolitical zones and shall rotate on the basis of the North and South.

2.     That power is zoned to the geographical zone for four years in the first instance.

3.     That where the incumbent first term President is adjudged to have performed very well, he will be REWARDED with a second-term ticket, making it a maximum of eight years for any individual to occupy the Office of President.

4.     That the second term is a REWARD for good performance in office.

5.     That where the sitting first-term President is adjudged to have performed dismally or badly, or is unable or is unwilling to contest a second term, then power shall ZONE-SHIFT and ROTATE.

6.     That it is envisaged and envisioned that within twenty-four and thirty years, every geopolitical zone shall have tasted presidential power.

These six were the tenets that were agreed to by a unanimous Voice

vote.

It was further canvassed that in order to compensate for the long years of Northern military rule, as well as compensate for the wrongs of the immediate past involving Chief M.K.O Abiola and June 12 so as to lay a more solid foundation for the nascent democracy, the Zoning arrangement would begin with the South-West geopolitical zone and the  Rotation arrangement  would begin from the South of Nigeria.

In the voting that ensued, General Olusegun Obasanjo won the PDP Presidential Ticket rather than Chief Dr. Alex Ekwueme who was the Founding  Father of the PDP and who most of the delegates had in mind to vote for.

In or around 2002, groups of varying cacophonic voices, consisting primarily of elected Executives and their appointees, appeared in the horizon. Some groups wanted the PDP zoning arrangement to be elongated from four to eight years; some others countered that the PDP zoning arrangement should be abolished altogether. Some wanted a single 5-year term for President and Chief Executives of the States; some others countered by wanting a National Conference whether or not sovereign. Some wanted creation of more states and more Local Government Areas; some others countered by wanting the abolition of the Local Government Area Councils, the Third Tier  of Executive Governance in Nigeria.

All of these cacophonic groups swayed around the pros and cons of the then criticisms of Obasanjo’s presidency and the handling of the Niger Delta quagmire. Some claimed that Obasanjo was an absentee President who junketed around the world in search of the ever-elusive Foreign Investors while abandoning most of his job and duties to the Vice President, then Abubakar Atiku; some others counter-claimed that the economy needed the in-put of Foreign Investors, and that the facticity of a very busy Vice President is a good omen for Nigeria as it signifies a departure from solitary rule and dictatorship. Some claimed that the Obasanjo Presidency had decapitated the Military and that the weakened but desperate Military had been used to devastate the Delta town of Odi in an un-conciliatory   programme for the Niger Delta; some others counter- claimed that the so-called decapitation of the Military was aimed solely at possible and probable military coup-plotters as a sure way of preserving the nascent democracy, and that the Niger  Delta youths needed to be more conciliatory in order to merit Federal Government’s conciliation. Some, mostly South-Westerns, claimed that President Obasanjo, who, as was claimed, did not even win his Ward in the presidential elections, was an imposition on the South-West, having been so imposed on them and Nigerians by the North; that this facticity when taken together with the Niger Delta crises,  unbridled corruption, the ever-increasing ethnic and religious killings in the North, and the Sharia-induced maiming of Muslims in the North made it imperative that a Sovereign National Conference be convened to fashion-out a formula for the mutual and continued (or non-continued) co-existence in Nigeria; some others counter–argued that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot be ethnocentrically elected; that Sharia in the North was a political rather than a religious reality, and that what was needed in the Niger Delta was a programme for a peaceful resolution of the crisis along the terms of the Federal Government. The issues of unbridled corruption and religious crises in the North were not addressed by the counter-claimers.

The above scenario constituted the build-up to the January 2003 PDP National Convention.

During the PDP Presidential Primaries campaign leading to the 2003 PDP National Convention, President Obasanjo received very stiff opposition both within and outside the PDP. His Vice President, Abubakar Atiku contested against him. So also did Governor Abubakar Rimi  (now late) and Chief Barnabas Gemade  (PDP National Chairman), on basis of power shift.

In the Opposition ANPP, the scenario was similarly awkward. General Muhammadu Buhari along with other Northerners contested, but the other Northerners succumbed to Buhari in the face of a stiff contest by Southerners. The serious Southern ANPP contenders included Chief Nnia Nwodo (South East), Chief Rochas Okorocha (South East), Chief Melfold Okilo (South South) and Dr. Tunji Braithwaite (South West). In the first ANPP Presidential Primaries Chief Nnia Nwodo won but the Primaries results were characterized as “Mock” and discarded. In the second ANPP Presidential Primaries Chief Rochas Okorocha won but the Primaries results were equally discarded. The argument against Chief Rochas Okorocha and Chief Nnia Nwodo was that power cannot rotate from a   Southerner (Obasanjo) to another Southerner. The third ANPP Presidential Primaries which held on ANPP Convention Floor at Abuja, and which threw-up the Buhari/Okadigbo Ticket, witnessed a process that left the Southern Presidential contestants feeling disenfranchised and humiliated. Consequently, they deserted the ANPP en-mass and worked against the ANPP Party in the South thereby helping to pave the way to a massive PDP victory in the Presidential elections in the South.

Ofcourse , there were other Presidential candidates such as Prof. Pat Utomi and Pastor Chris Okotie from the other Opposition parties in the 2003 Presidential election.

Immediately preceding the 2003 PDP Presidential Primaries, a negative attitude developed within the PDP party against the various interests of the various cacophonic groups in the PDP. Consequently, none of their various issues (amendment/abolition of zoning arrangement; single 5-year term  for Chief Executives; Sovereign National conference; abolition of Local Government Area Councils, etc) was ever brought to the Convention  Floor for consideration or voting, except an Address urging a speedy and peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis. Party Delegates at the Convention busied themselves with discussions on how to achieve better harmony and stability within the PDP, and how to keep the Military at bay of the political arena so as to prevent military coups. President Obasanjo was adjudged to be the contestant most equipped and able to achieve these objectives.  

Sensing the mood of the Convention Floor, power brokers quickly entered into negotiations which resulted in the emergence of President Obasanjo as the PDP Candidate, but with Abubakar Atiku retained on the ticket as Vice President, on the basis of consensus voting.

I have gone into these details to debunk the idea that eight years of power was zoned to President Obasanjo, or to the South-West, by the PDP, at the 1999 Convention or at the 2003 Convention. Obviously therefore, President Obasanjo is absolutely correct and factually right when he says that the idea of eight years of Zoning as being presently canvassed by some Interest groups was never agreed to by the PDP. I wish to add that President Obasanjo was re-elected in 2003 on his personal merits and not on any conjectured addition of four years(to make a total of eight years) of zoning to him or to the South-West.

For purposes of emphasis, I wish to reiterate that the PDP Zoning and Rotation formula specifies FOUR years to the ZONE, and FOUR years as REWARD for good performance in Office. Thus, four years go to the ZONE and four years go to the PERSON. This arrangement having been reached and agreed-to at the 1999 PDP National Convention has never been amended or abrogated at any subsequent PDP National Convention.

At the 2007 PDP National Convention, also held in Abjua, which threw-up the Yar’Adua/Jonathan Ticket, nobody ever said that the Ticket must rule for eight years, or that the North-West must rule for eight years. Such an idea was never presented or canvassed on the Convention Floor and was never voted.

If President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had enjoyed the benefit of good health there is no doubt that His Excellency who had a commendable 7-point Agenda and who was loved by the generality of Nigerians, would have done very well in Office and would have been re-elected to a second tenure, in REWARD. Unfortunately, his health did not permit, and the man died.  His Excellency was not eaves-struck, neither was he assassinated. He died of natural causes. His death was an act of Almighty God.

Under this political reality and in consonance with the PDP Zoning and Rotation arrangement, presidential power shifts away from the North-West zone and rotates to the South, except the South-West which has already taken its turn.

In this wise any person such as President Goodluck Jonathan who is a Southerner but not from the South-West, is eminently qualified to run for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria if he/she so wishes.

I have read numerous articles and watched speeches in both the  electronic and print media characterizing President Obasanjo as a liar, and canvassing an eight year rule for the North-West zone on the basis of a purported PDP agreement, and I feel very sad. I am particularly dismayed by a certain publication on “THE NATION” Newspaper edition of May 12, 2010, entitled a “Tale of Lies” and credited to the “PDP Integrity Group” wherein President Obasanjo was portrayed as a liar, and the idea of an eight year rule by the North-West (or the North) was seriously and severally  canvassed on the basis of a purported agreement by less than 50 persons in 2002 to change the PDP Zoning arrangement. I must say that the claims therein contained are distractive, diversionary and unfair.

If the PDP wishes to amend or abrogate its own Zoning arrangement  which was enacted by a National Convention all that needs to be done is to bring-up the matter at a National Convention for a vote for amendment  or abrogation. No group (of less than 50 persons or whatever) no matter how highly placed, is competent to make contrary arrangements outside the Floor of a National Convention or without presenting such contrary arrangement for ratification by the National  Convention through whom the original arrangement emanated.

In these dire times for our nation, we must desist from parochialism and unbridled sentiments. There is no need to further confuse and over-heat the already confused and over-heated Nigerian polity.

JUDE MIGHTY CHUKWUEKE

(Okwu Owerri)                 

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