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‘Parties Should Now Fine-Tune Zoning’


Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, says there is indeed nothing formal, definite and binding about the much-touted rotational arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), citing the case in 2003, where no zone was barred from contesting the party’s primaries. Do you think rotation of the office of President and zoning of certain elective political offices has advanced the country’s course?

What our people should understand is that political parties are formed for one principal objective, and that is to win elections. A party that ceases to win, or never won an election, ceases to fulfill its basic reason to exist.

It is when a party fails in its electoral pursuits that it falls back into opposition, while a party that has kept winning keeps forming the government, as in a true democratic setting, where electoral victories are based on free and fair contest, with a level-playing ground for all voters and contestants alike.

This may sound theoretical, but actually it should be seen as the first commandment in any electoral and democratic process. It is on the background of a party winning or not winning that parties generally have devised certain ways that could keep them winning, provided that whatever the internal party arrangements may be, they must be in accord with known democratic processes and will not contravene electoral laws.

It is based on these principles that one can consider the present PDP zoning arrangement, as well as its rotational presidency. So far, these formulae and electoral arrangements have helped to make for peace and smooth transition.

It is important to note, however, that no matter how efficient the internal party arrangements may be, they will not over-ride the provisions of the electoral laws or even the constitution.

But it is up to the parties to strike the necessary balance of walking the tight rope, not only taking the benefit, but also the burden of whatever device they come up with.

If we take the case of PDP and its rotational Presidency, by which the party zoned the office to rotate between the North and the South, the question now arises as to whether indeed there was such rotational arrangement that was formal, definite, and binding upon all.

For example, when it was said that the Presidency was zoned to the South, we noticed some PDP party bigwigs, like the late Abubakar Rimi and others from the North, contesting the presidential position against the candidate from the South, as in the case of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

No wonder Obasanjo argued an a Voice of America (VOA) interview recently that indeed there was no such rotational zoning arrangement that is binding, and that may be judging from his own recent experience.

But if this were the case, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor would not have rushed into declaring President Goodluck Jonathan not qualified to contest next year’s presidential election, based only on the President coming from the South.

There is no doubt that element of confusion has set into what the PDP thought was going to be a formula that would guarantee peace and orderly succession, and which other parties too have cashed into and adopted, making it look like a constitutional provision.

But minus the Obasanjo experience, in which some northerners contested against him, the rotational Presidency, if well accepted by the North and South, would have made a good convention that would have been nationally accepted, adopted and practiced, as if it has become as binding as a constitutional provision.

There is nothing wrong with conventions where, as in the United Kingdom, they have equal force as laws.

So where do we go from here?

The PDP, and indeed other parties should go back to the drawing board and fine-tune the zoning formula, and see if there is a way to make the agreement binding on all.

Also, since it now appears that no presidential zoning or rotation between the North and South exists, not to talk of being binding, everything will now depend on the constitution as the determining factor of whether or not Jonathan can run in 2010. The constitution makes a provision allowing first term President to seek second term of office.

The lesson from this is that political parties should, in drawing up their party constitutions and guidelines, and in all matters pertaining to elections, adhere strictly to the nation’s constitutional provisions. Whatever rules and regulations they make to guide their members must be just, equitable and based on due process and rule of law.

In addition, the issue of internal democracy in running the affairs of the parties, which has much been talked about, should indeed follow the dictum of factis non verbis (not just in words, but in action).

‘Turn Of The Pendulum Is An Indication That PDP Should Jettison The Idea Of Rotation’

From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu

ACTING Executive Director of Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Ibuchukwu Ezike, said believed the death of Yar’Adua from the Northwest and the turn of the pendulum of leadership to the South-South is an indication that PDP, which is already in control, should jettison the idea of rotation and insists on the emergence of the best for the country.

He insisted that the country had been robbed of its best minds by the resolve of the PDP to continue to move power within zones, stressing that it is the inalienable rights of every citizen to vie for any elective office in the land, as far as he/she feels qualified and capable.

“The constitution did not approve zoning of the Presidency in this context and there is no way the constitution of the PDP could be superior to that of the country.

“So, the party should throw the field open for contest, so that whoever is qualified could contest,” he stressed.

‘Jonathan Is Free To Contest Next Year’s Presidential Election’

From Isa Abdulsalami, Jos

ACTION Congress (AC) Chairman in Plateau State, Chief Amos Gizo, believed President Goodluck Jonathan is free to contest next year’s presidential election if he feels Nigerians are satisfied with his performance.

Gizo said what Nigerians need is a leader that would be respected within and outside the country and would physically see his performance and not paper work.

“You know, I am not in PDP and he is not contesting under my party. If he contests an election in PDP and I have a candidate for my party, we will still fight him. But we are looking for a good person. If he continues what he is dong now, there are many people, even in our party, that will go and vote for Jonathan, probably including myself, if we find him good.

“He has taken over power and you know very well that power (electricity) been a major problem in industrialisation. If you don’t have power, you use a generator. If you are spending N10,000 on power a month, you are going to spend about N300,000 on generator to get the same thing, and that increases the cost of production and small industries cannot work.

“So, if he thinks within the short period he claims he is going to correct the anomaly and he correct it, so be it. For asking INEC boss, Prof Maurice Iwu, to proceed on pre-disengagement leave, we believe that he is listening to the people, who believe Iwu had performed woefully. But that is not the end of the whole thing,” he emphasised.

Gizo said that if Jonathan is interested in contesting, he should also bring in somebody who will work for him as running mate.

“He has every right to contest, but he should accept too that if he contests and he loses, he will accept the verdict of the people. If that is the case, he has to bring somebody of proven integrity to handle that electoral process. If that happens, we in opposition will accept the results if lose an election. What we don’t accept is rigging an election, and that is what has been on the ground in this country,” he stated.

‘The North Would Resists Jonathan If He Dares Contest For The Presidency In 2011; Vice President Must Come From The Moslem North’

From Adamu Abuh, Kano

CHIEFTAIN of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Lawal Kaita yesterday warned President Goodluck Jonathan to bury the idea of vying for the Presidency in the interest of peace and tranquility in the country.

Kaita, a former governor of the old Kaduna State, premised his counsel on the party’s rotation of power principle between the North and South.

While answering questions from journalists after a condolence visit to the Yar’Adua family, Kaita warned that the North would do all within its power to stop Jonathan from occupying the position beyond 2011.

He wished Jonathan the best of luck between now and 2011, but added: ” He must not dare contest, because he would suffer defeat at the poll. The seat of the Presidency is a northern slot and unless Jonathan resigns from the PDP, or there is a convention and the PDP reverses the rotation of power formula, there is nothing he can do about the situation.”

Reminded that former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently denied of the existence of an arrangement like the rotation of power principle in the PDP, he retorted: “He is lying; he is telling lies. When the formula was initiated, he wasn’t in the PDP; he was in prison. But he knew about it.

“If there was no formula, how could he be have been President? He is up to mischief; this is pure mischief. The North would resist it totally.”

On the challenge before Jonathan in picking the Vice President, Kaita said such person must be a Moslem from any part of the northern part of Nigeria.

But former military governor of Kaduna State, Air Vice Marshal Muktar Mohammed (rtd), said: “The President has been Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and now President. I think along the way, he has gathered sufficient experience to know which areas he needs assistance and which person suits that position. Ruling Nigeria is not an easy task, so I think they should look for quality.”

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