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In the spirit of fairness and the zoning dilemma

In the spirit of fairness and the zoning dilemma
January 27
12:28 2022

BY IFEANYI ONYEAGHALA OKEREFOR

Lord Hewart in the famous English case of Rex against Sussex Justices [1924] stated that “Justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done”. The very idea of the term equity is that everyone gets the things they deserve. Thus, no one should be denied that which in equity, they deserve.

These are the premises upon which the argument for zoning was made within the context of the PDP.

In a recent poll conducted amongst PDP members in 6 states across the geopolitical zone (Kano, Borno, Rivers, Imo, Lagos and Abuja) 70% of those who took part in the survey agreed that the PDP should zone the party ticket to the North of the country. The results can be found at the bottom of this article.

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In 1998, the PDP had reached a conclusion, or as many would call it, a “gentleman’s” agreement that in the interest of “equity and justice” the south would have an eight-year stint and this would be returned to the North in 2007 (Governor Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa state, Chairman of the Governor Forum, August 2006).

It was on the premise of this that late Umar Musa Yar’Adua became the anointed candidate from the North to become president of the country under the banner of the PDP. In a twist of fate, Umar Musa Yar’Adua died barely three years into office on the 5th of May 2010. This tragedy placed the party in a quagmire.

In accordance with the constitution and against stiff opposition and massive support, Goodluck Ebele Johnathan became President of the country, before deciding to run for the office of the President in 2011.

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It is argued by many that Goodluck never categorically indicated that he would zone back power to the North in 2015, which became the bone of contention within the party in the lead-up to the 2015 elections, it is on record that in the PDP as a party, never intended to move away from the Zoning principle which is strongly entrenched in its constitution.

It is on record that in March 2011, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who at the time was the chairman of the Board of Trustees to the party, had indicated that the zoning of public offices in the party was “alive and kicking” and that “the accident of history” is what brought Goodluck Johnathan to be the PDP presidential candidate and thus must be understood as such. It was also on record that Obasanjo had commended Johnathan for agreeing to serve for only one term if elected (Speech at Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Finale, 2011).

The Nigerian constitution makes mention of federal character and how the government of the federation must do all within its power to ensure that there is a reflection of federal character to promote national unity and command national loyalty to prevent the predominance of persons from states, regions etc (s.14 (3) CFRN 1999).

It is on this premise that both the PDP and the All-Progressive Congress (APC) adopted a zoning formula which would showcase fairness, justice, and equity within the party. The constitution of the PDP as amended in 2017 at Section 7(3) (c) states that: “The party shall purse its aims and objectives by adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity justice and fairness.”

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The same is said in the APC constitution as amended in 2014 at section 20 (v) which requires that in the nomination process for elective office including that of the president, must take into consideration and “uphold” the principles of federal character and rotation of office.

It cannot be any clearer than what is covered in the constitutions of both parties that the principles of zoning or rotation of office has been embedded in both constitutions with the aim ensuring equity and justice.

In the PDP, the southern part of the country has ruled for thirteen years. Olusegun Obasanjo had started and completed two terms of four years in office, amounting to eight years. Goodluck Johnathan had completed the tenure of Umar Musa Yar’adua, amounting to 1 year, while serving a full term in office of four years.

Thus, it remains South thirteen and North three, within the PDP. The attempt by Goodluck Johnathan to further extend southern rule over the north led to a revolt which saw the PDP lose its strong base in the North. It was further evidence that the PDP Northern base struggled to revive itself during the 2019 election, largely due to the fact that the candidate whom the party presented was seen more as a Southern Candidate than one who understood the plight of the average northerner.

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As it stands, any further political calculation which seeks to isolate the North again, would further diminish the party’s presence in the North. It is worth noting that the Bala Muhammed report made it clear that there is a perception that the PDP is a party with sympathy and support more from the South than from the North. There is a need to change this narrative by ensuring that the party zones the ticket to the North.

If the PDP plans to win the elections in 2023, it can only do so by making a clear argument that the PDP is willing to pay the debt it owes to the North by fielding a Northern candidate. Anything short of this shows a lack of commitment on the part of the party to ensuring equity, justice and fairness.

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Party Politics not National Politics
While the conversation on having an Igbo president has remained strong, a manifest injustice done to the North in the PDP has not been rectified. This, after all, was the beginning of the end for the party in 2015. The party is placed with the ultimate power and authority to determine whom it would present to Nigerians as its chosen candidate to run for the office of the president.

While the sentiment of “Buhari has represented the North” may be strong amongst critics and proponents of a Southern presidency, we must, as a people, remind ourselves that the PDP and the APC are two different parties with two different zoning patterns.

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The PDP from a party politics angle, cannot move forward without ensuring that the North completes its eight-year tenure in line with the Party’s constitution and should not be laced with the moral burden which is now placed on the APC to produce a southern candidate.

In his interview on Arise News Television on the 17th of January 2022, Senator Ayim Pius Ayim made it clear (see part 21:03 – 21:18 on YouTube) where he stated that: “In PDP, which is my party, it is also in the PDP constitution, clean clear, in fact section 7, I think section 7 (3) (c), was clear on rotation and zoning. That section says, in fact, it is a fundamental principle of PDP. It says that there should be rotation of elective offices of the nation between north and south”.

Added to this, it must be noted that the PDP as a party had zoned the presidential ticket to the North for eight years. While it may be argued that Atiku Abubakar may have taken a part of the North’s eight years, it is evident that the North still has another shot at the presidency within the PDP.

The party at this point cannot choose to jettison zoning simply because it may seem uncomfortable to move away from the cries for a southern presidency even from within the party. Members must be reminded that injustice to one would remain an injustice to all.

Clearly, there are two moral arguments. On one end, the South needs to produce the next president simply because the North had ruled for eight years under Muhammadu Buhari. The second argument is that the North is yet to produce a president on the side of the PDP. Clearly, the dilemma in both moral arguments is inevitable.

However, this must be resolved using the party manifesto itself which is the basis upon which the party exists and runs its affairs. If both parties are accused of not having any ideology, one of such actions which would debunk such notions is both parties choosing to adhere to their zoning policies.

It should be left for the APC to decide whether it would zone its party ticket in line with its own principle of zoning which points its ticket to the South of the Country, while the PDP must act in fairness and in line with its own zoning principle which points to the North of the Country.

Conclusively, it is important that the PDP take a pragmatic role in showing that it can adhere to agreements and its own constitution. It must show that it understands the legal and moral arguments which have been raised here in support of a northern candidacy.

Now, it is imperative that the party act in a way which showcases that it truly has the interest of all Nigerians at heart.

A poll was conducted amongst 60 persons with 10 persons per state in 6 states representing the geopolitical zones and the following results were obtained: i) Kano (NW) – 9 persons polled for a northern candidate in 2023 while one person polled for a southern candidate. ii) Borno (NE)- 9 persons polled for a northern candidate in 2023 while 1 person polled for a southern candidate. (iii) Abuja (NC) 5 persons polled for a Northern candidate, 3 people polled for a southern candidate while 2 persons polled for a candidate to be picked based on their competency rather than geopolitical zone. (iv) Lagos (SW)- 3 people polled for a Northern candidate; 5 persons polled for a Southern candidate while 2 persons polled for a candidate to be picked based on their competency. (v) Imo (SE)- 8 persons polled for a northern candidate and 2 persons polled for a Southern candidate . (vi) Rivers (SS)- 9 persons polled for a northern candidate while 1 person polled for a southern candidate.

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