Presidency has never been zoned to any region, says Jonathan.
President Goodluck Jonathan said that the presidency has never been zoned to any geopolitical regions in the country. He also asked Governor Bukola Saraki to cast the first stone if he is really committed to zoning by explaining why his sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki is trying to succeed him. He however said that he would soon publish the balance sheet of his campaign funds.J onathan, who made these submissions while fielding questions from newsmen at the National Secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Abuja , added that only party offices are zoned.
Jonathan was at the Secretariat to submit his presidential nomination form He responded to two questions from press corps at the PDP Secretariat, Zone 5 Abuja . He said: 'The issue you asked about zoning. This is the first time I have to comment on zoning. I have decided to talk about it, but, at the appropriate time, you will know a little more. But, either by virtue of the PDP constitution, or in practice, the presidency of Nigeria has never been zoned to any part of the country.
'It has never been zoned or maybe I would read some sections of our own constitution too. There is the concept of zoning and rotation in the PDP constitution to encourage power to move from one part to the other and it is not limited to the Office of the President .
'I will read that section from the least office (from Councillorship to the Presidency ) to encourage rotation and the issue of zoning, PDP does not zone the Presidency but PDP zones offices they have absolute control or reasonable control. The fact also is that the chairman of the party, deputy chairman, secretary, these are offices that PDP has absolute control and normally PDP will zone.'
The President responded to two issues as follows:
Why are you still contesting for 2011 presidency despite the zoning policy of the PDP?
Jonathan: The issue you asked about zoning. This is the first time I have to comment on zoning. I have decided to talk about it, but, at the appropriate time, you will know a little more. But, either by virtue of the PDP constitution, or in practice, the presidency of Nigeria has never been zoned to any part of the country. It has never been zoned or maybe I would read some sections of our own constitution too. There is the concept of zoning and rotation in the PDP constitution to encourage power to move from one part to the other and it is not limited to the Office of the President . We will read that section from the least office (from Councillorship to the Presidency ) to encourage rotation and the issue of zoning, PDP does not zone the Presidency but PDP zones offices they have absolute control or reasonable control. The fact also is that the chairman of the party, deputy chairman, secretary, these are offices that PDP has absolute control and normally PDP will zone.
The office of the President and other elective offices like Senate Presidency, Speaker and National Assembly Officers, PDP has reasonable control as long as we are in the majority. Those offices could be zoned. But, before you zone those offices, the President and the Vice-president would have first emerged. I am saying this because I was involved. If you take the situation of the 2007 elections for example, when Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and myself emerged, then we met. Ali is here, he was the Chairman of the party then, the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, our late President, myself, the Secretary of the party then, Ojo Maduekwe and Tony Anenih, we sat then down in the Glass House. The North would have gotten a President who is from the North -West , we have a Vice-President who is from the South-south, then, where should we place the party chairman, then we decided it has to go to the South East. Where we placed the Senate President, we decided it has to go to the North Central. And now we zoned all these other offices. These are offices that PDP has some reasonable control. But before you zone them, the President and Vice-President first must emerge.
If you look at the tradition of PDP, after zoning those offices, if for any reason any of them resigned, then you call on that zone to pick a replacement. That is why when Ogbulafor resigned, the party had to go to the South East to pick the current chairman (Nwodo).
When Patricia Etteh resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives , the party had to go to the South-West. The party did not just go to the South. So, if anybody is making that argument, then of course, he can only say ok, the North-West, then, nobody from the North-Central zone can even aspire to the presidency or the North-East. PDP operates on the six zonal structures.
But, if you ask yourself, some of the other aspirants we are talking about, where were they all along. The concept of zoning has been in PDP from inception. We have the PDP 1999 constitution and if you ask the chairman will give you. This is the very first constitution and the zoning concept is there but not expressly stated. Then 2001 constitution, it says that in Article 7 (2) ( c ), 'in pursuance of the principles of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels from Councillor to Presidency'. Even at state level, the PDP encourages the governorship position to be rotated. The other offices are zoned after the governor and the deputy governor have emerged. Let me take two states and give you example at that level for those who want to over drag this.
And this was in 2001. Let me digress a little. Those who are arguing, especially those who are also aspirants, who are arguing about this zoning, ask them, were they interested in contesting the Presidency of this country in 2003? Were they interested in 2007? Of course if by our practice, PDP has a zoning arrangement that the presidency will be in the North for eight years, then South for eight years, then North for eight years, in 2003 no Northern aspirant would have developed interest. But in 2003, you know that some of these people who are talking about zoning, it created a lot of havoc in the party. Because they wanted to contest, even against Obasanjo, who had served only for one tenure.
Then, in 2007, we had about 28 aspirants. If it was purported to have been zoned to the North, then you wouldn't have expected any southerner, but we even had about 16, more Southerners that contested for the presidency. So, even in practice, the PDP constitution, the one I read, I decided to read from 2001, to tell you that it is not a recent issue. It has been a part of the party. This is 2009. The 2009 constitution, the current one, they lifted it exactly, no word is altered. The process of zoning is not limited to the Presidency alone. The concept of rotation, at the Councillorship level, the party encourages us to shift Councillorship to either from one community to the other or one compound to the other or from one family to the other that make up the ward. At the local government chairmanship level, we encourage that the post should move from one ward to the other so that no one ward can monopolize the seat. It goes on for all the seats.
In Kwara state, you see that Saraki, whose term is completing, he is leaving, because the Nigerian constitution allows for two tenures, but of course, the younger sister is contesting. If the party has zoned the position, definitely, somebody form that senatorial district cannot contest, except the younger sister is from a different senatorial district.
If you look at the situation in Bayelsa State , you know my history. I am from Bras Senatorial District, I took over to finish Alamieyesiegha's tenure, just like it has happened at the federal level. I was to go back and contest and the party had no objection. I even got the party ticket after the primary. But because I was now drafted to contest the Vice-Presidency seat, the party set up a committee, Dr. Ahmadu Ali is here, and gave Timipreye Sylva, who is from my senatorial district. The party would have said no, no, no, it had to go back may be to the Central Senatorial District , where Alamieyesiegha comes from, let them bring the aspirant from there.
It is when a Governor, Deputy Governor emerges or Chairman or the Vice Chairman of the council emerges and at the national level, when the President and the Vice President emerges then, you now zone other offices . And immediately that zoning is done, any replacement has to come form that zone, not North - South.
Whenever those people talking about zoning come to you again, ask them, especially if they are fellow aspirants like me, ask them their political interests in 2003 and 2007. They are interested in 2011 and they are still talking about zoning. I will not do anything that is at variance with the constitution of the party. There is nothing like zoning Presidency to the North, zoning Presidency to the South.
How about using state funds to run your campaign?
I am a serving President. Most of my Governors are facing the same accusation. The fact is that you cannot use state funds to run campaign. All over the world, we have Electoral laws which stipulate how much an individual can spend at elections. But, I have never used public funds to run my campaigns. At the appropriate time I will publish the details of my campaign funds.