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Southeast and the new PDP zoning

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Why is the zoning formula coming up again while it was killed and buried when President Goodluck Jonathan indicated interest to run for the 2011 presidency? Lo, as a doctrine in the Christendom asserts, the dead can resurrect. Or this issue is purely a party and not Nigerian affair? Or only the Presidential slot that is not zoneable? Or PDP has become Nigeria?

What must be sounded clear is that Nigeria will remain one and any group which thinks favoured at a time may feel disfavoured another time. But there must be justice, equity and fair play in our polity as well as policy engendering and sustenance. Whether at the party or individual levels, the interest of Nigeria must be paramount and Nigerians must guard against creating divides for selfish aggrandizement of a few citizens.

Every enlightened citizen knows why all matters relating to zoning political offices came on board in the first place. The PDP is the strongest party and its internal policies definitely affect the national well-being. The party had an agreement to rotate the presidency between the north and south so that the feeling of neglect and injustice by the Southern part of the country will be addressed. It was, however, doggedly followed and respected since 1999. And the South came on board from 1999 till today; yes because Yar'Adua's era was more like a third term for former President Obasanjo.

Therefore, the initial aim of zoning has been defeated. But again, it should not escape our memory that politics is a game of number where the majority will always have their way while the minority continues to have their say. President Jonathan preferred that political positions should be entrusted to Nigerians – irrespective of the ethnic or religious backgrounds – purely on merit. And there, he was crowned the Nigerian president from the PDP platform.

The debate on zoning nearly took the nation to a deadlock. The pro-zoning exegetes insisted that it was for the overall interest of the nation, because as a nation, no one or group can claim monopoly of anything that is quite central. It's a matter of time. People like IBB who is a staunch member of PDP fought for it and was defeated. He still insists that it is the best in a multi-ethnic set-up like Nigeria. Yet, it is in our history that during the Shehu Shagari democratic era when an Igbo, Dr. Alex Ekweme – from the southeast was the vice president, Chief Edwin Umeizuoke from the same Anambra state and southeast was the speaker, while Chief Joseph Wayas from Cross River of the Southsouth was the senate president.

The 2011 zoning saga was systematically nipped in the bud and every Nigerian seemed to have voted candidates of their choice on merit, not expecting any special reward from any candidate. Therefore, the victorious candidates, most of who paid heavily to buy up the conviction of their electorates are at liberty to offer any additional rewards. This implies that even the electioneering pledges are risked.

The southeast geopolitical zone overwhelming voted for President Jonathan, and I believe it was basically on merit. They did not negotiate for any position before the elections. Remember that ACN pulled out of the merger arrangement with CPC because CPC refused to yield to their demands, leading to CPC's very poor performance in the southwest. So, in politics, negotiations for rewards or the “scratch my back, I scratch your back” syndrome are endorsed before elections and not after it. In a pidgin English, it is medicine after death, when you begin to make demands after your political ally had gotten his or her desire. This is replicated in all levels of government, even people of the same culture, even in a village struggle, sometimes even in a family contest. The Igbo have got it wrong again.

Their stand not to accept Obasanjo's offer of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, which I presume he has carefully set aside for a godson- likely Ojo Maduekwe, is definitely belated. Many Igbo socio-political groups, some of which have begun witch-hunting, have emerged and taken their stands. They are struggling to resuscitate zoning which they collectively killed. Remember that no southeast PDP member contested the PDP Presidential primaries because it was believed that the case was over. And again, most of the southeast governors mobilized voters very much higher for the President than they did for themselves.

The stand of these groups is merely guided by passion. What contributions did they offer Jonathan's or PDP's victory at the polls? The key players in the victory were the governors and their cohorts. The governors' stand in this matter is quite recondite. Chairman of Southeast Governor's Forum, Peter Obi was reported to have said that there was no negotiation with Jonathan for any position before the elections. Before the election itself, there were controversies over the stand the Igbo should take on the zoning matter. At the end, the governors had their way.

After the elections, PDP gathered its important members at Obudu to decide on who gets what in the upcoming new federal cabinet. I read that no Igbo man was there. I dey laugh!!! No Igbo man was found worthy to be present because they are only used as political jobbers! Did the Igbo PDP stalwarts not see the list of invitees to the meeting to protest from the beginning? They seem not to realize that, though Jonathan is a good and detribalized citizen, Obasanjo does not like the Igbo nation. I think Obasanjo is still full of hatred for them, always recalling his experiences in Port Harcourt during the civil war. Have they so easily forgotten that Obasanjo does not forgive?

The news making headlines in the newspapers nowadays is that southeast PDP is rejecting the SGF slot offer. Zonal secretary of the party, Chief Vincent Opalaeke was said to have disclosed that besides the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives, chieftains of PDP were also disenchanted that certain strategic ministries are always reserved for other geo-political zones, with the southeast constantly denied.

According to Opalaeke, the Ministries of Environment, Works and the FCT are exclusively out of the reach of the Igbo. He intimated that a meeting of the leadership of the party in the zone comprising PDP governors, ministers and top office holders from the zone will hold in Enugu to take a stand that will be conveyed to the party's national leadership. He claimed that the zone has never been treated well.

That is how it always begins. But surely, they will accept it at the end. The game is clear. You went into agreement to give your support to somebody but refused to make a demand at the point of signing the agreement. If the game is successful and the person is magnanimous enough to allocate some rewards to you, why should you reject it? Again, does it mean that the Igbo in PDP do not know the workings in the party?

The Igbo claim that they have been marginalized since 1999 or so. Who is marginalizing them – is it their governors, their federal lawmakers or the leadership of the country under PDP? This may just be the beginning. They can yearn for 2015, 2019 and so on. The truth is that they are not united. Can't they borrow a leaf from Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which caused a tsunami for PDP in all the southwest states, including Obasanjo's home? Here stands Obasanjo to preserve the speakership position for himself when he could not deliver the zone. I dey laugh!!.

The southeast should not weep because they caused the pains themselves. In a local proverb, a child should not feel cold from the water it poured itself. Even as many groups of the zone are overtly crying foul with the positions the PDP has graciously zoned to the Igbo, several others amongst them are already covertly lobbying for the positions. At the end of the day, those crying foul would be identified as enemies of the party. The party is supreme to its members whose leadership is chosen by the members themselves. And when you are identified as an enemy of PDP, the dungeon may be your limit.

After all, if the Igbo have survived the presumed neglect by the central governments for over forty years, they have become old enough to sustain life and can then play politics along without demanding for any favour. Two bywords for the Igbo: “bitten once twice shy” and “a fool at forty can hardly repent or change ways”. What do the Igbo really want?

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Muhammad Ajah and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Muhammad Ajah