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The principle of modern democracy entails every enfranchised citizen can vote and be voted for. Ordinarily, the issue of zoning has no place in democracy, which suggests that only the popular choice should always carry the day. The People's Democratic Party, PDP might have felt that though democracy does not create room for zoning, some sections of the country would not be in position to participate in the art of governance, thereby, alienating and frustrating such section (s) of the country from governance. Perhaps, it was in respect of this belief that PDP arrived at the gentleman agreement in 1999 to adopt the principle of zoning to give room for equal participation in governance between the South and the North.

In strict adherence to this principle of zoning, the first slot was allowed for the south. As a mark of pacifying the people of the southwest and plastering the infringement of the wound caused by the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, assumed to have been popularly won a southwest political magnet, the late Chief MKO Abiola, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who had just been released or pardoned from prison and Chief Olu Falae contested under PDP and APP respectively.

As a result of the role Obasanjo played in the successful conduct of the 1979 election and his willingness to handover the mantle of leadership to the popular candidate from the north in person of Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari, the north put her trust in Obasanjo and massively mobilized votes for him in 1999 as against Chief Olu Falae that the Southwest went for. At the end of the day, Obasanjo had the overwhelming votes, courtesy of the north. This was how Obasanjo became the President of Nigeria against the popular wish of his O States as Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, etc.

At the expiration of Obasanjo's first tenure in 2003, the north still went for Obasanjo to enable him complete the two-term tenure adopted by PDP. On the final expiration of Obasanjo's tenure in 2007, the PDP went for a northern candidate in person of the late Umoru Musa Yara'dua, knowing full well that he was not fit health wise to conduct the affairs of the country. This was the beginning of Obasanjo's antics and change of baton against the north. Things later began to manifest themselves in the portrayal of Obasanjo's true character. The man's pedigrees showed that he is not a man to be trusted, having been tested. He is one of the haters of the north but the north mistook him as her child, unknown to her that she was cuddling a dangerous python.

In the first instance, Obasanjo went to jail as a result of his clandestine attempt to forcibly topple Abachas's government in 1996 through incitement. He used his eight years as President of Nigeria to carry out revengeful mission on the north by removing northern people from strategic positions. This is because, his only wish for the north is to be number one in the production of street beggars, known as Almajirai, number one in gate-keeping and messenger job, as well as in other menial jobs. So, we did not need any soothsayer to tell us why Obasanjo insisted on the late sick President when it came to the turn of the north to produce her President in 2007 together with his boy, Mr. Jonathan who had been voted in Bayelsa State as Deputy Governor to be the running mate of the late Yar'adua. The purpose of these later manifested, which is now being realized today.

With the demise of Yar'adua, it is only moral and constitutional for Jonathan to complete the first tenure of his late boss via good governance as President which ends in May next year, as well as conduct free, fair and credible election for the country. Obasanjo himself did this in 1979 after the demise of General Ramat Murtala Mohammad. General Abdulsalam also made history in 1999 after the demise of General Sani Abacha that brought Obasanjo to office as President. Because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, coupled with the belief that opportunity lost, they say, can never be regained, Mr. Jo and his people want to seize the opportunity of Yar'adua's demise to occupy the northern seat up to 2015.

Unfortunately, some southern elements and their pockets of northern collaborators are now telling us that zoning is not in the dictionary of democracy and therefore, the gentleman's agreement by PDP should be set aside in as much as in democracy, there is no permanent friend but permanent interest. But they failed to understand that Benard Fovion has rightly observed that "A political career pursued regardless of God is one of the shortest cuts to ruin, misery, disappointment and bitterness that rankle to the end of days. The moral questions that beg for answer from those that are now desperate to throw out the issue of zoning are this:

Has any one from PDP denied the fact that there was no issue of zoning in 1999? Has Mr. President Jonathan who was in attendance at the 1999 zoning meeting as a deputy Governor then representing his boss denied the gentleman's zoning agreement? Has Obasanjo, in spite of his flip-flop talks in any way refuted the zoning arrangement? If Yar'adua was alive, would the antagonists of zoning be talking otherwise today? The answer to these questions is No. If this is the case, why the much ado about zoning that is now affecting governance and threatening 2011 election?

In 2003 when the late Mohammed Abubakar Rimi and Gemade from the North wanted to contest with Obasanjo from the south, they were simply advised to stay clear because the South represented by Obasanjo needed to complete her own turn of the PDP zoning arrangement. When they refused, the party primary election was able to set them aside. I still remember that Rimi had only six votes. Now that Yar'adua is dead and could not complete the turn of the north under the PDP arrangement, it is only moral that the region be encouraged to bring out credible person for the 2011 presidential election, if the people of the party are 'sincere' and 'honest.' This is the only path of honour.

As for those saying that zoning is PDP affair and therefore, other Nigerians should not bother about it, they should be enlightened that the coming of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President in 2007, Acting President in 2009 and President in 2010 is also PDP affair. But for the fact that the issue affects Nigerians, we cannot simply leave him alone under the pretence that it is PDP affair. After all, it is often said that "one good turn deserves another" and "what is good for the goose is also good for the gander." Consequently, those saying that zoning is undemocratic should not forget that it is also undemocratic for President Jonathan to appoint an electoral umpire and will still want to contest in the 2011 election, knowing full well that it is he who pays the piper that will ultimately dictate the tone. If democracy is about fairness and justice, then how fair and just for south to have a taste of Presidency for ten years (1999-2007) and (2009-2011) under democratic arrangement and would still want to produce President of Nigeria in 2011 for four years? This is unfortunate because according to Charles Cotton, "No man is wise enough or good enough to be trusted with unlimited powers."

There is no need of zoning summit for President Jonathan, PDP or any one else to accept significance of zoning in democracy. Those calling for zoning summit are only looking for a way to regain their lost political relevance in the country. So, no one should listen to them. Zoning asides, we have every reason to make sure that whoever contests under the platform of PDP in 2011 presidential election is not supported by Nigerians, especially the lovers of justice, equity and transparency. We have had so many wrong doings about PDP government in the past eleven years, which has not moved the country forward. Why should we continue to retain neither respect nor affection for a government, which has been moving from wrong to wrong in order to defend its immorality?

What happened to the N16 billion power sector? What about the millions of naira allegedly siphoned by the immediate past national Chairman of PDP? What is the state of Bankole's N9 billion that engaged the supposed honourable men and women in physical combat, leading to suspension of others?  Why are the masses moving from bad to worse under the PDP government that is earmarking N10 billion for celebration of common 50th birthday of the so called independence? What are we celebrating when our industries are hungry for power supply, when our federal roads are hungry for repairs, when our children are hungry for education but can neither get admission to schools nor employment for jobs, when our leaders still go outside the country for medical attention, when our national team cannot score simple goals at the world cup and when Nigeria is being powered by Chinese technology, etc? Are these not enough to send PDP packing in 2011 on ground of poor showing?

PDP accepted zoning in 1999 because it favoured it but today, it is saying that zoning is no longer relevant to democracy because its cup is filled up. But the party and its leadership should borrow a leaf from the saying of Patrick Henry that "a government is allowed in power only with the agreement of those governed. The voice of the people is the voice of God. A king who throws out a good law instead of being the father of his people becomes an unjust King." So, if Mr. President Jonathan really wants justice and equity for his people, he should simply respect his party zoning by avoiding being a judge in his own case. If he insists on contesting the 2011 presidential election, he should stop fooling the world about free, fair and credible election in 2011. Charity, they say, begins at home.

Saka Raji Audu writes from Kano and can be reached on his email: [email protected] 

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