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PDP ZONING ARRANGMENT CONSTITUTIONAL – BABATOPE

By NBF News
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Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain and former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, has dismissed the opposition parties as an unserious lot. He said the opposition parties have not shown that they could be an alternative to the ruling PDP.

Babatope told Daily Sun in Lagos said the PDP keeps winning elections in the country because it is always working round the clock to prepare itself . According to the former minister the opposition is all talk and no action.

'They talk of mega party, where is the mega party today. Except the publicity arm of the AC manned by Alhaji Lai Mohammed which is very effective, there is nothing again to show that the party itself is preparing itself for power,'he stated.

He also bared his mind on the 11 years of democracy in Nigeria, the contentious zoning formula of the PDP and other issues.

Excerpts:
Eleven years of Nigeria's democracy
Well, I congratulate Nigerians for having 11years of uninterrupted democracy. We Nigerians deserved to be congratulated. But I believe that we still have a long way to go in terms of building genuine democracy. One, there is a need for us in Nigeria, especially the younger generation of politicians to trust ourselves. And see the essence of politics as giving power to the people.They in the final analysis, are the people that will decide who and who will govern them.

Secondly, there is a need for our political party system to become ideological. As it is today, there is no party that is ideological. We need to build an ideology. All the parties today have virtually the same character. And I want to see a situation where the parties also grow higher than what the parties were in the Second Republic and in the first republic.

In the First Republic, there was some ideology. The Action Group(AG) had democratic socialism as its philosophy. The NCNC had Fabian socials as its philosophy. And even the NPC and its allies had what they call African socialism. Then when you come to the Second Republic, the UPN was socialist. The PRP was socialist. And the NPN did not pretend that it was a capitalist oriented political party. But this time around, our parties, simply because of the abruptness of the military in leaving power, did not really prepare for ideologies. And I believe that if our political parties are ideological, then the interest of the people will be better served. Then lastly, I believe that we must not talk in terms of government and opposition. We must talk of political parties working for the interest of the common people of Nigeria.

It is true that the PDP forms the government in many of the states of the federation. And it is true that you have opposition parties in many of the states. But I want to see both the opposition parties and the government party develop in a way that the people have confidence in their ability to lead them. That will really make for the democracy we are looking for.

But like I said earlier, we must congratulate Nigerians for having eleven years of uninterrupted democracy. And we pray that we continue to grow from strength to strength, because any alternative to democracy will be total abandonment of the principles that underline and govern our federation and that would be the end of the country.

Greatest challenge to democracy
Like I said, we have perceived government in the line of government and opposition. Yes, there must be opposition. Yes, there must be government. But the two must be serious enough to face the challenges of ensuring that the poor people of Nigeria are given hope that tomorrow would be better. As I am talking to you, there are so many of our people who are very poor, who are very hungry. And therefore, they can only benefit if there is good government. And they can be good government only if the government party and the opposition parties know what they want to do.

For example, the opposition parties in Nigeria, I must confess, are not serious and that gives me serious concern. The opposition parties must prepare themselves for power. It is brazen falsehood for them to say since the PDP controls 28 states of the federation, and controls the Federal Government of Nigeria; therefore, they of the opposition cannot prepare themselves for power.

Those of us in PDP, we are not praying for implosion, but it could happen. If it happens, if the opposition is serious minded, the opposition is going to gain. And the Nigerian people will see the opposition providing for them, a government that would really meet their yearnings and aspirations. As it is now, the opposition parties are not serious.

They talk of mega party, where is the mega party today. Except the publicity arm of the AC manned by Alhaji Lai Mohammed which is very effective.

There is nothing again to show that the party itself is preparing for power.

So, we want to see these opposition parties and even the PDP in government present programmes that will activate the conscousness of the Nigerian people to the point that the political party on stage is prepared to ensure that the people live well, and the people earn well.

PDP and Nigeria
It would not be correct to say that the PDP has been more of a burden to Nigeria, because that is if that is the verdict, then the PDP ought to have been thrown out from many of the states. But the mere fact that the PDP continues to win elections shows that the PDP is not a burden. But the only thing that continues to happen is that the educated arm of the citizenry believes that the PDP represents a political monster. But again, if this educated citizenry believes that the PDP is a monster, and then the educated citizenry should join hands with the opposition to ensure that the monster's wings are clipped.

So, the PDP is popular because the PDP anticipates at any given time what would be the challenges to the party in facing Nigerian people and what they would do to ensure that they meet those challenges successfully. But I am not saying that the PDP hasn't got problems. And that is why I am calling on the opposition parties to be serious. If they are serious minded of course, their ranks would widen. Nigerians will understand them. And the PDP, because of internal contradictions will play into their hands. But the opposition parties are not doing anything.

They are lazy. And therefore, the PDP is strengthening itself. I will give you an example, the PDP is always anticipating what will be the next line of action in their strategy towards meeting election challenger. One of them is the fact that the PDP realizes that there are cleavages in all their branches, and therefore the PDP established the National Peace and Reconciliation Committee headed by General Ike Nwachukwu to go to the states and see how the committee can make for peace and report back to the party. And then, the result is that there is now peace in some of the states. And when there is no peace, the National Working Committee will meet deliberate, and pronounce judgment that will favour effective party organisation in those states. So, by the time, you have the 2011 election, the PDP is set, more than set for the election.

Look at the last election in 2007, it took the opposition parties particularly the AC to come out and join the fray with the PDP on the electoral field almost about three months, after the PDP has tried to move from one state to the other campaigning for the election. You cannot say that the PDP is a monster. No. The PDP is not a monster. It is the educated citizenry and the lazy political parties in the opposition that we have, that are creating the impression that the PDP is a monster. But as somebody who believes in practical democracy, I want to see the opposition party organize themselves properly. Like I said, the publicity arm of the AC manned by Alhaji Lai Mohammed is very effective.

Let them advance more than that. They must build more on what the people want. And they must have concrete programmes that the Nigerian people will see and say, yes these opposition parties are set for power. But without that, the PDP will continue to move from strength to strength and they would be wrong in their evaluation of the PDP as a monster.

The PDP Reform Forum
I woundn't say it has brought disquiet into the party. No. No. Formation of pressure groups is essential features of democracy. You find a group of people calling themselves the PDP's Reform Group, I wish them the best of luck. There are some issues that they have raised that are very good issues. But my only objection is that these laudable principles of theirs should be channeled through proper machinery of the party organization.

No mention of it in NEC, what reforms are they calling out. You see the points that they have that are good, let them put them together and let them trust their members to go and raise these points in the various organs of the PDP. It will make more sense. But if they think it is now going about working against the interest of the party, saying NEC should be dissolved; new people should be put in then they are not doing anything which would win my own support. Because one, the essence of all corrections is to build and not to destroy. But mind you I have applauded some of the things that they have said.

For example, the Reform Group has said voting at conventions must be made open and fair. People who want to contest must be made to face the electorate of the convention and they must be allowed to speak to them and let the people vote for those they want. That is a good point. But I am saying with that let them channel all these through the Board of Trustees, through the National Executive Council (NEC) and through other organs of the party, they will make more points.

Because if they sit down and say they want to dissolve the NWC, how are they sure that the people that will come in as members of the NWC, will not perform worse than the NWC that they want to remove. So, that is the contention. But like I said, pressure groups are a part of democracy. You cannot close your eyes to them. But what I am saying is that let those pressure groups exist in a manner that the correction that they want to make within the party are meant to build the party and not to destroy.

PDP constitution supports zoning
Well you see, I have read all the arguments. I joined the PDP on September 22,1999, one year after the PDP came into existence. And all the enquiries I made before joining the PDP showed to me that the PDP founder particularly the G.34 that transformed to the PDP ensured that rotation and zoning were made part and parcel of the tradition and convention of the party. Because they want to correct the historical mistakes made in Nigeria. For example there was a time in this country when a group of people in the north believe that Nigeria is an extension of their private family compounds. And therefore power in Nigeria is theirs in perpetuity.

I have never hidden the fact to anybody that when the Biafra war was on, I was an undergraduate at that time, and I was pro-Biafra because our federation was not properly defined in the sense that power was always going to the North without any opportunity for the South to hold power. So, I am saying that the founders of the PDP, the G.34 definitely sensed that something was wrong and therefore had to correct that all areas in Nigeria must be made free and must be prepared to have power one way or the other. That was why they felt that zoning and rotation must be part of the tradition and convention of the party.

And two, the constitution of the party also states it clearly: Section 7(2) c of the PDP constitution states unequivocally that rotation and zoning will be part and parcel of the operation of the PDP. Before you can now remove zoning and rotation, you must go and remove that portion of the PDP constitution, section 7(2) c. it is only when you remove it that you can then be talking in terms of somebody contesting and somebody not contesting. So, if anybody wants to contest, let that person ensure that the PDP removes section 7(2) c or amends it to ensure that new provisions are made.

People are talking about the Nigeria's constitution. We are not talking about the constitution now. We are talking of the constitution of the party. Party is to nominate a candidate. Because if you go and nominate a candidate without removing section 7(2) c of the PDP constitution, anybody is free to challenge the nomination of that person in court and the court will uphold, because we are not talking about the constitution of Nigeria.

So, as far as I am concerned, it is a matter of logic. It is a matter of common sense. It is a matter of law. And I am very happy that President Goodluck Jonathan has not made any pronouncement. Because he is a very intelligent person, and he has been governing the country with common sense since he assumed power. I expect him as a leader of the PDP to know about the provision of section 7(2) c of the constitution of the party. And if he wants to contest to ensure that that section is amended or removed.

It would be wrong for any PDP man to say that somebody should go and contest, disregarding the provisions of the PDP constitution. No. It would be senseless for anybody to say that. I don't want Nigerians to close their eyes to the history of this country. We fought a civil war because we did not define the federal nature of our country's existence.

Now, you have a political party saying power must go to all parts of the country, then you are talking of breaking the tradition, break what has been arranged to correct the historical anomalies of the past. That would be dangerous. It is capable of sending Nigeria into a period of political disaster or political tragedy. We must be very careful in the way we go about this matter.