By NBF News

The much-debated zoning formula of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) has been described as illegal and unconstitutional. This statement was made recently by former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) in an interview in his Lagos office. Speaking with journalists, he maintained that the PDP zoning was not binding and as such, President Goodluck Jonathan had the constitutional right to contest.

His words: 'I am a stakeholder in the PDP and I put down N2 million when the party was being set up and I can say much about it. The so-called zoning was a gentleman's agreement so it cannot be upheld in any court of law. In fact, nobody can dare go to court to challenge it because it would be inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal |Republic of Nigeria.'

He spoke on this and other issues.
Zoning agreement illegal
I am a stakeholder in the PDP and I put down N2 million when it was being set up and I can say much about it. The so-called zoning was a gentleman's agreement so it cannot be upheld in any court of law. In fact, nobody can dare go to court to challenge it because it would be inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Obasanjo was right. If the zoning policy of the PDP existed, it was wrong and illegal and I challenge anybody to go to court and claim it is right.

It was because the PDP's zoning formula was illegal that was why some northerners like the late Abubakar Rimi and others contested alongside Obasanjo in 1999. the so-called zoning was a gentleman's agreement and it is not binding. That is the truth and what is true at that time is true today. The sovereignty of Nigeria in electing a president is vested in the people of Nigeria. It is not vested in any political party or any political group. It is the people of Nigeria who can decide who they want to be their president.

Jonathan can contest
Of course, he can contest. If he decides to run, nobody, even the PDP cannot stop him. If he decides to seek nomination on the platform of PDP, there is nothing they can do and if they try to stop him, it will fail because it will be illegal and unconstitutional.

Ogbulafor's comment on PDP zoning
What he said was highly undiplomatic. As Chairman of the party, and because of the sensitive nature of the issue, he should not have made any pronouncement on it unless the party sat down and agreed because even if PDP agreed on zoning some years ago, it is also true that there has been a fundamental change of circumstances that may make that not wise or advisable at that point in time. Politics has to be looked at from the point of view of national interest and public interest and you cannot even formulate a policy or have the constitution of a particular party that is inconsistent with the constitution.

The particular provision; whether it's a policy of the PDP or a constitution of the PDP are inconsistent with the constitution because as a Nigerian, the constitution allows you to contest an election. The sovereignty of Nigeria is rested with the people of Nigeria and not in the leadership of any political party. So, Ogbulafor as the chairman of the party was not tactful in saying what he said at such a critical moment. That statement could have destabilized the country. If you do the right thing at the wrong time or you do the right thing in the wrong way, that would be as good as doing the wrong thing.

He found himself on the wrong side of powerplay
The equation and the arithmetic changed. He found himself on the wrong side of power-play and he talked too much; saying the wrong things at the wrong time and therefore, he had to go. That's why he went.

There are two interests that are critical; the interest of the party and the public interest and the two must go side by side. Those two conditions were satisfied.

The odds against the electoral system
You've linked two things together; the electoral system and the removal of Iwu and you believe that the electoral system is faulty. I don't think the electoral system is faulty. I think the problems we are having with elections are human. If you bring the American electoral system to Nigeria, with the human factor, it will not work but if we take the Nigerian electoral system to the United States, with the human element there, it will work. People make so much noise about having electoral reforms. I am not against electoral reforms but by all means, let us do it. There is no amount of reform you do, if the human element is not there, it will not work. So that is the kernel of my point. Our problem is essentially human and to a lesser extent, electoral reforms.

The challenges of INEC
I don't at all. You see, if the right thing is done in the wrong way, that would be as good as doing the wrong thing the wrong way. The critical thing is the human element and if you look at the American constitution, which was done hundreds of years ago, there were only 13 American colonies and the same constitution with some amendments, is being used till today in 50 states but once we have any problem, we say, 'Oh! Do a new constitution' as if the problem is not human. Look at the constitution of China, the biggest state in the world. It's just a small document yet it is used to run the affairs of 1.3 billion human beings. We should banish the thought from our mind that our problem has to do with electoral reforms. Yes, the Electoral Act needs amendment here and there but the critical problem we have is the human element.

The Governors' Forum has its responsibilites
The Governor's Forum ruled because there was power vacuum at the centre. When Yar'Adua was ill, there was no effective power in Abuja and the governors were right to step in because if they didn't step in and there's a collapse at the centre, it was bound to affect the entire government. So, they've done a good service but that should not be made a permanent feature. The real power is in the centre. Where you have a strong president, you will see that the Governor's Forum will be weakened. As regards the appointment of ministers, I would be more comfortable if the president makes consultations quietly and not on the pages of newspaper. Having said that, I happen to know that some of the ministers appointed were not appointed through the governors. Yes, some were appointed through the governors of the states and some were not.

The politics of Ogbulafor's removal
In politics, character is like money you keep in a bank. You fall upon it and withdraw it in the time of need. If you don't need to use it, you keep the money there. If you need to use it, you draw your cheque and withdraw it. Now, if you fall on the wrong side of the power play, then the cheque would be signed and you have to pay for it. I hope you understand the political equation and analogy I'm trying to draw. That's exactly what happened to him.

PDP and internal democracy
People have said that PDP lacks internal democracy on the pages of newspaper but they've not been able to prove it. In what way has anybody breached the customs or traditions of the constitution of the PDP?

You cannot divorce internal democracy from acceptability. Internal democracy must be synonymous with acceptability. You can't say a process is democratic and then you impose someone into the process. The two must find a common fold. A president cannot work with the chairman of his party who is not accepting to play. There won't be peace and there would be an internal civil war all the time. I think that was what happened and he emerged at that time

Jonathan's closeness with Obasanjo
All prejudice and bias apart, there is no living Nigerian who is better informed, more equipped or more knowledgeable about Nigerian affairs today than Olusegun Obasanjo. If there's any other person, I challenge anybody to stand up and name him. You see, whenever there is crisis in the United States, they go and call former Presidents Jimmy Carter or George Bush. They call those great men who have seen it all. Obasanjo has seen Nigeria. On the international plane, he is well respected. He took the surrender of Biafra. There are certain roles, which Obasanjo has played in the affairs of this country, which no other Nigerian has played and which no other Nigerian will every play. I think we should count ourselves lucky that Obasanjo is still alive and we should banish all prejudice and bias and listen to him and learn from his experiences. It's for the benefit of the country and the public's interest.

I do not have problems with Akala
I support Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala. We nominated him on the platform of the PDP for the coming elections. I have not said no other person should vie for the same office. In fact, democracy means more than one person wanting a particular office. In fact, under the platform of the PDP in Oyo or in any other state, you can't stop anybody from vying for that office. I have never said no other son in Oyo State should vie for the office of governor under the platform of the PDP. It is their right. Let them test their popularity but at the same time, I also have the right to state my preference just like others have a right to state theirs. I have heard other people naming other people in Oyo State apart from Alao-Akala and I have never quarreled with that. The party nominates who would come through and we all back the official standardbearer and make sure we defeat other parties. So, while I don't dispute the right of others on their preference, I don't see why anybody should quarrel with my own preference.

My support for Akala and my daughter's ambition
That is not true. There are many other candidates in that senatorial district who want to contest on the platform of the PDP. That is their right and my son twice wanted to contest on the platform of the PDP but didn't get the nomination. I didn't because of that quarrel with anybody in the PDP unlike some people who when they don't get what they want, start to undermine the party and support other political parties against the PDP. What my daughter is doing, which I support, is her democratic right and others have the democratic right to oppose her and I've never quarreled with that. People's preference should be respected and that is democracy.

Akala deserves a second term
One hundred per cent! I will challenge anybody to a debate on that point and I will challenge anybody to name any other governor in Oyo State who has performed better than Alao-Akala. I can reel out so many things that he has done to show that he has done more than any other previous governors. In the history of Ibadan, we have had six Ibadans as governors in that state; two of them from the military, four of them civilians; all from Ibadan. This is the first time in the history of Oyo State that somebody other than an Ibadan will be governor. What is wrong with that? I support Ibadan indigene to be governor all the time in the past but it is history. He did not seek to be governor.

There was an impeachment and under the constitution, the deputy becomes governor so what is wrong in that? And when Akala stood for election to be governor, an Ibadan citizen was governor at that time. Ladoja didn't support Akala yet Akala won. That is democracy at work. They went to the Election Petition Tribunal and he won. The electorate says Akala won and two courts also said Akala won. In the coming election, those who want to contest on the platform of the PDP are free to come up and seek nomination.

The factions in Oyo PDP does not exist
The so-called factions in the PDP exist only on the pages of newspapers. Since Alao-Akala had become governor, we have done eight bye-elections and the PDP won all the eight bye-elections under the leadership of Governor Akala. Not only did we win; in all the eight bye-elections, our opponents left their deposits. If you want the list, I can give it to you. So, all those that are aggrieved, I appeal to them to be loyal to the PDP and come into the party and play their role but what is the reason for their grievances? Nobody stopped any of them from seeking nomination for governorship on the platform of the PDP. Let them seek nomination.