The Politics of Zoning Vs the Politics of Compensation

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Was political power zoned to the South-West in 1999 or was the South-West compensated for the death of MKO Abiola who had won the presidential elections of 1993? Before we go into these details, let us first look at the real issues behind the heated political arguments of today.

It is obvious to us now that there is indeed a clear and calculated campaign by certain elements of Northern extraction to undermine the people of Southern Nigeria as part of a larger plan to keep President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan from contesting the Presidential elections come 2011.

The truth is that it is not the North that does not want Jonathan again in 2011. Rather it is an elitist bloc in the North, many of whom are retired generals, former ministers, and retired permanent secretaries etc who served under previous governments and still owe loyalties to those whom they served under. These are the real people pushing the case that President Goodluck Jonathan should not contest in 2011 and not the common and ordinary Northerner whose basic goal is to find work, work hard, live a good life and add value to his family and community.

This explains why the current clamour for President Jonathan to run for Presidency in 2011 is interestingly led and spearheaded by broadminded democrats of Northern extraction. They know better for they have witnessed firsthand, the greed and base avarice that has been displayed by Northern elites who have for so long carted the spoils of the Nigerian state for the benefit of themselves and that of their immediate families.

The key drivers of the anti-Jonathan campaign are loyalists of General Ibrahim Babangida in the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and some other pockets of interests sympathetic to the IBB presidential cause.

What they fail to recognize and understand is that this is not just about Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It is more about change. It is about giving every competent and qualified Nigerian the right to occupy the highest office in the land. We need to change the way Nigeria works.

We need to change the mentality that will allow a former military ruler (who cancelled what was then referred to as the freest and fairest election to be held in Nigeria for reasons as flimsy as 'the military did not want him') to think of running for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. How can that happen in a sane country?

It is ironic that today, it is Nigerians who do not want him.

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida's misadventure in 1993 gave us an unsteady and unstable Ernest Shonekan and then the ridiculous Sani Abacha before providence landed us the General Abdulsalaam who in turn made the way for General Obasanjo (Rtd.). The rest is history even though it comes with its fair share of misery.

Before the elections in 1993, General Babangida had cancelled over and over a lot of political programs that were part of his tortuous political transition process. A lot of politicians and willing political players found themselves being suddenly disqualified, banned, and then unbanned over and over in a dubiously transacted political process that questioned even the most fundamental of human morality and ethics.

Ibrahim Babangida was lord and almost began to see himself as god. Now he thinks because he wants to run, we should spare him the rod. Never!

I hear that he lives in a mansion all laced up in gold. But that is not what bothers me. I am more concerned with the story he has left untold. Stories of how he blew up $12.4 billion Gulf oil windfall and yet won for himself, the title of 'Untouchable'.

If for nothing else, the Babangida political transition process cost us too much money and because I come from the Niger Delta and know that that money came from the resources of the Niger Delta, it behooves me to call him to order and demand that he puts off his political aspirations as a mark of respect to the hundreds of millions of Nigerians whose destiny he tampered with and to the millions of Niger Deltans whose resources he stole, embezzled and mismanaged with reckless abandon.

The current cheap and misleading campaign by Babangida loyalists to color the current political agitation as a North-South contest is to say the least, pathetic and anger invoking.

The attempt by some others to paint the picture of a Southern attempt to dishonor a zoning arrangement or agreement is a clear signal and strong indicator on why Professor Ben Nwabueze, one of Africa's most outstanding constitutional lawyers would call for a bloody revolution as the only way forward for Nigeria.

Let me now go to the other issues.

In 1992/1993, Chief MKO Abiola (Social Democratic Party SDP) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa (National Republican Convention NRC) both contested for the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I do not know whether there was a zoning agreement at the time. What I know was that the better person (or rather the better prepared person) won at the end of the day.

In the unprecedented voter turn-out and the eventual landslide victory that MKO Abiola had, Nigerians across the length and breadth of the country showed that what mattered most to them was the content and quality of the candidate's vision and mission for Nigeria and not the where they came from or what their religious inclinations were.

Nigerians voted for Chief MKO Abiola in a manner that gave hope to all those who were beginning to believe that Nigeria was a failing state.

However, in a luciferous move that certain pundits claim was designed in the pits of hell, General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and his band of filth-infested generals in a devious partnership with Arthur Nzeribe and his Association for Better Nigeria, conspired to and eventually succeeded in annulling the elections. Billions of naira and painful man-hours were flushed down the drain in a matter of seconds.

The decision to enlist and eventually conscript General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd.) into the race for presidency in 1998/99 was not based on the Principle of Zoning as many would want us to believe but rather on the Principle of Compensation.

The Obasanjo presidential ticket in 1999 was therefore a compensational ticket concocted to placate and compensate the wounded people of the South-West who had not only lost an opportunity for political power but had also lost an illustrious son and benefactor to a brutal Sani Abacha and a careless Abdulsalaam Abubakar.

It was not only MKO Abiola that Sani Abacha had succeeded in killing. He also took away the lives of leading Niger Delta environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa and Shehu Musa Yar' Adua (Katsina State) amongst others.

In the same principle of compensation, President Olusegun Obasanjo selected Umar Musa Yar' Adua (the younger brother of his late friend Shehu) to compensate the people of the North and Katsina State.

Recognising the need to compensate the Niger Delta and the South-South especially in the wake of increasing unrest in the Niger Delta and its effect on Nigeria's oil earnings, President Obasanjo (and his team of selectors) looked to then Governor (now President) Goodluck Jonathan for the position of Vice President.

Even then, he (Obasanjo) knew that he could never really compensate the Niger Delta and the South-South enough for its contribution to the economic survival and sustenance of Nigeria even as it bears the brunt of oil exploitation and exploration and its attendant ills and adverse effects on the environment of the region.

It therefore becomes a matter of very grave concern for all right thinking people of the South South if this same 'North' which has always received the support of the South suddenly wake up to resist the right of a son of the Niger delta (and the South-South) to run for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2011 presidential elections.

What matters most to some of us who call Nigeria home is to have a leader who will listen to the people he governs and do the right thing always.

What matters most to some of us who call Nigeria home is to have a leader who will create jobs, work hard towards the elimination of poverty and ensure that all Nigerians have access to a good life.

We need good roads, constant power supply, and good education and health services. If Goodluck Jonathan continues to show a firm commitment in delivering these to the people of Nigeria, why discourage him from running in 2011? Why stop him in finishing the course of the agenda he set out to do with his former boss Umar Musa Yar'Adua? Why distort the vision for a greater Nigeria because of the shady aspirations of a few men who have in times past, destroyed the very fabric of the same Nigeria they now profess to want to save?

How long will Nigerians continue to fall to the dubious whims and caprices of these elites who have done nothing for Nigeria except enrich their own pockets and expand their business empires?

It is up to President Goodluck Jonathan to decide on whether he will run in 2011 or not. It is up to him to decide on what he will tell his conscience in years to come. It is up to him to decide on what he will tell his village head in years to come. It is up to him to decide on what he will tell his close friends and politicians in years to come. It will be up to him to explain to them why he refused to run for the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2011 elections.

However, it will not be up to him to chicken out from the 2011 presidential race because of the threats from a dubious and intensely selfish Northern elitist cabal who have for decades abused the privilege of governance and twisted the concept of government and in the process, destroyed Nigeria. That, we will not accept.

The season for a revolution is near. Let us pray that it will not be as bloody as Professor Ben Nwabueze wants it to be.

George Kerley ( [email protected] )