By NBF News

Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu who once sat on the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had at sundry times aspired to govern his native Imo state on the platform of the ruling party. Not too long ago, the engineer of note sought the position of the national chairmanship of the party, but lost to the amorphous monster called consensus in local political parlance.

In this interview with Sunday Sun in Abuja, Izuogu who chairs the Progressives Movement of Nigeria insists that all the noise about zoning in the PDP smacks of deceit because there is an extant agreement which zoned the party's presidential ticket to the North till 2015. He says the South East is working with the North to ensure the agreement is not breached.

Although Izuogu says the Igbo are not averse to Jonathan contesting for the presidency next year, he explains that such can only be possible on the PDP platform with the consent of the North. Excerpts…

A lot is happening in PDP. Is PDP about to implode?

The PDP is going through a trying period, mainly because of the way it was formed. The PDP was not formed along ideological lines. My party, I was the National Chairman of the Social Progressive Party (SPP) - the SPP was the biggest of the three parties that fused together to form the PDP. But you know ideologically, all these three groups were not the same.

We have the progressives, we have the conservatives, we have the liberals, and so on, all put together. Personally, I would have preferred a situation where we have a two party system like we have in SPD, NRC, so that the polity is divided along ideological lines, parties that are almost equal, in size, and therefore we play politics of issues, rather than politics of ethnicism and religion and zoning. By God's grace, we will get there, we're not yet there.

Talking about zoning now, where does the South-East stand on zoning?

Our stand is very clear, very, very clear. We stand on the zoning agreement that is also enshrined in the PDP constitution. You see when it comes to issues of agreement that are written down, I find it unfortunate if people start asking where you stand. You must stand on the agreement that has been reached if you are a human being. It's only if you are a beast that when you have signed agreement with somebody, later on you start asking where do you stand on it. If you are a man of law and order, you must stand on a written agreement. So I have been unequivocal about this, we stand on the zoning of the PDP.

With this position, can President Goodluck Jonathan still run on the ticket of the PDP in 2011?

Jonathan is the President of the country, Jonathan will make a good candidate, he's doing his bit as president. He is a man that is humble, and I think down to earth. So there is no doubt that Jonathan will make a good candidate, and I have nothing against Jonathan's presidency.

But I wan to tell you the truth: the PDP presidential ticket as at this time belongs to the North, according to the agreement that we reached. We're human beings, we are not beasts. The agreement that was reached in the constitutional conference and then in the PDP which was enshrined in the PDP constitution gives the presidency, the presidential ticket of the PDP unequivocally to the North for eight years, okay?

In other words, the North has the ticket for 2011.

Jonathan can only run on that ticket if the North agrees, and it's not just the North agreeing, the South-East will also be part of that agreement. In other words, there will be a tripartite understanding that if the North agrees that Jonathan runs next year and be there for four years, in 2015, the South-East will take over, and after the South-East finishes its turn, then it goes to the North.

I say if the North agrees because if you want peace, and you have written an agreement, if you want to change that agreement you must get the permission of the beneficiaries of the agreement, that is the only way you can resolve it peacefully. But if the north says no, we stand by our written agreement, that we must finish the term of Yar'Adua's presidency, the North is right, and their views must be respected on this matter. If Jonathan still wants to run, he can run on another platform.

Okay, now you are bringing another dimension to this debate, the third leg of the tripod, which is the South-East. Do I take it to mean that the understanding over the years has been that power begins with the South West, goes to the North, reverts back to the South East before South-South?

No, no, no, let me tell you, the agreement is that power will rotate between the North and the South. In other words, the South does eight years which Obasanjo did, then power goes to the North, for eight years.

After the north has done their eight years, it comes to the South. If it comes to the South, already, South-West is excluded because they have done, it now remains the South-East and South-South. Any of them can start. But because of the fact that Jonathan was vice-president when Yar'Adua died, so naturally he became president; that's the way it should be, the South-South has taken before the South-East.

In the tripartite agreement, the South-West will not be part of that agreement because they have taken their turn. The South-South and the South-East and the North are the concerned parties. They must sign an agreement in the interest of Nigeria's unity and stability. Look, this thing belongs to the North for another four years, but if the North is so benevolent and say, alright, since Jonathan is already there, let him now do one term,  and then it goes to the South-East, and then comes to the North, fine.

But if the North does not agree, you cannot force them. Those who are advising Jonathan to go ahead and run in spite of the zoning are his greatest enemies; they don't like him. They want to push him into the precipice. Today you find Northern youths storming meetings and all that, insisting that they must take their turn. Now you have militants in the South-South, also uneasy. Whenever you have this kind of uneasiness between tribes in Nigeria, it's danger. It spells danger. That was what happened in the South-West in 1965, and because the politicians were so selfish that they would not say the truth, they would not advise the government of that day correctly.

They were political advisers, they wanted to remain in power, knowing that if the government went, they went with it. So they would say stick to it, whether it is right or wrong; and so the government of the day did not do the right thing. The problem in the West snowballed into wetie where people were being burnt alive and killed, and finally the army came in, rightly or wrongly, and then the civil war followed. I don't want to see that again in my life time. I couldn't speak out that time because I was too young, but now, I'm of age. They say that evil thrives when good men say nothing or do nothing, I don't want to be the good man who says and does nothing when evil is about to thrive.

We must do everything to prevent tribal conflict, whether between the North and the South-South, or between the South-South and the South-East or between the North and the South-East. We don't want it. We don't want our young people, our children to go and die again in bloody conflict, just because of the self-centeredness of a few people, we don't want that. We owe this country a duty to say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, no matter whose ox is gored.

You are talking about the position of the South East Forum. Assume Jonathan does not heed your advice and goes ahead and runs on the PDP platform, what are the implications for the South East?

I am from the South East, and I don't want to pretend that I don't care about the interest of the South East. I care about the interest of the South East. But more importantly, I care for the stability of Nigeria. Because if the entire nation is destabilized, the South East will be automatically affected. It might even be that it is the South-Easterners that will be the victims in different parts of the country, because they are normally the first victims that are killed when there is conflict. So, my interest is the stability of Nigeria; I'm not against Jonathan, I will never be. But if his candidature will create a problem for Nigeria, I will give him the advice I will give my best friend.

Don't run on the platform of the PDP because the ticket right now belongs to the North. People are pushing you, you have very bad advisers, you have very self-centred people who pretend to be friends of somebody in government. The Bible says: Remove the wicked man from around the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness. My fear for Jonathan is that he is surrounded by self-centred people who simply want to push him to the precipice for their own interests only.

They don't care about Jonathan, they don't care about Jonathan's safety, they don't care about Jonathan's well being, they don't care about how the history will record Jonathan in Nigeria. They don't care about that; all they want is use Jonathan, push him.

And I will advise Jonathan, do not heed bad advice, do not heed bad advice from wicked people, because the buck will finally stop on his table. All these people who are giving bad advice today will come out tomorrow and blame Jonathan. They will say, I told him, but he did not listen. If something goes wrong now in the country, they're the first people who will deny Jonathan. They will address press conferences and say that Jonathan does not heed advice, but they misled him. Even when they are demonstrating and saying, if you don't run, we shall declare sex strike, these are dirty sycophants.

From what you say, there is an overlap between the demand of your group and the North. Are you engaging them?

No, we have a meeting with the Northern Political Forum two days ago. The South East Forum met with the Northern Elders Forum at Yar'Adua Centre, and there it was agreed that we must stand on zoning, and that this time is for the North to finish their slot which was truncated because of Yar'Adua's death. The South East agreed, and all from the zone and from the North were there. And we all agreed that people should tell the truth and shame the devil, this ticket belongs to the North, the PDP presidential ticket for another four years which will end in 2015 and after the North, it is the turn of the East.

However, if the North concedes the ticket to Jonathan, we from the South-East will not be angry because they are our neighbours, our brother, our in-laws, we do everything common with them. If the North decides to concede that, and then there is agreement that once he finishes his four years in 2015, it goes to the South-East, we

have no objection.