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By NBF News

Former National Democratic Party (NDP) gubernatorial candidate in Yobe State and now Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart, Yakubu Bello has called for immediate convocation of a national conference to address the controversial zoning issue. Bello who was reacting to the endorsement of zoning by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) at its recent meeting told Daily Sun in an interview in Damaturu that 'the ACF position may not after all, represent the opinion of majority of the people in the North.'

According to him, 'many people in the North have voiced out their views that zoning is no longer relevant in the contemporary Nigerian state while many insisted a gentleman agreement which was reached by the PDP ought to be followed. In 1999, Nigerians agreed in principle that the Yorubas and the South have been injured. So, they also have a point. Therefore, the only solution that will not cause any disharmony between the North and the South is to call a national conference where the issue will be resolved at once.'

He also called for the amendment of the PDP constitution which underscores the zoning arrangement, stressing that the clause needed to be expunged to rest the debate over zoning in the ruling party. He, however, said a candidate from the North could win the presidential election without necessarily adopting the zoning system.

The north east representative on the board of Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) also canvassed the inclusion of zoning in the nation's constitution even as he suggested that decision for or against zoning should be inserted in the amended Nigerian Constitution. 'If Nigerians want zoning, it should be included in the constitution and if it is otherwise the constitution should state it,' he declared. He dwelt on other national issues. Excerpts:

ACF decision: not yet solution
'I will say 'yes' I agree with the Forum's position to an extent that zoning should be retained because it has been agreed upon by the PDP which I belong.

Politically, Nigerians felt the Yorubas and the entire southern part of the country has been injured and as such should be allowed to produce the president in 1999 till 2007 when Yar'Adua and Jonathan came on board. It was unfortunate we lost Yar'Adua midway in their tenure. But many people have also said zoning is no longer relevant in the contemporary Nigerian state and I think they also have their points. If you look at politics in 1999 and now, there is a little difference and the political atmosphere or scenario has changed from what was obtained in 1999. So, you may say what was agreed then was no longer tenable. What I'm saying is that only the convocation of a national conference can address this problem. This is the only solution that will not cause any disharmony between the North and the South and I believe the matter will be resolved at once.

Honestly, I believe the North can even win election without zoning. I believe we can get majority of Nigerians to get a northern candidate through without zoning if we're serious to do so. So, it will not surprise me if a man from the North wins the election without the zoning arrangement. But we need to ask ourselves if majority of Nigerians actually want zoning. Then, if we're going to get 'yes' answer, I suggest we should include it in the Nigeria constitution.

This is because if for instance a new political party is registered today, it may say it is not for zoning though the ACF has asked the northern people to support zoning irrespective of their party differences. We know zoning may be undemocratic or not known in any democratic nation but because we are looking for what will address our peculiar problem and suit our system here.

PDP should amend its constitution
I have attended several meetings in Kaduna where it was argued that zoning was not necessary in our country again. My take on this is that of truth, Dr Goodluck Jonathan is a citizen of Nigeria and nobody can deny him right given to him by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to contest whether there is zoning or not. But my concern is about Article 7: 2 (c )  of the PDP constitution which states that the spirit of zoning should be observed at all levels of political decision. I think the party has to amend that section of the constitution if it finally resolves to jettison zoning because the Yar'Adua/Jonathan government prides itself as a government that follows rule of law. Therefore, I don't expect anybody to do anything other than following due process in addressing the controversial zoning arrangement.