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ZONING IS UNDEMOCRATIC – SENATOR ANNIE OKONKWO

By NBF News
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As reactions continue to trail the call on President Goodluck Jonathan to run for presidency in 2011 regardless of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning formula, Senator Annie Okonkwo representing Anambra Central, has declared that the zoning arrangement is undemocratic and will only make room for mediocres.

In this interview with Daily Sun, Senator Okonkwo calls for full implementation of the amnesty package for Niger-Delta militants initiated by the late president Yar'Adua.

Excerpts:
Yar'Adua's death
I was shocked because, what we learnt especially from the family was that he was recovering, and we were hopeful that he will bounce back and take over his position as president. So, it was a great shock to me when I heard that he was dead.

The life and times of Yar'Adua
No doubt the former president was a good man, with a good heart, a real democrat, simple, an epitome of humility and embodiment of contentment. During his eight-year reign in Katsina State, unlike other governors, he was not flamboyant and when he became the president, he immediately declared his assets.

His vision for Nigeria started with the seven point agenda and he focused on these agenda, which he pursued religiously, and most importantly he put to an end the restiveness in the Niger -Delta by granting unconditional amnesty to the Niger-Delta militants. However, today peace has returned to the once terrorized oil rich region. Yar'Adua meant well for Nigeria and this he exhibited within the short period he presided over the affairs of this nation.

Expectations from Jonathan
Yes, I expect Goodluck Jonathan to consolidate especially as we approach another election year on electoral reforms. The new president has mapped out a vision and agenda for himself and one of his agenda which he has said times without number that this time around people's vote will count and this is one thing Nigerians are looking forward to next year election hence it must be one man, one vote, because this is one of the things that will strengthen our democracy, and I expect Mr. President to continue the electoral reforms initiated by his predecessor.

Secondly, he should give greater attention to power, which he has accepted to oversee personally as he took it upon himself as Minister of Power hence power is an emergency situation in Nigeria and he wants to remedy the situation before 2011. He highlighted power, electoral reform, security and police reform as these issues have continued to give us concern, and if he can focus on these four points, Nigeria will be a better place to live in.

Substance of the amnesty programme
The truth of the matter is that I think he is going to try as much as possible to implement the full programme of the amnesty because if he fails to do that, it will result in the militants going back to take up arms which will be very disastrous for this country. It is something we don't want to see happen to this country again. We have to make sure the place is developed because the region is the goose that lays the golden egg but was neglected for a long time, and I believe that the new leadership of the country will not continue to neglect the region. Thank God the new president is from that region. So, he knows the peculiar problem of the region and I think it is an opportunity for the region to be developed.

PDP's zoning formula
Once the electoral system is strengthened, this question of zoning will be a thing of the past because zoning throws up incompetent persons; we should allow the electorate to elect their leaders without any sentiment attached. I think we are now advanced and we should not be myopic in choosing our leaders, rather whosoever is competent and has the qualities to lead us no matter where he or she comes from whether the person comes from the minority or the majority areas, the person should be given a chance.

After all we are in the 21st century and we are supposed to imitate advanced democracies. Today, nobody in America cares where Obama comes from as far as he is an American, he was qualifed to vie for the highest position in the land. However before now, you won't believe that an African-American will be president of America. So, I think we have come of age and we should adapt to what prevails in advanced democracies. The issue that the person must come from my kitchen, bedroom, tribe, region, tribe or ethnic group should not arise. The truth is whosoever we believe that has the love of this country at heart and can be trusted or have the capacity to develop this country I think Nigerians will support the person.

Jonathan's luck
As far as I am concerned, it is not luck but destiny. Luck is all about destiny. Also when God is at work in somebody's life, nobody will stop your destiny until you attain your God-given goal. Though destiny can be delayed but can't be denied. Even in the bible when God was to make a king in the house of Jesse, he went for the last, David out of Seven children of Jesse and God said he does not look at outward appearance, but the inward hence, David was proclaimed by God as a man after His heart. Therefore, it is high time we realized that God anoints kings and the truth is God has anointed Jonathan and he will be president as long as God wants and he needs our support, loyalty and prayers to succeed because whoever God blesses no one can curse. So let's support him to deliver to our people the dividend of democracy.

Expectations from Jonathan
First, the rate of poverty is very high, therefore, once the issue of power, electoral reform and security and police reform are done, then investors will come into the country to invest. You will agree with me that lack of constant power supply hinders small-scale business. So with constant power supply small and medium scale businesses will spring up and employment generated.

Ogbulafor's exit
To me, there is no problem in PDP but Ogbulafor's problem is political. Definitely, people may feel indifferent but the truth of the matter is that we are watching to see what happens. As a big party, such will be expected, but I believe that my party will resolve the issue and the anti-graft agencies are there to try corrupt officers.