RUMBLE IN THE NORTH
The Northern Political Summit, held on Thursday, has left those opposed to the idea of the programme, excited rather than unsettling their camp, Saturday Sun can authoritatively reveal.
While the chairman, summit organising committee and former Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana as well as Minister of State, Information and Communications, Labaran Maku, thanked the delegates for turning out en masse for the event, the absence of prominent northern politicians, particularly from the North-West geopolitical zone was not lost on them.
The IBB factor
Saturday Sun findings revealed that certain presidential aspirants from the North have sounded out prominent individuals from the region before the event and explained why it should be boycotted. They alleged that the organisers had formed an opinion on zoning and were desperately looking for a platform to give it a semblance of endorsement by the North.
A Saturday Sun source disclosed that former President Ibrahim Babangida had been in Kaduna two days before the event and only left Kaduna on the eve of the programme for Kano State. His claim was corroborated by heavy flooding of posters, IBB for 2011, which were posted within the Kaduna metropolis and at the venue of the summit.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan's posters were restricted to the International Trade Fair Complex, Kaduna, venue of the summit. A few only resurfaced along major streets in the metropolis after the event.
North East, North Central affair
The programme made provisions for chairman and co-chairmen. Former Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana, was chairman of the organising committee of the event, which has former PDP national chairman, Chief Solomon Lar, Ambassadors Hassan Adamu and Shehu Mallami as co-chairmen. The event was boycotted largely by politicians from the North-West geo-political zone, as Minister of state, Information, Labaran Maku, laboured intermittently to identify delegates from the zone in the conference hall.
Saturday Sun reliably gathered that a certain influential Emir from the North, who is sympathetic to the ambition of President Jonathan, prevailed on Ambassador Shehu Mallami from Sokoto State to attend the event.
Mallami's aloofness to the intention of the organisers of the event came to the open, as he disagreed with the compere of the event who had earlier announced that Lar would present the position of the co-chairmen.
Lar specifically argued that the zoning formula was applied to assuage the feelings of the South West that felt aggrieved over the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and later submitted that zoning was never meant to be a permanent feature of the country's democracy.
Part of his speech reads: 'As one of the founding fathers of the PDP, I remember clearly the basic considerations of the principle of zoning and the interim nature of its application. Zoning was never meant to be a permanent feature of our democracy. Surely, the day is coming when both our nation and our democracy would become so mature as to make zoning most unnecessary.
'Having tested the power of civil discussion and dialogue in the resolution of problems, I am a great believer in the wisdom of talking things over. Hence my solid support for this summit. This is the beauty of democracy -the freedom of expression.'
Ambassador Hassan Adamu was, however, not forthcoming on the issue of zoning. Instead, he said: 'We must develop an agenda for the peaceful development of the North. North is backward in virtually everything. Have we played our role as leaders? We will not discuss the ambitions of individuals here, but about what will develop the North.'
Like Adamu, Shehu Mallami too was circumspect on zoning, as he rose up to argue that whatever resolution the summit reached should consider the interest of the North to the acclamation of delegates.
'A lot of my people have their misgivings about the intention of this conference, but I said I would attend. So long as it is about the affairs of the North, I must attend as a citizen of this country. Our purpose is to see that the North is developed, in whatever way within a corporate Nigeria. This conference must ensure that northern interest is protected, irrespective of whoever becomes the president.'
While Professor Gana itemised the issues for discussion, as electoral reform, development of the North and zoning, his submission set the tone for the resolution.
Hear him: 'Distinguished delegates, we are also gathered here to deliberate wisely over the weighty matters of power rotation, commonly called zoning. As several delegates would recall, the policy of zoning was adopted by the founding fathers of PDP to resolve the huge crisis that followed the annulment of the June 12 election of 1993. It was through leadership gathering of this nature that questions of power shift and power rotation were peacefully resolved in 1998/ 1999.
'So far, the policy has worked fairly well to stabilise our polity and to strengthen our democracy. Unfortunately, a monumental and sad event happened to the nation in the death of our dear former President. That was a matter far beyond human control, giving rise to a complex network of weighty matters. You are faced with a force majure; you are under legitimate control to reconsider your position. That's why we are here with delegates.
'In times like this, wisdom demands that elders and leaders should gather to consider and reconsider, think and rethink, evaluate and assess, so as to find a just, fair and acceptable solution, which could promote good governance, peace and stability within the Federal Republic of Nigeria.'
Summit as instrument of negotiation
The North East and North Central stole the show, but Saturday Sun investigation, however, revealed that certain politicians who honoured the invitation also put up appearance to ensure political relevance for themselves. They include former Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa; former Kogi State governor, Abubakar Audu and former Chief of Army Staff, Ishaya Bamaiyi.
Resolutions: Gemade, Gana speech made resolutions
Professor Gana may have given the conference the thrusts of its resolutions on zoning, but it was the presentation of former PDP national chairman, Engineer Barnabas Gemade, who presented the position of North Central delegates that the conference adopted.
Gemade had given stunned delegates two forms of zoning: the human and divine zoning. The former, according to Gemade from Benue State, was arrived at by PDP when it decided, in 1999, to concede the presidency to South West from 1999 to 2003 and the North West in 2007, under Obasanjo and the late Umar Yar'Adua, respectively. Divine zoning, he said, was when God chooses for the nation, when an incumbent has the right to contest.
Speaking further, he submitted that the zoning that produced the late Yar'Adua remains intact and could be exercised by incumbent President Goodluck, who was the deputy to Yar'Adua.
'North central believes that the zoning that produced Yar'Adua and Goodluck in 2007 is insufferable, since it was a joint ticket. The death of one doesn't invalidate the ticket. We conclude that as an incumbent and as a beneficiary of the arrangement in 2007, the ticket subsists until 2015.'
The North as decider
The attendance at the conference has shown that the North is clearly divided over Jonathan for president project, as the North West politicians shunned Thursday's event. Will the North go into 2011 with a divided house? What the 19 northern governors make of the northern political summit's resolution, ostensibly designed to galvanise support for Jonathan would largely determine where the North would go in 2011.