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The raging controversy over zoning of the presidential slot of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could after all consume the party and its much-vaunted claim of being the largest political party in Africa.

Sunday Sun can confirm that politicians of northern extraction in the party have concluded plans to either leave the party en masse or work against any southern candidate of the party in the 2011 presidential election.

It was learnt that notwithstanding the pronouncement of some politicians at the recent Northern Political Summit in Kaduna, several politicians are resolutely committed to protest what a leader called 'the ignoble behaviour of our brothers from the south.'

The leaders of the party had in 1998 resolved that it would rotate its presidential slot between the South and the North, with the South enjoying the first shot as a way of placating the South West, which felt shortchanged that the late Bashorun MKO Abiola was not allowed to exercise his mandate after merging winner in the June 1993 presidential election.

As a result of that agreement, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was preferred ahead of so many other aspirants that vied for the position at the party'a primaries. He spent the mandatory two terms of eight years and handed over to former Katsina governor, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua, who unfortunately died after less than 30 months on the seat, paving the way for the ascendancy of Goodluck Jonathan, his deputy.

However, ahead of the 2011 polls, the body language of the party hierarchy indicates that it might jettison the zoning arrangement to allow the incumbent President, who is from the South South state of Bayelsa, to contest the election. That position has pitched many northern members of the PDP against several of their colleagues from the south, a development that many feared may signal doom for the PDP in 2011.

While a section of politicians in the North are said to be seriously thinking of dumping the PDP for another party in 2011 should the party leaders jettison zoning, another set of northern leaders would rather remain in the PDP and work against the party at the general election. Spokesperson of Northern Political leaders Forum (NPLF), Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, during the week hinted that dumping the PDP might be the next line of action should the party drop zoning in 2011.

Kwande said: 'One of the strategies of the PDP for winning election is zoning and it was an agreement embraced by all. But if some people feel it could be abandoned midway, they should be ready to face the consequences. I can tell you that the North would abandon the PDP and vote northerners of their choice.'

Kwande, a member of the powerful Peoples Democratic Front (PDF), added: 'All we are saying is that it is only morally right to respect agreement whether written or unwritten, formal or informal, especially when such agreement is meant to be for the good of all.'

Although his declaration caused some stir across the party, Sunday Sun gathered that Kwande actually spoke the minds of many northern politicians who felt that the region was about to be cheated by their colleagues from the south.

A PDP leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: 'Forget what those shameless people said in Kaduna. What Ambassador Kwande said is the thinking of our people. What they are trying to do by dropping zoning is unfair and they know it. Nobody prayed that Yar'Adua should die, but are they saying the North should be blamed for it or are they trying to punish us for his death?

'We all know there was an agreement in 1998. I was part of it. I can confirm that because I was in the know in the party. But now some people are trying to deny it. That is bad and immoral.'

Another Senator from North Central, while recalling the role played by the region in ensuring the emergence of Obasanjo as president in 1999, said: 'We settled for a southerner even when his own people at home rejected him, but unfortunately he did not reciprocate such gesture. I think it is unfair and all this does not help national cohesion.

'I don't like zoning as a person, but I will not accept the idea of changing the rule of a game in the middle of the game; it will be immoral. There was an agreement.

We must follow it to the end and then sit down to review it. We should not have this mentality that agreements are made to be broken. It is wrong. These are the things killing this country. Simple integrity is what is needed in this matter. Unfortunately people don't have it.'

A member of party's Board of Trustees (BOT) from one of the North Central states, however, explained that the threat from Kwande might 'just to beat the PDP hawks into line.'

He hinted: 'Many northerners are likely to pitch their tents with a northern candidate in another party than vote for any southerner that the PDP presents. If the PDP presents Jonathan and any of the political parties presents a formidable northerner, that is bye-bye to PDP presidency. We won't vote for PDP.

'The idea of a Jonathan presidency is deeply unpopular in the North. It is so popular that any governor that openly identify with Jonathan's ambition is seen automatically as an enemy of the North and will not get the people's support at the polls. If he wants second term, he could as well forget it.'

A key member of the Northern Senators' Forum corroborated the plan to engage in 'anti-party activity' during the election should the PDP present a southerner. The senator affirmed: 'The North will go for any formidable presidential candidate that comes up from any party against Jonathan. We are committed to ensuring that the North completes its eight-year tenure, and by 2015 we can then talk of dumping zoning. But definitely not in 2011 as that will amount to cheating us.'

But the House of Representatives Minority Leader, Hon. Mohammed Ali Ndume, berated the PDP for making 'the issue of zoning, which ordinarily should have been its internal affair, a national affair. They want to force all of us to discuss it. Even President Jonathan is no longer behaving as the President of Nigeria but as presidential candidate, cutting deals and campaigning for 2011 and forgetting to rule.'

Ndume, who said the controversy over the PDP zoning arrangement is an indication that the party is not an organized group, revealed that the issue of zoning was well spelt out in Article 10 page 7 of the All Nigeria Peoples Party's constitution. 'I am of the ANPP and I cannot talk for PDP and their headache. But in ANPP we are very organized and we spell this issue of zoning out clearly in our constitution. It is well spelt out in Article 10 subsections 1,2,3 and our zoning committee is about to come out on what to do in 2011.''