Only enemies of Nigeria will be against zoning – South, Middle-Belt leaders

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), has again pushed for the areas that have not produced the Nigerian President to do so, under the zoning arrangement by political parties.

The group insisted that enemies of Nigeria, would be opposed to the idea, as it was the only way to ensuring justice, equity and fair-play, the only elements that would see to the peace and sustenance of Nigeria as a united entity.

In a statement issued on Friday, the group, comprising Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), said those not in favour of Southern presidency were only fanning the embers of dissent and disunity capable of exacerbating the crisis in the country.

They maintained their earlier position that the two dominant political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and indeed other political parties should make their presidential tickets to the South, through a deliberate policy of zoning.

Any political party that failed  to do so in the spirit of rotation principle should should forget the support of the people from the area of its influence, the group said.

The statement, signed by South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, as Chairman of the groups and leader of PANDEF; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s leader, Professor George Obiozor; and Dr. Pogu Bitrus of Middle Belt Forum, read:  “This arrogant statement of ‘competence’ was originally propagated by Mamman Daura, nephew of President Buhari, who inferred that zoning should be jettisoned to have a competent person become President.

“Daura’s sentiment has now been adopted by some northern commentators, canvassing that there should be no more rotation and zoning but competence, giving the impression that there are more educated and competent persons in the North than in the South. That is not only ridiculous but erroneous.

“It is on record that in 1953 when Chief Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for independence at the parliament, northern legislatures opposed it, on the ground that they did not have the ‘people’ to compete with the south; as they were not as educated as the south.

“When they got back to the north, they vowed never to return to Lagos. That was why we didn’t get independence in 1956. Subsequently, conferences were held both in Ibadan and in London, leading to the nation’s independence in 1960.

“So, how can the reverse be the case today, where the north would contend that competence should be the yardstick for selecting the President of Nigeria?  What do they want? That the north should retain the presidency after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari? That is simply absurd!

“Undoubtedly, political parties have the inalienable right to field candidates of their choices by established guidelines, and certainly, every Nigerian has the right to aspire to any office in the land, but it must be understood that rights are entwined. One citizen’s rights do not begin at the end of the rights of another.

“The concept of zoning and rotation of political positions, particularly in a diverse and complex society like Nigeria, is consistent with basic tenets of democracy; expressions that it is anti-democracy are illogical.

“It is worthy of note that zoning has been an important factor in Nigeria’s political system, and it has helped to bolster harmony, understanding and confidence in the polity. We cannot ignore substantial and justified precedents.

“Protagonists of ‘anti-zoning’ are, therefore, advised to heed history and review their obtuse suppositions in the interest of peace and unity of the country.

“It bears recalling that in 1978, at the commencement of political party activities, towards the 1979 general elections, and return to civil rule, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) zoned its presidential ticket to the then ten Northern States, where Alhaji Shehu Shagari eventually emerged as the presidential candidate of the party after a keenly contested primary. And the party went on to win the 1979 presidential election.

“In 1982, the National Party of Nigerian, NPN, at its National Convention, which was held in Kaduna, where President Alhaji Shehu Shagari was unanimously handed the party’s mandate to run for a second term, the Convention also,   following strong protestations by Southern and Northern Minority groups, resolved among others matters that the position of President of the nation should rotate to the South at the end of the tenure of President Shehu Shagari.

“Note that in the progressions leading to the 1999 presidential elections, zoning was respected, particularly for the presidency, more so, the country wanted to conciliate the Yorubas because of the June 12 saga, hence the two political parties, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Alliance for Democracy, AD, micro-zoned their presidential tickets to the South-West, with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae emerging as the presidential candidates.

“In 2007, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, maintained zoning, which led to the emergence of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as Vice President. It is believed that former President Goodluck Jonathan lost re-election in 2015, mainly due to sentiments of “It is our turn” by the north and that President Buhari won on the spinal of those emotions.

“In 2018, the PDP, again, zoned its presidential ticket to the North; 12 aspirants from the North contested the PDP presidential primary in Port Harcourt, which Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won and went on to contest the presidential election in 2019 against President Muhammadu Buhari.

“It is quite clear that all political parties with national outlooks have religiously adhered to the zoning and rotation arrangement, between the north and the south. It cannot be jettisoned now.’’

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