Perhaps there is no other issue that has generated so much controversy lately as the zoning arrangement by the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party, PDP.
Opinions are divided even as there are speculations that President Goodluck Jonathan may be seeking to contest for presidency come 2011. The pro-zoning elements are saying that there was a gentlemanâ€™s agreement in the PDP in 1999 that must not be breached for any reason. The agreement, according to them, was that a president from the South would emerge and rule for two terms of eight years after which it would be the turn of the north to produce a president for the same number of terms and years.
They say it was this arrangement that paved the way for Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southerner rule from 1999 until 2007. A northerner, Umaru Yarâ€™Adua emerged as president in 2007 but died in office on 5 May this year. His first term is being completed by GoodluckÂ Jonathan who was his deputy.
The proponents of the zoning formula are saying that it is only proper that a northerner becomes the presidentÂ next year so that the zoning arrangement can be respected.
There are those who even believe that zoningÂ is in the constitution of PDP. One of them is the partyâ€™s former national chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor who said that Jonathan was not eligible to contest the 2011 presidential elections.
Others like Atiku Abubakar also believe that zoning is appropriate.
This position is said to be based on article 7, subsection 2c of the PDP constitution which says:â€œIn pursuance of the principle of equity, justice, and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotationÂ and zoning of party and public elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.â€
However, the anti-zoning voices are louder than those in favour of it. One of those voices is that of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. He bared his mind in a recent interview thus:â€œI think zoning is a system that excludes a larger percentage of the population contesting for any office. I think it is wrong. I think a country like Nigeria needs the best people they can find for any position. So the positions of the President, the governors, chairmen ofÂ local government should be thrown open to everyone that is qualified to aspire to those offices. Let the people pick who is the best.â€
We agree with El-Rufai. A zoning arrangement does not reflect one of the tenets of democracy which is, giving opportunity to every eligible citizen to contest for elective post. Zoning cannot be binding on all political parties because it is alien to our constitution. What we should be talking about is not zoning but getting a president for a country that has for years been raped by unscrupulous leaders. As far as we are concerned, a president can emerge from anywhere in the country provided that person is morally upright and equipped to vie for the highest political office in the land.
There are credible persons from all parts of the country who can make good presidents. We like to say that even if PDP sticks to zoning, that should not affect the chances of candidates of other parties who will not all be from the north. After all, PDP is just one of the many existing parties and should not always decide the fate of Nigerians.