PDP zoning and rotation, By Nze Ozichukwu Fidelis Chukwu

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When Iyom Josephine Anenih, called to draw my attention to the PDP list of Members of her Zoning Committee, and I noticed that it was only Imo State that has two nominees, His Excellency Chief Achike Udenwa and myself, I felt indifferent. Fortunately, it has been rectified.

However, my mind ran riot with imaginations. About 38 very patriotic Nigerians and very distinguished politicians of mixed values have been inaugurated.

It was Steven Vichenzey, who cautioned in his book, The Rules of Chaos: “When so many things are taken for granted, it is next to impossible to perceive the truth.”

With this number of great men and women; charged with this great task in so short a time, there may be little or no time for a robust and exhaustive discussion. I, therefore, thought to myself, that to get my views across, I should articulate them and circulate it among us and the Party leadership.

Dr Iyorchia Ayu, PDP National Chairman

Let me thank the Party for my nomination and opportunity to serve in this very important Committee.

To my colleagues by providence in this August Committee, I say BIG CONGRATULATIONS. I have no doubt that you realise the importance of this assignment more than myself.

May the good Lord guide and guard us to successfully complete this onerous and delicate responsibility for the good of our great Party the PDP and our beloved country Nigeria; and to the Greater Honour and Glory of our Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent and Benevolent God.

In his book, Rotational Presidency, Anthony A Akinola opined that “A constitution must address the history and ethnological realities of a nation. It was in recognition of the ethnological factors of Nigeria,… that the defunct NPN constructed a model of ‘Zoning’ designed to alternate the geo-ethnic origin of the Party’s Presidential, Vice Presidential and Chairmanship candidates from one election to the other.

It was a realistic attempt to converge diverse interests for electoral advantage – an acknowledgement that there could be no integration without the equal opportunity to produce leadership.”

From then till now, through the IBB’s 1986 Political Bureau, the challenges of June 12, 1993 annulment, the Chief Ernest Shonekan interim government, to General Sani Abacha’s Constitutional Conference,  the issue of a Rotational Presidency gained new converts who believed as the erudite Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte, Chairman of the Constitutional Conference described the Principle of Rotation as ‘the alchemy to our political stability.’ and a solid foundation for “the preservation of Nigeria as one political entity.” And guarantees peaceful coexistence.

The conferees from  both North and South after much controversy arrived at a compromise  that ‘the Presidency of Nigeria be rotated between North and South’. Let us not forget that General Ibrahim Babangida’s Task Force on the National Question also recommended Rotational Presidency for Nigeria and IBB himself repeatedly emphasised the need to always strike a balance between legal justice and social justice.

In his publication on 3rd November, 1988, Akinola highlighted that, “Nothing threatens the collapse of a nation more seriously than the fear, real or perceived, of domination by a certain group or groups. He went further to warn in his National Concord submission on 26th January, 1989 that ” The democracy of numbers which augurs well in homogeneous unitary states, may be nothing other than hegemonic politics in some plural societies.”

Akinola in his brilliant submission in The Guardian of 7th June, 1985, Towards the Third Republic: Zoning Revisited, wrote, ” A critical look at Zoning would reveal that the system is not recent in Nigerian culture; it was the procedure for the choice of Traditional Rulers in most of the ancient Kingdoms, and has survived till the present day. He went further to explain that Traditional Zoning is a sub-division of Kingdoms into “ruling families” or “dynasties”. If, we have used our indigenous system to solve our own problems, at the micro level, I do not see how we cannot succeed if the same traditional approach is applied to the PDP.

I am convinced that the above were not lost to the Founding Fathers of the PDP in their quest for a new Nigeria founded on the principles of Equity, Fairness and Justice.

THE CONSTITUTION

PREAMBLE: 1998

On July 28, 1998 they resolved among others in Par iii. to restructure Nigeria in the spirit of true federalism in order to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of power… to conform with the principles of Power-shift and Power-sharing, Rotation of Key Political offices as to create Socio-Political conditions conducive to national peace and unity.

2006

The 2006 CONSTITUTION as Amended went further to establish a moral social order which will result in the spiritual regeneration of the nation and a strict code of conduct.

It again went further to emphasize in ARTICLE 7 Section 2.c that in pursuance of the Principles of Equity, Justice and Fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of Rotation and Zoning of Party and Public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive Committee at all levels.

In anticipation of challenges and denials of the nature as we are confronted with today it (PDP) established and demands that its BOARD OF TRUSTEES must be made up of people of integrity and with a first charge on Art 12.80 (a) to “ensure highest standards of morality in all the activities of the party by acting as the CONSCIENCE OF THE PARTY…with Power to call to order any officer of the Party whose conduct falls below the norm and (b) ensure high morale of members of the Party and that the Party enjoys a good image before the Nigerian populace (let me add the International Community, International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute etc) and is in good Political health. What will we be teaching our children when we indulge in selective morality.

It is in suspicion of Leaders living in denials that in Art 21 of the same 2006 CONSTITUTION regarding Offences and Punishment, Art 21. I, insists that, Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the party shall have power to discipline any member who:

(a) commits any breach of the party Constitution, and or Manifesto,

(b) says or does anything likely to bring the party into disrepute, hatred or contempt and consequently ridicule and public odium.

2009

In its 2009 CONSTITUTION as Amended held strongly to Art 7.2(c) as in 2006 above and further charged the STATE CAUCUS, in Art 12.33:

“To meet, from time to time, to consider urgent and important issues (as this one Zoning and Rotation) affecting the Party, the State and the Nation.” They should step out and speak up.

2012

In the 2012 Amended Constitution of the PDP, Art 7.I (c), reads “adhering to the policy of the Rotation and Zoning of Party and Public elective offices in pursuance of the Principles of Equity, Fairness and Justice.” This in itself must reflect the geopolitical character of the Region or Zones (and at all levels,) to which it is slotted.

It went on to establish the State Elders Committee with its primary function among others as:

(a) ensure high standard of morality in all the activities of the Party….

The greatest of which is to ensure that the leadership at all levels DO RIGHT THINGS RIGHT. Let the means justify the end instead of  the other way.

2017

The 2017 Amended Constitution as a matter of emphasis states that:

BELIEVING that organising ourselves into political party will ensure that Nigerians participate fully in the politics of our country to sustain our democracy;

CONSCIOUS of the need to share and rotate key political offices among the diverse peoples of our country;

DETERMINED to pursue the goals and aspirations of our people in a manner consistent with best practices the world over ;

PERSUADED that the equitable distribution of power…is a sure way of ensuring peace and harmony in the land;

BELIEVING that a strict enforcement of a code of conduct among members in and out of office will reduce corruption and ensure probity and accountability in the polity;

PROMPTED by a firm Conviction that the enthronement of a moral social order will result in the spiritual regeneration of the nation;

RECOGNISING that a well-ordered political system is a sine qua non to economic and social development; etc.

It is pertinent to recall that, in 2013, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, Distinguished Senator Bukola Saraki, Rt Hon Aminu Tambuwal and others stormed out of the PDP in protest, at the 2013 Special Convention in opposition to continued Jonathan Presidency.  They insisted that it was the turn of the North, based on the PDP fundamental Principle of Zoning and Rotation. They went further to factionalize the Party by forming what they called the nPDP and eventually decamped to APC where they helped to install President Muhammadu Buhari as President, Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria Armed Forces. America readily provided them with the audacity, the impetus and strategic linkages and leverages to sustain their demand and achieve victory.

In 2019 the trio, contested for the PDP Presidential primary in Port Harcourt; and fortunately, Waziri Adamawa emerged. We all supported his bid without preconditions.

What has now changed? It’s the crying need for nation building and the sake of honour that we are asking these Elders and Leaders to live by example and up to expectations. In the immortal words of Marcus Aurelius:”Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self respect.”

Today, we need a collective response to the PDP dilemma and the Nigerian Question.

We must collectively hold our dear Party to its words, declarations and promises. It’s not enough to win elections. The crucial question is how. Not by selective morality, of course.

We must do away with the belief that the end justifies the means and insist on the moral dictum that nothing morally wrong can be politically right. It is therefore, the means that justifies the end. Sophocles insists, “I would prefer to fall with honour than win by cheating” as Plato cautioned, “You should not honour men more than truth.”

We must never eternalize multiple principles and plural principals and eulogize  fundamentalists on weekends and evolutionists on weekdays.

We must hold members of our Party’s Board of Trustees as the conscience of the Party, to Do RIGHT THINGS RIGHT and insist on its Rotation and Zoning Principle. It’s the pivot around which the party revolves. The call to jettison it renders the party prostrate, a living dead and without conscience.

Like George Bernard Shaw would say, “The most tragic thing in the world is a man of genius who is not a man of his words, a man of honour.” And the legendary Marcus Tullius Cicero lent his eternal voice, that, “Ability without honour is useless.”

In 2023, it shall be RIGHT and JUST to let the South produce the next Presidential Candidate of the PDP. The South has no less galaxy of stars, who have the requisite knowledge, physical dynamism; are vast in skills and competences for economic revival, and national transformation to achieve national unity and cohesion, reposition Nigeria in the comity of nations, and reinvent her to become the pride of the black race.

What else can I say than to repeat Holland:

GOD, GIVE US MEN!

A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who have honor; men who will not lie;

Men who can stand before a demagogue

And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog

In public duty, and in private thinking;

For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,

Their large professions and their little deeds,

Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,

Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.”

CONCLUSION

I have gone this far to draw the attention of members of the PDP Zoning Committee and indeed the party leadership to the fact that our great party was founded on the principles of justice, equity, fairness and inclusiveness. These same principles remain the pillars on which any institution or even nation can be sustained successfully. When these principles are violated, discarded or ignored, on the basis of pursuing personal, group, sectional or regional agenda or interest, such an institution or nation will, unwittingly, be sowing seeds of disharmony, disunity and distrust, which will ultimately destroy the foundation of such an institution or nation, with all the consequences that can better be imagined.

Let me, therefore, invite distinguished members of this august committee to note that we are about to make history. What we do or fail to do with this assignment will go a long way in shaping the future of our great party and the destiny of our dear country.

Believe it, ” We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God.” Francis de Sales.

● Nze Ozichukwu Fidelis Chukwu, National Vice Chairman of PDP (South East zone) for eight years, is a national leader of the party and a member of the Zoning Committee.

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