2011: N'Delta leaders spit fire over PDP zoning arrangement

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Sola Adebayo

Barely 72 hours after President Goodluck Jonathan, assumed the leadership of the country, some leaders of the Niger Delta have said the new Nigerian leader has the right to contest the 2011 presidential election under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.

Jonathan‘s kinsmen in the Niger Delta said the touted zoning arrangement in the PDP which ceded the presidential slot of the party in 2011 to the northern part of the country was unconstitutional and illegal.

They asked the President to ignore the zoning arrangement and proceed to vie for presidency in 2011 on the platform of the ruling party.

Jonathan succeeded the late President Umaru Yar‘Adua, who died on Wednesday night.

SUNDAY PUNCH recalls that the leadership of the ruling party had insisted that there was no going back on its decision to pick its presidential standard bearer for the 2011 general election from the North.

Specifically, the embattled National Chairman of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, had told Jonathan to forget the 2011 Presidency, maintaining that the party‘s standard bearer would be picked from the North.

Many people believed that the present travails of Ogbulafor, especially his trial for corruption by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, were due to his position on the choice of presidential candidate of the party for the 2011 general election.

However, some Niger Delta leaders said the constitution guaranteed the right of Jonathan to vie for the presidency in 2011, adding that the zoning system adopted by the PDP was baseless and irrelevant.

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Mr. Ledum Mittee, said Jonathan was eligible to rule the country from 2011 and beyond.

Mittee, who was the Chairman of the Niger Delta Technical Committee, a body which collated all previous reports on the peace processes in the region, said, “He (Jonathan) is eligible to run. He can run and he is eligible to contest.

“The zoning is clearly PDP internal arrangement. For me, zoning is just an elitist plot to grab power and resources of the nation to themselves. All those who rob this country are always together, either as Christians or Muslims, either as southerners or northerners, they are in league together.

“But they will not want ordinary Nigerians to come together like them and they will use ethnic and religious differences to separate the masses.

“Their greed united them. But if it is another member of Yar‘Adua‘s family they are bringing or Jonathan, I will support him if he is competent. The place where anybody comes from should not work against him,” Mittee added.

Former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Mike Akhigbe, also said there was no constitutional provision barring Jonathan from contesting the presidency of the country in 2011.

He, however, declined to comment on the position of the PDP on the 2011 presidential election.

Akhigbe added, “There is no constitutional provision that says that he (Jonathan) cannot run. But I am waiting for the position of the party (PDP) on the matter before I can draw conclusion.”

The President of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, Chief Joseph Evah, also said there was no inhibition against Jonathan from running for the presidency in 2011.

Evah said, “As a citizen, he (Jonathan) is free to run for presidency of the country. We (Niger Delta) are the one feeding the nation and they are saying we cannot be president unless we take permission from the people we are feeding. If not that we raised the alarm, they would have dealt with Jonathan the way they dealt with Gen. Oladipo Diya.

“The powerful people knew that Gen. Sani Abacha had a terminal ailment and that he was not going to survive and they had to push Diya out of the way with a trumped-up charge that he was involved in coup in order to pave the way for Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalam, a northerner, to take over on the death of Abacha.

“But every citizen, wherever you come from, you can aspire to the highest political office in the land. PDP is not the owner of Nigeria and zoning is not in the constitution. The PDP cabal is planning to foment trouble with the zoning.

“Jonathan can rule because he is not a slave. He (Jonathan) is a freeborn, based on the constitution and he is free to aspire to the highest office in the land in 2011.”

A leader of Isoko ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta, Senator Spanner Okpozo, said the zoning arrangement of PDP could not bar Jonathan from contesting for the presidency in 2011, adding that the constitution enabled him to run.

Okpozo, a former Deputy Speaker in the defunct Bendel State House of Assembly, and a member of the Senate in the Second Republic, said zoning was alien to democratic processes.

He added, “Apart from the fact that zoning is unconstitutional, it breeds ineffective and inexperienced leadership. That is why it is not allowed in advanced democracies such as United Kingdom, United States of America and Germany.

“The PDP zoning is not binding on anybody. If Jonathan decides to run for presidency in 2011, he is eligible to do so.”

Similarly, a leader of the Niger Delta Leaders, Elders and Stakeholders Forum, Dr. Richard Tosanwumi, said the rules of the PDP and the constitution allowed Jonathan to aspire for presidency in 2011.

Tosanwumi, a former Commissioner for Health in Delta State, said Jonathan would not be violating any law if he decided to run in the next presidential poll.

He said, “He (Jonathan) can rule by the rules of the party (PDP) and the country‘s constitution.”


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