The coast appears to be clear for President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2011 poll on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party as the party said on Wednesday that it had jettisoned the controversial zoning of political offices since 2002.
The PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, at an interview with journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, said zoning was only used during the party’s primaries in 1998.
He said the arrangement was abandoned in subsequent primaries. To butress this, Nwodo, a former National Secretary of the party, said that four years later, many northerners and southerners, who insisted on contesting the primaries were allowed to do so.
Nwodo added that if the PDP had insisted on zoning in 2002, many Northern politicians, who collected the party’s expression of intention forms, would have had their money returned to them.
He recalled that a former Kano State Governor, the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, who insisted on contesting the primaries with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1998, was given back the money he paid for the EIF by the party which then inisted on zoning.
The PDP chairman said, “Yes, I said to BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and I repeat to you here (Abuja) again that zoning in PDP has been jettisoned.
“There is no zoning on the ground right now. Absolutely, there is no zoning. In 1999, there was zoning and only one northerner insisted on his inalienable right in the 1999 Constitution to contest against the then zoning arrangement of the PDP.
“The PDP took its rule down and I wrote a letter to him and returned his cheque. That is Rimi of the blessed memory. In 2003, after four years of Obasanjo, candidates sprang up from across the country. They paid, they canvassed. Nobody returned their money.
“Nobody wrote them that there was zoning. In 2007, there were more candidates from Southern Nigeria than Northern Nigeria and I think if that election was allowed to hold without interference; may be anybody among Peter Odili, Donald Duke or Sam Egwu would have won.
“They all paid. Nobody returned their money. Nobody stopped them. Nobody talked about zoning. They all contested. Why zoning now? Why? We have jettisoned it but we can revisit it. I’m not afraid about revisiting it.
“If we think that we need to revisit zoning today, let us revisit zoning. But the one we did in 1999, no, no, no, no, it has been jettisoned by the PDP itself.”
Nwodo, who said those talking about zoning were not following the history of the party, argued that since the party did not stop anybody after the 1998 convention on the altar of zoning, it would be wrong to stop anyone from contesting now.
He said, ”But if they want us to zone now, we will go through the process. We will start from the National Working Committee; we will prepare a memo on the advantages and the disadvantages of zoning.
“We will take the memo to the caucus. The parliament and the government will make their inputs on which way to go.
“We will take it to the BOT(Board of Trustees, which is the conscience of the party and draw from its members wealth of experience.
“After that, we will modify the scale with their inputs. And then, we will have the final debate at the National Executive Committee which takes final decisions for PDP.
“Right now, nobody can get up and tell me there is zoning or there is no zoning. If we want to zone, we have to go through this process because the earlier arrangement on zoning is not working anymore.”
Nwodo promised to organise a transparent presidential primaries, which he said would usher in the best candidate for the party.
Asked how he would do it when he is believed to have been installed by ”some godfathers” in the party, Nwodo said he was not a product of any godfather.
He added, however, that he had thought that Obasanjo would oppose his candidature because of ”my wahala’ with him in the past.”
Source: Punch Newspapers – www.punchng.com