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Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Caution PDP Against Jettisoning Zoning

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Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF have warned the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against the purported recommendation of the 37-Member PDP Zoning Committee to throw the party’s 2023 presidential ticket open

The group which cautioned the PDP against jettisoning Zoning said throwing the party 2023 presidential ticket open to all parts of Nigeria “is not only abhorrent, unfair and unacceptable, but it is also a purveyor of discord”.

The warning was issued via a statement signed by Chief Edwin Clark, the Chairman of the groups and leader of PANDEF; Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere as the leader; Professor George Obiozor for Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the President- General and Dr Pogu Bitrus for Middle Belt Forum as the National President.

According to the statement: “The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum is dismayed by the purported recommendation of the 37-Member PDP Zoning Committee to throw the party’s 2023 presidential ticket open to all parts of the country and the justifications afterwards. The said conclusion of the Governor Ortom-led Zoning Committee is not only abhorrent, unfair and unacceptable, but it is also a purveyor of discord. Accordingly, SMBLF urges the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the People’s Democratic Party to outrightly reject the recommendation.

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“SMBLF cautions the PDP not to violate its principle of zoning and rotation of power between the North and the South. Noting that the founding fathers of the party and the framers of its constitution, in cognizance of the nation’s diversity, and in line with the federal character principle, rightly provided under Section 7, Sub-section 3C, that there should be a rotation of party offices and elective offices, not only to promote equity, fairness and justice but equally to avoid the preponderance of persons from any particular section or ethnic group of the country in the running of the affairs of the party and the government of Nigeria as we have today, the one-sided government of President Muhammadu Buhari, the PDP has, over the years, faithfully adhered to this principle of zoning and rotation; they cannot afford to discontinue it now.

“Furthermore, SMBLF observes that opinions being advanced against zoning are frivolous and absurd.  And that the suggestion that the 37-Member PDP Zoning Committee which had its membership drawn from the 36 States and the FCT, had a consensus on its reported submission of an “open presidential primary” is neither here nor there.

“SMBLF insists that all major political parties including the PDP and APC must be fair to the South by zoning their Presidential tickets to the South in the national interest.

“The notion that an open presidential primary election, which is not zoned would afford the 36 states to vote so that only the best and most competent person will emerge as the flag bearer of the party, is buncombe. It is not correct, because even where zoning is done, it is not only the people who come from the area where it is zoned that will vote. In the 2018 presidential primaries of the PDP, and at other times, for any serious party, every delegate of the party voted. So whether it is zoned or not zoned, the same party delegates from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory will be available to vote. This is exactly what happened in 2018 Portharcourt, where Atiku Abubakar defeated about 12 Presidential Aspirants from the North, with the votes of delegates of the 36 states and the FCT, Abuja, which he won with about 1500 votes. We repeat, he was not only voted for by Northern delegates. Who is Fooling Who? Or who is deceiving who? Zoning simply promotes fairness and equity and gives a feeling of belonging to all sections of the country. Does anyone need to be apprised of the  “man-made” compositional disparities in Nigeria?

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“More so, Southern Nigeria is not in want of competent, intelligent and sagacious men and women, who are more than capable to lead and navigate Nigeria out of the present quagmire; restoring its dignity and glory, and elevating the country to even greater acmes, in all sectors, for the good of all Nigerians.

“SMBLF is disturbed by the deliberate trickery and duplicity of those limiting the chronology of zoning and rotation of political offices between the north and south to 1999.  The zoning of key political offices in the country started before independence. When Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was elected the Prime Minister of Nigeria and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe became the Governor-General of Nigeria. The two top positions could not go to the North or the South. The Prime Minister which was equivalent to the Head of State or President came from the North while the mostly ceremonial Governor-General went to the south.

“Thus, the contention that the North East, where Tafawa Balewa came from has never produced an executive head of this country is also not correct. Let no one attempt to twist history in the bit to procure political sentiments and advantages. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister of Nigeria and Head of Government because at that time we were practising the parliamentary system of Government and the Head of the Government was the Prime Minister, which is being done today in Britain, Canada, Australia, India and other countries where they are practising the parliamentary system of government.

“It is also rather mischievous to say that the period of the military administrations or regimes should not be reckoned with. Why would anyone suggest that about 29 years of the nation’s history; 1966 to 1999 during which period most of the restructuring of this country took place, for instance, all the 36 states and the FCT,Abuja, were all created by the military, were Northers were the Head of states, also the 774 local government areas were created by the military regime, and the present 1999 Nigeria Constitution was also produced by the Military Government.  Today, the north has more population than the south, and today the north has more states and Local Government areas than the south, Yet some people sits in their bedroom to arrogantly decide that the Northern Military Heads of States that rule this country should not be counted and tilted it to the advantage of the north should not be counted,  Why? Do we really need one country? Except 1979 to 1983, during the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, should be discarded? Weren’t the people ruling the country, at those times, the Heads of State and Government of Nigeria?

“It further bears underscoring that apart from Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and Olusegun Obasanjo, all the other military Heads of the Government of Nigeria were from the north. The question then is, were there no competent officers from the south or they were intentionally sidelined in the leadership of the country under the military? The north should explain why it was so.

“It is needful to advise that the future of this vast country lies largely on the conscious determination of the leadership of the various political parties,  especially the APC and PDP, to take patriotic decisions that would promote national cohesion and peace.

“It is necessary to warn that if we cannot abide by the established principles of rotation and zoning between the north and south, then we should not continue with “one country”, we should go back to what we were before the amalgamation of 1914.

“A situation whereby one group of people would think that they are the only ones destined to rule in a country where we are all Bonafide “shareholders”, is not only unpatriotic but perfidious and ruinous to national harmony.

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“The right thing to do is for all major parties in the country, including the People’s Democratic Party PDP and the All Progressives Party APC, to zone the presidency to the South..

“We are talking about the presidency of Nigeria; the narratives of whether the president was of PDP or APC, are superfluous. Any attempt to perpetuate the northern presidency through unnecessary intrigues and conspiracies after the 8 years of President Muhammadu Buhari,  because of a hypothetical majority,  would no doubt heighten the dissension in the country.

‘SMBLF, therefore, re-echoes the reiterated position of the 17 Southern Governors that the South should produce the next president of Nigeria and further insists that we shall work against any of the major political parties that do not zone its Presidential ticket for the 2023 election to the South. *There is no going back!

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