Former military president General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) and former vice president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have, in separate interviews, cautioned the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to eschew double standard and adhere strictly to constitutional provisions in the implementation of a zoning formula for elective offices.
The two leaders stated that clinical adherence to the letter and spirit of zoning in the allocation of political offices in the 2015 general elections will maintain stability in the system and ensure fairness in political representation.
While IBB contended that “the PDP will have no option than to respect its own constitution this time around”, Atiku insisted that “it cannot be that zoning will be right for some people and is abandoned when it comes to others”. Atiku added: “You cannot eat your cake and have it.”
The national secretary of the PDP, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, last week, announced that the ruling party still stood by its zoning formula and was, more than ever, committed to its implementation in future elections.
The political elite in northern Nigeria led by IBB, Adamu Ciroma and Atiku had made a case, albeit unsuccessfully, for a northern candidate during the PDP presidential primaries of 2011, arguing that the position was zoned to the north on account of the party’s zoning formula.
The PDP however insisted that President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, could run, a development which the party faithful contended was tantamount to setting aside the zoning arrangement of the party.
When contacted, IBB spoke through his aide, Kassim Afegbua: “The PDP must respect the provisions of its own constitution without equivocation. That will go a long way to promote peace and stability in the country.
In the spirit of maintaining stability in the system and ensuring that there is fairness in political representation, it will be natural to apply the principles of zoning in the sharing of political offices.
“The issue of zoning has been a recurring decimal in the politics of Nigeria right from independence till date. This is so because of our peculiar history and unique composition as a plural country. It is the same rationale that warranted the inclusion of zoning into the constitution of the PDP.”
Commenting on perceived selective application of zoning, IBB said the concern is for what suits democratic practice in view of our peculiar history:
“Any law that is applied selectively will naturally come with its own problems. Experience has shown that we need zoning to assuage the feelings of the people and invest more in our collective responsibility of nurturing an enduring democratic culture.”
Atiku, speaking through his media office in Abuja, noted that if the leadership of the PDP is serious about making amends for the injustice of the past, it has to first admit that a wrong has been done and then take appropriate steps to do the right thing.
“There cannot be atonement without confession. The admission of error is the first step to rectification,” he said. “It is a fact that the issue of zoning is still enshrined in the PDP constitution as amended.
"However, recall that in the run-up to the 2011 election, the principle of zoning as enshrined in the party was implemented in the breach. If the current leadership wants to right the wrongs of the past, it has to match its words with action.”