Nigeria: Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Lambast Atiku, Others for Dumping Zoning

Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has lambasted former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State for allegedly jettisoning the zoning arrangement by going ahead to pick the presidential nomination forms of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The group commended PDP governors of South-South and South West as well as National Assembly members and other stakeholders of the party in the two zones for their commitment to the quest for fairness, equity and justice in the power equation of the country.

The SMBLF, which comprises Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt yesterday, said the position of the PDP governors was a reassuring demonstration of the unanimity and resolve that the next president of Nigeria should come from the South, in the national interest.

The statement was signed by Chief Edwin Clark, leader of PANDEF, Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere, Professor George Obiozor, president-general of Ohanaeze Worldwide and Dr Pogu Bitrus, national president of Middle Belt Forum (MBF).

They said it must be noted that zoning had been practiced in the nation’s polity since independence and remains sacrosanct, adding that when Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in 1960, was the prime minister of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was governor-general.

The leaders argued that the zoning of political offices, particularly the presidency of Nigeria, is the best panacea for peace, unity and progress of the country.

According to them, the recent contentions by certain northern politicians, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, on the issue of zoning, are most disappointing.

They said, “Atiku’s comments while reportedly addressing some PDP leaders are symptomatic of desperation and somewhat arrogance. His supposition that the APC has a moral obligation to zone the presidency but that the PDP does not, is self-serving and illogical.

“The PDP already has a national chairman who is from the North, in the person of Senator Iyorchia Ayu, from Benue State; the opinion that Senator Ayu would relinquish his position for somebody from the South if someone from the North emerges as the party’s presidential candidate is preposterous. Ayu was elected at the party’s convention with the expected consideration that the presidency would go to the South.

“The PDP as a political party had always adhered to the principle of zoning since its formation. In 1998, the PDP zoned its presidential ticket to the South and the chairmanship to the North, and Chief Solomon Lar from Plateau State became the pioneer national chairman of the party.

“The APC has also been religiously following the zoning or rotation system between the North and the South. In 2014, the APC zoned its presidential ticket to the North and the chairmanship of the party to the South, Chief Bisi Akande emerged as the party’s first interim national chairman.

“Subsequently, all those who contested for the party’s presidential ticket were from the North, including President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso and the late Sam Nda-Isaiah, except Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who has been a habitual presidential aspirant since 2003.

“It is worthy to also note that in 2018, only northern candidates, including Jonah Jang, David Mark, Atiku Abubakar, Kabiru Turaki, Sule Lamido, Attahiru Bafarawa, Ahmed Makarfi, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal and Datti Baba Ahmed, contested the presidential primaries of the PDP that was held in Port Harcourt. Why was no southerner involved in the contest, if not because it was zoned to the North? Was it a coincidence or by hook or by crook?”

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