Immediately Acting President Goodluck Jonathan took the oath of office as President and made his intention known to contest the 2011 presidential election, all hell was let lose in the Northern part of the country. Some Northerners said that there was zoning policy in the PDP Constitution and that the North had not completed its eight years tenure and should be allowed to produce the next president in 2011 to complete the time allocated to the North. President Umaru Yar’ Adua left the country in November, 2009 without formally handing over to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as prescribed by section 145 of the 1999 Constitution. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan became Acting President in February, 2010 and subsequently became President on May 6, 2010 after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010.
When the debate was on whether President Goodluck Jonathan should contest the 2011 presidential election or not, former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the Voice of America said, “There is no arrangement that precludes any Nigerian from contesting or becoming the president of Nigeria”. Adamu Ciroma, a member of Northerner Political Leaders’ Forum (NPLF) said, “The time allocated to the North is eight years, which is equivalent to the time allocated to the South for which Obasanjo served. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died unfortunately. His death has not killed the policy of zoning and rotation”.
On July 27, 2010, 17 out of the 19 governors of the North met in Kaduna to decide on the zoning principle. Governors Modu Sherrif (Borno), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano) joined the PDP Governors, Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Mahmud Shinkafi (Zafara), Aliyu Wamako (Sokoto), Usman Dakingari (Kebbi), Mohammed Goje (Gobe), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Bukola Saraki (Kwara) voted in support of zoning. Governors Gabriel Suswan (Benue), Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Danbaba Suntai (Taraba), Aliyu Doma ( Nasarawa) and Patrick Yakowa (Kaduna), voted against zoning. PDP’s Article 7.2 ( 2 ) in the party’s constitution reads: “In pursuit of the principles of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels”.
There are many questions to ask regarding the zoning policy which the North wanted President Goodluck Jonathan to respect. First, if the PDP zoned the presidency to the South for eight years, 1999-2007, why did PDP members from the North contest against President Olusegun Obasanjo in the PDP presidential primaries in 2003? In the 2003 PDP presidential primaries, President Olusegun Obasanjo became the PDP flag bearer having scored 2,642 votes. Late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi came second by scoring 159 votes while Chief Barnabas Gemade came third by scoring 17 votes. Now, assuming late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi scored the highest votes say 3000 against the 2,642 votes which President Olusegun Obasanjo scored, would the North have allowed President Olusegun Obasanjo to get the PDP presidential ticket to contest the 2003 presidential election when their own son won the PDP primaries under the guise of zoning in the PDP? If the presidency was zoned to the South for eight years, no Northerner supposed to have contested against President Olusegun Obasanjo in the 2003 PDP primaries. So, it was only PDP members from the South that supposed to contest among themselves for the PDP presidential primaries and not Northerners!
The 1999 Constitution is supreme over political party constitutions. Section one of the 1999 Constitution states its supremacy and section 131 states the qualification for election into the office of the president for which President Goodluck Jonathan is qualified. There is another question the North should answer, assuming we have a strong opposition political party that was able to produce another president from the South in 2007, what would the North have done? If there was a virile opposition political party that produced the president from the North in 2003, would North have rejected their son under the guise of zoning in the PDP and allowed President Olusegun Obasanjo to continue in office? I think we are only talking of zoning because there is no strong opposition political party in the country.
Nevertheless, about 100 politicians representing the 19 Northern states and the FCT, visited President Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock in August, 2010 to persuade him to contest. The group was led by Alhaji Hassan Adamu, Wakilin Adamawa. Others were the Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Murtar Shagari, Professor Jerry Gana, former governor of Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, former PDP National Chairman, Chief Solomon Lar etc. During that visit, Prof. Gana said, the people of the North were “solidly behind” the president based on his “ability” to deliver on the programmes contained in the manifesto of the PDP and the age-long political relationship between the North and the South-South regions”.
Morever, when President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed that he would contest the 2011 presidential election, great opposition rose against him in the North. The first bombshell came from Shehu Sani, a Kaduna based civil rights activist who said, “President Goodluck Jonathan should not contemplate contesting the 2011 presidential election. Any attempt by him to contest amounts to incitement and a recipe for political instability. Even though rotational presidency is unconstitutional, it has been able to address problems of regional, ethnic, sectional domination and marginalization”. The warning precluding President Jonathan from contesting the 2011 presidential election did not stop with Shehu Sani as Alhaji Lawal Kaita, a close associate of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar added his voice to the agitation when he said, “The North is determined, if it happens, to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan or any other Southerner who finds his way to the seat of power on the platform of the PDP against the principle of the party’s zoning policy. Anything short of a Northerner president is tantamount to stealing our presidency. Jonathan has to go and he will go. Even if he uses incumbency power to get his nomination on the platform of the PDP, he would be frustrated out”. With these words, the battle line between President Jonathan has been drawn.
General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) did not hide his feelings toward President Jonathan’s presidential ambition as he said, “There may be no Nigeria. I draw parallel with Somalia so many times (Somalisation of Nigeria). I am scared about that. Somalia, they are one ethnic group, one religion, Islam, but for 18 years, Somalia became so selfish, so corrupt, so undisciplined and they have wrecked the country”. The tension in the country became very high as some politicians from the North were making inciting statements. Former Vice President Atiku Abubaka was not spared from this bandwagon when he said, “Those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent change inevitable”. The various inciting statements were not made in vain as they were matched with actions. The threat by the Northern politicians to make the country ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan was fulfilled with the post election violence that erupted in some parts of the North which led to the death of some members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Bauchi State. Zonkwa area of Kaduna State was worst hit as more than 300 people were killed during the riot. Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), claimed that the presidential election was rigged. CPC claimed that the presidential election was rigged simply because it did not win the election but did the CPC rig itself into the various elective offices which its members are occupying today? General Muhammadu Buhari that is crying of rigging is a member of the CPC that won in many states in the North where there were monumental rigging through under aged children that voted for the CPC. When Gen. Muhammadu Buhari contested the presidential election and lost to his Katsina State brother, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007, he did not complain of rigging even though the 2007 elections were widely condemned by both local and international observers. The European Union observers described the elections as “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world”, with rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidaion”. Even late President Umaru Yar’Adua agreed that his election in 2007 was not free from fraud and malpractices as he said, “If we will be honest with ourselves, we all know how we rig elections in this country. We compromise the security agencies, we pay the electoral officials and party agents while on the eve of the election we merely distribute logistics all designed to buy the vote”. Late Yar’Adua later set up the Election Reform Committee which was headed by Justice Mohammed Uwais (rtd). The recommendations from the Election Reforms Committee which were adopted by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), led to the 2011 elections which were adjudged as the most acceptable and credible elections in Nigeria after the June 12, 1993 presidential election! The United States State Department said the election was “success” and a “substantial improvement” over 2007”. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) described the elections as “a step forward from seriously flawed elections in the past”. The European Union Mission also commended the 2011 elections as it said the elections guaranteed “overall effective exercise of voting rights to Nigerian citizens”.
At present, the country is in turmoil because of unsubstantiated claim of election rigging. The Boko Haram sect is terrorizing the Northern part of the country. They bombed the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, thereafter they bombed the United Nations building also in Abuja, killing about 22 persons. The bombing of Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Madala on Christmas day was the most pathetic of all the attacks so far as it was carried out in a place of worship. Almost 40 people lost their lives in that attack.
Nonetheless, the violence that occasioned the April 2011, presidential election, caused countless innocent Nigerians to been sent to their early graves. Property worth billions of naira has also been destroyed in the attacks that have been carried out. At present, there is insecurity in the North and people can no longer move freely to transact their normal businesses. Do those who vowed to make the country ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan, have immunity against the consequences of violence? Are they not affected directly or indirectly? Problem is like fire which spreads far and wide and can consume even the person that started it in the first place. Problem is like fire which does not have respect for its owner.
Thus, those who promised hell and brimstone for President Goodluck Jonathan, have abandoned their palatial houses and flourishing businesses in the north for fear of being attacked by the Boko Haram sect. The question now is, are those who vowed to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan really making the country ungovernable for President Goodluck Jonathan or for themselves and other innocent Nigerians? President Goodluck Jonathan should be allowed to do his job. If he does not perform, we can vote him out come 2015! Four years is such a short time. He has spent almost two years in office and before we know it the four years would elapse and there will be fresh elections in 2015. Let us give peace a chance. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution suppercedes political party's constitution and policies and empowers every Nigerian the right to contest election into any vacant offices!