…Carpets Party For Jettisoning Zoning
The day a Southeasterner becomes President, that is the end of the civil war, says a prominent Igbo leader, and former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo. Nwodo, who insisted that “the trauma of the civil war is still with us”, asserted that “The agitation for Biafra, for Oduduwa, for Middle Belt, for whatever, that is the day it would cease”.
Speaking Tuesday night on Arise News on the chances of the southeast in producing the president in 2023, Nwodo, who wondered why it is when the southeast is in the best position to benefit from the zoning and rotation arrangement in the PDP that “all sorts of stories and grammar is on stage”. The elder statesman also spoke on the benefits an Ibo presidency would bring to Nigeria and why the PDP followership in the southeast had been depleting.
Encouraged by the support and sympathy the southeast aspiration was getting from other parts of the country, Nwodo said “I think that on a daily basis, we are getting stronger in that direction. You must have heard former vice president Atiku Abubakar recently saying that if the presidency is zoned to the Southeast, he would step down. But if it is zoned to the Southwest or South-south, he will not. Now, you have heard great Nigerians across the country – Edwin Clark, Ayo Adebanjo and others.
“And then I have personally, with some leaders of the Southeast, gone to visit IBB, to visit former head of state, Abdusalami Abubakar, to visit T.Y. Danjuma, to visit General Gusau, and everywhere we went, we were encouraged, and they saw with us what the southeast presidency would bring to Nigeria at this time – peace, unity. These are two great things that are lacking in our country today. Somebody has to reunite this country. And the person who is most traumatized, most marginalised, most vilified, if the country reaches out to him, healing process has begun”.
The former PDP national chairman argued that jettisoning zoning arrangement by the party is not just detrimental to the people of the southeast, but “It is a detriment to the unity of Nigeria. It’s a detriment to law and order; it’s detriment to constitutionalism”.
According to him, “We freely, at the formation of the party, enacted in our constitution the policy of zoning and rotation. Why is it that this time when the southeast is in the best position to benefit from the zoning and the rotation all sorts of stories and grammar is on stage? If we have simply followed the constitution of PDP, definitely, it should come to southern Nigeria because a northerner is exiting the presidency so, the president should come south. That has been the policy; it has been the covenant. Why change the goal post at the middle of the game? And if it comes to southern Nigeria, people have said why should Fayose (Ayodele) from southwest buy form? President Obasanjo served eight years, and Osinbajo is serving as vice president for eight years. Why should southsouth; why should Wike (Nyesom) buy form when Goodluck Jonathan did two years as vice president, and six years of Presidency and the southeast has not done? Southeast, since independence of Nigeria has only been in an executive position for seven months – Aguiyi-Ironsi. Nobody has been elected president from the southeast”.
Asked if the southeast feels a sense of betrayal by the PDP not zoning the presidency to the southeast in spite of its loyalty over the years, Nwodo said “I don’t want to use that strong word, ‘betrayal’. All I want to say is that well, individuals have ambitions, which they are entitled to. But at the end of the day, superior argument must prevail. When we formed this party, every election that was contested in the southeast was won by the PDP; all councillorship elections in all the five states; all the local government chairmen in all the five states. The same thing with members of the state Houses of Assembly, all the governors, all the National Assembly members – all were won by PDP in southeast. It is the injustice meted to people in the southeast from time to time that has depleted that monumental support of southeast for the PDP, and we think that this is the time to reverse it”.
On the possibility of the zone to settle for a consensus candidate, Nwodo expressed satisfaction that the aspirants are on their own, talking to themselves, adding that “We are also making efforts to assist them to arrive at a consensus because if we get a consensus from the southeast, it’s easier to sell that consensus to the rest of the party, and Nigeria. Ours is just to make efforts to get a consensus Okay. And we have been consulting widely too. The Electoral Act has clearly spelt out consensus as one of the ways by which candidates can emerge. So, everybody is trying it out; but where it fails, we go into the primary and let the delegates vote for the candidates. And if they are doing direct primaries, let members of the party vote for the candidates”.
Dismissing the insinuations that the Igbos find it difficult to present a united front at any point in time, vis-à-vis the southeast’s agitation for Biafra, the former Enugu State governor insisted that this is not peculiar to the people of the southeast alone, former governor of Enugu State argued that “No part of Nigeria has ever put up a united front, so don’t take that against the southeast; nobody. There has never been any time you zone the presidency and there was a united front. The last time in Port Harcourt there were more than eight aspirants from northern Nigeria. It was zoned to northern Nigeria and at the end of the day, Atiku picked the ticket, and defeated the others, and we all supported Atiku to the election. So, there has never been that kind of unanimity anywhere. Nigerians are republicans, especially Ibos. There is no straight line; our diversity and our strong ability to criticise the status quo for something better is our strength. So, everybody is talking from his own point of view of Nigeria today.
“Why do you blame those who say Biafra? Why don’t you engage them and find out why they are saying Biafra? Don’t you think that Nigeria has a capacity to solve whatever problems that these children are agitating for? There is no problem in this country that is beyond Nigeria united together that cannot be solved. So, the major aspirants from the southeast have started meeting without even the efforts that some of us are making to get religious leaders, traditional leaders, to talk to them to say look, only one person can be president; they are already taking amongst themselves”.
On what the southeast would be bringing to the table if given the opportunity, the 71-year-old medical doctor said “When you are bringing somebody who has an answer to the economic problem of Nigeria; an ordinary Ibo man survives on economy; we are traders. We don’t go to business to lose; we go to make profit. We will turn around the economy of this country to create money to solve the problems of Nigeria. We are talking about people who have sacrificed blood and sweat, everything, for the unity of this country; who have paid the price. Their patriotism is not questionable.
“The fear for the people of the southeast is fear of those who feel southeast had been badly traumatised that giving presidency to the southeasterner, he would come to revenge. That’s not true. It’s not in our DNA. Azikwe never revenged, Okpara never revenged on anybody. Indeed, our warlord, Odumegwu Ojukwu, came back and reintegrated and even contested election”.
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