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Published On: Thu, Oct 15th, 2020

Zoning: The next frontier (v)

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Thursday Column with Mohammed Adamu

By Mohammed Adamu

We seen –in previous parts of this series- that in 2007, had Obasanjo not made a volte face, whether or not in deference to the zoning agreement, propping at the very last minute, a terminally ill Umar Yar’Adua to succeed him, the political North, by its cavalier body language then, would probably still not have been bothered whether or not he (Obasanjo) handed over to a Northerner. And like I said precisely in the part one of this series, there was no better proof of that imperturbable Northern mien than that up to almost the close of nomination, it was obvious the duo of South-Southern Peter Odili and Donald Duke, were PDP’S only main contenders in the politics of who should succeed Obasanjo.
And as if by some conspiratorial disinterestedness, there were hardly any Northern contenders willing to throw their hats in a ring ironically taken over already by the real bowler-hatted South-Southerns of Peter Odili and Donald Duke. In fact we had seen that Odili in particular had not only a very large following all over the North, he was –at some point in his earth-shaking campaign forays there- treated to one of the most tumultuous political receptions ever in Kano where, if memory serves right, he was even publicly endorsed by the late Emir Ado Bayero. And which was more proof, if you like, of a willfully condescending North to the prospect of a self-succession bid by the South.
One has no present recollection that any Northerners of note –politicians, statesmen or leaders of thought- had raised eyebrows at the obvious prospects staring the North in the face of a South-Western Obasanjo, after 8 years in office, toying with the idea of handing over power to a South-Southerner. Just as –in fairness to the South too- memory should equally serve right to recall that in 1993 there was hardly any major protestation especially by the Christian South when the nation was presented with the fait accompli of an SDP Muslim-Muslim ticket bearing the candidatures of MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe. And which too, in all fairness, was proof that the Christian South itself had once been as maturely condescending.
But be that as it may, in 2007 it had still seemed inexplicably uncanny that, that very notoriously ‘power mongering’ North, the same political North of that so called ‘born-to-rule’ fame, could still have been this cavalierly insouciant, not minding whether or not political power was returned to it, even after eight de-oxygenating years of gasping out of power. Add to that the fact that those very eight years of Obasanjo had allegedly been about the most grueling out-of-power experience for a North and that most Northern politicians in fact were on record almost all through that period, crying marginalization by the South. And so, if there should have been no better time for the North to be desperate about reclaim political power, why was the North not kin about it?
A few reasons are not farfetched. Many had said that the North’s nonchalance in 2007 about reclaiming political power after Obaanjo’s terms might just have been a subtle ploy to abet the postnatal death of the un-concretized consensual zoning agreement of the PDP; because in actual fact the North had no practical beneficial reason to be kin at such arrangement and that giving its electoral advantage of numbers, the South alone stood to benefit from any power-sharing consensus.
And so, a South-Western Obasanjo handing over power to a South-Southerner after two uninterrupted terms of eight years would just have been the perfect death nail on the coffin of PDP’s infant gentleman’s agreement then, on zoning. It should’ve been proof enough that the political South, by its own body language, had repudiated zoning and thus would’ve lost the moral right, in the future, to recriminate the North over power sharing.
Yet others had said that the North’s carefree attitude about who succeeded Obasanjo in 2007 was rather a result of the wages of the sins of the annulment of June 12 which must’ve quite unusually burdened its political conscience and thus made Northern politicians willfully shun, in the meantime, all roulettes and scheming for political power. Presumably, they said, this could have been both atonement and appeasement packages all wrapped up in one bouquet, especially to the South West. But this theory was quite as unlikely as the fairy claim that Jonathan conceded defeat in 2015 not because he truly lost the election but because he had genuinely prioritized the blood of the innocents worthier than his re-election.
But be that as it may, if the North’s motive in adopting a carefree attitude to who Obasanjo handed over to, was so that by so doing hopefully it might achieve the veiled goal of ending the zoning consensus in PDP, then Obasanjo’s last-minute rebuff of Odili’s and Duke’s aspirations and his resort to a terminally ill Yar’Adua as his successor was doubly masterstroke: it had the consequence first of forcing the North back to the consensual zoning’s roundtable and then of imposing on the North a race horse that might not fully run the zoning distance for it.
The least therefore that the political North had expected especially from a political South-South was that this handicapped Northern horse –which the North itself did not have the privilege of fielding- should’ve been treated with dignity even as it failed to make it past a quarter of the zoning distance. And which now brings me to the very heart of this sixth part in what will now be a seventh-part series, namely to remind that in 2011 the genie of zoning was un-bottled not so much by a political North desperate at keeping political power which it had lost on account of Yar’Adua’s sudden demise, but that it was un-bottled rather by a political South –or South-South to be more precise- given the unclerkly manner it had handled Yar’Adua’s ailment, his return from Saudi Arabia and his eventual death.
So that when Jonathan, thereafter, arrogated to himself the right to contest 2011, in place of the North providing a successor-in-title after Yar’Adua, it had become merely auspicious for a bitter North that in 2007 had cared less who Obasanjo handed over to, to remind Jonathan that having mistreated their dying son, he had lost the worthiness to be that compromise successor-in-title after Yar’Adua. And for a South-South that had now become paranoid about losing power barely two years after divine providence had killed Yar’Adua to anoint their man, there was no better time to call the bluff of the zoning consensus.
And thus began the historic debate over the propriety of power sharing itself, in a democracy; so that as I conclude this series next week, we will see, ironically, how yesterday’s mostly pro-zoning Northerners and mostly anti-zoning Southerners are now about to trade places as 2023 approach

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