Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: 2015 Polls - Ohaneze, OPC, Ijaw Group Back Zoning

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President Goodluck Jonathan

Three socio-cultural organisations: Ohaneze Ndigbo, Odu'a Peoples Congress (OPC) and the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) on Tuesday endorsed the zoning arrangement among the country's six geo-political zones for the 2015 polls.

The spokesmen for the groups said that zoning should not be dumped, as it is necessary to ensure Nigeria's political stability and unity.

Their comments came against the backdrop of a call for the dumping of zoning by the National Coordinator of the Arewa United Consultative Forum, Ado Dansudu.

Mr. Dansudu wanted candidates for elections to be chosen on merit and not by zoning, saying that Nigeria would not move forward if it continued with the zoning arrangement.

The spokesman for Ohaneze, Tonni Oganah, said in Lagos that zoning should not be stopped until all the geo-political zones had tasted power.

"Zoning can only be stopped after all the geo-political zones making up the nation have tasted power. Let the rotation of power go round the zones first so that they will have a sense of belonging in the Nigerian project.

"After it has gone round, Nigerians can then sit down to fashion out how best to choose their leaders; that is the stand of Ohaneze," he said.

Also, the OPC founder, Frederick Faseun, said that stopping zoning would amount to social injustice.

"Let power go round first. Nigeria is sitting on a tripod and what is supported by a tripod cannot stand on two legs.

"The Yoruba cried out against marginalisation and were given a chance to rule. The Hausa have had the chance so many times. It is only fair that the third leg of the tripod -- the Igbos - should be allowed to enjoy power.

"At the end of it all, we will sit down and decide the method of selecting our leaders and candidates," Mr. Faseun said.

A Niger Delta chieftain and coordinator of the IMG, Joseph Evah, also said that the principle of zoning was already embedded in the 1999 Constitution.

According to him, zoning is what the federal character that is enshrined in the constitution is all about.

"Yes, we believe in merit but let the zones bring their best 11. You cannot say because you want to use merit that all the ministers can come from one zone.

"Every ethnic group should bring their best to represent them; in that way there will be balance and fairness," Mr. Evah said.

Also speaking, a human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, pointed out that without zoning, it would be difficult to manage the various ethnic groups in the country.

"It is true that merit is preferred to zoning but we can still get merit from zoning in the various regions.

"If zoning is not used in the 2015 elections, it will create political tension. Every region must have a bite at the presidency. It must be balanced, otherwise minorities will have no chance to lead," Mr. Aturu said.

The Pro-National Conference's, PRONACO, spokesperson, Wale Okuniyi, however, insisted on a national dialogue for Nigerians to decide on zoning for the 2015 elections.

"There must be a dialogue where Nigerians should really sit down to work out a political arrangement that will sustain the nation beyond 2015.

"Foisting such a decision on the generality of Nigerians is unacceptable and must be rejected," he said.

According to Mr. Okuniyi, what Nigeria needs is devolution of powers and not zoning.

"When power is devolved from the centre to the regions or zones, the centre will become less attractive and the issue of zoning will die a natural death," he said. NAN

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