By Kunle Akinloye

I have taken my time to listen to various proponents of zoning the next Governorship Candidate to the Southern Senatorial District of Ondo State particularly from among members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It has not really make much meaning to me until very recent when the Senator representing the Southern Senatorial District, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo added his voice to this clamour.
For us not to be swayed off the right track because of the status of the proponent, I therefore wish to drop this to correct the wrong postulation arising from this agitation.

Zoning in a political parlance is an understanding *mutually reached* to honour a section of a local government, state or a nation by ceding the occupation of a particular political office to it.
This is with the intention to pacify such zone for the perceived lopsidedness in the occupation of that office or others in like manner. The key word here is that it must be mutually agreed/consented to.

Zoning became famous in the current republic in Nigeria due to the unfair, unexplainable and unacceptable manner through which June 12, 1993 Presidential Election won by Late Chief MKO Abiola, a Southerner was annulled.

In his attempt to actualise the mandate freely given to him by Nigerian electorates, he was arrested, incarcerated and eventually died in absolute confinement in the hand of military junta. The annulment and incarceration of Chief MKO Abiola to the point of death was spare headed by northern military top brass. This gave way to massive protests across the nation as many pro-democracy activists were arrested and hauled into various detention camps. Consequent upon this, Nigeria was isolated and many international organisations condemned the military government for the unjust annulment and placed various sanctions on them. The military government was not recognized by many developed countries and this forced them to hurriedly commence a transition to civil rule programme. The transition started with the setting up of Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) with the aim of removing the dictatorship tendencies in the constitution to pave way for enthronement of democracy.

It was at the Constitution Review Committee that the southern representatives moved that for fair and equity, the presidency must be rotated between the north and the south but of importance, it must start from the Southern Nigeria to compensate for the injustice done the south arising from the denial of a southern man to become the president and his untimely death.
This was mutually agreed to. This was why the 1999 Presidential Election featured two prominent Southern Presidential Candidates of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (PDP) and Chief Olu Falae (AD/APP) which the former won.

Soon after 1999 Presidential Election when it was expected that the south should complete its second term of eight years, the northerners reneged on the agreement and ran against the southerners for the number one office. Twenty political parties presented candidates for 2003 Presidential Election. The northerners had seven prominent presidential candidates which included Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (ANPP -12, 710,022 votes), Mrs. Sarah Jubril (PAC – 157, 560), Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (NDP – 132, 997), Alhaji Balarabe Musa (PRP – 100, 765), Mr. Kalu Idika Kalu (NNPP), Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusuf (MDJ) and Yahaya Ndu (ARP).

In 2007 Presidential Election, if zoning would have carried such a weight and good enough as a sustainable weapon for political consideration, the northern part of Nigeria should have been given the exclusive preserve to produce the presidential candidate after eight years of Obasanjo’s presidency but it was not so.
But the reverse was the case. The likes of Orji Uzor Kalu (PPA), Chukwuemeka Ojukwu (APGA), Pere Ajuwa (AD), Chris Okote (FDP), Patrick Utomi (ADC), Ambrose Owuru (HDP) e.t.c. contested the election from the south against the northerners. Thirteen out of the eighteen Presidential Candidates were from the southern part of Nigeria. Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua won this election. He eventually died two years into his presidency which paved way for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, another Southerner to be sworn in as the president to complete the four year joint ticket of Yar’Adua/Jonathan presidency.

Ordinarily, eight years of Olusegun Obasanjo and two years of Goodluck Jonathan making ten out of twelve years should have suffice that the next president should be zoned to the north. Instead of this, it was another fierce contest between the two regions.

In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan ran for the office of the president on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party. The election featured twenty one Presidential Candidates with twenty listed by INEC. The south had fifteen while five from the north. At the end, President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP polled 22,495,187 votes to beat his closest rival, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of CPC who scored 12,214,853. Other southern candidates in the election are Nwadike Chikezie (PMP), Lawson Aroh (PPP), Peter Nwangwu (ADC), Iheanyi Chukwu (BBPP), Chris Okotie (FDP), Dele Momodu (NCP), Akpona Solomon (NMDP), Lawrence Adedoyin (APS), Ebiti Ndok (UNPD), John Dara (NTP), Rasheed Shitta-Bey (MPPP), Ambrose Awuru (HDP), Patrick Utomi (SDMP) and Chris Nwaokobia (LDPN).

At the end of Goodluck Jonathan’s first complete term of four years, the south alone have occupied the Aso Rock villa for fourteen out of sixteen years of democratic rule. This did not call for zoning the presidency directly to the north and cause a ban to be plaved on any southern presidential aspirants/candidates in 2015 Presidential election.
However, Goodluck Jonathan from the south was expected to complete his second term but the electorates decided otherwise and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressive Congress (APC) polled 15,424,921 votes to defeat the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 12,853,162.

The 2019 Presidential Election featured two prominent northerners of President Muhammadu Buhari of APC and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP. President Muhammadu Buhari of APC was awarded the winner of the most controversial election with 15,191,847 votes to beat Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who was said to have scored 11,262,978 votes. It must be pointed out that the two were not the only presidential candidates in the election. We also had Felix Nicholas of Peoples Coalition Party (PCP) who polled 110,196, Obadiah Mailafia of African Democratic Congress (ADC) who scored 97,874 votes to mention but few.

Coming back to Ondo State, history have it that prior to the present democratic arrangement, we had five old divisions in Ondo State. The Owo Division, Akoko Division, Okitipupa Division, Ondo Division and Akure Division. Four of these five divisions have produced the Executive Governor of Ondo State except Akure division. Below is the analysis:-
1. Owo Division – Late Chief Adekunle Ajasin and Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN.

2. Akoko Division – Late Chief Adebayo Adefarati.

3. Okitipupa Division – Late Dr. Olusegun Agagu.

4. Ondo Division – Dr. Olusegun mimiko.

5. Akure Division – *Not yet*
From the above, if any section of Ondo State should legitimately clamour for ceding the Governorship candidate to them, it should be the Akure division comprising Ifedore local government, Akure North, Akure South and Idanre local government. Yet we are not because what we need to win the next governorship election is a candidate that is generally acceptable by the people, a very popular person that needs no introduction to the electorates. We need a candidate with structures spread across the entire eighteen local governments. We need a candidate that possesses a national clout and influence. This is because in any electoral contest, it is the electorates that determine who should be crowned.

Also, if we must flash back, one might be compelled by this agitation to say that the southern senatorial district has had more chances than any of the two remaining senatorial districts of the central and north in consideration of Governorship slots of PDP. Below analysis shall justify my claim:-
1. 1999 – Dr. Segun Agagu (South)

2. 2003 – Dr. Segun Agagu (South).

3. 2007 – Dr. Segun Agagu (South)

4. 2012 – Chief Olusola Oke, SAN (South)

5. 2016 – Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN (Central)

Dr. Olusegun Agagu of blessed memory was fielded three times consecutively not because he was the only qualified person then but for the fact that he had what were needed to win election. He was the most popular, he was the most influential with connections across the length and breadth of Nigeria. He had structures scattered across the geographical space called Ondo State. Despite the fact that he is no more, he still have his followers spread across the state. No one came up with frivolity to stop him in any of the three instances from other Senatorial districts. Not yet done, Chief Olusola Oke, SAN was fielded from the same district making four times in a roll.
We must come to appreciate the fact that it is no more fashionable to impose any candidate on the electorates. If two-third of the local governments of Ondo State is denied the privilege of participating in the process of electing who become the candidate of our party as been canvassed, when you revert to them to solicit for votes, do we expect them to accede to our request? You all know the answer abinitio.

Where is this vexatious call coming from? With due respect to our leaders from the southern senatorial district whom I hold in high esteem, they should caution the few individuals placing their personal interest above the overall interest of all of us. The party as an organisation have spoken loud and clear that primary election is the way to go to choose the flagbearer of this party. Why do they continue to overheat the polity by hiring political neophytes and town criers to create unnecessary disquiet in this party?. With about two months to go into the primary election, a serious aspirant should have disembarked from his Babylonian’s tower and embarking on campaign strategy aimed at winning the hearts of more delegates. PDP unlike before is one big family where there is no godfather to super impose any aspirant on the party. The leaders have demonstrated enough fairness and neutrality capable of giving the assurance that the primary election will free and fair devoid of any malpractices of whatever form. The platform have been made available to all of the aspirants to display their valences.
It is crystal clear that zoning in the circumstance we are is unpopular and so can not fly. I therefore advice the masquerades behind this to sharpen their campaign tools by canvassing for votes from the delegates instead of annoying them by this very provoking and unpopular call at eleventh hour.
The National Working Committee (NWC) in collaboration with the State have issued out a time table of activities leading to the conduct of primary election and eventual emergence of the Governorship Candidate in a free, fair, credible and transparent primary. If there is any fifth columnist within, they should be told that there won’t be room to execute the hatchet job of their pay master in PDP again because God Almighty is the sailor of the ship of PDP this time around.

Written by:- *”Kunle Adeloye*.

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