This Day Interview
Chief (Hon.) Gabriel Pidomson, is a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and Secretary to the Government of Rivers State (SSG) during the administration of Mr. Celestine Omehia. In this interview with Chuks Okocha, he speaks on zoning and its implications for future generations
What do you make out of the last meeting of Northern governors as regards the zoning controversy?
This question must necessarily be addressed from the Nigerian political perspective in view of Nigeria’s socio-economic position today. This creates imperatives in several ramifications, from a strategic perspective and in view of what is expected from our future as a country and our leaders in particular, the position of the Northern governors is null and void, devoid of any unifying ramification. The reason is that Nigeria has grown beyond Northern, Southern, Eastern, or Western geo-political politics or rather expected to have grown beyond tribal sentiments. Governors should not be talking about tribe or regional dichotomy 50 years after our independence. Tribal and religious sentiments and any of such factors that set us apart should be trashed by the expectations of conventional wisdom.
Multi-cultural countries like Canada, United States, Russia, Mexico and others have over the years found it expedient to sheath ethnic rancour and aggregate efforts toward national development and unity, and have been able to move forward. In this context, the Northern governors’ position on the Presidency, apart from being divisive, lacks both merit and vision. At this stage in our history, governors are not expected to advocate dichotomy. They should focus on developmental strides, their future and the future of their children.
I want to say and stand to be quoted that Northern governors have a date with history. God has placed them at a strategic point in the history of this country. They can constitute themselves into agents of national setback or work in tandem with what God desires of them to do in order to recast the foundation of this country on equity and justice. They can do this by uniting in support of President Goodluck Jonathan come 2011, in order to change Nigeria into a country where citizens, irrespective of tribe or religion are assured of equal opportunities at any time to aspire for any office.
So, I want to use this opportunity to call on the Northern governors to support Goodluck Jonathan; forget the issue of whether somebody is from the North or South because North-South divide is a mere abstract perception of the true configuration of this country. Even in the North, you have North and South. In the South, you have the North and South. Governors should elevate themselves above divisive abstractions that hold little for national unity and the image we hope to present of ourselves to the international community. If we continue to talk about tribe, then it means that the over 300 tribes that make up this country can agitate for a shot at the presidency based on rotation, meaning about 75 tenures and three centuries before it goes round. Thrashing the idea of rotational presidency and zoning of elective offices would create the opportunity for every citizen of Nigeria to at any point in time aspire to any position, based on competence and together, we can build a stronger nation driven to greater heights by unity of followers and transformational leadership. I wish to reiterate that governors from the North should see this as an opportunity, given them at this point in time to support somebody that will usher in the wind of change towards the direction we expect to go in our year of golden jubilee.
What about the argument of the Northern governors that the gentlemen agreement of the PDP on zoning should be respected?
First of all, I want to say unequivocally that such idea should be dropped. I don’t understand what you mean by gentleman agreement? Gentleman agreement that is right or wrong? Is this agreement in tandem with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which they swore to protect and defend? These are critical questions that need to be asked. We should not say that there is a gentlemen agreement and because of that, the foundation and basis of our unity should be violently attacked. I think this is an opportunity for us to right the wrong that had been done by the PDP constitution. Yes, I am a member of PDP, and would remain a member, but even illiterates are aware that any law, guideline, regulation or the constitution of any organization that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is to the extent of that inconsistency null and void.
So, we should not be talking about gentleman agreement. Governors, senators and all our leaders should begin to look at current events in this country from a different, but positive perspectives. The emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan should teach us valuable lessons and drive home to them the message that God is bent on transforming this country. I am very sure that Northern governors and indeed all governors are destined to play strong roles in re-writing the history of Nigeria, the writing of which has already started. They should sheath their swords; forget about North and South dichotomy, for the sake of the stability of our country, for the sake of peace and the direction that our dear country is headed.
But they are not stopping Jonathan from contesting, except that they may not offer him their support?
Why are we talking about support here? The reason Goodluck needs their support is because it is necessary for all of us to come together as one fist. It doesn’t mean that anybody cannot contest; I can also contest that office. Consultation and consensus within and outside the PDP is necessary because it is imperative that this country unite as one in view of the change and new direction that is within the power of our generation to propagate. It is important that national consensus bear on the fact that we are moving forward in right direction and that zoning is a strategy that is apt to exclude the best of our generation based on ethnicity, and it is wrong. Moreso, it is not in tandem with the constitution, violates the fundamental human rights of young and capable people who would love to aspire to positions of responsibility come 2011 and beyond.
On the other hand, consensus is necessary within the PDP so that any person that emerges would enjoy the party’s support. If Goodluck Jonathan, like any other party member emerges, he should be supported and not discriminated against, based on his tribe, current position or environmental dynamics. Note that the position that Goodluck occupies today, it is God Who put him there. The manner of his ascendancy to the position of President is a clear testimony to what God wants to do in this country and so, North, South, East and West and all the over 300 ethnic nationalities in this country need to aggregate their support for change, unity, progress, and a new Nigeria. For now, the only glaring symbol of that change is Goodluck. He should be supported to ensure that change is embedded in the polity of this nation. One way to ensure this is to gather around Goodluck and support him to win a free and fair election.
Apart from Northern governors, are the South-south governors sincerely in support of Goodluck?
That is another question. The same call I am making to the Northern governors is the same call I am making to the South-south, South-east, and South-west governors. Specifically, I am calling on the South-south governors to support Goodluck Jonathan not because he is from the South-South or because he is the President of Nigeria. I am calling on them to support Goodluck Jonathan because of the wind of change he represents. I don’t want to be talking about South- south governors, Eastern governors, the Northern governors or the Southern-western governors. Let me make it clear that South-south governors should not support Jonathan because there is no alternative. They should see him as a son from the South-south ordained by God to turn Nigeria towards a positive path of growth. This, perhaps, is God’s 50th anniversary gift to Nigerians. I think it is myopic and short-sighted to assume anything to the contrary. We should look at the distant tendencies of immediate situations.
I am calling on South-south governors to unite for Goodluck Jonathan since charity begins at home and because their rallying behind Goodluck Jonathan will create the required impetus necessary to strengthen the resolve of Northern governors to also support Goodluck. Such support is bound to reverberate among Eastern and Western governors and by extension, the whole country. Most especially, the PDP need to unite in this purpose so that we can use this party to usher in the wind of change in this country and steer this country towards another direction, a direction that tally with the will of God.