From the archives: Presidency never zoned to North – Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

Presidency Never Zoned To North – Obasanjo

•Says It’s Up To Jonathan To Run In 2011

By Chinedu Offor Correspondent, Washington DC

The drum beat is sounding louder for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to go the whole hog and run for President next year. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo raised the ante on Thursday; arguing across the Atlantic in Washington that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) never zoned the Presidency to any region.

“The President can come from any part of the country, and nothing in the Constitution says he must come from a certain part of the country,” he told the Voice of America. He reiterated that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan “says he wants to focus on moving the country forward,” and “I think Nigerians should support him to do that. The decision to run or not is his to make. “He should not be distracted from the huge task he is faced with.”

Until now, what was bandied about was the agreement in the PDP, which is not in the Nigerian Constitution, that the Presidency and principal posts in the National Assembly (NASS) should rotate between the North and South. Particularly, going by the deal, the Presidency will rotate between the North and South every eight years, on the back of the two-tenure term Obasanjo, a Southerner, served in the Villa from 1999 to 2007.

Umaru Yar’Adua, from the North, took over as President on May 27, 2007, but has since November 23, 2009 got off the stage through ill health, paving the way for Jonathan to be in charge, albeit in an acting capacity. The crisis in the PDP is expected, Obasanjo clarified, because of the different personalities of its officials and members. Obasanjo, who visited Washington on a private business, also credited himself with “the democratic progress” made by Nigeria since he left office.

“(Jonathan) is from a minority tribe (from the South South) and the number three citizen, the Senate President (David Mark), is from a minority tribe from the Middle Belt. Ordinarily these ethnic groups may not have been able to produce such senior elected officials if it were not for the democratic decisions I took,” he stressed.

To him, insecurity, especially armed robbery, kidnapping, and violence are not peculiar to Nigeria.
“Other countries have their own problems, the killings in Jos is not religious or ethnic, as people want the world to believe. It is just borne out of frustration because of poverty and disagreement over land.”
Obasanjo again defended picking ailing Yar’Adua to succeed him, but admitted he may not have done a thorough background check on him when he was Katsina State Governor.

“I saw Umoru through the prism of his elder brother, Shehu, who was a close friend and loyal officer. If he had lived, he would have been my Vice President because we were very close.” He said Yar’Adua has the temperament and vision to be President but that he had no idea his health could not withstand the rigors of the job.

“The job of President is very rigorous, especially in a country like Nigeria. I received assurances from at least three medical experts who said although he has had dialysis, his health was strong enough to perform his duties.”

Obasanjo criticised those who said he actively sought a third term while in office.

“I never wanted a third term in office. As an officer, I gave my word on two terms. I handed over power to Shehu Shagari (in 1979), contrary to the advice of several African Heads of State, so there was no way I could have worked for a third term.
“There is still life after the Presidency.”
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