Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
For the first time since the March 28 presidential election, the leadership of Peoples Democratic Party has come out with an explanation as to why its candidate, former President Goodluck Jonathan, lost to President Muhammadu Buhari. The PDP national vice chairman for South-south, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, told journalists on Friday in Abuja that Jonathan lost because he breached a power rotation agreement between the North and South.
Jonathan’s defeat by the All Progressives Party’s presidential candidate marked the first time in Nigeria that either an incumbent president or a ruling party would lose a national election.
Ojougboh, who is from the same geopolitical zone as Jonathan, said the outcome of the presidential election was a clear verdict of the former president’s rejection by the North and other justice-minded Nigerians.
He said the poll was also a gesture of the region’s solidarity with one of their own who they saw as symbolising an attempt to redress an injustice.
The PDP vice chairman said there was a gentleman’s agreement in 1998 by the 34 “great” men that formed PDP that the office of president would be held for eight years each by the North and South, beginning with the South. He stated that the arrangement was later enshrined in the PDP constitution, stressing that Jonathan went contrary to an agreement he entered into before the 2011 presidential poll to do only one term of four years and then return power to the North.
Some PDP leaders had previously made allusions to the alleged breach of a North-South power rotation agreement by Jonathan. But Ojougboh is the first high ranking officer of the now opposition party to make the point so pointedly.
According to the PDP vice chairman, when “PDP had the first shot, everybody cooperated. Obasanjo became president. After eight years, it was the turn of the North to become president, then problem started.
Some people started toying with the idea of third term. PDP said no, PDP members of the National Assembly and other parties said no, it will not work. Wonderful!
“The PDP had to produce a candidate and that was how Yar’Adua came. Unfortunately, Yar’Adua did not survive, so the North, said look, this presidency is our own, we have to utilise our allotted eight years, and they were right.
“Jonathan himself said he will do only four years. Emirs, leaders and stakeholders in the country accepted that Jonathan will do only four years so that power can shift to the North. When the time came, a lot of macabre dance started; people started putting pressure here and there, and people started encouraging Jonathan to contest.
“Unfortunately, Jonathan didn’t have the nerve to say, no, I will keep my agreement.
“So, Jonathan contesting meant that zoning formula had been breached. The North didn’t take kindly to it; they said, no, this is not what we agreed. Even the Christian North that used to be very friendly, especially the North-central, said, we had an agreement.
“Some governors, about five of them, left the party because of that because they saw what was happening. The North now agreed that they must take power back, that it was their turn.”
Interestingly, Ojougboh noted, there were two major presidential candidates in the last election, Jonathan from the South and Buhari from the North.
“The South had done more than enough for the time being, for the agreement of 1998/1999. So the North said, look we are going to vote for our son, whether he is good or bad,” the PDP leader said.
Ojougboh said PDP had learnt from its mistakes, emphasising that the party will never again treat its zoning principle with levity. He ruled out the issue of resignation or dissolution of the National Working Committee of PDP and explained that the members would remain in office till March next year.
But he noted that the APC-led federal government will not stand the test of time, maintaining, however, that PDP would not interfere in the affairs of the ruling party.
It would be recalled that the immediate past governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, had on February 17, 2013, at a time of intense power play ahead of the last presidential election, insisted that Jonathan entered into an agreement with PDP governor to serve for a single term.
Aliyu, who made the disclosure during an interview with the Kaduna-based radio station, Liberty FM, alleged that it was on the basis of the one-term pact that the PDP governors supported Jonathan at the 2011 presidential election.
The former president and Jonathan’s erstwhile godfather, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had also maintained that Jonathan had an agreement with PDP stakeholders to do one term. Obasanjo’s insistence on the sanctity of that agreement was the source of a rift between the two men in the period before the last general election.
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