Nigeria's ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has distanced itself from comments by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the party’s presidential candidate can hail from any part of the country.
Party National Secretary Alhaji Abubakar Baraje says only candidates from the northern part of the country will be allowed to contest the presidency. Such a policy would effectively bar Acting President Goodluck Jonathan from contention.
Divergent views on the issue are deepening the crisis within the PDP, which last week suspended dozens of its influential members for alleged anti-party activities.
Emma Ezeazu, the general secretary of the pro-democracy group Alliance for Credible Elections, says the PDP is right to challenge Mr. Obasanjo’s position on the presidential candidacy issue.
“He benefitted from the zoning formula and by the time he was leaving he insisted that a northerner will take over from him and he forced Yar’Adua on Nigeria. So I think at this particular time, he has played some bad politics and he is trying to come back into popular light and no one takes him serious for his comments,” said Ezeazu.
Ezeazu says adhering to the zoning formula will force the present administration to give the country a free and fair poll that lives up to internationally accepted standards.
“I really think that Mr. Jonathan should not contest not because of the zoning formula of PDP, but because of the fact that when he contests, he will bring to bear on the electoral system the pressures of his ambition,” said Ezeazu.
The democracy activist argues reforming the country’s electoral laws should be given precedence over the ongoing debate about the zoning formula.
He says a reformed electoral system best guarantees each candidate a fair chance regardless of party affiliation.
“The most important thing now in the history of our country is credible elections.It does not matter who wins the election or which tribe the person comes," he said. "I think the fight today is really to create a level playing field that would make it possible for people with potential to rule the country properly to come up.”