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Nigeria’s Ruling Party Chief Drops Power Rotation Policy

The policy shift denies the north a chance to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan

In Nigeria, the head of the ruling People's Democratic Party, Okwesilieze Nwodo, has cleared the way for President Goodluck Jonathan to run in next year’s election.

Nwodo says the controversial arrangement known as zoning, under which power rotates between the north and south, does not exist and any member of the party can run for president.

Analysts say Mr. Jonathan, already exercising full presidential powers, is the front runner.

Dropping the zoning formula is a move by the ruling party to help it retain power in next year’s election, says Innocent Chukwuma, executive director of the CLEEN Foundation, an NGO that promotes transparency and voter education.

“It is a continuation of the policies of perfidy within the ruling PDP that started after it became clear that President Jonathan intends to run again. I would have been surprised if he said a different thing. If you remember, what caused the PDP chairman’s predecessor to lose his job was that he [said publicly] that the party was sticking to the zoning arrangement and that it was the turn of the north to produce the next president.”

Chukwuma says the decision will create unnecessary tension in Nigeria.

“I envisage it will create instability in the polity….” He said northern political leaders…are speaking out about their preference for the zoning arrangement to continue, saying it was a gentleman’s agreement reached by the party.”

He says the argument by those who support dropping the zoning formula in preference for competence failed to demand effective leadership from those in authority.

“I recognize that within political organizations, they reach agreement on how to address issues of concern in the party and go into election as a united house. If in this context, the PDP felt…that zoning was the best way of achieving that harmony and it has worked for them in their own reckoning up till now, I see nothing wrong in them continuing with it.”