Presidency: Lar attacks Obasanjo on zoning

•Asks Federal Government to stop funding political parties

PIONEER National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Solomon Lar, has confirmed that there was, indeed, a zoning arrangement as regards presidency between the North and the South when the country was returned to civil rule by the military in 1999.

Lar, who addressed journalists yesterday at his residence in Jos, also asked the Federal Government to stop funding political parties.

The former PDP chairman said the zoning formula was agreed upon in 1999 as a last resort to stabilise the country, given the fact that it was the North that had been ruling the country for a long time, and also as a way of easing the tension caused by the cancellation of June 12, 1993 election won by Chief MKO Abiola.

“Quite frankly, all our leaders from the North supported the idea of zoning at that time. We said let us zone the seat to the South, and if it were by popular election, the South might not get it,” he said.

Lar added that even former President Olusegun Obasanjo would not have met the conditions laid down by the party, which stated that anybody contesting the presidency must deliver his ward, local government and must be generally accepted in his state.

According to him, Obasanjo could not meet these conditions, but the rules were bent to allow him take the slot, which had been zoned to the South.

He said it was on that arrangement that in 2003, when some Northerners (including the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi) wanted to come out and contest against Obasanjo, the party refused, insisting that Obasanjo’s eight-year tenure had not elapsed.

Lar, however, noted that the arrangement was not agreed to as a permanent feature, but as a temporary solution to an immediate problem.

“It was zoned eight years to the South and eight years to the North,” he said, “but zoning was not made permanent by the party; it was just for a time being to stabilise the country. So, it is up to the PDP to do something about it now.”

He said the party would have to sit down and come out with something about the current controversy surrounding the issue so as to save the country from another serious crack.

While noting that zoning may not be the best option for the emergence of credible candidate, he urged the Federal Government to stop sponsoring political parties, so that people would not be forming political parties just because of the funds coming from the Federal Government.

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