President Goodluck Jonathan and PDP leaders meeting deadlocked

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There were indications on Thursday that President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party have failed to agree on the zoning formula that would be adopted by the party in the next four years.

Investigations by our correspondents showed the Senate Presidency and the House speakership were the two key posts that made the meeting to hit a brickwall.

By national precedence, the Senate President is the nation’s number three citizen while the speaker of the House of Representatives is the fourth.

Jonathan had summoned the PDP leaders to Obudu Ranch, Cross River State, over the constitution of his new cabinet as well as the sharing of other public and party offices.

“The South-East, it was gathered, pressed for the zoning of the speakership or the Senate presidency to it because of the impressive performance of the party in the area during the general elections.

Our correspondents also learnt that the South-West insisted that the speakership should remain in the zone, in spite of the fact that it has only four elected lawmakers in the House. Two of legislators are eligible to contest the post.

The South-West leaders, according to a source close to the meeting, argued that this would assist in reviving the party in the zone, where it was defeated by the Action Congress of Nigeria.

Investigations showed the North-Central and North-East were jostling for the Senate presidency to be zoned to them.

The current Senate President, David Mark, had hurriedly gone to Obudu on Wednesday following fresh threats to his position.

Mark was initially tipped to retain his position, which is tentatively zoned to the North-Central, where he hails from.

But the crisis over the zoning arrangement worsened when some senators-elect from the North-East indicated interest in the position.

Our source, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the outcome of the meeting said, “We have not come up with a zoning formula.

“There are some knotty issues, which we have not resolved. But I can assure you that we will come up with a zoning formula that will be acceptable to all our members.”

When contacted, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees and chieftain of the party in the South-West, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said the PDP’s zoning formula remained intact.

Babatope said that Jonathan and the ruling party would not shortchange the South-West in political appointments.

He said, “The PDP nurses no ill-feeling against any zone. The PDP will come out with an arrangement that will suit all the zones.

“We, in the South-West, are unhappy about the electoral loss in the region but we are going to reclaim our states back. We have taken this path before in 1999 when the Alliance for Democracy won elections in the region.

“But in 2003, we took back the region. We will take back the region in the next general elections.

The South-West PDP is awaiting the directive of the party. As a party replete with democrats, the PDP won’t alter the zoning formula.”

But a South-East leader, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said that the zone would insist on the position of the Senate presidency because it merited it.

Ezeife said there should be no debate about the matter because it would amount to diverting the course of justice.

He said with the new political equation in which the South-South has the presidency and the North has the vice-presidency, the South-East should produce the senate president.

“The senate president should come from the South-East because it is logical, it is merited, it is natural and politically the right thing to do. All we need to do is to apply fairness to it. They have not given a reason why the senate president should come from the North, so it should to the South-East,” he argued.

Meanwhile, re-elected and newly elected members of the House of Representatives will on Friday (today) meet to decide on how to elect the new leadership of the House.

Several meetings were said to have been held in Abuja in the past few days by different groups in the House on the matter.

Our correspondent learnt that today’s meeting which will take place under the aegis of Seventh Assembly Group, is the brain-child of Dr. Abdulmumin Jibril, a member-elect from Kiru Bebeji Federal Constituency in Kano State.

It was also gathered that the newly elected members of the House decided to meet with the re-elected lawmakers to see if one of them could assume the position of speakership.

Two hundred and sixty out of the 360 members of the House will not resume with the new members when the Seventh Assembly of the lower arm of the National Assembly reconvened in June.

However, sources close to them said that if their ambition to produce the speaker fail due to the House rule that says that a first timer will not be allowed to assume the position(speakership), they will insist that they be allowed to freely choose their leaders.

A copy of the letter inviting members to the meeting was sighted by our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday.

The letter explained that, “The meeting will provide a platform for members-elect to establish acquaintance and cross fertile ideas emanating from various constituencies for the overall interest of the country.

“Furthermore, it will seek to calm frayed nerves of political opponents as a fallout of the 2011 general elections.

“It is our fervent desire that this forum will also serve as a prelude and pivot upon which the emergence of a creditable leadership for the House of Representatives will emerge.”

Jibril, who spoke with our correspondent, said though it was the prerogative of the members to chose who would lead them, they would still listen to their respective political parties on which zones of the country would produce the principal officers of the House.

He, however, said the members would discuss how to have the “right leadership for the House.”

Jibril said, “The meeting is aimed at polling all the newly elected members of the House together and discuss major issues affecting the country and also know ourselves better.”

The Rep-elect, who is being touted as the likely deputy speaker if the office is zoned to the North-West, however, said he would allow the party to decide “on zoning formula before making any comment on it.”

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