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Flogging a Dead Horse: Legal and Moral Case Against Zoning


---Cutting-Edge Analytics—
By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published January 6th, 2011

In the parliamentary system, where the leader of the party is defeated or the incumbent prime minister is defeated, automatically that government collapses. In the presidential system, it is unthinkable for a sitting president to come to the convention of his party, by whatever means, by whatever arrangement, and then be voted out. It means that the party is passing a vote of no confidence on the president. By implication, the party is saying that, “we do not want you to be our president” and then from there on, that government collapses. There are a number of things which we have to consider: The national security, its own stability, the consequences of following you to this kind of idle debate, while ignoring the facts on the ground. There is no way the PDP can go to a convention and pass a vote of no confidence on its own president or vote him out.---Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State

Fresh from terrorism-marred holidays as indeed it was during the nation’s Golden Jubilee festivities last October 1st, 2010; and confronted with nightmarish scenarios of what lies ahead regarding the forthcoming general elections, it is perhaps time to get down to some serious business of examining the state of the nation and the very forces that are shaping events in the country at this very moment in time. For that reason, therefore, I have attempted, in the ensuing several paragraphs, to undertake a more holistic, down-to-earth approach to the emerging challenges facing the nation with a view to situating them in their proper historical context in order to enable Nigerians, particularly the younger generations, understand the demons we are confronted with that are operating under different guises.

Ever since the nation lost President Musa Yar’Adua and the consequential ascendance of former Vice and later Acting President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to the nation’s political summit, coupled with his subsequent declaration of intent to contest the 2011 presidential election, both his ascension to the Nigerian throne and his right to contest the election have been subjected to unnecessary debates by Nigerians both home and abroad. And this national obsession seems completely at odds with the fundamental tenets of democracy anywhere and everywhere in the world even in democracy-challenged countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Firstly, that Jonathan’s natural, legal, moral and constitutional succession to the throne became a subject of debates at all tells much about the troublesome and mischievous character of Nigerians in general as a people and of the country in particular as a nation of nations. And that is so even though I’m acutely aware that only a handful of politicians and their followers are engaged in this distractive, sterile and utterly unproductive exercise, and perforce, dragging us all into it.

Secondly, that Jonathan’s legal and constitutional declaration of intent to contest the 2011 presidential election has not only become a subject of debates but also the subject of unending litigation, proves conclusively that Nigerians are still very much in the woods in this 21st century unable to grasp the fine points of democratic practices, because nowhere else in the world is this sort of debate entertained. But here in Nigeria it seems our media can’t have enough of it as it has become a veritable profit center. I sympathize with the media though as it must report the news even that generated by lunatics and fringe groups in society like the Boko Harams, Osisikankwus and the Ciromas, because negative activities are media bestsellers and they “bring the bacon home!” to pay the bills. Oh yes, bad news pay the bills!

It readily reminds one of the contrived debates in the United States started by some Obama’s racist haters on the fringes of lunacy in the Republican Tea Party conclave as to whether he is, in fact, a citizen of the United States in the first place despite the fact that he had been a State senator for more than four years in his home state of Illinois and a US senator for two years prior to his presidential foray. And despite the fact that he had presented his duly authenticated birth certificate to the relevant electoral and security authorities in each and every election for which he had presented himself as candidate. And again, despite the fact that the state of Hawaii where he was born had shown the world Obama’s impeccable birth records.

Maybe in their warped imagination they figured Obama must have presented a “Green Card" or “Work Permit" to the authorities to become a State senator, US Senator and finally President of the United States. Or maybe they imagined he must have fooled the authorities at the Ivory League Columbia and Harvard Universities to gain admission by presenting fake documents. Or, maybe they felt in their guts that Hawaii is no longer a state in the US because it allowed Obama to be born there. It should have sent Obama’s mother, a full blooded US citizen, to his run-away, dead beat father in Kenya with her pregnancy to deliver Obama in Africa so that he would not dare come near the US presidency--the white man’s throne.

But rather than bellyaching over Obama’s citizenship these folks should spare us the trouble by presenting us with the Green Card, Work Permit or Certificate of Naturalisation that Obama used to gain admission to Ivory League Universities and contested for both state and US senate and the presidency. As we shall see presently, he who alleges proves. So rather than disturbing the peace, the onus is on them to prove that President Barrack Obama is an alien and not a citizen of the United States.

As I’m writing this piece President Barrack Hussein Obama is spending the Christmas and New Year holidays with his family in his native State of Hawaii where his maternal grandmother lived and died. Yet some Tea Party members on the fringes of lunacy still don’t believe and don’t want to believe he was born there even if Obama was delivered in their presence in Hawaii. With all the proofs offered, which Obama was not obliged to provide in the first place since his bio-data is in the public records, they still went to a Federal District court with a view to declaring the President of the United States an alien and were in fact salivating that Obama would be kicked out of the Oval Office by the Judge to be replaced by his deputy, a white man. And the dismissal of their hate-filled case by the court did nothing to attenuate their sick belief that Obama is an alien sitting in the White House. Once asked in an interview by a reporter, Brian Williams of NBC, to be specific, what he thought about those who continued to doubt his US citizenship despite evidence to the contrary, President Obama answered there was nothing else he could do to convince them because he would not be walking around with his birth certificate “plastered on my forward.”

Now, did you find some parallels in Nigeria with respect to what some individuals are making of Jonathan’s intent to contest the presidential election in 2011? I related the above scenario for a purpose and that is to show that there are parallels in Nigeria regarding President Jonathan. Some characters bent on mischief making just don’t give a damn about the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens if doing so would prevent them from achieving their own agenda. They see the exercise of the political rights of their fellow citizens as a threat to the realization of their own political ambition as if they alone are entitled to political ambition and no one else. As such, they’re prepared to deny to others the very same legal and constitutional rights they, themselves enjoy, which they hold sacrosanct and inviolable. And they seem to hold on to the satanic injunction which enjoins men to do unto others what they wouldn’t want others do unto them.

We are all witnesses to how much former Vice President and PDP presidential aspirant, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, fought hard to enforce his constitutional right to contest the 2007 presidential election when it appeared that he had been or about to be disqualified by INEC pursuant to an Appeal Court ruling on account of his decampment from the ruling PDP under which he contested and was elected vice president in 1999 and 2003, as well as the PTF scandal where a panel of inquiry and senate panel found him wanting. The epic court battles he waged against the Federal Government and INEC to enforce his right to vie for the position of president are still fresh in our national memories. And those court battles formed the basis of his claim to be champion of democracy. For the most part public opinion was on his side because most Nigerians saw his travails as political victimization regardless of the corruption and ethical indictments against him for which he was twice reprimanded by the Senate Committee. It comes as a huge disappointment and a matter for regret therefore that it is the same Atiku that is heading the vicious campaign to disqualify a fellow citizen from vying for the same office he Atiku is vying for, all because he felt it is his birthright.

The common thread that runs through the antics of white supremacists in the United States who are mad at the sight of a black man sitting on their grandfathers’ throne in the White House and some Northern supremacists in Nigeria who loathe the very idea of an Ijaw man from a Minority tribe in Niger Delta occupying the throne of their forefathers is their claim of power entitlement. Both groups are laboring under a false sense of entitlement. The racists in the US very well knew that Obama is a US citizen. They knew that since the very day he was born in Hawaii. They knew that even before he publicly declared his intent to contest the US Senate and the presidency. Their own discreet investigation had proved that conclusively. They have all the records of his birth at their finger tips. And if they had found any contrary evidence, however slight it might be, they would have magnified it a million times to knock Obama off the presidential track during the campaigns with both Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain, respectively in the Democratic Primaries and the election proper.

Therefore it is clear that his citizenship is not the issue. His occupation of their father’s throne is the real issue and a sight they just can’t stand because it violates their own sense of entitlement to the American throne. To Northern supremacists in Nigeria, the very idea of Jonathan occupying Aso Rock and calling the shots is an anathema for them. They’re the ones who should be calling the shots in Aso Rock not an Ijaw man. The departing colonial masters had bequeathed the Nigerian throne to them in perpetuity and outsiders are nothing but pesky irritants and usurpers, who ought to remain in the civil service as bureaucrats or professionals, not leaders and administrators. Those are their sole prerogatives. And they displayed their disdain for the prospects of Jonathan getting too close to the throne right from when President Yar’Adua was still in his sick bed in Saudi Arabia and made every effort to place barricades on the throne. Their fathers’ throne must be protected from southern invaders from some opportunistic tribe in Niger Delta. They have actually used the word “opportunist” to describe Jonathan as if he put himself there on the throne by his own devices indicating that he should have denied the opportunity to ascend the throne. They couldn’t even tolerate him being an ordinary caretaker pending Yar’Adua’s recovery and laughed to scorn public clamor for his empowerment as acting president.

Deep down in their hearts, Atiku and his clan of zoning champions know that as a citizen, Jonathan is entitled to run for the office of president under his party like all previous presidents have done as a matter of constitutional right that no one can deny him in a democratic dispensation. But that is not the issue. The issue is Jonathan is from the “wrong” part of the country that is not ordinarily and traditional entitled to presidential power. It was reason President Yar’Adua was prevented from acceding to the clamor to hand over power to him while Yar’Adua was in his sick bed and still able to grant interview to the BBC News. He was well enough to grant interview but not well enough to simply utter the words “Mr. Vice President, I’m currently indisposed. I hereby hand over power to you as Acting President until I get better!” rather than granting a fruitless interview to BBC.

Mind you there was no question of Jonathan contesting the PDP presidential primaries at that point in time. The issue was purely the constitutional question of the vice president holding forte for the president in his absence due to his prolonged illness abroad. Yet this straightforward matter was turned into a cat and mouse, hide and seek game, all because some northern power brokers were bent on holding on to power even preferring power to remain in the hands of a comatose president of their own stock rather than giving it to another from a different part of the country. And they couldn’t be bothered what the country, as a whole would suffer. Today, that power game has reached boiling point with bombs now going off in Abuja and other parts of the country which has been blamed on politics. Essentially, that is what the nation is dealing with today with under the cloak of zoning, which serves as a convenient pretext.

It is interesting to note that the same forces that prevented Yar’Adua from handing over power to his deputy are the ones mounting this vicious and mindless campaign to disqualify Jonathan from contesting the PDP primaries because they knew in their heart of heart that he would win the primaries fair and square. And they will continue their campaign even in the face of the dismissal of their case by the courts just like their white supremacist counterparts in the US are still doing to President Obama despite their judicial losses. Would you be surprised if it were to be revealed someday that the trio of IBB, Ciroma and Atiku were part of the external consultants to the “cabal” that prevented Yar’Adua from handing over power to Jonathan given their activities today?

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t it. Their actions subsequent to Yar’Adua’s demise have demonstrated beyond every shadow of doubt that granting full presidential powers to then Vice President Jonathan was the farthest thing from their minds. And that’s why when notable Nigerians, including Muhammadu Buhari from the North demanded that power be transferred to Jonathan, these three individuals preferred to keep mum and remained in the background plotting their presidential power acquisition stratagem, which of course, includes neutralizing Jonathan politically. Remember former PDP immediate past chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor’s unprovoked outbursts against Jonathan’s candidacy? That was part of the game plan to castrate Jonathan politically ahead of 2011.

And no sooner Jonathan acquired full presidential powers than they started barking at him like dogs to back off from the presidential run in 2011. Today, I respect Buhari for standing up for what is right and he’s doing the same thing again with regard to the zoning issue by speaking out against it. That is a straightforward man with no guises who speaks his mind regardless of what it might cost him. That is a trait he shares with OBJ and I respect them both for that even though I have issues with Buhari’s despotic and draconian past, which he’s trying to repair somehow.

The nation must therefore understand what is at stake here. This is not about Jonathan. It is Jonathan today, but it could be Okechukwu, Ndom or Idowu tomorrow. It was this same mindset that informed IBB’s annulment of the result of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. It was the same thing that happened to Ernest Shonekan of the interim government infamy that was deliberately set up by IBB to be kicked out by Abacha. Remember that Shonekan was not invested with the powers of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in the Decree that set up the Interim Government he was made to head as a figure head until public outcry forced a half-hearted amendment to the Decree after Gen. Sani Abacha had perfected his takeover plan and promptly kicked him out. And it was the same thing that happened to Gen. Agui Ironsi.

There has always been a pattern to these things for those who care to study our political history. What is happening to Jonathan today is nothing new. It has always happened to every leader from the South. There is no leader from the south in power that had known peace in the hands of northern kingmakers.

This is not an attempt to set the South against the North. God knows I’m too nationalistic for such games. I’m simply restating what every Nigerian already knows especially the older generation and placing it in the context of what is happening in the PDP with respect to zoning to make for proper appreciation of the dynamics at play. It is the history of this nation and we must be candid and bold enough to admit it rather than shove it under the rug. Some people from a section of the country are bent on ruling over others at all costs, and anyone who is too daft to understand this deserves to be a slave forever. I’m a free born and will remain a free born whose constitutional rights will be defended and enforced no matter what. I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared to be a slave or second class citizen in my own country. I’m not accusing the entire North because ordinary northerners have nothing to do with this propensity for power grab by its ravenous tiny political class.

Here is the bottom line for me: I will not sit idly by and allow anyone take away my rights because evil thrives where good men keep quiet. My support for Jonathan, therefore, is entirely borne out of this principled position to stand up for my political rights. Right now his candidacy represents that affirmative principle at this moment in time. His candidacy represents the defense and protection of the rights of others from politically marginalized groups in the country. I’m therefore, compelled by a clear and present danger to stand up for a principle that I hold dear to my heart. I’m standing for the rights of my children and grandchildren, who may one day seek the presidency as their unfettered right in their own country, unencumbered by any artificial zoning contraption that is only observed in the breach when it suits northern power brokers.

As Godwin Daboh appropriately asked “The Sun Times” reporter: Was zoning not in the PDP constitution when Atiku stood against OBJ in 2003? Was it not there when late Abubakar Rimi and Barnabas Gemade stood against him in 1999? Why is zoning suddenly such a do-or-die issue now because Jonathan is involved? Why? Why? Somebody should explain that to Nigerians and the press owes us a duty to find answer to this poser because we are talking about the rights of the citizens of this country that some political desperadoes are out to trample upon with reckless abandon and seeming impunity without question. If a sitting president could be subjected to such indignity as Presidents Jonathan and OBJ before him had been made to go through for exercising their legal and constitutional rights to present themselves for election, it shows that Nigeria is in a different planet altogether. It never happens anywhere else on this Planet Earth unless the president had soiled his hands or involved in some major scandal that undermined his moral authority to lead, such as was the case, for example, with U.S. President Richard Nixon in the 70s.

Therefore, my support for Jonathan’s candidacy is a clear statement that I will not stand for Apartheid in my own country. It would be a terrible irony of history for Nigeria a former “frontline state” to fight and defeat Apartheid in South Africa only for her to import it into the country through the back door. It cannot stand. Anyone who tells you zoning is meant to give the minorities a chance to rule the country deserves to be hanged because he is handing you nothing but a Trojan horse that will destroy you when he gets into your domain. Deceit has no other name and it is part of political warfare. Those who know how to deploy the weapon of deceit do so with devastating effects. And those who fall for it live to regret their folly or naivety as the case may be and that’s if they live at all. No one knows this game better in Nigeria than AREWA, that nest of ethnic bigots and its high priests. They used it against Abiola and Shonekan to devastating effects that eventually consumed Abiola. But thank goodness, Shonekan lived to tell his story.

Is zoning is really meant to give power to the “minorities” in the land of the majority? If the answer is yes, why are they fighting Jonathan? Where is he from? Sokoto or Gusau?

So let’s get this clear in our heads by stripping the issue of its deliberate zoning obfuscation and get to its essential core: It is about sectional gladiators insisting on holding on to power ad infinitum and when providence abruptly altered that permutation, they are now fighting like wounded lions to recover lost grounds and, in the words of late Malcom X, “by any means necessary,” fair or foul. That explains the gang-up against Jonathan in the name of “consensus candidate” which was mooted and executed with utmost alacrity not minding its wider implications for national stability and unity. And that further explains the threats of violence flying in the air should their doomed sectional agenda fail to materialize. Their threat of violence will not still the hand of history, no matter how many bombs they plant and set off in Abuja and elsewhere in the nation to awe and intimidate Nigerians into giving up their constitutional rights.

And you have to ask yourself in the name of fairplay: Where in the world is a sitting president denied a chance to go for re-election by its own party in presidential or parliamentary system? As unpopular as former Prime Minister Brown was, he was still fielded by his own Labor Party to go for re-election. Which Democrat challenged President Bill Clinton or Jim Carter for re-election in their party primaries? Which Republican challenged President Ronald Reagan or G.W. Bush for re-election in their party primaries as unpopular as Bush was at the end of his first term?

The real issue therefore is their sense of “born to rule” and lording it over others as had, in fact, been the case since the birth of the Nigerian nation. Nigerians must, therefore, understand properly the ideological undercurrent that is driving the proponents of zoning in the North and their hirelings in the south who are only tagging along in blindfolds so long as it accommodates their individual selfish political interests. Anyone who falls for the argument that the North is all for zoning and would readily hand over power to the South/East, South/West or South/South and the end of the day when it’s done with ruling is living in a fool’s paradise.

These guys are never done with ruling Nigeria. It’s the only work they have and know about although I’m still searching where that has landed us as a nation. Take power away from them and you’ve rendered them jobless like unemployed graduates of Nigerian universities. When it is crunch time be sure that a million excuses would sprout up like mushrooms prevent power shift from happening. Why, do you think MKO Abiola was murdered in prison? To prevent him from regaining his mandate, of course! Why was he denied the mandate in the first place? To prevent power shift from the North to the South, of course! There is a method to this madness. It’s all geared toward the same, timeless end. The only Southerner who has been allowed to rule is OBJ and it was by default with the death of Gen. Murtala Muhammed, and by sheer necessity, with the annulment of June 12 election results that threatened total disintegration of the country. OBJ didn’t get to the presidency by zoning but by the force of necessity with strict instructions for him to do just one term and get the hell out of Aso Rock for its traditional landlords. He was only permitted to be a tenant in Aso Rock for a term certain. OBJ was threatened with impeachment when he called their bluff and later gunned for and got a second term because he was in violation of the instructions handed to him at the inception of his presidency. He was able to do this by the sheer power of the presidency and not by the goodwill of those who wanted power back in the North, or more to the point, power for themselves in the name of the North. And if the rumors then were anything to go by, his own VP, Atiku was one of the principal characters behind the move to impeach OBJ, which was spearheaded by former petrel of the House of Representatives, Speaker Ghali Na’Abba.

I fully understand that it is difficult to adjust to new realities on the ground as white supremacists are suffering in the US especially when they were not prepared for them. An abrupt change of certain realities could produce such intense negative reactions on the part of those who were used to certain power relations for a long time as to regard such relations as their birth rights. And that’s reason enough for Atiku, who had brushed aside the so-called PDP zoning to challenge OBJ in 2003 suddenly transformed himself into a zoning champion in order to get Jonathan out of the way and re-establish the pre-existing power relations that revalidates the “born to rule” paradigm. What that tells you is that zoning is only an excuse in a Machiavellian pursuit of their sense of power entitlement.

In a way these individuals deserve our sympathies. One has to admit that the power equation in the country today represents an abrupt paradigm shift of tectonic proportions that many were not prepared for and therefore find hard to live with or reconcile themselves with. Like white supremacists in the US, they’re still under the illusion that it’s all a bad dream that would go away sooner rather than later to enable them regain their sanity and get back to business as usual. In other words, they see the reality on the ground as a bad dream that shouldn’t be allowed to assume the character or attributes of permanency.

However, this mindset of feeling robbed of one’s entitlement has serious implications for the polity the results of which we are already witnessing with respect to the very serious security situation in Nigeria today especially in the northern parts of the country, which many are already blaming on the political tension spawned by the zoning war. The mindless bloodbath in the North are directly or indirectly traceable to this mental condition as has been acknowledged by no less a person than the Sultan of Sokoto who described the killings as “political with religious colouration.” I have no reason to disagree with that assessment because the nation had been threatened with “violent change” by those who felt they had been or are being robbed of their power entitlement with Jonathan’s presidential aspiration. They alone are entitled to aspire to the presidency. Others must queue up behind them until they’ve had the presidency to their hearts’ content.

Judicial Intervention

Anyway, what are you going to do to people who stubbornly refuse to recognize the rights of others when such rights stand in the way of their political ambitions? Absolutely nothing but standing firm in defense of those rights since they are entitled to press whatever position they deem necessary to advance their political agenda provided, of course, it is done within the ambit of the law and the constitution. And that means invariably that it is to the law courts that we must turn to resolve the matter at hand one way or another. It is the constitutional role of the judiciary to mediate and resolve all manners of disputes involving individuals, groups, the various arms and levels of government. This is why the zoning debate will finally be put to rest not by politicians or ethnic champions but by the nation’s judiciary.

It is not that the judiciary is perfect or that judges themselves do not have their own ethical, ideological or political preferences and proclivities. They are all human and have the same human foibles like all humans, but all disputes must be brought to finality one way or another through the judicial process in a civilized society. The operative word here is “finality” and the disputants are thus obliged to abide by the decision of the courts even if they disagree with such decisions or even if the decisions are perverse or procured through corrupt and ignoble means. The need for finality compels obedience to judicial decision especially those of appellate courts imbued with final jurisdictions. And that’s reason why all the governors that have been removed by the courts have taken their removal in good faith. Nothing could be worse for an elected office holder than getting thrown out of office midstream. But these governors chose to toe the path of honor and civility by leaving quietly without making a splash, insulting or casting aspersions on the judiciary. That is the mark of civilized behavior by civilized men in a civilized society.

Now, it is the principal canon of our common law denominated adversarial system of adjudication that he who asserts has the onus of proof. This principle is encoded in the Evidence Act which enjoys universal application in Nigeria. Thus by operation of law the party that asserts the existence of a set of facts, which if proved or established would entitle him to the reliefs sought has the onus (burden) of proving the existence of the set of facts he relies upon for the reliefs sought to the satisfaction of the court. And in civil cases it is not a high burden of proof beyond reasonable doubts but a lower threshold of proof on the balance of probability. In other words, the burden of proof is easier discharged in civil than in criminal proceedings. Once the scale of evidence tilts slightly in favor of the plaintiff that burden is discharged unlike in criminal proceedings where even a shred of material doubt would torpedo the case against the prosecution and the accused would walk away a freeman even if he actually committed the crime as alleged by the prosecution.
But even so the onus is always on the party alleging the existence of a set of facts entitling him to certain reliefs and not the other way around. In this case, the onus is not on Jonathan to show that he is qualified to vie for the office of president under the PDP platform. It is for his opponents to show that he is not under the party rules. Cognizant of this irreducible minimum, a certain PDP chieftain, obviously bankrolled by zoning proponents bent on stopping him in his track went before His Lordship Hon Justice L. H. Gummi, of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, praying the court to disqualify him from presenting himself for the PDP primaries. And the grounds upon which they sought that grandiose and outlandish relief was that the PDP constitution allegedly expressly or by necessary implication forbids Jonathan Ebele Godluck from aspiring to the office of president under the PDP platform.
All they needed do was to convince the Judge to grant the reliefs sought was for them to present the PDP constitution and point to the particular provisions in that constitution that prohibit the person of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan or his class or profession or his ethnic group or his political affiliation or whatever disqualifies him from presenting himself for the PDP presenting primaries. With that the onus is discharged. It is that simple and not a difficult thing to do or so they thought.
The plaintiff sought to discharge the evidential burden placed on them by citing and placing before the Judge Article 7.2 (c) of the PDP constitution which provides as follows:
7.2(C) “In pursuance of the principles of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.”

These provisions are as bland and general as any provisions can be with no specificities or particularities to them and can therefore not be relied upon to seek any reliefs against the party.

Having thoroughly reviewed the above provisions in the Article and all the arguments placed before him by proponents of zoning, however, the Judge came to the following conclusions and ruling: “The said article is subsisting and binding on the party, its organs and members. But I am unable to make a declaration that the North is entitled to bear the presidential ticket of the first defendant for two consecutive terms 2007 and 2011 respectively as the South did in 1999 and 2003, same being a political question and therefore not justifiable.” The term “not justifiable” means the zoning provisions are not justiciable, that is to say, a legal claim cannot be founded on them in a court of law. I’ll expatiate further on that later in this article.

The Judge ruled refused to make a declaration that the “North” is entitled to bear the presidential ticket of the PDP because there is nothing in the Article entitling the North or the South to the ticket. In fact, there is no mention of “North” and “South” in that or any other Article in the PDP constitution regarding zoning or power rotation. One therefore wonders where proponents of zoning got their “North” and “South” hallucinations from.

Would the PDP be in breach of its own constitution as the plaintiff and proponents of zoning have been howling about ever since Jonathan indicated interest in running for the presidency under his party’s platform? Not at all, the Judge ruled. Here again is the Judge’s ruling on that point: “Though Article 7.2 (c) recognizes zoning and rotation. It is an internal matter for the party to determine and decide how and where the zoning should be done."

As reported in Thisday newspaper 120110 edition, the Judge “also held that for it to therefore give an order that only candidates from a particular zone should be sponsored where the constitution of the PDP had not so defined would amount to an invitation for the court to delve into internal affairs of the party.”

In other words, the party cannot be compelled by an external authority to enforce these provisions, whatever is there to enforce, in any particular instance. The Judge held that that PDP could not be dictated to by the courts on how and when to enforce these provisions in any particular instance as doing so would amount to meddling in the “internal affairs of the party. Their observance is left for the PDP at its absolute discretion to do as it pleases with regard to specifics. This is simply not a matter for the courts and the reasons are not farfetched. As indicated above, the provisions are bland and general and they give no specific directives to the party leadership to enforce in relation to zoning and power rotation. For instance, nowhere in the above provisions is it stated that power shall be rotated between “North” and “South” and for how long power shall remain in one zone in the zoning or rotation. And nowhere is the presidency or any other office for that matter, specifically mentioned with respect to zoning. Someone is mischievously and illegally supplying that missing part.

How many terms is power to remain in one zone? Is it one or two terms? If it is for eight years, how come some PDP chieftains were allowed to contest the PDP primaries with OBJ in 2003 including Atiku himself, who at least attempted to do so? If it is for eight years how come the “North” wanted OBJ out of power after doing just one term of four years? If it is for eight years how come the “North” wanted him impeached in the middle of his first term for Atiku, his deputy from the north to take over? Is zoning important only when it suits the political interests of northern power brokers and ignored and dumped when it doesn’t suit their political interests? Nothing concrete can be found in those provisions and are therefore subject to various interpretations as occasions might present.
The reason why Northern presidential aspirants could challenge OBJ both in 1999 and in 2003, which the party allowed on both occasions, is because the PDP constitution does not prevent them from doing so as the provisions cited above clearly indicate. Therefore, the party couldn’t prevent any of its members from any part of the country from challenging the president in the party primaries on ground of zoning. This has been the standing tradition of the party as clearly stated by its current Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, reaffirmed and adopted by the party’s highest organ, the NEC, at its last meeting two months ago. As further reported in the paper cited above, this position was further buttressed by the averments of the PDP in its eight-paragraph counter-affidavit filed in defense of the suit where the party categorically denied zoning the presidency to the North for two consecutive terms as claimed and demanded by the plaintiff, stating “that the fact that it zoned the presidency to the North in 2007 did not mean that it would zone it to the same region for 2011.”
What this shows conclusively is that zoning is not written in stone and can be tinkered with as occasions and circumstances demand such as the present realities on the ground that some are pretending to ignore. PDP zoning is a malleable formula that can be molded to suit the exigencies of the time.

And that brings us to the all important question: Is zoning to be rotated between North and south or amongst the six geographical zones? The provisions specifically used the term “zone” but nothing is mentioned of North and South. Where then are these people importing “North” and “South” from which are clearly not in the provisions? They’re legislating for the PDP on their own because there is no North and South in those provisions. All of that is left in the air and the court cannot fill in the gaps or remedy the deficiencies inherent in the PDP constitutional provisions on its own. As the Judge held, it is purely a party affair as to how it goes about fielding its candidates for elections.

Now, not everyone understands legal language, but as indicated earlier, the term “non justiciable” means in effect “not judicially enforceable.” Therefore, no one is legally permitted to approach the courts to enforce such provisions by alleging a breach thereof. Similar provisions can be found in the Nigerian constitution in Chapter Two relating to Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, which among others, provides for the observance of federal character and for free primary, secondary and university education by the state “as and when practicable” amongst others in section 18 thereof.

What those provisions are intended for is to provide a guide or general policy direction that are not binding on the authorities and therefore not subject to enforcement as a matter of law or legal entitlement. For example, while the constitution provides for the observance of federal character in ministerial and other federal appointments, no state or section of the country can go to court to enforce that provision on the ground that it has less or no ministerial appointees than some other states or sections of the country or that it was not given certain positions in the federal cabinet as other states or sections. Or, for that matter that its indigenes have been shortchanged in federal appointments.

These are purely political matters that are not amenable to legal or judicial enforcements and that’s reason why they’re said to be legally unenforceable. The authorities cannot be fettered by making such provisions legally enforceable. Imagine how many would have gone to court to enforce the provisions of free university education by showing that it is “practicable” with the huge federal and state budgets if those provisions were justiciable. Imagine how many states would have gone to court to compel the president to appoint their indigenes to particular office if those constitutional provisions were justiciable. It will definitely hamstring the authority of the president to choose whoever he wants to as his aides. The federal government would be practically grounded with an avalanche of such cases if judges were allowed to dictate who gets what and from which part or parts of the country at any particular time. Therefore practical considerations advised making such provisions legally enforceable. Politically yes, but judicially no. The president could, for instance, decide to appoint all his service chiefs from one part or parts of the country without incurring any legal strictures even if doing so might run against the grain of federal character. No one can take him to court to reverse such appointments by spreading them across the geographical regions to satisfy the demands of federal character.

The bottom line, therefore, is that zoning and federal character, its cousin, are legally unenforceable. And as it is for the president so it is for the political parties as well. No law or arrangement would dictate to political parties the part of the country to pick its presidential candidate from. There are no such provisions anywhere in any party constitution or the electoral law directing parties to do zoning in any particular manner. The PDP constitution presented to the Judge contains no such provisions either. Therefore the presentation of that document to the court as a basis for disqualifying Jonathan amounts to a drowning man holding on to the last straw however weak it might be. It smacks of desperation. Anyone who is ordinarily familiar with the English language would readily agree that nowhere in those provisions is the PDP directed to disqualify or qualify any candidates from any section of the country on grounds of zoning and the Judge had no difficulty throwing out their case with their tortured arguments. And by the way, that Judge is a “Northerner!” But he is a northerner who has sworn to defend the law and the constitution.

There are still judges who could tell a purely political case meant to harass and intimidate an opponent from a legal case with legal merits. A first year law student would not advise his client in a moot court to file such a scandalous law suit on the merits. But hey, politics is what it is: war by other means! And combatants would aim a shot with whatever they can lay their hands on even with expended bullets if that would give the impression of a formidable fighter in the mind of the opponent or shall we say, enemy? Suffice it to state however that that the suit in question was an abuse of court process. The case for zoning collapsed completely under judicial scrutiny yet the proponents are not ashamed of themselves and are still running around like chickens with fire on their feathers screaming “zoning!” as if their lives depend on it. And they have, in fact, gone back “forum shopping” to the Federal High Court having concurrent jurisdiction with the Abuja High Court with the same issues a court of competent jurisdiction has ruled on as if the Federal High Court has the power to review the judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory. Again one wonders if they forgot the Court of Appeal to appeal the Judge’s ruling.

Insurmountable Constitutional Hurdles
So far I have been dealing with the PDP constitution and the plainfiff’s case crumbled under the weight of the PDP constitution alone without more. Nowhere in that judgment did the Judge advert his mind to the overriding provisions of the constitution, which would have led him to dismiss the entire case as a gross abuse of the judicial process because the PDP constitution is not the law of the land. It is nowhere near the law of the land. Therefore its provisions are binding on the PDP members only so far as they are not inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution or of any other existing laws in the land. Party constitutions derive their authority from the Electoral Act and their provisions are necessarily inferior to it and those of the constitution. Wherever the provisions of the PDP constitution are found to be inconsistent with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution or even an ordinary law such as the Electoral Act, the provisions of the PDP constitution would be rendered null and void to the extent of such inconsistency as provided in section 1(3) thus:
Section 1 (3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Now here is the big one that would have prevented the Judge from giving effect to the provisions of the PDP constitution had such provisions contained any language that even remotely bars anyone from presenting himself as candidate under its platform save on such legal grounds as tax evasion, criminal conviction, ex cetera ex cetera. Nigeria’s GrundNorm, which is the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, expressly prohibits discrimination on grounds of ethnicity or place of birth among others. Taken together with the provisions of the Electoral Act or individually, these provisions stand in the way of proponents of zoning like Mt Everest and there is no overcoming them. Here below are the material provisions in the section thereof:
42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or
(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.
(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.
(3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person to any office under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria Police Forces or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria.
The above provisions are clear and unambiguous and expressly forbid discrimination of any Nigerian on the grounds itemized above, which of course, includes ethnicity and place of birth. There is no going around these provisions. They leave no wiggle room for doubts and manipulation and unlike the nebulous PDP constitutional provisions they are specific and straight to the point leaving no discretion for the authorities to exercise in this matter. As such, their enforcement is not subject to further interpretations. They are the laws of the land and are binding on all authorities in Nigeria including the PDP, which are commanded to respect and enforce them as provided in section 1(1) of the constitution.
Section 1 (1): “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” See also section 13 which provides that “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution.” Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan cannot suffer discrimination in the hands of the PDP by reason of his place of birth or ethnicity in all PDP affairs including but not limited to presidential primaries and party candidacy for the presidential election. Such discrimination is expressly prohibited by the nation’s constitution and all authorities in the land are duty bound to obey and enforce it over and above any purported or actual contrary provisions in any document or ordinance by whatever name called. Now, what part of these constitutional provisions is rocket science for the northern power brokers? What part of them they and their supporters don’t understand?
Fortunately the PDP provisions are not intended to and do not disqualify anybody from any part of the country from vying for the presidency as held by the Judge. And as if those constitutional provisions were not enough Olympian hurdles for proponents of zoning to overcome the 2010 Electoral Act in section in section 87 expressly prohibits the courts from preventing political parties from holding their primaries on grounds of alleged non-compliance with party rules or guidelines, which obviously includes PDP’s general zoning provisions cited above. Here are the provisions:
Section 87 (9) “Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court of state or FCT, for redress”.

Section 87 (10) “Nothing in this section (section 87) shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election under this Act pending the determination of the suit.”

There are even provisions in the Electoral Act against campaigning against political opponents on the basis of religion and ethnicity. In the light of these provisions the hope of Atiku to use the judiciary to disqualify a fellow presidential aspirant is sheer pipe dream. If he must carry out his ill-advised challenge to sitting President Jonathan in the PDP primaries he had better get down to business and stop whining about zoning because that will not help him. Relying on zoning to clinch the PDP ticket portrays him as an opportunist and lazy politician who cannot win the primaries and an election on his own without the crutch of zoning.

In the light of these constitutional and statutory provisions, therefore, my candid advice for the president is to be true to the constitution and the laws of the land by resisting any attempt to institute zoning in the land even at gun point as a matter of a legal obligation beyond the bland and general provisions in the PDP constitution that have been held unenforceable by the court. Like the provisions in Chapter Two of the Nigerian constitution relating to Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy examined above, the PDP provisions should remain as general directives to guide the party in zoning positions at its absolute discretion and not as legal entitlements because doing so would amount to flouting the provisions of the nation’s constitution which he has sworn to uphold and defend. He cannot be touting a transformative agenda that includes zoning as a formula for power sharing at the presidential level. It is a fundamental contradiction in terms. There is nothing transformative in an undemocratic, backward and primitive formula as zoning that is equally meant to service an undemocratic, backward and primitive people. When you collate statements from notable Nigerians almost all have condemned the PDP zoning as backward, divisive and primitive. The only people on earth mouthing zoning are Atiku, IBB and their deranged supporters. That should tell you that zoning is dead on arrival.

It is, in fact, immoral, despicable, illegal, unconstitutional and shameful to use zoning to stop any Nigerian from contesting any election. Even those who are driven by princely sense of entitlement ought to exhibit some class, honor and decorum in the pursuit of their ab-initio. Nigeria’s presidency is nobody’s birthright and no one is entitled to it as a given. It belongs to every Nigerian from the far reaches of the North bordering the deserts to the fringes of the South bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Nigerians are asserting their rights to the presidency. It’s our common heritage and we intend to establish that as an irreducible minimum in the forthcoming elections by all legitimate means necessary; not with crude and primitive threats of violence. By now, in this 21st century, Nigeria should have moved beyond “Agbero” (Motor tout) politics. Good a thing the North is not with them in their scorched earth politics of destruction. The common man in the North is not bothered about zoning so also is his Southern counterpart. All he wants is food on his table, roof over his head and all the other opportunities and social amenities at his disposal. That is a basic desire he shares with all peoples all over the world, not the desire for zoning or for his ethnic stock to produce the next president of his country. How does that help him? The power game is an elite game not for the common man. So let’s be clear about this. Let’s be clear about who is pushing the zoning argument and who stands to benefit from it at the end of the day.

That said, it might be worth our while to spare some thoughts on the merits and demerits of the zoning proposition. The chief argument for zoning is that it will create a sense of belonging amongst the various ethnic groups in the nation. Superficially, that is a desirable thing if that is the only way to foster a sense of belonging to the Nigerian nation amongst the various ethnic groups. This argument presupposes that such sense of belonging is lacking in the polity and therefore needs to be created through zoning. No one has ventured to find out why such a sense of belonging is lacking and what or who is responsible for its lack. But let’s assume that it is lacking and it needs to be addressed, the inevitable question is which ethnic groups are we talking about to begin with? Is it just the big three of Yoruba, Hausa and Ibo or the over 250 ethnic groups that we want to please with the grant of power at the center? If it’s just the big three that we are talking about, what happens to the rest 247 ethnic groups in the new power appropriation calculus? Are they part of the deal or they don’t count for anything in the union? And if we are talking about just the big three, which one of them needs this new political balm of a sense of belonging? Is it the Hausa-Fulani, the Yorubas or the Ibos or all of the three we are talking about? Are we really serious or we are only out to use zoning as political football? Is there any Nigerian out there who is prepared to stick out his neck and tell the nation that the Hausa-Fulani ethnic groups that have been ruling the nation for 38 out of her 50 years in existence needs to be given a further sense of belonging through zoning? Or for that matter, do the Yorubas, who have ruled the nation for almost 12 years through OBJ and Shonekan combined need to be given further sense of belonging through zoning? Somebody has got to be kidding me.

Let’s get our bearings right lest we be judged as a bunch of morons by posterity. If we are true to ourselves, the only major ethnic groups or nationalities, if you like, among the big three that need to be given a sense of belonging at all in the Nigerian union through zoning is Ndigbo. Period! And that is if zoning is considered the panacea and the cure-all formula for our problems. Of the big three only Ndigbo has tasted power the least with just three months under Ironsi! Hausa/Fulani need no further sense of belonging and the Yorubas don’t need it either. Both have had more than enough of that sense of belonging and they could afford to sell some of it for cash or kind. The Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba ethnic stocks should therefore proceed on vacation until Ndigbo gets that before they resume duties. Talk about justice, equity and fair play? There it is! If we want to practice zoning, how in the world are we going to start with those who have been enjoying political power at the center since the beginning of time? How does that square up with the principles of equity, justice and fair play?

But that is for the big three. If Ndigbo has only had power for three miserable months under Ironsi, the Southern Minorities have not had power even for a day until now under Jonathan by default through an act of providence. Talk about fairness and promotion of sense of belonging! This is where the rubber truly hits the road. And this is where it should all begin before rotating to Ndigbo in turn if zoning is it. Thank goodness, God has already decreed that in the way and manner of Jonathan’s meteoric ascendance to the presidency. If you like, PDP zoning has already moved to the Southern minorities, who happen to be in the geographical zone called South/South. Ndigbo is next in line before the Yorubas and Hausa/Fulani return from their zoning vacation. Chikena!

But after all is said and done what would zoning have achieved for the nation? Would it have put food on our tables? Would it have put light in our homes and offices? Would it have taken out all the armed robbers and kidnappers? Would it have provided jobs for our teeming jobless youths? Would it have fixed our dilapidated road and other infrastructures. Would it have solved election rigging problem? It is going to make INEC perform better or stop our desperate politicians from rigging elections by whatever means necessary? Is it going to stop corruption in high places? Or, for that matter, will it put a stop to the burgeoning ethno/religious mayhem in parts of the north? Will it solve anything? Can we please spare a moment to deliberate on these issues before we take the suicidal dive into the zoning cauldron?

Oh, it will prevent the cut throat competition for power at the center amongst the ethnic groups in the nation, they tell us! Really? But at whose expense? At the expense of individual rights of the citizens? Are we prepared to sacrifice our individual rights on the altar of ethnic zoning in this day and age? Great! But wait a minute: If it is that good, if it is the cure-all elixir, why is it not in the nation’s constitution already? Why was it not incorporated in the several constitutional amendments we have gone through lately?

Perhaps of greater concern is Nigeria’s ability to effectively operate such a nebulous formula that has yet to be articulated and coded in the nation’s constitution and therefore has no force of law as earlier indicated. The formula is decidedly undemocratic and unconstitutional. Look at this scenario: You zone the presidency to a certain part of the country for four or eight years and the president from that part suddenly dies in office as happened with late President Musa Yar’Adua, and his deputy constitutionally takes over. What happens to that zone? PDP has ruled that his deputy would complete the term, which in reality means power has moved from that zone to another. There are a million other scenarios but I won’t bother to itemize them all. What this one scenario shows, however, is that zoning is at odds with not just democracy but with the nation’s constitution. It would be difficult, if not impossible to impeach a sitting president who has engaged in gross misconduct due to zoning considerations. Which zone would allow its president to be impeached by others even if the man or woman looted the entire federal treasury or some other egregious crime in office? It’s clear that zoning is a monster lurking in the shadows of our national life that is bound to promote bad governance and lack of accountability. And that cannot be in the interest of our dear nation.

At this stage of the nation’s development zoning is the least of our needs. My people have an adage which states that a wise man applies his medication only to the part of the body that ails him, and not to other parts of the body that are healthy. But the foolish man does quite the opposite, leaving the ailment unaddressed. We can zone and unzone all we want but the basic problems that ail us a nation will remain unsolved and unresolved. Our democracy is better served by building democratic consensus through mutual understanding in the spirit of give and take and national unity and cohesion, not through some zoning diktat. Our democratic growth will forever be stunted and retrogressive with zoning as an ossified oddity, because once begun there is no end to it. It is the wrong prescription for the wrong ailment.

Some people want to drag us all down that path with them but the nation is not sold on that as could be deduced from the voices of Nigerians condemning the zoning proposition including members of the National Assembly who have declared their support for Jonathan, governors and ordinary Nigerians. Atiku and IBB might need zoning to get to power in a democratic dispensation. IBB sure needed that since he can no longer shoot his way back to power like Jerry Rawlings did in Ghana from retirement. He needs all the zoning he can get from the PDP to do that otherwise he could kiss the presidency goodbye for good. And on his part, Atiku does not see himself making any headway to the presidency without zoning and that’s perhaps reason why he put his political locomotive into reverse gear to take him back to the PDP where he thought the presidency was his for the asking, courtesy of zoning.

A whole bunch of ethnic jingoists in the north are counting on zoning to help them get to power without much ado in present day Nigeria. However, the last time I checked, late Chief MKO Abiola, of blessed memory, needed no zoning in 1993 to sweep the polls from the northern deserts to the southern ocean as the sands in the north and the fishes in the south all joined together in one accord to give the totally detribalized statesman landslide victory. He relied on his statesmanship, generosity and general acceptability to sweep the polls from North to South and from East to West. With Abiola everyone was a Nigerian, not Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba, Edo or any other tribesman, for that matter. Everybody forgot where Abiola came from and voted him with no feelings of political marginalization from any quarters. How about having more statesmen and women and detribalized Nigerians like the late chief as presidential candidates to place our democracy on an even keel and at par with all modern democracies in the world where zoning is an unwelcome guest? I don’t know about you, but that sounds good to me and perhaps to most Nigerians too. I can bet on that.

Have you heard of anywhere on earth where members of the president’s or prime minister’s own party would rise up to contest presidential primaries with the president or prime minister, as the case may be, seeking a second term? Have you ever heard of the Democrats or Republicans in the United States, for example, fielding presidential aspirants to challenge their sitting presidents going for second terms at their primaries as the PDP has allowed some ethnic power merchants to do to President Jonathan? Not in the United in the United States; not in Great Britain; not in Germany; not in France; not in India; not in Canada; not in Italy; not in Spain; not in any other place on the face of the earth; only in Nigeria and that’s why Nigerians are an odd set of people trying to be more Catholic than the Pope!

It is a shame that the PDP has allowed its own president to be harassed, intimidated, threatened and attacked by its own party members without sanctions all because he wants to contest an election. What manner of party is that? Why would a party allow its members to abuse its own president the way they’re doing to President Jonathan? It’s gross indiscipline which is totally unacceptable in any normal society or organization including political parties. Nowhere in the world is this kind of behavior condoned.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with the words of the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido in an interview with a Nigerian newspaper reporter:

“Now, coming to the issue of endorsing Jonathan as our candidate. In the parliamentary system, where the leader of the party is defeated or the incumbent prime minister is defeated, automatically that government collapses. In the presidential system, it is unthinkable for a sitting president to come to the convention of his party, by whatever means, by whatever arrangement, and then be voted out. It means that the party is passing a vote of no confidence on the president.”

“By implication, the party is saying that, “we do not want you to be our president” and then from there on, that government collapses. There are a number of things which we have to consider: The national security, its own stability, the consequences of following you to this kind of idle debate, while ignoring the facts on the ground.”

There is no way the PDP can go to a convention and pass a vote of no confidence on its own president or vote him out.”

What more should I add? He said it all and I couldn’t have put it better, folks! God bless those who stand up for Truth and Justice for they shall inherit the Earth and be called Sons and Daughters of the Living God, Almighty---ever Faithful, ever Merciful, ever True to His Word and Ordinance!

And there you had it straight up from the stable of: --Cutting Edge Analytics—Where News Meets the Intellect--.

May God bless and protect the nation from her enemies within who are bent on giving our dear country a bad rap.

And this is wishing all my readers, all Nigerians and all of Humanity, a Safe, Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst. Contacts: mudiagaone@yahoo.com, http://franklinotorofani.wordpress.com/




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