Northern govs waffle on Jonathan for President

THE GUARDIAN Newspaper- Saxone Akhaine

THE nation held its breath while it lasted. The six hours it took them to arrive at the decision seemed like eternity in the collective psyche of the citizenry. The end product? Vintage ambivalence.
And so it was something of an anti-climax yesterday for all who expected an outright endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan or a rigid insistence on a northerner for President in the 2011 election. The northern state governors did a good job of coming short of taking a categorical position on the matter. To arrive at this ambivalent position, the governors had a hard time of sorts and had to put the matter to vote. The Guardian learnt that 10 of the 18 governors voted for zoning to the north while the remaining eight voted for Jonathan to run. Even some of the Jonathan protagonists insisted it has to be for only four years.
Rising from the meeting called under the aegis of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) in Kaduna, the governors took a rather fluid position on President Jonathan’s yet-to-be-declared presidential run or the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) zoning principle.
Stating their positions, Chairman, NGF, Dr. Mua’azu Babangida Aliyu said President Goodluck Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest the 2011 Presidency but pushed the issue of zoning to the PDP leadership’s plate to resolve as an internal affair of the party.
He said: “After exhaustive deliberations on the supremacy of the 1999 Constitution as encapsulated in Section One and the provision of section 131 of the constitution which state the qualification for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Forum acknowledges the right of President Jonathan and indeed any other Nigerian to legitimately and constitutionally contest for the office of the President.”
Both the PDP and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) governors present at the meeting unanimously supported President Jonathan to contest the forthcoming polls if he wishes, saying that as a Nigerian he was qualified to vie for any elective post in the country.
However, Aliyu noted that on the issue of zoning, “the Forum recognises the fact that the issue is a PDP affair as contained in Section 7 (2C) of the party’s constitution,” stressing that “in acknowledging the circumstances of force majure arising from the demise of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and subsequent ascendancy of President Jonathan to the Presidency, the Forum resolves that wider consultations should continue at all party levels within the PDP with all stakeholders across the nation to address the concerns of all in the interest of peaceful co-existence and advancement of democracy in our country.”
Aliyu further stated that the issue of zoning and rotational presidency has remained contentious in the nation’s recent history.
He added: “However, we must remember that as political leaders of this generation Allah (SWT) has now put the responsibility on our shoulders to chart a proper course for the unity, progress and development of our nation.
“To many of us, the issue is not simply the issue of rotation/zoning as is being hyped but rather the issue of integrity, honesty and discipline. It is also an issue of integrity, honesty and discipline”.
The airwaves were immediately jammed by antithetical reactions to the governors’ decision.
In a statement by his Media Office, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar “commended the courage of the Northern governors in supporting the zoning policy of the PDP.”
Atiku described the governor’s decision “as a demonstration of uncommon courage and patriotism.”
By voting overwhelmingly for zoning, Atiku said the northern governors have given all segments of Nigeria a sense of belonging.
His words: “The zoning policy protects minority groups against domination by the majority. In a country as heterogeneous and complex as Nigeria, the zoning policy will ensure fairness and equity in the distribution of political offices”.
He said it was “sad and unfortunate that the issue has been politicized by dishonest and selfish politicians. We must cultivate the culture of honouring agreements in this country. We will not make progress in this country if our actions are driven simply by convenience.
Atiku called for a closure on the zoning debate and advised state and federal governments to devote their energies and resources to real governance.
At the opening of the meeting, Aliyu in a speech pledged that all the northern governors present would take sincere position on the controversial issue of zoning and rotational presidency which will benefit the northern people, saying that the unity of nation would not be compromised on the path the north would trail towards the 2011 presidency.
However, hundreds of Arewa youths besieged the Kaduna Government House venue of the meeting to protest any move by the governors to support President Jonathan’s unconfirmed plans to contest the 2011 presidency.
But the Kaduna State government and the Police Command did not leave any to chance as they beefed up security by manning strategic places in the metropolis to prevent any breach of law and order.
The representatives of the Arewa youths under the umbrella of Arewa Youth Development Foundation (AYDF) addressed the Northern Governors before the start of their meeting in the Chamber of the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House.
Their Leader, Malam Abubakar Aminu Kurawa, read a position letter to the governors, stated that the millions of youths in the north were dissatisfied with the plans by some politicians in the region to dump zoning.
He said: “Some cash and carry politicians, who are resolute to compromise the interest and dignity of the northern people, in the quest of material benefits in the forthcoming elections are already caving in on zoning”.
Kuwara told the governors that rather than embarking on serious public demonstration and protest to prevent any acceptance of zoning, “we were rightly advised by the security agencies in the state to resort to delivering a message of this nature.”
“Although not our own design, we decide to use this medium in conveying this very crucial message to you that the youths of this part of the country endorses in totality, the need of the retention of zoning principle in our national politics”
But after the governors’ decision was announced, Kurawa told reporters: “We can now go back to our trenches to ensure that all those in support of zoning lose elections in their states as governors hunting for second term.
“We are going to campaign against any governor that support Jonathan to vie for Presidency and invariably dumping the zoning”.
Also textiles workers also staged a protest at the venue of the governors’ meeting.
Secretary General of the Textiles Workers Union, Alhaji Issa Aremu, in a statement said that “the challenge of the north is that of development, no more, no less”.
His words: “The North is not short of governors. Indeed the region parades 19 governors out of the 36 governors in the Federation. What the north and indeed Nigeria lacks is development, industry, jobs, quality education and quality of life in general”.
“The challenge before the governors today lies in good governance, they must urgently reinvent the north and indeed Nigeria on the path of reindustrialization, security of lives and property.”
Before the meeting, Aliyu urged the 19 governors to endeavour to deliberate objectively and take pragmatic decision that would promote the interest of the north and its people on the issue of zoning and rotational presidency.
His words: “You will recall that at our last meeting we took a position that we should go and consult widely with the people in our states to collect their views on the issue of zoning or rotation of political offices in the next general elections.
“It is amazing to note the intensity of the debates on the issue across the country. That is a healthy trend in our political evolution, for whatever happens at the end of it all, Nigeria must go on as one indivisible great nation. Overall, national interest should be our guiding principle, while negotiating equitably for better life for our people who seem to be short-changed in the Federal system.”
He added: “While we must respect the fundamental rights of the people to hold and express opinions, may I urge that we should always put the interest and future of the nation first in everything we do or say, no matter the circumstances. I believe we have agreed that we shall be binded by the decision of simple majority for the sake of our unity and progress of our people.”


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