By Tony Akowe:

People’s Demo-cratic Party (PDP) leaders from the North West zone, where President Umaru Yar ‘Adua hails from, are insisting that the zone must produce the country’s next President.

They rose from a meeting in Kaduna yesterday, vowing to do ‘everything necessary’ to achieve this objective.

The Nation learnt that the zone has already drawn up a short list of names of notable politicians, most of whom are currently governors of states in the North West zone.

The Zonal Secretary, Barrister Aliyu Baba who confirmed the development at the end of their meeting said the party hierarchy has zoned the seat to the region. He said the Kaduna meeting was called for party chieftains from the seven states in the zone which comprises Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara to make their input into the deliberations on a replacement for ailing Yar Adua in the next presidential poll.

After the meeting, Aliyu Baba told newsmen that since Yar’Adua had not exhausted his tenure due to his ill health, it is the responsibility of the party to ensure that the North West presents the next president of the country in 2011.

He said further that the North West zone had a valid claim to the nation’s presidency for a second term beginning from next year. He however said that the issue of a replacement for the president in 2011 would be determined after taking into consideration the state of health of President Yar’Adua’s when he returns to the country from the hospital in Saudi Arabia.

He said: “The party has zoned the presidency to our zone, the North West and so it’s still our tenure and we hope to continue to occupy it till the end of the next term beginning from 2011. It’s our tenure and we have to present the next president from the zone since the North West has eight-year tenure at the presidency.”

Also, the meeting resolved to give total and unflinching support to President Yar’Adua based on the premise that he was holding the slot of the North West zone at the presidency, Aliyu stated.

However, a chieftain of the party and former governor of Kano State who attended the meeting, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi said that the issue of a replacement for Yar’Adua was not discussed at the meeting.

Rimi said that prayers were held for Yar’Adua’s quick recovery and safe return to the country, stressing that the issue of the North shopping for a replacement for Yar’adua was totally irrelevant.

“Instead of that, we confirmed support for Yar’Adua. The question of replacement does not arise at this time. It was not the subject of this meeting. It was not on the agenda. It was not discussed. It’s totally irrelevant,” he said.

The meeting was, however, soured with the death of two men believed to be supporters of rival political interests. An eye witness claimed that several people were injured during a fight that broke out over the sharing of money given to the various party supporters that stormed the meeting in large numbers

Another source claimed that violence broke out between supporters of the Katsina State governor who had besieged the venue of the meeting, dressed in white T-Shirts emblazoned with the pictures of Governor Shema and Yar’Adu. They came to the venue in hundreds of commercial buses

Witnesses said two of the youths that were stabbed by their colleagues fell into a coma after losing a lot of blood. They were rushed to an undisclosed hospital. The rampaging youths fought with various dangerous weapons including knives, cudgels and machetes.

Journalists, policemen and other security agencies at the venue of the meeting had to run for their dear lives as the scene became bloodier.

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