By: Johnchuks Onuanyim & Godwin Isenyo
• ACF insists on 2011
FRONTLINE politicians from the North and South-East yesterday took a stand in support of the controversial presidential zoning arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The decision that presidential power must be retained in the North until 2015 was reached after four hours of closed door meeting in Abuja.
The meeting attracted many Igbo PDP politicians and their counterparts from the North.
Before now, the South-East governors, on behalf of the Igbo people, had backed Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 presidency.
But yesterday, the Igbo politicians, including former Senate President, Dr. Ken Nnamani said “in the best interest of this country, power must be retained in the North till 2015”.
Other notable Igbo politicians at the meeting were former Anambra State governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Senators Ben Obi, Jim Nwobodo, Sylvanus Ngele, Uche Chukwumerije and Fidelis Okoro.
Other Igbo representatives are Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, Elder Ken Emechebe, Agunwa Anaekwe, Dr. Sam Egwu, Chief Achike Udenwa, and Brandy Nwosu.
The Northerners are Adamu Ciroma, Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, Major-General David Jemibewon (rtd), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Senator Salisu Mantori, Ciroma Keffi, Senator Daniel Saror, Prof. Isa Mohammed, Shetimma Mustapha, Lawal Bata Gara, Mohammed Gambo Jimeta, Prof Ango Abdullahi, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, AVM Hamza Abdullahi (rtd), General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), Abubakar Madi, Fatima Bala, Shaba Lafiaji, and Senator Jubril Aminu
In the communique of the group read by their representatives, Bashiru Yusuf Ibrahim, the Secretary Northern Elders Forum, and Chyna Iwuanyanwu, the Secretary, South-East Consultative Forum, the group resolved that zoning and rotation “is in the best interest of Nigeria at this time and it is sacrosanct to the unity of Nigeria”.
“The South-East supports the North totally and completely to complete the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s term.
“The North and the South-East have resolved to work together for South-East to take the presidency in 2015”.
Also at the same venue yesterday, 30 Northern Senators met after the meeting of the North-South East group.
Although they did not brief the press or respond to questions, a reliable source told the Nigerian Compass that their meeting centred on zoning as well.
Among the Senators were Smart Adeyemi, Kanti Bello and Grace Folashade Bent.
In Kaduna yesterday, Northern youths almost disrupted the meeting of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF) that would have deliberated on the contentious zoning formula of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The youth, from various organisations, were opposed to those against zoning. They vowed to deal decisively with any anti-zoning element in the region.
In their thousands, they carried placards with various inscriptions, arguing that the presidency must be retained in the North for the 2011 election..
Notwithstanding, the ACF meeting went on with a resolution that all the political parties must field Northern presidential candidates next year.
In fact, a pro-Jonathan politician was beaten mercilessly. He was later smuggled out of the venue of the meeting at the ACF Secretariat, Sokoto Road in the metropolis.
In a position paper presented to the ACF by the youth under the aegis of the Arewa Citizens Action for Change, the youth said that as far as they were concerned, they are for zoning.
The position paper signed by the leader of the group, Alhaji Nastura Shariff, reads: “We wish to humbly re-state our position on the political future of the North in the context of the issue of zoning of the Presidency to the region in 2011.
“As you may recall, we made a similar submission to the ACF on the eve of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) meeting. Today, as we have been doing in the last five months, we wish to emphasise that our position remains the same.
“We must state that we the youth of the North will not accept any deliberate move to shut the door of the presidency just when it is our turn. The North has not even had one term yet.
“Series of rallies by our coalition have taken place in all of the 19 Northern states in the last three months. This is a pointer to the fact that any attempt to discard zoning is potentially dangerous for national stability, with dire consequences to our democracy.
“We wish to hereby remind the ACF that they too have a responsibility to promote the interest of the good people of the North, by ensuring that the zoning agreement is honoured, so that the North would feel a sense of belonging.”
However, amid tight security, the ACF still held their closed-door meeting with a resolution that all political parties in the country should field Northern candidates for the presidency in 2011.
Rising from the well-attended gathering, the ACF, in the communiqué signed by its Publicity Secretary, Anthony Sani, said: “All political parties and public organisations should continue to uphold the practice of zoning in the interest of social justice, equity, fairness and stability of a united Nigeria”.
“This is very important and necessary in order to ensure the principle of federal character, which has become part and parcel of our political culture.
“The meeting also commended the government for appointing credible persons, such as Professor Attahiru Jega, at the helms of affairs of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). These have gone in no small measure to rekindle the hope and confidence of Nigerians in INEC’s capacity to conduct a free and fair election.
“Furthermore, the meeting urged the government to provide INEC with all the necessary support for the 2011 elections.”
At the meeting were Brigadier-General Halilu Akilu (rtd), former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, former governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Saidu Barda, former military administrator of Kaduna State, Major-General Bagudu Mamman (rtd), former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jos, Prof. Para Mallum, Alhaji Abu Gidado, Lt-General Mohammed Wushishi (rtd) and Alhaji Magaji Danbata, among others.
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