From Chuks Okocha and George Oji:

• Govs want polls in Jan •EXCOF won’t vote on Yar’Adua

After a crucial meeting in Abuja yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)announced that power must remain in the North till 2015, effectively barring Acting President Goodluck Jonathan from the 2011 presidential poll.

The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has, meanwhile, canvassed that the general election should hold in January next year and not November 2010 as being proposed by the National Assembly.

Competent sources have also dismissed the notion that the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) will at its weekly meeting today declare ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua incapable of continuing to discharge official functions and move for his removal.

Although Jonathan has barely settled into the office of Acting President, the PDP appears bent on sending a strong message in the event he decides to gun for the No. 1 position next year.

PDP National Chairman Prince Vincent Ogbulafor said the decision was in line with the party’s power rotation arrangement.

“We felt that the zoning of the presidency of the party as enshrined in the party’s constitution should be maintained and therefore the zoning arrangement in the constitution should hold for the next four years,” said Ogbulafor, who led all members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) to the meeting at the Kwara State Governor’s lodge.

“The South has had it for eight years and therefore the North should also hold it for eight years so that we take care of the restiveness in the nation,” he added.
The party chairman refused to divulge further details.

The PDP NWC members in attendance were the national secretary, national deputy chairman, national organising secretary, deputy national secretary, national publicity secretary and the national organising secretary and the national legal adviser.
All PDP governors were present with the exception of Ekiti chief executive.

The 36 state governors later met with Jonathan last night at his Aguda House residence and pledged their support to him.
Chairman of the governors forum and Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki said the decision of the governors was to ensure that they provided good leadership at this crucial stage of the nation’s development.

“We congratulated the Acting President [at the Aguda House meeting] for stabilising the polity of the country at the moment. We encouraged him and said he is doing a good job and that he has the full support of the Governors Forum in this exercise.

We agreed to have regular consultations during this period among the Forum. He also educated us on a number of issues, for example on the Presidential Advisory Council that was set up, the reason behind it and other things,” he said.

In the communique after its earlier meeting, the forum proposed that the 2011 general election should hold 120 days to the expiration of this administration’s tenure on May 29, not 180 days as being proposed by the National Assembly in its current efforts to amend the constitution.

The current provisions in the constitition and Electoral Act stipulate that elections should hold not earlier than 60 days and not later than 30 days to tenure expiration.

The proposed amendments are meant to give room for election litigations to be exhausted before swearing-in.

The governors’ forum agreed to set up a seven-man committee to be headed by Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam, with other members being the governors of Borno, Edo, Enugu, Rivers, Katsina and Ondo, to consult with the National Assembly on the on-going constitutional  amendment for harmonisation.

The governors called on all Nigerians to “continue to support the Acting President and pray for the speedy recovery of Mr. President as he recuperates”.

It expressed support for the political decision on the Acting President by the National Assembly and said the presence of President in the Country does not change the previous resolutions passed by the National Assembly.

It has also emerged that the Yayale Ahmed-led six-man ministerial committee which travelled to Saudi Arabia last week and returned without meeting the President will today submit a report that will only touch on the team’s courtesy visit to the palace of the Saudi king.

Discussing the health of the President and declaring him “incapable” today in accordance with Section 144 of the constitution “is very unlikely”, according to a minister.

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