By: Hassan Ibrahim, Uchechukwu Olisah, Jackson Udom and Leon Usigbe
• South-South stakeholders woo North over Jonathan
• Abrogating aspirants’ rights can cause problem – Marwa
THE Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), on Tuesday, resolved that all political parties should endeavour to field northern candidates for the 2011 presidential election.
ACF said this in a communiqué issued after its emergency joint meeting chaired by its Board of Trustees chairman, General Jeremiah Useni, adding that fielding northern presidential candidates in the 2011 election by all political parties was very important and necessary in order to ensure the principle of federal character, which, it claimed, had become part and parcel of the Nigerian political culture.
The forum urged all political parties and public organisations to continue to uphold the practice of zoning in the interest of social justice, equity, fairness and stability of a united Nigeria.
“The meeting also commended the government for appointing credible persons, including Professor Attahiru Jega, at the helm of affairs of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and urged the government to provide the INEC with all the necessary support for the 2011 elections,” they said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of youths carrying various placards converged on the ACF secretariat in Kaduna, where they told the Arewa chieftains that zoning must be retained by the PDP, while President Jonathan should not contest in 2011.
The youth, said to be mobilised by supporters of former head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, under the aegis of Arewa Citizens Action for Change, said their position on the political future of the North was that zoning must be retained.
The leader of the youth, Alhaji Nastura Shariff, said “much as we know that the ACF will not sacrifice the wishes of millions of people in the region, we hope that today will mark an important day in the political history of the North, where ACF shall tell the truth as it is.
“We must state that we will not accept any deliberate move to shut the door of the presidency, just when it is our turn. The North had not even had one term yet.”
However, leaders of the PDP and stakeholders in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country have expressed their readiness to woo their northern counterparts for the emergence of Jonathan as president in 2011.
The leaders and stakeholders said their move was emanated from the belief of the pro-North elements that the interest of the area would better be served with a president from the South-South geopolitical zone.
Coordinator of the Edo State chapter of the Rebuild Nigeria Initiative and a member of the Goodluck Support Group, Chief Ewie Aimienwauu, made this known while addressing journalists in Benin City, on Tuesday.
According to him, now was the time for the South-South to leverage on its familiarity and friendship with the North, so as to secure the ticket for President Jonathan in 2011.
Aimienwauu said the issues of the minority and political hegemony at Nigeria’s independence had not been well articulated by the leaders, particularly as they affected the interest of the South-South in the country’s quest for the position of the presidency.
“The second point is the issue of North/South dichotomy. As a South-South leader, it behoves on us to go to the North and woo them to support us. There is no automatic ticket for anybody. All of these talks about zoning or no zoning presumes that PDP will win the presidency.
“I am a PDP leader and I believe that the PDP will win the presidency but be that as it may, whoever wants to emerge as the presidential candidate of the party must go through the hurdle of the primaries. So it behoves all of us now, as South-South leaders, as those people who are championing Jonathan, to go to our brothers and sisters in the North and say to them that they should support us,” he said.
In a related development, secretary of the former Deputy Governors’ Forum of Nigeria (DGFN), Mr Christopher Ekpenyong, has called on the North and its leaders to see the Jonathan presidency as “an avenue to reciprocate the age-long support the zone had been giving the North since independent and rally round the candidature of the president.”
Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, said this while addressing journalists on the state of the nation.
According to him, “while one should not rejoice over the untimely death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua, it is, however, imperative at this point to remind the North of the age-long political support it had enjoyed from the South-South zone and rise in support of the calls from within and outside the country that the son of the zone be allowed to govern the country, even beyond 2015.”
He noted that “it is even unfair to the South-South zone which produces the wealth of the country, for some people, particularly in the North, to say that even if they will support the South-South, it has to be for a term of four years, after which power will return to the North. It is unfair and unacceptable.”
Speaking further, the former deputy governor, who is aspiring for the Senate in 2011, reminded those holding the views that the president should spend only four years that “ let us not forget that the South-West, with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, spent eight years, and, if by providence, the office has been zoned to the South-South, it would be morally right to allow the zone to rule for eight years before power goes to the North, and that is why I keep saying that Jonathan’s eight years is non-negotiable in the spirit of equality, fairness and justice.”
He lauded the president on his policy on power, which, he said, was the fulcrum of the nation’s development.
“Let me say that I am very pleased with the declaration of the president on power deregulation. I think with this policy, power will be made available to the people within the shortest possible time.
“The president should also ensure that people who are qualified are made members of the National Economic Council, so that our dream of being one of the world’s most developed economies in 2020 is achieved soonest,” he said.
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