By: Kunle Akogun

• No one can rig 2011 polls, says Presidency

The Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may at its meeting today stick to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua/Goodluck Jonathan ticket till 2015.
The meeting is one of the crunch parleys fixed for this week by the PDP leadership. The National Caucus meeting holds tomorrow.
THISDAY learnt that the PDP leadership may have finally resolved to review its controversial zoning formula in such a way that would favour the South-south geo-political zone where President Goodluck Jonathan comes from.

Checks by the newspaper yesterday revealed that the party leadership has seen the need to reinforce the zoning arrangement in clearer terms and re-formalise the power rotation policy.
The Presidency last night, however, distanced itself from a purported plot by some pro-zoning canvassers to pressurize President Goodluck Jonathan to rig the 2011 election.
A newspaper had quoted the publicity secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as alleging that the president is “under pressure to give assurance to those canvassing zoning that he must rig the elections in favour of the PDP so as to protect the interest of the clique and ensure that (General Muhammadu) Buhari does not win the presidential vote”.
On the PDP crunch meetings, a source close to the BoT of the party said the party leaders are canvassing a review of the zoning formula so that the incumbent from the South-south could take the slot and govern the country between 2011 and 2015.

The source said with Jonathan as the incumbent president, the position of the party’s constitution and established convention in PDP allow him to take another shot at the office if he has not exhausted the two terms allowable under the country’s constitution.
According to the source, the argument is also that President Jonathan is best suited to resolve the North/South dichotomy question as he can only contest for the presidency for one more term.

The source said: “The Constitution allows a person to be sworn in twice into executive positions, either as president or governor and since Jonathan was sworn-in first on May 6, 2010, that would count as his first term. He can only be sworn into office only one more time and he would have completed his constitutionally allowed two terms of office. That should then ensure that power reverts to the North in 2015.”

This position, the source said, is “informed by constitutional order, which prescribes that the Vice- President would take over when the President dies in office”.
It was gathered that leaders of the party have agreed in separate discussions on the need to marry the constitutional reality with the positions of the party and the current Nigerian reality.
“The reality on ground is that the PDP can best win the presidency in 2011 by presenting the incumbent, who has something to show the people in terms of commitment to national growth and resolving the power problem”, the source said, adding: “Since the zoning arrangement was altered by divine intervention, we have to abide by that and review the formula in favour of the South-south. It then means that the South-south would retain the slot till 2015, when it (power) would revert to the North”.

Another member of the party’s inner caucus insisted that the PDP has to now reinforce the zoning formula to take care of eventualities such that occurred when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in office.
“What we need to do now is to clearly state the succession order in the PDP constitution and that when an incumbent dies, the zoning arrangement would be reversed in favour of the Vice President or deputy governor as the case may be,” the source said.

It was gathered that the view had become widespread within the party’s top hierarchy by the weekend.
A source said that President Jonathan is best suited to resolve the North/South dichotomy question as he can only contest for the presidency for one more term.
He also said that the need to ensure that the people of Niger Delta where Jonathan comes from have a sense of belonging in the governance of Nigeria so as to maintain the stability of the country is also one of the other factors working in Jonathan’s favour.

Meanwhile, in a press statement last night, Presidential Spokesman Ima Niboro said the claim that the President was planning to rig the 2011 poll is “outrightly false and even illogical”, describing it as “an attempt to pre-judge the forthcoming elections before the fact and we would have ignored it but for the high premium the President places on conducting free, fair and credible elections in 2011”.

He explained that the President is under no pressure whatsoever over the 2011 election”, adding that he has made it clear that there will be credible elections next year, and has so far taken decisive steps to actualise this vision.

Niboro’s statement read in part: “The President has appointed a leadership for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which has been hailed locally and internationally. He has given unequivocal support to the agency in its search for the most viable strategy to achieve excellent delivery of the next elections, and has told INEC leadership publicly that no one has “tied their hands”, and therefore “there is no excuse for failure.

“We find it strange for anyone to be talking about rigging at this time of our political evolution, for those days are gone… they are dead and buried! The President urges all Nigerians to join hands with INEC to ensure that in the next elections, our votes count. Nigerians must speak with one voice and defend their votes.
“It is a new day. Let us forge ahead with new hope, a new vision and a new way of doing things”.

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