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2011: North divided over Jonathan

From left: Governors Aliyu Akwe Doma, Nasarawa; Ibrahim Idris, Kogi; and Saidu Usman Dakingari, Kebbi, at the Northern Governors Forum meeting in Kaduna, yesterday.

By Emeka Mamah
KADUNA—NORTHERN Governors were, yesterday, polarized by the perceived candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 general elections.

The situation is coming against the backdrop of the visit of some Northern Elders to the Northern Governors’ Forum, NGF, which met at the Kashim Ibrahim House, seat of the Kaduna State government.

The Northern Elders’ Political Forum led by the former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji M.D Yusuf, said the presidency should remain in the North until 2015, while another group led by Senator Isaiah Balat which also met the governors argued that Jonathan should contest the 2011 election.

The Balat group believed that the President Jonathan should jettison the zoning pattern of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and contest the election.

The two groups addressed the NGF at different periods during the meeting and lobbied the governors to support their different positions.

The delegation of the Northern Elders’ Political Forum included Alhaji M.D Yusuf, former Senate President, Dr. Iyorcha Ayu; former Governor of old Kaduna State and chieftain of the Action Congress, AC, Alhaji Lawal Kaita; former Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Agriculture, Professor Ango Abdullahi,  former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and close friend of former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, Air Vice Marshal Hamza Abdullahi (rtd).

However, those who campaigned for President Jonathan were the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Senator Isaiah Balat, Professor Jerry Gana, founding  National Chairman of PDP, Chief Solomon Lar and his successor in office, Chief Barnabas Gemade as well as former Governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu, among others.

Sources at the meeting told newsmen that the two delegations tried to convince the governors on why President Jonathan should contest or not contest the 2011 polls. It was further gathered that the governors were polarized during the proceeding on whether or not to support President Jonathan’s perceived ambition.

Briefing newsmen after their meeting, the Northern Elders’ Political Forum’s spokesman, Dr Iyorcha Ayu insisted that the group’s position remained that  President Goodluck Jonathan should wait till 2015 before contesting the presidential election adding that such move would ensure national unity and cohesion.

Ayu said it would be grossly unfair to short-change the North in the PDP’s zoning formula owing to the death of the former President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

He said: “The governors of the 19 northern states are our governors and they are meeting here to discuss issues that affect the development of the North as a whole and we are here as members of the political elders’ delegation led by Alhaji M.D. Yusuf.

“We are here to talk to our governors on the future political development of the North and the issue of the presidency in particular and we have come to intimate them on the reasons and arguments on why we think the presidency of the country for the next four years should still remain in the North.

“Our arguments are simple and we have made them clear when we met in Abuja a few weeks ago. It is only fair that after President Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency which was facilitated by the North for eight years, the northern part of the country should not be cheated just because our son, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died.

“We believe that the North should produce the next president after which it will then go back to the South. It is for the unity and stability of this country and if that is truncated, it will affect zoning arrangement in the states where zoning also take place.

“We are not against our southern counterpart and in fact, we believe that the rotation will serve our southern counterpart better and we believe that any key person from the southern part of the country who is interested in running for the presidency should please wait till 2015 and we believe that he will be given that support.

“But if at the end of the day, our wish is not taken, it is a democracy and we cannot compel anybody and we made it clear to the governors that this is our position. It is position for unity and stability of this nation.”

On their part, the president’s men which included Chief Solomon Lar said that they were at the meeting to rub minds with the governors on how to move the country forward, adding that their discussions were very fruitful.

Lar said: “We came to discuss issues that are going on in Nigeria and we are trying to find a solution to the problems that are trying to crop up in the polity and we have discussed and had a wonderful and fruitful discussion with the governors.

“We believe that a solution to the problem will soon be found and Nigeria will take its rightful place among the countries of the world”.

Prof Jerry Gana, a former Minister of Information and Presidential aspirant, in his said they came to brief the governors on their position on the contending issues, adding, however, that they “are of the view that a political conference is necessary to iron out the problems.”

Gana, said that when the issue of zoning came up in 1988, it was resolved amicably, pointing out that there was no need for people to start insulting each other on the issue.

Chairman of the NGF and Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Muazu Aliyu, had said the political events after the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua had been unprecedented but thanked God for helping the country to overcome the challenges that confronted the nation with the death of the president.

“There has never been a better time that requires our highest sense of patriotism, nationalism and statesmanship than now, when we have found ourselves at the crossroad. We have seen worse situations and by Allah’s grace, we have overcome them. So, whatever it is, nobody should feel frightened or threatened because with Allah’s grace again, we shall overcome whatever challenges we face.

“But knowing all of us… we will be able to take firm decisions and stand by them. We must all assist in one way or the other in finding lasting solutions to the challenges that the nation is facing today. We must be sincere, frank and God fearing in whatever we do or in the position we may take in the overall interest of the nation”.

The governors who attended the meeting include Niger State governor and Chairman of the forum, Dr Mu’azu Babangida  Aliyu, Kwara State Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki his Katsina State counterpart, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, the Yobe State Governor,  Ibrahim Geidam, Danbaba Suntai, Taraba, Adamawa’s Murtala Nyako, Borno; Ali Modu Sheriff and Plateau; Jonah David Jang.

Others included Nasarawa State governor, Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris; Kogi, Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, Kaduna;, Gabriel Suswam, Benue and Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto state.


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