By Dapo Akinrefon
CHAIRMAN Senate Committee on Privatization, Senator Ayo Arise has said that President Goodluck Jonathan is free, under the 1999 Constitution, to contest the 2011 presidential elections.
He also faulted the current zoning arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) saying it is not enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Senator Arise said this in an exclusive interview with Vanguard at his Oye country home in Ekiti State recently.
The lawmaker, who said the president could vie for the 2011 presidential polls said Jonathan was â€œentitled to express his freedom as a Nigerianâ€.
According to him, â€œI donâ€™t think there should be any zoning that should disqualify him. That will be unfair. On the basis of that, the issue of zoning, if he wins the election and he finishes his terms and be feels that the south has had it for a while, the north can have it again, these are gentlemen agreement, which would further strengthen out cooperation as a nation.â€
He, however, explained that the zoning arrangement was aimed at dissuading a geo political zone from dominating the political space.
He said: â€œNothing is static in life, position change due to circumstances and when the issue of zoning came, it was designed so that one particular group will continue to dominate the governance of this country. And with the situation that we have currently, we had a president who hails from the north and was unable to finish his tenure, due to his demise and a South south president has emerged.â€
In addition, he said â€œI believe it will be totally unjust for us to start talking about zoning the thing away from him (Jonathan). He will have to go for election just like any other person and if he wins, he deserves the support of everyone of us in this country. So, for me, I think that the issue of zoning right now, is for determining the direction. And of course, zoning is not part of our constitution.
â€œIt has been used severally to ensure that we have some balances here and there. But right now, there is a balance to ensure that those in the greater number will not continue to dominate the smaller groups. Our president now is from the minority, and no that God has put him there, I think heâ€™s entitled to express his freedom as a Nigerian, to run for that office.â€
On whether the President is qualified to run or not for the 2011 presidential polls, the lawmaker said â€œI donâ€™t think we should begin to judge what would happen, when the man is trying to ensure that there is a credible election in this country. We cannot because of the fact that we have free elections and now say that he doesnâ€™t qualify. He qualifies.â€
Speaking further, he stated that â€œas per the issue of support, the man (Jonathan) has started well, we have to continue to watch him and donâ€™t forget that, we in the Senate, support him and thatâ€™s the truth. And Iâ€™m sure every Nigerian knows that he has been carrying on very well. Right now, we still have to watch what the dynamics are, he (Jonathan) has to come out and say he wants to run and if he says he wants to run, I can assure you that heâ€™s going to have the support of many people.â€