By Emeka Mamah, Kaduna,
AS the frenzy in the nation’s political circles continues to heighten by the day following the controversy generated by the zoning of political offices in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), all is set for the North to hold its Northern Politicians’ Summit in Kaduna on July 15, where, according to the organizers, a final decision will be taken on whether or not to support President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 presidential race.

The National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani has also reacted to the statement credited to the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo to the effect that the party’s zoning in the party was dumped in 1999 saying the PDP National Chairman does not constitute all the organs of the PDP and therefore should not comment on such matters without proper consultations with other organs of the party.

Other groups such as the Northern Elders’ Political Forum-led by the former Inspection General of Police, Alhaji M.D Yusuf, on the one hand, had recently stormed the meeting of the Nothern Governors Forum with the position that the presidency should remain in the North until 2015.

The team included, a 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 and Air Vice Marshal Hamza Abdullahi (rtd).

Ayu who briefed reporters after meeting with the governors 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 region 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 counterparts and in fact, we believe that the rotation will serve our southern counterparts 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 the other hand, another group led by Presidential Adviser (Special Duties), Senator Isaiah Balat said, Jonathan should jettison the PDP zoning arrangement and contest the next election. Professor Jerry Gana, pioneer PDP National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Solomon Lar and his successor in office, Chief Barnabars Gimade as well as the former Governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu among others, were in the team. Sources at the meeting hinted that the conflicting positions of the groups had polarized the NGF meeting forcing the Chairman who is also the Governor of Niger state, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, to adjourn the meeting.

Lar  who spoke on behalf of the group also explained to reporters that, “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 their Excellencies (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.”

In fact, since the debate began, various other groups and individuals have come from the North, each canvassing its opinion on the matter with the Middle Belt Dialogue Group (MBDG) vowing to align itself with what it described as  all positive forces in the country to support President Goodluck Jonathan if he decides to contest the 2011 election.

Apparently reacting to the outcome of an earlier meeting by some Northern Elders, the MBDG said it does not believe in the concept of one North.”

Led by a former PDP National Legal Adviser, Mr. Mark Jacob, the MBDG argued that, “the recent call for northern unity to confront President Jonathan and in essence threaten him out of the 2011 contest by the so called northern leaders that converged in Abuja is not just hollow but an expression by a collection of selfish persons whose claim to leadership is neither divine nor democratic.

“The ailing northern political class has gone into frenzy, issuing threats, organizing meetings and grand standing, all to frighten a minority from staking for federal power.

We in the Middle Belt Dialogue Group observe with every seriousness that the very concept of a political north is fraudulent as recent events have exposed it for the lie it is.

The political north as long as it has existed has promoted the exclusive political and economic interest of the north west of Nigeria while the Christians in the North have only been used as donkeys only good for carrying the political burden of the region.

This explains why the so called northern leaders protested against appointments of service chiefs from southern Kaduna in the Obasanjo regime, they protested the appointment of Gen.TY Danjuma as chairman of the Presidential Advisory committee; they resisted the emergence of a Christian governor in Kaduna state; they sponsored the ethno-religious crisis against Christian communities of the north particularly in Zangon kataf, Tafawa Balewa and recently in Plateau state. Does this North include the Bachama, Jukun, Bajju, Idoma, etc who have their churches in Kano, Sokoto, Zamafara, Katsina and Borno regularly  razed to the ground under the watchful eyes of government officials?
Or is this not the north which refused to support a northern Christian to be Abiola’s running mate?

Is it not the same northern leaders who hold it as a principle that the minorities within the north should never hold any serious political offices?

We in the Middle Belt Dialogue are committed to the ideals projected by President Goodluck Jonathan which include the conduct of credible elections in 2011, and we will align with all positive forces in the country to support him (or any other determined Nigerian for that matter who is committed to good governance) if he makes up his mind to contest the 2011 elections.

It is necessary to state that no Nigerian in these modern times should be intimidated or blackmailed from aspiring for any political position simply by virtue of his place of origin or circumstances of his birth.”

What used to be referred as the monolithic North may have been disintegrated following several ethno-religious conflicts in the area in recent years. The gulf appears to have further widened among the various peoples of the North following the death last May of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua which engendered the elevation of former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to the position of President.

Going by the PDP zoning formula, the North ought to retain the Presidency from 2007 to 2015 as Yar’Adua was expected to serve for two terms, all other things being equal.

However, there are indications that Jonathan who is from the South may breach the zoning arrangement in the party and run in the 2011 election with the Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo, as his running mate. The development further polarized the North especially along religious and ethnic considerations with the battle line apparently drawn between those who refer themselves as coming from the core North and the Christian dominated people of the Middle Belt.

Late Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Wada Nas, had elevated the theory of core North and those in the periphery when he criticized the appointment of some military officers from the North Central zone as service chiefs by former President Olusegun Obasanjo pointing out that they were not from the “core North.” Before the former Minister’s statement on the issue, there had been a groundswell of anger in the North by those from the Middle Belt who believe that they are discriminated against by the Hausa/Fulani in the North.

The problems generated by the zoning system however, reached a crescendo on Wednesday, June 30, when the 19 Northern governors under the aegis of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) converged in Kaduna, the political nerve centre of the North, to discuss the contentious issue. As early as 10 am the previous Tuesday, a flurry of activities had started with the arrival of advance parties of the governors and other top politicians from various parts of the country who are either opposed to the zoning policy or in support of Jonathan’s continued stay in power beyond 2011.

On the day of the meeting proper, at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, the two main opposing groups invaded the NGF’s meeting to canvass their divergent positions before the Forum. From all indications, it did not matter to the groups that some of the governors are not in the PDP. In fact, prior to 2007 when the late Yar’Adua was elected, the PDP controlled only three of the core northern states namely, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina as the other states in the area were under the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). They include Jigawa, Kebbi, Zamfara, Yobe, Sokoto and Borno, among others.

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