By Tony Edike & Chris Ochayi
ENUGUâ€”GOVERNORS of the South East Zone have for the second time declined the outright endorsement of a presidential candidate for the 2011 election insisting that they would support only a candidate with the best programme that will address the imbalance in the country and marginalization of the zone.
The governors, however, said they would declare their position only when President Jonathan becomes a candidate even as the South East Forum, SEF, yesterday declared that it was firmly committed to zoning and rotation of power principle and therefore would work for the actualisation of a Northern President in the next yearâ€™s elections.
The South East governors, at the end of their meeting, however,expressed happiness with the performances of President Goodluck Jonathan, especially the way he had piloted the affair of the nation since he came on board.
Chairman of the Forum of South East Governors and Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi who read their resolution after a meeting in Enugu Sunday night, also said the governors noted with concern the ongoing strike by the academic and non-academic staff of state-owned universities in the South East zone and resolved to negotiate the aggrieved workers even as they called for immediate reopening of the universities.
Obi said that the governors discussed the unfolding political scenario in the country and after assessing the political developments, â€œwe agreed to restate our earlier resolve to stand and work together irrespective of party affiliations, and that none of us, the Governors, will vie for the post of President or Vice President of the nation in the upcoming elections in 2011.â€
â€œWe will rather give support for Presidency, a candidate with the best programme that will address the imbalance in the country and marginalisation of the South East Zone. We are not against anybody, but what we are saying is that we will only make our support known when all the aspirants have declared.Â We are working for the interest of the region and not for our personal interests.â€
However, Secretary General of South East Forum, Chief Chyna Iwuanyanwu who made the position of the forum known, weekend, in Abuja, said the North would produce the next president in 2011 for safeguarding of democracy, peace, unity and national stability.
Besides, former Minister of Education, Prof. (Mrs.) Chinwe Nora Obaji, who attended the Thursday meeting of South South and South East held at the residence of a former Federal Commission of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has raised the alarm that her life has been under threat following the position she took during the meeting.
Chief Iwuanyanwu said it was misleading, for anyone to say that the zone has endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 presidency.
He said: â€œWe want to assure the generality of Ndigbo that the South East Forum is firmly committed to the communique it issued with the Northern Political Leaders Forum on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 to wit; the two groups believe in zoning and rotation of power principle as the best safeguard for our democracy, peace, unity and national stability; that the two groups will work staunchly for the realisation of a Northern President in 2011; and the both groups will also work assiduously for the realisation of an Igbo President in 2015.
However, former Minister of Education, Professor Chinwe Obaji who attended the meeting said her life is under threat because of â€œmy stand on the fact that the South East deserves a shot at the presidency come 2015â€.
Prof. Obajiâ€™s statement entitled, â€œSouth South/South East meeting-a refutalâ€ said, â€œthe meeting of South- South and South- East representatives held on Thursday 19 August 2010 at the residence of Dr Edwin Clark was not reported accurately in the media.
â€œThe meeting was summoned to look into ways of improving relations between the South-South and South-East geo-political zones. I and some south east delegates raised issues at the meeting that we considered impediments to fostering good and smooth relationship between the two zones and tried to proffer solutions. Some of those issues are quite sensitive and are sore spots to the average South-Easterner.
â€œIt was unfortunate that some positions we took did not go down well with notable leaders from the South-South who telephoned me the next day, threatening me.
â€œI believe sincerely that if there should be remarkable improvement in our relationship, the genuine concerns of the two zones must be addressed in an open and sincere manner for the wider interest of Nigeria.
â€œThe relationship between the two zones dates back before our time and by acts of providence, we have found ourselves as neighbors, in-laws, cousinâ€™s even brothers and sisters etc and we should from time to time dialogue on frosty issues that tend to divide us and make attempts to find solutions to these issues. Any discussion which does not address the genuine concerns and aspirations of the South-East zone may only be one-sided and could be short lived.
â€œIt will be most unfair to me for anyone to invite me to a meeting of this nature and expect me not to represent the interest of the south east zone as I know them, such an act could tantamount to a silent betrayal of my people.
â€œNeither threats nor undue coercion will change my stand on the fact that the South-East deserves a shot at the presidency come 2015.
She concluded, â€œthis position is just, equitable, fair and irrevocable and the kind of threat I have received is totally ill motivated and counter-productive.â€