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President Goodluck Jonathan
The Northern Governors' Forum (NGF) yesterday in Kaduna rose from a crucial meeting and resolved to throw back the contentious zoning issue to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Instead of taking a position on the issue, 18 out of the 19 governors said it was a PDP affair and as such, a wider consultation was needed within the party before taking a position.

They also said a position would be taken bearing in mind the best interest of the generality of Nigerians. All the governors, except that of Bauchi, attended the meeting. The governors, however, noted that President Goodluck Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest the 2011 elections just as they added that every other eligible Nigerian could run.

In a communiqué issued at the end of their meeting and read by the Chairman of the Forum, Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State the governors noted that their decision on Jonathan's eligibility to run was based on the supremacy of Section 1 of the 1999 Constitution.

'The special meeting of the Forum was held sequel to the resolve made during its meeting of July 1, 2010 to allow members go back for wider consultation with stakeholders for the unity and progress of Northern states within the context of a united Nigeria on zoning of position of the president before eventually taking a position on the matter.

'The Forum then noted that the desired wider consultation with stakeholders had taken place and various positions have been taken by respective states.

'The Forum after collating the report from all the 19 Northern states and after exhaustive deliberation recognizes the following: The Supremacy of the 1999 Constitution as encapsulated in Section 1, the provision of Section 131 of 1999 Constitution, which states the qualification for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

'Arising from the above therefore, the Forum acknowledges the right of President Goodluck Jonathan and indeed any other Nigerian to legitimately and constitutionally contest for the office of the President.

'On zoning, the Forum recognizes the fact that the issue is a PDP affair as contained in section 7 (2C) of the party constitution. Therefore, in acknowledging the circumstances of 'force majure' arising from the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and subsequent ascendancy of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the presidency.

'The Forum resolved that wider consultations should continue at all party levels within the PDP with all stakeholders across the nation to address the concerns of all in the interest of peaceful co-existence and advancement of democracy in our dear country Nigeria.

Meanwhile, heavy presence of securitymen was a noticeable feature of yesterday's meeting.

As early as 7a.m., plain and uniformed securitymen, especially the police were deployed in strategic locations within the Kaduna metropolis, to forestall any breakdown of law and order, following threats from some northern youths to disrupt the governors' meeting.

Police armoured tanks were also mounted in strategic locations, especially on the road leading to the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, venue of the meeting. Besides, a helicopter was also noticed hovering around Kaduna metropolis, ostensibly for air surveillance.

Daily Sun gathered that all those measures were taken to ensure that hell was not let loose, following the insistence of the northern youths, led by one Ibrahim Waya, to stage a protest.

Despite the heavy presence of police, some of the youths were still seen by the road leading to the venue of the meeting, with banners, which had inscriptions such as 'governors be courageous, take a stand,' 'zoning is the only solution to peace and stability in the country,' 'zoning is the only way to guarantee fairness and justice in ruling Nigeria.'

Besides the banners, the same group had posted bills bearing the same messages on major streets in Kaduna metropolis, especially around the Lugard Hall area, which serves as the State's House of Assembly and the road leading to the venue of the meeting. But the bills were torn in areas like the road to Government House and the ones around the State House of Assembly.

However, contrary to the agreement earlier reached between the youths and the security agencies on Monday, on the need to send a 25-man delegation to the venue of the meeting, only three members of the group arrived the venue of the meeting in company with the state Police Commissioner, Tambari Yabo, only to say they had changed their mind on the planned protest.

That, became the first that the governors' meeting, might as well downplay the issue of zoning, a situation that later turned out real.

The governors' position, might have been informed by the sudden realisation that the PDP was waiting for the governors to lead the way.

Meanwhile, speaking earlier ahead of their decision yesterday in Kaduna, the northern governors agreed to base their stand on the controversial zoning on simple majority decision from each of the states in the region.

Declaring the meeting open, the Chairman of the NGF, Dr. Aliyu said, 'At today's crucial meeting we shall take responses from the states, and I believe that we shall all be bound by what the people say on the matter, because we are only their elected representatives who Allah has saddled with the responsibility of providing leadership and taking the difficult decision in their best interest.'

Aliyu also maintained that the interest of the nation must be protected no matter the circumstances the people find themselves, saying, 'While we must respect the fundamental rights of people to hold and express opinions, may I urge that we should always put the interest and future of the nation first in everything we do or say, no matter the circumstances.'

He, therefore, reminded the 18 governors out of the 19 present in the meeting that, 'I believe we have agreed that we shall be binded by the decision of simple majority for the sake of our unity and the progress of our people.

'I urged each one of us to be honest , sincere, partriotic and God-fearing in presenting our positions and those of the people on the issue of zoning, while we leave the future to God so that our nation will endure to take its right place in the comity of nations.

'We must remember that as political leaders of this generation, God has now put the responsibility on our nation for the improved wellbeing of the present and future generations of Nigerians.

'Indeed, to many of us, the issue is not a simple issue of rotational zoning as is being hyped, but rather the issue of integrity, honesty and discipline.

'It s also an issue of good governance, the issue of equity intertwined by pragmatism.

'We must, therefore, be courageous in taking decisions, wise in negotiating properly and sincere in our determined effort to get Nigeria working properly,' he said.