Abuja: Governors from Nigeria`s oil-rich southern region today asked President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the forthcoming elections even though the ruling Peoples` Democratic Party (PDP) has zoned the seat to the northern part of the country.
"President Jonathan should openly declare his intention to contest in 2011 because we will fully support his ambition. We plead with other zones to accept him," said a
communique issued after the meeting of the six influential Governors, whose region has the biggest number of states that produce oil.
The governors, who met in the city of Port Harcourt, said they believe in Jonathan`s resolve to conduct electoral reforms. They said that he began this process by appointing an activist Professor Attahiru Jega as the country`s new Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The president is from the region. They argued that the country’s Constitution does not accommodate zoning but gives full rights to the president to contest.
Jonathan became president after the death of former president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in May. The late president was from the north and his death threw up an argument on whether the zoning agreement should be followed strictly.
However, some PDP chieftains like former president Olusegun, who was in power for eight years before the election of Yar’Adua in 2003, denied that such an agreement exists
while some argue that it was not binding.
The election has been brought forward from April to January by the country`s senate thereby putting pressure on Jonathan, who remains undecided on his candidacy.
The pronouncement of the governors has been taken seriously by observers as they are powerful and can influence opinions within the ruling party.
Tomorrow, northern governors will meet in Kaduna to decide on the issue of zoning within PDP.
A former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida who is from the north has indicated his interest to vie for the presidency and has started campaigning.
If the 19 northern governors decide that the zoning formula should be maintained, this would give him a big advantage but if they don`t it may be a green signal to Jonathan`s candidacy.
Nigeria which is made up of 36 states returned to democracy in 1999 after years of military rule.