Ahead of the 2023 general election, some elders in the North have said the region will not give up the presidency to the South, insisting that the region will continue to rule Nigeria.
This seems to be a response to the demand by the Southern Governors’ Forum that presidential power must return to the South at the expiry of the eight-year two-term tenure of President Muhamamdu Buhari in 2023, in the spirit of power rotation, equity and fair play.
LEADERSHIP reports that since the return of civil rule in 1999, power has traditional moved between the South and North. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (South) handed over to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (North), who died in office. Dr Good luck Jonathan (South), who was Yar’Adua’s deputy, took the seat until he yielded it to Muhammadu Buhari (North) after the 2015 general election.
On Thursday, the Southern governors had risen from their meeting in Enugu to repeat their call for the president to revert to the South in 2023, just as they threw their weight behind the collection of VAT by state governments, among other resolutions.
However, the spokesperson of one of the groups in the region, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, yesterday said the North was not for sale and that Northerners are not second-class citizens of Nigeria, as such the region will not accept to play second fiddle when the region has the population to vie for the top political position and win.
Dr. Baba-Ahmed stated this at the weekend at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria while delivering the keynote address at the inaugural edition of Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series organised by the students wing of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG).
While urging the students to be proud of who they are as Northerners, he also challenged them not to accept being treated as second-class citizens in their own country.
Speaking about the 2023 general elections and the agitations for power shift to the South, Baba-Ahmed said the heavens will not fall if a northerner is again elected the next president of Nigeria.
He stated further that the North was not for sale and that Northerners will surprise those waiting for them to queue up in 2023 and be given money in exchange for their votes, adding that anyone who does not want a northerner as president should leave the country if one emerges.
“We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before; whether we are president or vice president, we will lead Nigeria. We have the majority of the votes and democracy says vote whom you want. Why should we accept a second-class position when we know we can buy forms and contest for first-class and we will win?
“Why does anybody need to threaten us and intimidate us? We will get that power, but be humble because power comes from God. We inherited leadership; being honest is not being stupid.
“There are clearly Nigerians who believe that because the economy of the North has already been crumbled and we are running away from insecurity, we are politically vulnerable – they think they can buy us for 2023. They are making a mistake.
“The North has pride; we are humble enough to know that we are going to run Nigeria with other people but we are not going to play second fiddle to anybody. We may not have the most robust economy, there are people who are trying to strangulate us even more than we are being strangulated. We are ready for this
“We will consider every economic adversity, challenge; we will fix the Northern economy and we are the only one who can fix this Northern economy. For that reason, we are not for sale. We are in the process of rebuilding the North and we will rebuild the North from 2023.
“Whether the North holds power in 2023 or not, anybody who wants a break away from this country will say so, they are just looking for excuses. This is democracy. If they don’t like what Nigeria is, they will say they want to break away from this country. We don’t pay attention to those people; we are focused on the fact that we are running a democratic system.
“If the majority of Nigerian voters vote for a candidate from the North and he becomes the president and somebody doesn’t want to live under Nigerian president, the person can leave.
“We inherited the North that determined where Nigeria went. We dropped the ball and we are leaving you to pick it. The North needs young people to be strong enough.”
He described northerners as respectable people who are ready to fight for their best interest.
“A northerner is a respectable Nigerian. We can live with our poverty but we cannot live with a sense of disrespect and anybody who toys with our respect, we will fight them to the end. We will surprise them in 2023 because we will vote for who we want, including the Northerners, and nothing will happen. If we choose to vote for a northerner, the heavens will not fall. We will choose who we want in this country.
“The North is not for sale, our legacy is not for sale; if there are Nigerians who are thinking that in 2023, we will line up because they will give us money, they are making a terrible mistake because the North is not for sale; our future is not for sale. We have learnt from our mistakes and we will not repeat those mistakes again.
“We don’t need anybody to tell us that kidnappers are northerners; northerners have to fight people who are destroying the North. We have to be honest; if the government cannot protect us, let them say so. Once we understand who we are and where we are, we can move forward, if we are not strong enough now, let us build that strength,” he said.
He also encouraged the youths and students to be active in politics, as he added: “Don’t accept second-class status because you are a northerner; no northerner is a second-class citizen in this country. If we want to support the South, we will support the South because that will be in our own interest and we can decide for ourselves”.
Also speaking at the event, a commissioner in the Police Service Commission (PSC), Hajiya Naja’atu Bala Muhammad, challenged the youths to stop being intellectually lazy and selling their rights to leadership for peanuts.
She said most of the great leaders Nigeria has produced stepped into leadership positions as youths, hence the youth of today must grow up and stop the idea of waiting for the elders to do everything for them.
Earlier, a speaker at the event, Dr. Riyahuddeen Zubair Maitama, who spoke on ‘Ethical Reorientation for Positive Attitudinal Change: An Urgent National Imperative’, said ethical decay had adversely inhibited the sustainable development of virtually all sectors in Nigeria.
He therefore called for urgent ethical reorientation for positive attitudinal change among Nigerians, both the governors and the governed, especially the youth on whose shoulder the future of the country rests.
VAT War: Stop Self-help To Avoid Anarchy, ACF Warns
Meanwhile, the apex northern socio-cultural organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday called on Southern governors to wait for the outcome of the court ruling on Value Added Tax and stop resorting to self-help, which may lead to anarchy.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP on the VAT controversy in Kaduna, ACF national publicity secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, said in a democracy the rule of law remains supreme, and all the parties must respect the outcome of the court ruling on the issue.
The Southern Governors’ Forum had resolved to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) in their states during their meeting last week at the Enugu State Government House.
The governors argued that state governments had the powers to collect VAT. The case has reached the supreme court.
The Rivers State government had dragged the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) – an agency of the federal government – to court over which of them is empowered by the constitution to collected VAT. FIRS had been collecting it centrally after which the proceeds were shared among the states of the federation, with the tax body retaining 15 percent as operational cost.
However, ACF said: “We are practising democracy and the rule of law must be followed in all our actions. First, the court ruled in favour of Rivers State government on the VAT issue, the FIRS approached an appeal court and the court said the status quo should be maintained. The case is before the court of law and governors, especially Southern governors should all wait for the outcome of the court ruling on the matter.
“Southern governors should stop insisting on VAT collection when the case is still in court. They should stop self-help on the issue of VAT to avoid action that may lead to anarchy,” ACF said.
No Region Can Solve Own Problems Alone – Lawan
Meanwhile, the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, had called on all Nigerian political leaders to come together in a bid to tackle the challenges facing the country, stating that no region can solve its problems alone.
He spoke on Saturday during a reception at Iyin-Ekiti, Ekiti State, after the paramount ruler, Oluyin of Iyin, Oba Adeola Adeniyi Ajakaiye conferred on him the chieftaincy title of Aare Akorewolu of Iyin Kingdom.
Lawan said no part of the country could on its own solve problems that had engulfed all parts of the country.
A statement issued by his spokesman, Ola Awoniyi, said the event which was well attended by federal and state lawmakers, was part of the activities to commemorate the first coronation anniversary of the Oluyin of Iyin.
“I want to say that today’s challenges are surmountable. All we need is to come together as a people, and face the challenges no matter how difficult they may appear.
“Once we are united, we can deal with these challenges, most of them – if not all of them, and continue the march to making Nigeria a success, a great country like our founding fathers envisioned.
“I belong to that optimistic school of thought that no part of Nigeria can solve a challenge that faces the entire nation.
“No matter how strong any individual can be, he needs others to make his job much easier and more successful when he has to try to deal with it.
“We are facing, not only political but even security challenges today in all parts of the country. What this requires is for all parts of Nigeria, particularly political leaders, to come together.
“Whether the issues are most predominant in the northwest or southwest or southeast or indeed in any part of the country, all hands must be on deck and that will be the secret of our success.
“The people of Nigeria, as demonstrated by Kabiyesi, love this country, love its people and wherever our people come from, they feel sentimental towards each other, that they are one and the same people.
“It is for the political leaders to ensure that they work with this very important factor of unity among the ordinary people to bring all these challenges down to their knees. And we can achieve that.
“I want to urge all political leaders in this country to come together to understand that no part can handle a problem that engulfs all parts – that all parts must be united to deal with a problem that engulfs all parts,” Lawan said.
The Senate President thanked the Oluyin of Iyin, his cabinet and the entire people of Iyin Kingdom for finding him worthy of the title of Aare Akorewolu of Iyin Kingdom.
Iyin is the home town of Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele who is representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District at the Senate.
“I accept this honour on behalf of all of us in the Senate and we have a very good delegation of Senators in this very important first anniversary of the coronation of His Royal Highness.
“Your Royal Highness, you have done what we need to do in this country. The founding fathers of this country recognised and set a vision for the country.
“They came from different ethnic backgrounds, different religious persuasions, yet they had a vision: that Nigeria, with all the diversities, can be made into a great country, to be the greatest in Africa and occupy enviable position in the international polity and they worked hard to achieve that.
“On the way, there were challenges but those leaders faced the challenges squarely and dealt with most of them. Subsequent leaders had the same vision of a Nigeria that will be united, that will be stable, that will be peaceful, that will be progressive, that will develop and grow for every Nigerian to actualise his or her dream.
“They faced challenges, squarely faced the challenges and dealt with most of them.”
“Today, our Nigeria faces some challenges but like the previous leaders, we are determined to remain united, face the challenges squarely and deal with them.
“This is something that we have been able to do in the Senate. We are from different backgrounds of ethnicity and religion. In fact, different political parties but we have decided to come together regardless of our differences and work for the betterment of our country.
“I’m proud to say that the ninth Senate and indeed the National Assembly has achieved so much, achieving first in so many ways, facing the most difficult legislative issues that previously defied any success and the secret is: we face the challenges in a very united version.
Senators in the company of the Senate president from Abuja to grace the occasion include: Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Barau Jibrin, Sadiq Umar Suleiman, Kola Balogun, Ayodele Akinyelure, Chukwuka Utazi, Aisha Dahiru Binani, Mohammed Sani Musa, Surajudeen Basiru Ajibola, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, Francis Fadahunsi, Adelere Oriolowo, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele and also Clerk of the National Assembly, Amos Olatunde Ojo.