Governors of the 17 states in southern Nigeria under the aegis of Southern Governors’ Forum have declared that the next president of Nigeria must emerge from the southern part of the country, throwing a contest to power among the regions.
The governors who converged on Lagos State yesterday to discuss the state of the nation, took far-reaching decisions concerning the nation’s current security situation, constitutional amendment and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), among others.
The southern governors, from both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democractic Party (PDP), unanimously resolved that the presidency of the country must be rotated between southern and northern Nigeria, and insisted that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the southern region.
They, however, did not state which of the three geopolitical zones in the South – South East, South South and South West – would produce the president, meaning that it is open for contest should power shift from the North, where President Muhammadu Buhari from the North West geopolitical zone is office, to the South.
LEADERSHIP reports that the South East has been laying claim to the presidency, saying if, as hoped, the presidency is zoned to the South, it is the only region yet to produce the president. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (South West) and Dr Goodluck Jonathan (South South) have been presidents since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. However, APC leader Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu’s presidential ambition is well known.
Meanwhile, the northern governors did not make any comments yesterday regarding the Southern governors’ call for a power shift to the South in the coming 2023 general election.
One northern governor, Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, had already thrown his hat in the ring for the presidential contest.
Yesterday’s resolution of the Southern governors comes weeks after the Southern and Middlebelt leaders insisted that the next president must emerge from the Southern part of the country.
Southern and Middlebelt Leaders, under the aegis of Southern and Middlebelt Leaders Forum (SMLF), had declared that no southerner should take up the position of vice president or national chairman of the two major political parties, PDP and APC ahead of 2023.
In the meeting which is a follow-up to their maiden meeting of May 11, 2021 in Asaba, the Delta State capital, the governors reaffirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress and peaceful co-existence between and amongst its peoples.
In PDP, the Governor Bala Mohammed panel, which recommended that the party’s ticket should be thrown open to all the zones, had attracted reactions, prompting the party leadership to deny that it had taken a position on zoning.
The PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, was compelled to clarify that the party was still studying the report and would take a position on zoning after a broader political meeting.
In the APC, party leaders have been divided over which zone the presidential ticket should go to. Some party leaders, like former governor of Borno State, Senator Kassim Shettima, and the current governor of Kano State, Dr Umar Ganduje, have insisted on zoning the party ticket to the South after the two-term tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari who hails from the North.
But the chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) and governor of Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Bagudu, was quoted in May as saying that “APC belongs to all Nigerians. Everyone, from every part of the country, is free to aspire to any position in the party in line with the provisions of our party’s constitution and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.”
However, rising from their meeting yesterday, the governors in a communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting and read by Ondo State governor/chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), the forum frowned at selective criminal justice administration in the country and resolved that the arrest of suspects should be made within the ambit of the law and fundamental human rights.
On the vexed issue of open grazing raised at their maiden meeting, the governors set a timeline of Wednesday, September 1, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti- open grazing law in all member states.
The communiqué reads in part, ‘’The Southern Governors’ Forum, at the end of the meeting held on Monday, 5th July, 2021, reviewed the situation in the country and focused on the current security situation, constitutional amendment and Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Rising from the meeting, the Forum reiterated its “commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.’’
On the security situation in the country, the governors commended security operatives for their relentless efforts towards restoring security and safety, just as they sympathised with the families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty.
The Southern governors re-emphasised the need for state police and resolved that if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any state, “the chief security officer of the state must be duly informed.”
Part of the communique reads: ”The Forum frowns at selective criminal administration of justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the Law and fundamental human rights; set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member States; and resolved that Funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the states and federal government to combat security challenges.’’
On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law, the forum applauded the National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB but rejected the proposed three per cent by the Senate and supported five per cent share of the oil revenue to the host communities as recommended by the House of Representatives.
‘’The forum also rejects the proposed 30 per cent share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins. However, the forum rejects the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC). The Forum disagrees that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of government have stakes in that vehicle,’’ it said.
In order to consolidate on the nation’s democracy and strengthen the electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum also rejected the removal of the electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act and also rejected the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.
The Forum unanimously chose Lagos State as its permanent secretariat and appreciated the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for the wonderful hosting of the meeting while commending him for his good work in the state.
The governors and their deputies present at the meeting include Governors Douye Diri, Bayelsa; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu; Emmanuel Udom, Akwa Ibom, and Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti.
Others at the meeting are Gboyega Oyetola, Osun; Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos; Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo; Nyesom Wike, Rivers; Dapo Abiodun,Ogun, Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta; Seyi Makinde, Oyo.
Deputy governors in attendance are Ude Oko Chukwu, Abia; Philip Shuaibu, Edo; Kelechi Igwe, Ebonyi and Prof. Placid Njoku, Imo.
Conspicuously absent were governors of Cross River Professor Ben Ayade and Willie Obiano of Anambra State.
POLITICS: Southern Govs Resolutions And Matters Arising(Opens in a new browser tab)
Ijaw Elders Reject 3% Or 5% For Host Communities
Meanwhile, Ijaw elders and leaders under the umbrella of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) Worldwide, has rejected the three or five per cent passed by the National Assembly in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for Host Communities Development Trust Fund (HCDTF)
The president of INC, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, announced the rejection on Monday after an executive meeting of the congress and insisted that anything short of 10 per cent compensation for host communities was unacceptable.
Okaba, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate statesmanship by taking bold steps to douse the rising tension by refraining from signing the bill until the National Assembly approves 10 per cent as the HCDTF.
He also called on the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, to inscribe his name in gold and be on the side of posterity by standing firm with his people and against those who had vowed to continuously deny the Ijaw the control and management of their God-given resources.
He said it had clearly shown that the only thing those against the Ijaw nation valued about them was their oil and not what they are suffering even in the process of extracting the resources from the bowels of their ancestral land.
Okaba also called their legislators and top government officials who play leading roles in Buhari’s administration to throw their weight behind the will and wish of the people by rejecting the slavish allotment and support the host communities for a better deal, which is a minimum of 10 per cent.
He said, “We reject, in its entirety, the three cent and five per cent provisions as compensation, the redefinition of host communities and other provisions, including the allocation of 30 per cent of our oil resources to grope in the dark in the name of exploitation of a paradox of extreme kind that is not in symphony with common sense, equity and good conscience.
“The Ijaw nation is more convinced that the call for restructuring, true federalism and resource control is the only way out for peace, justice and equity to reign in this country and the guarantee for our continuous commitment to the Nigerian project.”
“This scenario has also reignited our search and pursuit for self-determination and self-actualisation in a clime that has brutally raped our sensitivities and rights to peaceful and prosperous existence.
“The perpetrators of these obnoxious policies and laws that infringe on our fundamental human and environmental rights should equally be reminded of the dire consequences and find themselves to be blamed in the event of any eventuality.”