The power rotation battle ahead of the 2023 general election continued yesterday as leaders of the North and South insisted on producing the next president.
In the build-up to the 2023 polls, there have been clamours for power rotation by Southern leaders, including governors from the zone. The tussle, however, took a fresh twist as the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) yesterday declared that the North would not play second fiddle in the 2023 general elections because it had the advantage of numbers in terms of voting strength.
NEF spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made the remarks at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, on Saturday during the inaugural Ambassador Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series by the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Students Wing.
His comments are a reaction to the southern governors’ recent position that power must shift to the South.
However, the major socio-political groups in the South, namely, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), yesterday dismissed the claim by NEF, insisting that power must shift to the South.
The CNG, however, has backed NEF’s position, insisting that the northern region will use its voter superiority to retain political power at the centre beyond 2023.
It’s Igbo presidency or nothing, says Ohanaeze
The apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said it would amount to injustice to the Igbo race if the region is not supported to produce the next president.
The organisation insisted that there is no way Nigeria will move forward when a group of people have been set apart, noting that what is happening today in Nigeria is the consequences of injustice.
The national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, told LEADERSHIP that those still promoting injustice do not want Nigeria to grow.
Referring to NEF’s comments on the North’s numerical strength, Ogbonnia said “population or no population, it is not important.”
He insisted that what is important is that the idea of religion is to promote consciousness in mankind.
The Ohanaeze spokesman noted that what is happening in Nigeria today is a result of the marginalisation of a group of people, saying it is unfortunate that no Igbo man is part of the service chiefs.
“Nigeria comprises two categories of people, those that have conscience and those that do not have conscience; those that want corporate existence of Nigeria and those that do not want it.
“Look at your fingernails, if something happens to your fingernails, the whole body will have the consciousness that something is happening to the body,” he stated.
On the 2023 presidential election, he insisted that it was the turn of the Igbo to produce the president of the country.
Going down memory lane, the Ohanaeze image maker said in 1998, it was agreed that there will be a power shift from the North to the South.
He noted that the person who spoke for the Igbo was the late Senate President Chuba Okadigbo, while the person who spoke for the North was the late Abubakar Rimi, adding that Alex Ekwueme and Bola Ige were present at the meeting.
He reasoned that since the South West and South South had produced the president, justice demands that the South East should produce the president after the eight-year tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“If it does not happen that way, it is injustice and will continue to boomerang and have negative effect on the entire country.
“It is even to the advantage of Nigeria that an Igbo man becomes president of Nigeria. There is a place where all Nigerians have a consensus and that is the resourcefulness, tenacity and ingenuity of the Igbo,” he stated.
Also, the pan Yoruba social political group, Afenifere, has picked holes in NEF’s declaration that the North won’t play yield the presidency in the 2023 general elections because of its acclaimed voter superiority.
Acting Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said,’’ We have been clamouring for a constitution we will all agree on, they refused. The argument that the North has the highest population is fake; they claimed they had the highest population, but when we visited the North, the population they claimed did not exist.
‘’The population they lay claim to defied the geography we all learnt. Geography states that the nearer the desert, the fewer the population; it is only in Nigeria that it is different. They have arid areas and you threaten us with that. They should let us have a constitution, different from the imposed one. Why argue over population, let a proper census be conducted. I am tired of this argument of the North laying claim to having more population than the South.
‘’Nobody is willing to play second fiddle in the country, that is why we are saying let us come together, have a new constitution and agree on the terms on which we live together.”
On its part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum’s publicity secretary, Ken Robinson, said the population figure the North is making reference to is false and does not exist.
’They have been using that to deceive Nigerians and using it to influence election results in their favour; why can’t they translate that into tax generation. We are working at challenging that over-bloated population.
‘’We shall soon send for an independent body to conduct a census for the country. I am happy the southern elders are United in finding a solution to this problem. That statement that the North has highest population is a senseless statement.’’
Speaking on the issue, the leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clarke, said, “I listened to Ahmed on television and he was talking rubbish. He was talking about majority. Majority to eat whose money? We have the resources and you have the population.
“I can use my resources without population but you can’t use your population without resources. So we must work together if we want to have a fair and just country. We have to create a country where everyone will be equal and entitled to more.”
Niger Delta Activists Back Southern Governors
Niger Delta activist, Comrade Israel Joe, has faulted NEF’s position and backed the southern governors for 2023.
Joe, in statement released yesterday, said that the youths of Southern Nigeria read with disapproval the statement credited to Hakeem Baba-Ahmed who is the director of publicity and advocacy of the NEF.
He said, “Paraphrasing his statement, he revealed that the North must continue to rule Nigeria due to their numbers and whoever doesn’t like it could leave Nigeria.
“The spokesperson has also seen Northerners as the owners of Nigeria while placing discontentment on the position of the Southern Governors’ Forum for declaring that Southern Nigeria should produce the next president – by saying the North are first class citizens and would not accept the second.
“The youths of the South wish to state categorically that such statements speak so poorly of a highly placed Northern elder as Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.
“We stand to back the position of the Southern governors that the South should produce the next president. What election can the North win alone without the input of any Southern region? It is important to state that Southern Nigeria would never also play a second fiddle in the next election.
“While we wish to allay the defects of a federal system in terms of majority domination, the North should be conscious also that Southern Nigeria also has a monopoly of the Nigerian economy and once the North is tired of the marriage done by Lord Lugard in 1914, it can ask for a referendum and national conference to determine the fate of the union.”
No, North Must Retain Power, Northern Coalition Vows
But the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has thrown its weight behind the remarks by the Northern Elders Forum spokesman, Baba Ahmed, hinting that the northern region would use its voter superiority to retain political power at the centre beyond 2023.
The CNG, in apparent reaction to the responses of Ohanaeze, Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, to Baba-Ahmed, noted that the North would no longer submit to threats and blackmail which southern politicians feel is their only path to the presidency.
CNG’s reaction was contained in a statement by its spokesperson Abdul-Azeez Suleiman and made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja/
It noted that the claim for an agreement to rotate power in some parties has long been proved to be a lie and impracticable by the southern politicians themselves.
“The consciousness must be eluding the Afenifere, Ohanaeze and MBF that presidential aspirants mostly from the South have several times rubbished whatever rotation agreement there might have been by contesting whenever it was the turn of the North since 2027.
“We also find it ridiculous, unstatesmanlike, and loss of sportsmanship for the Southern governors to resort to threats and blackmail rather than persuasion in the wild dream of enforcing a regional agenda on an entire community of people that is in a clear majority and politically more savvy,” Suleiman said.
Talking about equity, justice and fairness, CNG noted that the North, which has held the presidency for only eight years since the return of democracy in 1999, is more entitled to a fair deal in order to achieve a balance.
Osinbajo Sellable In 2023 – Governor Sule
Meanwhile, governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State has entered the presidency debate, throwing his weight behind Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for the nation’s top job.
The Nasarawa governor told the Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG) that Osinbajo is a sellable presidential aspirant if he chooses to contest the forthcoming presidential elections in 2023.
Sule stated this during a courtesy call paid on him by members of the political group at Government House, Lafia, yesterday.
He thanked the group for the visit and for intimating him of their advocacy for the presidential candidature of Osinbajo and their desire for him to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, to consolidate on the administration’s achievements.
Sule told them they had nothing to worry about if the Vice President chooses to contest the 2023 presidential election because he was a sellable candidate for the party whose antecedent as an astute politician speaks volumes.
According to him, since the formation of the party, it has been built around one man in the person of President Buhari and the concern of progressive governors of the party was how to move the party forward after Buhari’s two tenure as president.
“Our concern is how do we sustain the party beyond one man. So if you come up with ideas, you know you will not only get my attention but the attention of every serious progressive governor in the country.
“So if you are going about to sell this man, I want you to know that not every product is sellable but Osinbajo is sellable. I pray that all the work you are doing now will not be in vain. It will be good for our party and the progress of this country,” he said.
Speaking earlier, Dr Aliyu Kurfi, chairman of the PCG, said they came on their own without the consent of the VP, because they were convinced to start making the advocacy for Osinbajo to succeed Buhari because of his impressive vision for the country.
“We are here, sir, on a very serious business, the serious business of political succession. We are on our own mission but engineered by the vision of one of our elder statesmen, Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
“We have gone through the various records of activities, life history and, of course, the trends of events in politics and we have agreed as an association to work towards the promotion of his candidature.”
Nigeria’s unity is unshakable – FG
Amidst all the talk of political positioning ahead of 2023, the federal government has said Nigeria’s resolve to remain as one indivisible entity is unshakable, in spite of the various challenges facing the nation.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the remarks in Abuja yesterday at the opening of ‘Nigeria at 60 Photo Exhibition’ with the theme “60 Years of Our Togetherness.”
He said the theme of the photo exhibition had been carefully couched to reflect on the unity of the country in the past 60 years, despite its diverse cultures, traditions, practices, languages and challenges.
“Like other countries in the world, it is an incontrovertible fact that Nigeria, over the years, has gone through challenging times, but we must not miss the fact that its resolve to remain as one indivisible entity has remained unshaken,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the Ministry was using the opportunity provided by the Independence Anniversary celebration to organise a photo exhibition that will deliver information and educate Nigerians, especially the youth, who need a re-awakening voyage into the historical and unique heritage of the country and the secrets behind its unity in diversity.
“This photo exhibition, therefore, is organised to serve as a poignant reminder of significant events in the annals of this great country and how they have shaped the country, ensured peaceful coexistence, patriotism and determination, culminating in our greatness and development.
“For those who did not witness Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, particularly the students, they can at least look at the photos of pre-independent Nigeria; the independence proper; post-independence era; leaders who fought for our independence and have an idea of the struggle for freedom from colonialism and a mental picture of how the situation was then, which gives hope that whatever challenges we may be facing even at this time, we will surmount them and have a strong, united, peaceful and prosperous country,” he said.
The exhibition, which will run for three days at the National Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja, was declared open by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.
Group Warns S’South Politicians Against Trading 2023 Presidency
A group of political stalwarts from the six states of the south south geo-political zone has warned political stakeholders in the zone not to trade the presidential position for personal gain or be ready to contend with the group.
A communique signed by the group’s protem chairman, Chief Diekivie Ikiogha, a member of the group from Cross River State, Ekpeyong Iyamba, and eight others, urged Nigerians of the South South extraction not to disenfranchise themselves in the forthcoming 2023 presidential elections by failing to participate in the ongoing voter registration exercise.
They urged Nigerians to concede the 2023 presidency to the South South ahead of the 2023 rather than thinking of zoning the presidency to other geo-political zones of the nation.
The communique issued after the third meeting of the south south presidency 2023 group in Asaba and made available to LEADERSHIP in Calabar at weekend called on Nigerians from the south to participate in the ongoing voter registration exercise so that they can as well participate in all the political process in the nation.
2023: APC Has No Basis To Zone Presidency To North – Okorocha
Meanwhile, the immediate past governor of Imo State and Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, Sen Rochas Okorocha, has said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has no basis to zone the 2023 presidency to the north.
Okorocha, who disclosed this at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ-FCT) Secretariat, Abuja, during a conversation ushering in his 59th birthday, said the South West also does not deserve the presidency in 2023 based on the principle of rotation.
According to him: “There is no justifiable reason for APC to zone presidency away from the South, not even South West because there has been this culture of rotation, unwritten, but what you call a mutual understanding.
“Power went first to the south there, you have President Olusegun Obasanjo; then it came back to the North, we had the late President Umaru Yar’adua and back to the South, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Then it came back to the North, the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari. I think it is just fair, in what is called understanding – it is not a right – but for equity and justice, that this understanding is not broken; it should go back to the South.”
He also dismissed the statement credited to the governor of Imo State, Senator, Hope Uzodima that the South East does not need the Presidency.
Okoracha said, “Which governor? I don’t think you heard him right because in the normal sense he can’t say that. He can’t say that. Something is wrong, I think something is wrong. I don’t think he said that. That Igbo will not need the president?
“The argument Igbos should make: let him that has something upstairs govern because tribe will not put food on the table of the common man.
“The Yoruba man has governed Nigeria, the Hausa man has governed Nigeria, the South South has governed Nigeria. Let’s try an Igbo man to see how it would be. That kind of statement will sound more ideally. If you put this way, it would be soft than when you said it is Igbo; it is our turn.”