The debate on power shift ahead of the 2023 general election has taken a new dimension as leaders from the North Central geopolitical zone yesterday declared total support for the position of northern governors and traditional rulers from the region that the presidency should be thrown open for every region to contest.
The leaders from the zone under the auspices of North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF) said their decision to support the northern governors was taken against the backdrop of the political morass the country is currently enmeshed in.
According to the NCPF, Nigeria is facing a political crisis that requires a North Central person to contain and stabilise the country just as former military heads of state, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar did.
Position of the NCPF is in sharp contrast to that of another major group in the zone, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), which berated the northern governors and traditional rulers for opposing power shift.
The northern governors and royal fathers had last month rejected power shift as canvassed by governors from the southern part of the country.
At a meeting in Kaduna, the northern governors and traditional rulers rejected the insistence of southern governors that the presidency should return to the South after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
However, the MBF chided the northern governors and royal fathers, saying power must rotate between the North, South and Middle Belt, even as it accused them of hiding behind the Constitution.
But countering the MBF, the NCPF said yesterday that the North Central was in support of the position taken by the Northern State Governors at the Kaduna declaration that the election of the next president should be through popularity and acceptability, adding that the North Central zone has qualified people that can succeed Buhari.
Speaking during a press conference in Abuja, the publicity secretary of the NCPF, Hon Audu Sule, said the zone has been studying the political situation in Nigeria and is working to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023.
He said, “We are watching the present polity in Nigeria because we are always the savior of the country when there is a crisis. We are in the middle of Nigeria having borders with every part of the country including Cameroon and if there is no peace in the North Central region, Nigeria will not be at peace.
“Yes, North Central has had many heads of states but we have not produced a civilian president or a vice president. Gowon brought unity to Nigeria; Babangida ensured the building of the FCT, while Abdulsalami Abubakar ensured that Nigeria returned to democracy.
“These are people from the North Central that have remained bridge builders. Whatever assignment you give a North Central person be it a Christian or a Muslim, the North Central have it in abundance. We are peace loving people and if Nigeria needs peace, the North Central will bring peace as it happened during the civil war when Gowon stabilised the country. Everyone that emerged president from the North Central, he or she will bring peace to Nigeria”.
The NCPF spokesman noted that irrespective of political parties, the best person that would bring peace in Nigeria is someone from the North Central.
He stated: “It is only in the North Central you will see half of the family being Christians and half being Muslims living in peace. If Gowon, Babangida, Abdulsalami can do it under the military, the civilians from the same region can do it better.
“We are begging Nigerians that for peace to reign, the North Central people should be considered for the presidency in 2023. We are in support of the Northern Governors’ position taken in Kaduna that the position of the president in 2023 should be thrown open so that the best candidate will emerge.
“We are not talking to a political party as a forum but the forum has different people in different political parties. We have mandated our members to discuss the issue of a possible North Central president in their political parties and lobby for candidates from our region.
“At their various political meetings, we want our members to tell their colleagues what we want. It’s not just the PDP and the APC. They are the bigger political parties but we want all political parties to support the North Central presidency.
“We believe in the unity of this country and the best for this country. If any party gives one of us the ticket, we will mobilise our members and the entire country to vote for him or her.
“We are North Central. We can’t go anywhere. We have six states. And the North Central States want a president in 2023 and we want a president and the people are working hard to ensure that the North Central produces the next president. The race is open to everyone in the North Central to contest and if you are from the North Central, you can contest.”
Maintaining that it is possible for a North Central person to be the next president, Sule said the zone is full of credible people.
The North Central, he said, is the bridge, adding that if that bridge collapses, the country would be in danger.
Justifying the call for a North Central president in 2023, Sule said, “We have had people in the military who were there and they did not discriminate. If you see people who worked with IBB, Gowon and Abdulsalami they cut across the country because they were not discriminatory.
“The only region that has not produced a president or a vice president under democracy is the north Central. We want to produce the president for peace and unity”.
The forum also condemned attacks on governors from the North Central zone over steps they are taking to bring peace and stability in the Nigerian politics.
NCPF also commended the North Central lawmakers for presenting a bill for the North Central Development Commission.
Sule added that the North Central Development Commission had been the yearning of the NCPF, adding that it would help in tackling insecurity and building the region following the destruction that ravaged the area.
The forum commended President Buhari for road construction projects in the area and appealed for more attention on the Akwanga-Jos Road, Abuja-Suleja Road, Minna-Mokwa-Kwara Road and Abuja-Lokoja Road. The forum also called for the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company.