As the debate for power shift in 2023 in the country lingers, a crack has been opened in the Northern bloc over Monday’s Kaduna declaration by the region’s governors and traditional rulers.
A group in the North, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), has disowned Northern governors and traditional rulers over their stand on power shift.
On Monday, Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) had met in Kaduna with traditional rulers during an emergency meeting to discuss major concerns of the region, and one of the major decisions they reached was to reject the demand of the Southern governors that power must shift to the Southern part of the country in 2023 when President Muhammadu Buhari would complete his second term of eight years.
However, reacting to the position of Northern Governors’ Forum and Traditional Rulers – that it was totally opposed to power rotation on account of the fact that the Nigerian constitution does not provide for it – the Middle Belt through its president, Dr Bitrus Pogu, said in resorting to the constitutional provisions as a basis for rejecting power shift, the Northern governors and traditional rulers are simply being clever as they are only attempting to hide behind a finger.
Pogu said: “Lest we forget, the reason behind the zoning arrangement that emphasised the need for power rotation between the North and South is to avail all zones a sense of belonging in providing leadership in the country.
“As the umbrella body of all ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt Region, we are surprised that it is now that the NGF, whose members are beneficiaries of power rotation, are kicking against power shift to the South.
“We are shocked that instead of harping on the bloodshed ripping across the country, the governors and traditional rulers of the so-called North are concerned with which of the zones takes over power in 2023.
It is not only immoral but also dubious on the part of these governors who have proven incapable of combating the activities of criminals in their various states to now insist that power rotation is not in line with our nation’s constitution.
He recalled that the National Executive Committee ((NEC) of the MBF had, in its meeting in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, called for power rotation among three regions of the North, Middle Belt and South.
“We deplore a situation where the Middle Belt Region is completely excluded in the power sharing arrangement.
“We have been consistent in insisting that for equity and justice to hold sway, power rotation is irrevocable. We have called and demanded that the 2023 Presidency be zoned to the Middle Belt. In the event that such demand is unrealisable, all ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt Region are resolved to support any presidential candidate from the South,” Pogu said.
The Middle Belt Forum, which speaks for the ethnic nationalities in the region, said it is sad that the Northern Elders’ Forum has turned itself into a forerunner of a treacherous plot against power rotation, which had stabilised the political situation and given various parts of the country a sense of belonging.
The MBF went on: “We find it strange that the North under whose leadership Nigeria has continued to perform woefully should even contemplate the idea of retaining power in 2023.
“Over six years of Northern leadership has brought Nigerians to a catastrophe that is unprecedented. Not only has the prospect of a bright tomorrow retarded, insecurity, unemployment and other societal vices have left its toll on national life.
“As a Forum, we find it incomprehensible to understand the basis upon which the North is clamouring for power retention. By 2023, the North should have forfeited all moral rights to retain power in line with the zoning arrangement of political parties. We cannot allow the North, which is now throwing decorum into the air, continue to pursue a selfish agenda that could capsize the ship of the Nigerian State.
“The best the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari should do now is to prepare the ground for the conduct of transparent polls that would either usher in a presidency to be headed by a Middle Belter or Southerner. Anything short of that is unacceptable to the Middle Belt peoples.”
The MBF called on the people of the region not to be perturbed by the remarks credited to the NGF but to remain vigilant against any attempt to foist a divide-and-rule ploy that is aimed at weakening their collective resolve to stand as a one united people committed to the protection of their people, land and heritage.
“The Forum wishes to categorically declare that there is no treachery that is enough to frustrate power rotation in 2023. Having seen the bloodshed and destruction that had been the lot of most communities in various parts of our nation, our citizens eagerly look forward to processes for transferring power from the North to either the Middle Belt or Southern Zone.
“In light of the above, we are dissuading Nigerians not to take seriously comments emanating from governors of the so-called North. We wish to note here that the Colonial North had since died. Those attempting to raise the ghost of Northern unity should better look elsewhere than engage in futile exercise,” the Middle Belt Forum concluded.
Also, the Middle Belt Journalists Forum (MBJF) has distanced itself from the position of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NoGF) on rotational presidency.
The group said the rotational presidency, as being canvassed by the governors from the southern part of Nigeria, was a political understanding to maintain peace, unity and political stability, and condemned the Northern governors for trying to truncate it.
In a press statement signed in Abuja by its president, Jonathan Ipaa, and national secretary, Mrs Oikeke Igado-Kure, the forum said the zone should not support evil or any pronouncements that could further divide the country.
“We condemn in strong terms the position of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NoGF) on the nagging postulations on the 2023 presidential election and the Value Added Tax debate in which some governors from the southern part are clamouring for.
“We view Monday’s pronouncements by the Northern Governors’ Forum as unnecessary utterances made to further divide the country and heat up the polity.
“Painful and regrettable is the fact that the evil resolution was read in Kaduna by a supposed governor from our zone, Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State.
“As a matter of priority, we admonish Governor Lalong and his colleagues to concentrate more on the return of peace to Plateau and other states up Rivers Niger and Benue than allow himself to be used by those he is working for.
“We warn that the Middle Belt will not be part of any attempt to further divide Nigeria by selfish politicians. We have made enough sacrifices without any commiserating national reward.
“We believe strongly in the unity of Nigeria, so we will not support an evil resolution that only seeks to deny other equally congruent segments of the federation their rightful benefits. We applaud the conspicuous absence of some of the Middle Belt governors from the Kaduna meeting,” the group said.
Don’t Set Nigeria On Fire, Northern Youths Tell Southern, Northern Governors
Meanwhile, as the 2023 general elections draw nearer, the Northern Youths Council of Nigeria (NoYCN) has expressed concern over the war of words on zoning of the presidency come 2023, calling on the Northern and Southern governors not to set the country on fire.
According to the youths, it has become necessary for the leaders to sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign before they further drag the country into another avoidable crisis.
In a statement jointly signed by Isah Abubakar and Samuel Kure, president and director general, Media and Publicity respectively, the NoYCN said it is common knowledge that most of the leaders sending threats would not be around when things go out of control.
It said, “They (governors) have exit plans for their families; it is the common man (the grasses) that will suffer the brunt of the fight between two elephants.
“Whether the Presidency is in the North or South, it is the same elite from both North and South that will derive maximum benefits from the system. The poor man’s challenges will always dwell with him.
“Therefore, our governors should deploy their energies in developing their various states and coming up with formulas on how they will lift poor Nigerians out of the current challenges of poverty, insecurity and total hopelessness rather than trying to set them against one another along regional, religious and tribal lines.”
The NoYCN said it would mobilise its members to support “a leader with realistic and implementable manifesto that is capable of lifting Nigerians from the present state of suffering and mending the wide gulf of division that is fueling cessation agitations from various parts of country, not minding where he or she comes from.”
Nigeria Fast Collapsing Under North’s Leadership – Ohanaeze
Contributing to the power shift debate, the apex Igbo social cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday said that it was regrettable that the Northern part of the country was undisturbed that Nigeria is collapsing under its leadership of the country.
The organisation made this claim while reacting to a part of the resolution by the Northern States Governors’ Forum and traditional rulers on Monday in Kaduna.
The Forum had unanimously condemned the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South in 2023 in the spirit of equity and fairness.
But a statement issued by the national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, noted that the resolution by the leaders of the North indicated a bleak future for Nigeria.
Ogbonnia said it was most regrettable that the North was undisturbed that Nigeria was fast collapsing under its leadership of the country.
He said the Forum failed to recognize that, at the moment, Nigeria is confronted with the most precarious omens full of uncertainty, doubts, insecurity and bloodshed.
Ohanaeze said: “The chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, Governor Simon Lalong, can attest that the people of Plateau State had never in history witnessed the number of deaths as has taken place on his watch as governor.
“The banditry in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa states is terrifying. Benue State has turned into a killing field. The states of Yobe and Borno are worst hit by the menace of Boko Haram, etc. Several schools in the North cannot open because of kidnappers and millions of children are on the streets as beggars.
“The Nigerian currency has lost its value. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world…..and the Northern governors, the Sultan and the Emirs, instead of seeking solution to Nigerian problems, were busy strategizing on how to retain power in 2023. This is most unconscionable, to say the least.
“Let it be abundantly clear that if Presidency is a panacea to people’s problems, the North would have become the Netherlands of Africa. This is because the North had Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Musa Yar’Adua, and Muhammadu Buhari, yet the problems of the North are on the increase. ”
Ohanaeze said it is worrisome that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims, one of the most respected Sultans in recent history and the living conscience of the North, took part in such subversion.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is peace in the progressive societies because men of conscience are more in number. On the other hand, the crisis in Nigeria is a product of greed, injustice, religion without sacrifice, and impunity.
“,The position of the Southern governors is simply restating the obvious. A gentleman’s agreement was reached at the NUC Conference Centre, Abuja, in 1998 between the North and the South. The Late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo spoke for the entire South and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, also of blessed memory, spoke for the North.
“It was agreed that after Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar as the head of state, that the presidency should shift to the South. That accounted for the emergence of the presidential flag bearers of the mainstream political parties from the South West. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo respected the agreement and handed over to the North in the person of Musa Yar’Adua. Again, Goodluck Jonathan, a Southerner, respected the gentleman’s agreement and handed over to the North in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari, ” he stated.
Ogbonnia said, therefore, that it is in the interest of every Nigerian that there should be a paradigm shift to governance techniques.
He maintained that Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide unequivocally stands with the Southern governors, adding that any black leg among them will incur the wrath of history.
“Nigeria has two major groups of people. Those that cherish the corporate existence of Nigeria on one hand and those that do not value the unity, peace and progress of Nigeria on the other.
According to him, Ohanaeze is disappointed over the alleged unholy manoeuvres and alliances by the members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to zone the presidential seat for the 2023 general election to Northern Nigeria.
‘The proponents of this agenda, in their jaundiced calculations, believe that it is a sure way of regaining power from the All Progressives Congress (APC). Experience would have taught them that to zone their presidential position to the North is an orchestrated requiem for the party, because more PDP governors and grassroots will surely desert them.
“May I remind the PDP that the South East has made unquantifiable sacrifices for PDP beginning from the time of Dr Alex Ekwueme. If by way of politics without principles the Southerners in PDP place their personal narrow interests over the interest of their people, the verdict of history will surely be harsh on them,” he stated.
The Ohanaeze scribe pointed out that Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor reiterates that the bane of Nigeria is raw injustice, especially targeted against the Igbo.
He insisted that until Nigerians begin to wean themselves of Igbophobia and rather harness individual and group resourcefulness, creativity, ingenuity and initiatives wherever they are found, Nigeria will remain on the downward spiral.
ACF Fires Back At Ohanaeze
But in reaction to the Ohanaeze’s accusation against northern leadership, the apex northern sociocultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has taken a swipe at the South East sociocultural group, saying they are sick and need help.
ACF’s national publicity secretary, Mr Emmanuel Yawe, said, “Ohanaeze as an organisation is incapable of looking at issues of national interests beyond immediate gain, ethnic, religious and regional boundaries. It is said that before they admit you in their midst, they subject you to a DNA test to make sure you pass some biological and genetic tests.
“We sympathise with them because people who reason like that are sick and need help. How do you reduce the complex economic, social, religious problems facing Nigeria today to the fact a northerner is the president of the country.
“If you elect a southerner tomorrow as president, will the problems disappear into thin air?
“Only recently President Muhammadu Buhari was in one of the South East states. The Ohanaeze leadership was there with an eloquent speech praising him to high heavens for excellent performance. Didn’t they know he was a northerner and/or president of Nigeria when they made that speech,” ACF queried.
On its part, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, through its spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, accused Ohanaeze of playing the bad card traditionally known with Igbo politics for the past sixty years.
He said: “Typical of the Igbo endemic hatred for the North, it is not quite surprising that Ohanaeze, the civil wing of IPOB, would make such a claim, pedestrian as it is.
“We believe that Ohanaeze is irked into making that sweeping remark against the entire North by their failure to achieve their nefarious objectives, through agitations for secession and other commotions, and are now resorting to all forms of tactics and antics to introduce fresh twists unto the nation’s political agenda.
“Their calumny is so glaring in the mischievous way they deliberately attempt, in that remark, to distort the narratives and shift the blames from those directly involved with the leadership conflict in the country and venting their pent-up political animosity against President Muhammadu Buhari on his tribe, region and religion.”
The CNG it does not contest Ohanaeze’s claims on the current administrative lapses, nor does it intend to fault the right of people to criticise any government’s inadequacies, including this one. It however said: “Recall that throughout the eight years of ex-president Obasanjo with all his lapses and inadequacies, not for once did Northerners blame his entire tribesmen, nor did Muslims blame his entire religion.
Instead, his person, politics and policies and, to a large extent, his political party were challenged.
“Likewise, none of Jonathan’s catalogue of misrule was at any time blamed on his Ijaw tribe or on his religion, including the many atrocities committed particularly against the North, and the conduct of his fellow tribesmen who did not spare every unconventional means to cajole support for a President they openly referred to as “their son.” Rather, his politics, policies and his political party position were isolated for attack.
“We therefore restate our emphatic repudiation of the vilification of one ethnic and religious group or the other for whatever reason or justification. In this light, we deem Ohanaeze’s targeting of the entire North for vilification, systematic dehumanisation, profiling, or alienation not only immoral and illegal, but also abhorrent to our sensibilities and ordinary decency and therefore unacceptable.”