Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai on Wednesday clarified the position of the northern governors over the power shift controversy, saying his colleagues in the north never opposed the presidency going to the south in 2023, but were only against the language used by their southern colleagues.
This is as the Southern and Middle-Belt Alliance (SaMBA), has described as inflammatory, the resolution of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) over power rotation, saying such statement was capable of fuelling secessionist agitations in the country.
The Northern Governors Forum, in a communiqué read by their chairman and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, after their emergency meeting, had said: “The Forum observed that some northern states governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three Geo-Political Zone in the south to promote unity and peace in the nation.
“Notwithstanding their comments, the Forum unanimously condemn the statement by the Southern Governor’s Forum that the presidency must go to the south. The statement is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended that the elected president shall:-score the majority votes; score at least 25% of the votes cast in 2/3 States of the Federation. In the case of run-up, simple majority wins the election.”
Unfortunately, the back and forth between governors of the two regions had elicited concerns as well as reactions from other stakeholders from both ends, suggesting obnoxious scenarios in the two regions.
But El-Rufai, on Wednesday, clarified the resolution of the governors and said they were alarmed that their southern counterparts could use the word “must” in their agitation for power shift to the south after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
The North West governor stated that the word “must” was at variance with democracy, which was characterised by negotiations and horse-trading by parties involved, often out of the public glare.
According to him, he and some other northern governors had earlier called for a power shift in 2023 in their individual capacities to foster national unity and togetherness, adding that “he was called names by his people for making that call.”
El-Rufai, who made the clarifications in a media chat with select Kaduna-based broadcast journalists on Tuesday night, pointed out that the media misrepresented the resolution of the Northern Governors’ Forum meeting which held on Monday, on power shift.
Although he spoke in Hausa, the Kaduna governor reminded the south that, “The north has supported southern presidential aspirants in the past”, adding that they “supported Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s aspiration in 1999 and his re-election in 2003.”
El-Rufai was of the view that their southern colleagues should have reached out to them on the issue of power shift instead of playing to the gallery.
Reacting too to the development, SaMBA in a statement by its spokesman, Rwang Pam Jnr., emphasised that though there was no express provision for zoning in the Constitution, Section 14(3) explicitly provides for distribution of offices in the composition of government in the country and therefore disapproves of any attempt by any region to dominate other regions.
SaMBA, therefore, warned the Northern Governors Forum that any further attempt to want to retain power in 2023 would defeat the purpose of a united Nigeria, where every man and region’s right to rule was equal and would endanger the already fragile unity of the country.
The statement stated: “The recent statement credited to the Northern Governors Forum that power shift is unconstitutional, is an attempt to stand history on its head and could fuel separatist agitations in the country.
“The section of the Constitution referenced by the Northern Governors only refers to the requirements for someone to be declared as elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but the relevant constitutional provision for power rotation is section 14(3), which explicitly provides for the spread of political offices in the country to prevent one ethnic group or region from dominating the others for the sake of peace and unity in the country.
“Section 14(3) states: The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.
“Therefore, it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and a danger to the unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the core North to spend eight years in office and still be thinking of seeking another eight years.
“Nigerians are aware, that after former President Olusegun Obasanjo completed his 8-year term in 2007, the south unanimously agreed for the Northern Nigeria to produce the President. In 2007, the South did not cry that zoning is unconstitutional, and President Obasanjo duly handed over Power to a northerner, the late former President Umaru Ya’Adua.
“It is also public knowledge that former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 Presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari partly, because of the global sentiment, that it was the turn of the North to produce the President, even though Dr Goodluck Jonathan had only spent one term in office as elected president.
“Therefore, it is not in the interest of the country for the North to hold onto power in 2023,because doing so will be to the detriment of the already fragile unity of the country and more likely to lead to an increase of separatist movements across the country. The position of the Middle Belt Region is categorically clear; that it agrees with the rest of Nigerians, that the South should produce the president of Nigeria in 2023.
“We, therefore, unequivocally advise the Northern Governors Forum to perish the thought of holding onto power in 2023 and the same applies to the various political parties (APC, PDP, or any other party) to bury the thought of zoning the Presidency to the North.
“We further advise the governors of the 15 states, where the middle belt ethnic nationalities constitute the dominant population, that any governor from the Middle Belt that supported the notion that power should remain with the Northern region is not reflecting the views of their peoples,” the group insisted.
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Emameh Gabriel in Abuja