Chairman of Nigeria’s Southern Governors’ Forum, and governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, on Tuesday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) not to keep party members waiting for their position on where the next president of Nigeria will come from. Akeredolu insisted that it was the turn of the southern part of the country to produce the next president.
In a similar vein, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, declared that rotational presidency in Nigeria between the north and south was legal and constitutional.
Likewise, elder statesman and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, on Tuesday, contended that the two major political parties in Nigeria, APC and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), should allow the Igbo have the presidency in 2023. Clark accused any southerner who accepts to be a running mate in the 2023 presidential election of unpatriotism.
National Chairman of APC and former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had at the weekend said the party was yet to zone the presidency to any geopolitical area ahead of 2023, a comment that provoked negative reactions, especially, from the southern part of the country.
But Akeredolu, in a statement he personally signed, stressed the need for the president and the APC leadership to ensure that the southern part of the country produced the next president.
The governor joined the growing number of Nigerians advising not just APC, but also PDP, to ensure that their presidential candidates in the 2023 general election were from the southern part of the country.
Akeredolu maintained that it was the turn of the southern part of the country to produce the next president, and the APC leadership should have no difficulty in making a pronouncement on the issue. He urged the party leaders to do this without delay, stressing that the principle of Federal Character is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The governor stated, “We must not keep our party men and women guessing on the position of the leadership of the party. This is the time to weigh in and take control of the process. No statement must suggest, even remotely, that the party harbours certain sentiments, which may predispose it to consider throwing the contest open. This is, certainly, not the time for equivocation. Equity dictates that we take a stand.”
On the recent APC national convention, which produced a new leadership for the party, Akeredolu said there was an urgent need for the party to come clean about the zoning of the presidential position.
He stated, “The leadership of the party ensured that the principle of rotational representation guided its decision at the just-concluded convention. The party chairmanship position has gone to the north; all other offices have been filled on this understanding.
“This is the time the leaders of the party must make a categorical statement, devoid of equivocation, on the pattern of succession.
“The party executive committee has fixed a fee for the purchase of the nomination form for the office. It is expected, fervently, that it will proceed to complete the process by limiting the propensities for disagreement to a region for possible micro-management. It is very expedient that we avoid self-inflicted crises before the general election.”
Akeredolu commended the efforts of the APC federal administration to address the multifarious challenges facing the country. But he warned against permitting any form of internal distrust ahead of the coming elections.
The governor stated, “The current socio-economic crises are surmountable. It is commendable that the government is addressing these issues without drama.
“The federal government and leadership of our great party will come out stronger. We cannot, therefore, afford any internal bickering, which holds the potential promise of causing distrust and militating against cohesion, harmony and the zeal to achieve set objectives.
“The current democratic dispensation is anchored on the unwritten convention driven by a principle of equity. Political expediency dictates, more appealingly, that while adhering to the spirit and letters of the laws guiding conduct of elections and succession to political offices, we must do nothing which is capable of tilting the delicate balance against the established arrangement, which guarantees peace and promotes trust.
“Our party just elected officers on the established principle of giving every part of the country an important stake in the political calculus. The focus has now shifted to the process, which will culminate in the participation of our party in the general elections scheduled for next year.”
The governor stressed that all lovers of peace and freedom must do everything to eschew tendencies that might predispose them to taking decisions, which promote distrust and could lead to a crisis, the end of which nobody would be able to predict.
Rotational Presidency Legal, Constitutional, Bamidele Insists
Bamidele declared that the issue of rotational presidency in the country was legal and constitutional. The APC chieftain described the rotation of the presidency between northern and southern Nigeria as a legal and constitutional agitation recognised by Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Speaking in Ado Ekiti during an empowerment programme he organised for his constituents, Bamidele, who is the senator for Ekiti Central, described the agitation for the presidency by politicians of southern extraction as a legitimate request.
Addressing journalists at the Oluyemi Kayode stadium, in Ado Ekiti, venue of the event, Bamidele said, “Rotational presidency is legitimate and constitutional. Let me state that Section 14 of the constitution and various sections of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, stated that no section of the country should dominate others in terms of positions.
“Let me also state that the primary concept of governance is welfare and good governance. The section emphasised that Nigeria shall not be governed in such a way that any particular section will have domineering advantage over others.
“That is the whole essence of equitable distribution of wealth and power. Part of the equitable distribution of power is allowing the presidency to rotate between the north and south.
“Though the constitution didn’t say specifically about rotation, but logically and through various judicial interpretations, allowing it to rotate is legal and constitutional.”
Bamidele added that allowing the presidency to go to the south in 2023 would douse the raging restiveness and tension in the country.
He said, “Speaking as a Nigerian, there is social tension in Nigeria today and when you have situations whereby Nigerians are beginning to doubt our togetherness and no longer trust leadership, people should not be thinking about political dominance.
“There is no part of this nation and zone that cannot produce the best. If you check properly, majority desire in APC is that there should be free, fair and credible primary to elect our presidential candidate and not by imposition.”
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) had on Monday issued a firm warning to those trying to do away with the zoning of the presidency in the country, saying any attempt to end zoning, as being insinuated in some northern quarters, would spell the end for Nigeria.
The leaders had also condemned a statement credited to the chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Alhaji Ango Abdullahi, that rotation of the presidency between the north and south was, “dead and buried.” They declared that another eight years of northern presidency, after President Muhammadu Buhari, was unacceptable.
The position of the leaders was contained in a joint statement by National Leader, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and Chairman, SMBLF, Chief Edwin Clark; leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Professor George Obiozor; and National President, Middle Belt Forum, Pogu Bitrus. They said they were prepared for those attempting to upturn a practice – zoning – that had sustained the country.
The group warned that any attempt to kill and bury the age-long power rotation agreement between the north and south was tantamount to an attempt to kill and bury Nigeria. SMBLF stated that the move to tinker with the rotation of the presidency was inimical to national unity.
The Southern and Middle Belt leaders also cautioned Abdullahi’s NEF, and wondered if the northern body was now out to dissolve the country.
The position resonated in the Ekiti State capital at the event, where Bamidele distributed to his constituents materials, including mini buses, sowing machines, generating sets, ploughing machine, grinding machines, wheel chairs, tricycles, motorbikes, ambulance buses, ventilators, fertilisers, driers, and Hilux van.
Clark Insists on Igbo Presidency, Accuses North of Oppression
Meanwhile, speaking on ARISE TV Clark, a former federal commissioner, alleged that the north was using its population to oppress the rest of the country. He maintained that for the unity of the country, the Igbo should lead Nigeria from next year.
Clark stated, “No Nigerian will like to live in a Nigeria whereby certain people believe that unless they are in power, there will be no Nigeria, that the person who is there will not succeed.
“So, APC believes that unless you have a northerner as a candidate they won’t succeed, because they, too, have been watching PDP prevaricating. When Lord Lugard created Nigeria in 1914, he did not say that some people were superior to the others.”
Insisting that Nigeria stood on a tripod, the north, east and west, the nonagenarian contended that the third leg, which is the east, was yet to be reintegrated since the civil war.
Clark said former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, was removed from office by the north because he decided to make an Igbo man General Manager of the then Nigerian National Oil Company (NNOC). “Because an Igbo man was appointed, there was a coup,” he declared.
He said there was no moral justification for treating Igbo people as second-class citizens, stressing that if it is the presidency that will make the people of the east feel a sense of belonging, then they should have it.
Clark said, though there were many good people in the north, like other parts of Nigeria, it was unfortunate that “a lot of the people up north believe they own the country.”
Speaking on the issue of lop-sidedness, he said if there was a police recruitment exercise in the country today, for instance, which was usually on the basis of local governments, Kano would have 414, while Bayelsa, which produced a significant part of the wealth of the country, would have only 80.
Clark queried, “What kind of country is this? The Igbo are the only people with five states in this country. North-west has seven. Let’s give them a sense of belonging if you don’t want to allow them go.
“The next president, therefore, should go to the east. Let them produce the president. They have very competent people.”
He maintained that the north should desist from any tendency to oppress other parts of the country with its population, saying it is strange that those from the north are asking for the primaries to be thrown open after they have benefitted from zoning.
Declaring that this could be the last fight before his passage, Clark declared, “If rotation is jettisoned, there will be no Nigeria.
“I do not think there are many people who are senior to me in this country. I am appealing to my northern brothers to, please, allow a Nigeria where all of us are equal, where our children can aspire to any position because they will ask questions.
“We are not begging anybody. This country belongs to all of us.”
The elder statesman said the treatment meted out to former President Goodluck Jonathan by the north remained unacceptable.
“Any southern governor or Southern politician who agrees to make himself a vice to a northerner in this election is very unpatriotic and not a true southerner and God will take care of him.”
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja, Fidelis David in Akure and
Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti