The Guardian (Nigeria)
2023 PRESIDENCY: Why Southern Governors Struck
• North Schemes To Retain Power After Buhari • Picks Minister As
Head Of Think Tank • How Southern Governors Can Achieve Power Shift – Okorie • Plateau Liberation Movement Wants Igbo Presidency In 2023
• Only Credible Elections Will Calm Frayed Nerves – Akogun • Address Agitations, Tackle Criminals, Stop Persecuting Nigerians, Onitiri Cautions FG • CDD Insists On Electronic Transmission Of Election Results
By Muyiwa Adeyemi, Gbenga Akinfenwa ( Lagos), Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Adamu Abuh ( Abuja), Lawrence Njoku ( Enugu) and Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi ( Jos)
MUCH to the chagrin of their southern counterparts, key political figures from the North have been strategising to retain the office of President when the tenure of the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari ends in 2023.
This realisation explains why southern governors specifically demanded for power shift to the South, which they listed as part of their resolutions at their recent meeting in Lagos, a development, which now has the strong support of National Assembly members from the zone.
But it is not every one in the North that is out to upset the applecart by truncating the north- south rotational arrangement for the plumb job. Some key political actors have openly stated their preference for a southern president come 2023.
Two of those that have made headlines as far as the South producing the next president are Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, and his Borno State counterpart, Babagana Umara Zulum. Zulum has, times without number, stated that, “the presidency should go to the South in 2023 because the unity of our country is very important.”
Their position is now being shared by a northern group, the Plateau Liberation Movement ( PLM), which yesterday, said the South East should be allowed to produce the president in 2023 in order to sustain the indivisibility of the nation.
But ahead of the much- talked about 2023 poll, the Centre for Democracy and Development ( CDD), also yesterday warned against moves by the National Assembly to prohibit the transmission of vote results electronically in the amended Electoral Act .
As the debate over the next presidency continues to elicit comments, the former National Chairman of the United Progressives Party ( UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, maintains that southern governors can achieve power shift to the South by capitalising on the general mood of the nation and taking their resolve away from their various political parties.
But the Federal Government, according to socio- political activist and critic, Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, has a critical role to play in diffusing tension in the country, and that is by tackling terrorists, armed herdsmen, bandits and criminals that are killing innocent Nigerians, instead of persecuting seccession agitators like Nnamdi Kanu, and Sunday Igboho.
The Guardian reliably learnt that a vocal northern minister in the Buhari- led administration has been appointed to head a strategic think tank to achieve the plot of replacing Buhari with another northern president, a development, which is said to be dear to most northern elite.
The Southern Governors Forum ( SGF) had, while making its position known maintained that for the sake of fairness, equity and justice, power must move to the south at the expiration of Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
The governors specifically want all the major political parties to field candidates from the South as their presidential candidates the same way they did in 1999.
The southern governors took the decision despite their political differences after it came to light that clandestine meetings were ongoing in the North between some key members of the Buhariled government and some well- heeled politicians of northern extraction.
A source disclosed that despite the fact that some members of the cabal want the next president to come from the North East, the think- tank helmsman is insisting on the candidate coming from the North West. He was said to have argued that if the group should give preferences to the North East, the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, may overrun other aspirants from that zone.
It was also gathered that the cabal is looking beyond the ruling All Progressives Congress ( APC) to achieve their objectives of retaining power in the North.
While some APC bigwigs are eyeing a seriousminded politician from the South to fly the party’s flag, the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) is said to be favourably disposed to picking a candidate from the North. But the decision of the southern governors is said to have resuscitated the presidential ambition of River State Governor, Nyesom Wike and that of the former governor of Cross River State, Donald Etim Duke.
Other politicians from the South that are equally in the frame, as far as the 2023 race is concerned are Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Ekiti State Governor, and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum ( NGF),
Dr. Kayode Fayemi; former Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; and Minister of Transport, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi .
Former chairman, Pfizer Nig Ltd. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa; former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi; former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonna Onu; former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzo Kalu; and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, are also said to be in the fray.
Even though southern governors were allegedly put under pressure by different socio- cultural groups within the zone on the need for power to rotate between north and south, various groups in the South including, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum ( PANDEF) have commended them for insisting for power rotation, a development, which some northern groups like the Northern Elders Forum ( NEF) have kicked against.
NEF’S Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba- Ahmed said: “NEF sees the decision of the southern governors as an expression of sentiment that could be best discussed within a political process. We are running a democratic government and decisions over where the next president comes from are basically decisions that will be made by voters exercising their rights to choose, which candidate best serves their interest.”
Baba- Ahmed, however, advised southern governors to influence their parties to zone the presidency to southern states and then convince voters from all parts of the country to vote for their candidates.
UT the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, insisted that since political power at the centre has always rotated between the North and South, it should be allowed to continue that way for the purposes of justice, fairness, equity and unity.
He stressed that it was very important to allow a zone that has never tasted it to produce Buhari’s successor.
Ogbonnia said: “As a matter of fact, there was this agreement reached at the NUC Hall at Abuja in 1998 between the North and the South. The agreement was that power should rotate between the North and the South. The man who spoke for the Igbo on that day was the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, while Abubakar Rimi spoke for the North. It was agreed that the first shot should go to a southerner – President Olusegun Obasanjo. It thereafter shifted to the North. It had been alternating between the two regions since then.
“Now that the North is serving out its tenure, it is supposed to return to the South. Ohanaeze is happy with their decision. We welcome the idea, but beyond that, when you talk about South, it should be South East. Having secured it in the South, we are now urging all southern governors to understand why it should be in the South East - for the purposes of equity, fairness
L EADER of Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, also commended the southern governors for telling the Federal Government the blunt, also lauded their resolve, calling them true sons of their fathers, and true elected representatives of their people.
Adebanjo said: “I endorse their resolutions. The insult that the Buhari administration is passing to the South is too much. The president challenged the southern part of the country and for the first time we have governors who stood up to the excesses of the northern oligarchy. No ethnic group can continue to dominate others, we all have equal stake in the project Nigeria.”
OKORIE who spoke to The
Guardian in Enugu, stated that the governors sent a strong signal about their commitment to power shift, stressing that the onus lies seriously on them to begin to reach out for support from the North and across political parties in order to make the dream work.
He said: “What the southern governors have done by their meeting in Lagos is to send a strong signal that when it comes to power shift with regard to the 2023 presidency, their commitment to that objective is over and above their loyalty to their individual political parties. It means that supremacy of the parties is virtually set aside by that consensus position of the 17 southern governors. So, while they know that it is still a democratic contest, they still have to go back to their respective parties and lobby. The truth, however, is that, any one of the front - line parties that has a good nature to give somebody from the South the presi - dential ticket, there is the tendency that there would be a groundswell of mobilisation across party lines to support that candidate. That is the signal that the governors have given.”
He continued: “They have almost everything in their favour. This is because, as for the North, one thing is also clear. It is going to be a big moral burden on the part of the APC to begin to plot to present a northern candidate after eight years of President Buhari. On the part of the PDP, it is in their party’s constitution to rotate power between the North and the South and it is the turn of the South by their party’s constitution. So, anything to jettison their own party’s constitution all in the craze to have a northern presidential candidate will hurt the party. Already the party is on a free fall. PDP is on a free fall and any further mismanagement of the mood of the nation will send PDP into political oblivion. This is the way it is, but that does not take away the very important aspect of lobbying to make sure that we get the support of some parts of the country.”
THE Plateau Liberation Movement ( PLM) went beyond calling for a president of South East extraction to point out that capable personalities like the current Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba is one south easterner that can be saddled with the task of running the country’s number one office.
PLM spokesman Nanchit Datiri, in a statement said: “He has what it takes to move the country forward, and as a group we would support him if he seeks to contest the number one seat.”
The group noted that even though Nwajiuba has not yet declared intent to vie for the exalted office, he must be dragged into it as the need for an Igbo presidency was in consonance with the federal character principle as entrenched in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
ONITIRI, in a statement in Lagos, yesterday, said it was imperative for the government to address agitations of the secessionists through dialogue, describing the invasion and destruction of Igboho’s residence and property as condemnable.
“Sunday Igboho, to every discerning mind, democrats, and right- thinking Nigerians, has committed no criminal offence. He only defended his people from the killer herdsmen that are terrorising his people. There is no offence in self- defence,” he said.
The social critic said that what Nigerians want is the security of their lives and property, and when the government fails in this, they will resort to self- defense.
“We learnt that Boko Haram has taken over a large chunk of the North East and has now appointed a governor over the captured territory.
They are now even collecting taxes from Nigerians.
“This is a despicable situation that has made Nigeria to become a laughing stock in the comity of developed nations when they see our top government officials, and religious leaders, negotiating with Boko Haram and kidnappers and doling out huge money to the criminals as ransom.
“The government should see its critics as its best friends who want the best for the country. So, the Buhari government should dialogue with Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. It is the criminal killer herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers that the government should turn its armoury on, and not Igboho or Kanu.”
CDD’S Director, Idayat Hassan while making the group’s point known argued that the digitisation of the electoral process remains the panacea to the problems associated with the conduct of a free and fair poll in the country.
CDD, a long- standing election monitor in West Africa, regretted the chaos associated with manual elections collating, noting that the process has been made “messy, incoherent and susceptible to manipulations by individuals and political parties.”
In a position paper titled, “Much Work Remains to be Done on Nigeria’s Electoral Bill 2021, the CDD highlighted some amendments proposed that are capable of reversing accumulated gains recorded in the past decades.
CDD canvassed the full use of technology across the electoral spectrum to enhance traceability of voting activities across board.
To prevent abuse, CDD stressed the need for clear provisos that allow returning officers ( ROS) to correct unit results.
A former Majority leader of the House of Representatives, Tunde Akogun, decried the fact that the country is still hobbled by chaotic elections that do not throw up true representatives of the people.
He said: “I wish we had gotten used to a system where people are free to express their wishes through the votes they cast. When you are looking at it from this angle, when people talk about elections being rigged, what comes to the minds of the people is whether the real decisions of the people are respected.
“So, this is what we should look at. It is very important that people are able to express their collective will by way of casting their votes. If we get that through, things would be all right.”
“People believe that what comes out of our elections is not the true position of the voters; they believe that there are some hands behind the cur - tains that produce the result contrary to the decision of the people that voted.”