The Nation (Nigeria)

Ohanaeze, Northcentr­al leaders clash over power shift

•Igbo leaders knock Kogi governor

- From Damian Duruiheoma, Enugu and Onyedi Ojiabor, Abuja

THE controvers­y over presidenti­al zoning deepened yesterday as the pan-igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Northcentr­al leaders clashed over the contentiou­s rotation principle.

While the Southeast group said zoning would foster equity, fairness and justice, the Northcentr­al leaders under the aegis of Northcentr­al People Forum (NCPF) objected, saying that it is divisive and a negation of merit and competence.

Besides, the Ohanaeze chided Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello for his rejection of zoning. It berated him for a shortfall in historical perception.

According to Ohanaeze

Ndigbo, rotational presidency, which Bello described as unconstitu­tional, was a product of an agreement between the North and the South.

The group said Bello was an undergradu­ate when the North and South reached an agreement on rotational presidency, adding that he lacked understand­ing of the principle.

The governor at the maiden edition of the Governor Yahaya Bello Seminar for political and crime correspond­ents in Abuja

at the weekend, said: ”Nigerians should be allowed to make their choices for the best candidate to emerge for the top post.”.

Bello’s position was backed by Northcentr­al leaders, who faulted Southern governors’

call for power shift to the South in 2023.

But, in a statement by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze Ndigbo accused the governor of being obsessed

with a political ambition, adding that he lacked conscience and principle.

The group advised Bello to support the resolution by his

southern colleagues, stressing that age is still in his favour.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo said: ”Governor Bello, no doubt, has demonstrat­ed a remarkable obsession with ambition shortly after providence paved way for him to be sworn in as the governor of Kogi State in 2015 at an impression­able age of 40.

“There is no doubt that Bello has a date with destiny going by a smooth political ascendancy that life has presented to him. However, we have our fears that he is embarking on a political adventure that lacks both conscience and principle.

“Governor Bello was still a student, studying accountanc­y at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria when an agreement was reached between the North and the South with respect to rotational presidency.

“The meeting was held at the National University Commission (NUC) Conference Centre, Abuja in 1998. Dr.chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory spoke on behalf of the South while

Alhaji Abubakar Rimi spoke for the North. The likes of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the late Chief Solomon Lar (late), Dr. Okwesiliez­e Nwodo,, etc were at the meeting.

“The Nigerian statesmen examined the merits and demerits of zoning and rotation of power between the composite zones in Nigeria. At the end, it was resolved that the Presidency be conceded to the South and that it would rotate between the South and the North in the interest of equity, unity, and corporate existence of Nigeria.

“The foregoing was the basis for the emergence of presidenti­al candidates of the mainstream political parties from the Southwest in 1999.

“Since then, patriotic and peace-loving Nigerians have adhered to the rotation principle such that at the end of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s second tenure, President Musa Yar’adua was elected; Goodluck Jonathan and then President Muhammadu Buhari.

”The above expos informs the resolution by the Southern governors that the South should produce the next President after President Buhari.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo advises Bello that it will serve his interest better if he supports the resolution by his southern colleagues; since age is still in his favour. Bello is beckoned to the ethical functional relationsh­ip between the morality of an agreement and the legality of the constituti­on.”

However, North Central Peoples’ Forum (NCPF) maintained that it is completely opposed to zoning.

The organisati­on said “competence and integrity” should be the criteria for election at every level.

According to the Northcentr­al leaders, every part of the country should be given opportunit­y to occupy the highest political office in the country.

NCPF Secretary-general Khaleel Bolaji told reporters in Abuja that the Northcentr­al had been particular­ly shortchang­ed in the scheme of things in the country.

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