January 5, 2020

PLEDGE TO STAND DOWN IN 2023: Buhari’s silence on power shift provokes S/East, S/West

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

…There’s plot against Igbo – Ohanaeze
…President’s quietness means support for pro-North campaigners – Afenifere
…I’m not surprised – Senator Olajumoke
…Ebenezer Babatope: APC not committed to zoning

By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Anayo Okoli, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Dennis Agbo, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Adeola Badru, Shina Abubakar, Peter Okutu & Chinonso Alozie

Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s New Year day promise of quitting politics in 2023, South-West and South-East leaders have condemned what they termed his silence on the pronouncements by some northerners to scuttle power shift arrangement between the South and the North in 2023.

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Some said the President ought to have spoken on the issue to calm frayed nerves while others said it was a wise decision not to have delved into the subject.

However, many, in their analysis of Buhari’s statement of not seeking elective office anymore, feared that his silence confirmed the suspicion that power may not likely rotate.

The President had, in his New Year letter to Nigeria, titled, Nigeria’s Decade, said, having been elected twice, he wouldn’t be available for elective positions anymore.

His words, “I will be standing down in 2023 and will not be available in any future elections. But I am determined to help strengthen the electoral process both in Nigeria and across the region, where several ECOWAS members go to the polls this year.”

Mutual understanding

Nigeria’s Constitution allows for only two presidential terms of eight years.

The country has a mutual understanding of rotating the presidency between the North and the South.

There is no constitutional arrangement that supports power shift or zoning in whatever form.

Of the four Constitutions Nigeria has had since independence, none incorporated zoning of the presidency.

Sunday Vanguard recalls that the closest the nation came to legalizing it was during the 1994 Constitutional Conference which produced the 1999 Constitution.

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Third term

In conversations with Sunday Vanguard, some said the remark may have succeeded in ending speculations that the President may be seeking a third term in office but did nothing on what was described as subterranean moves to retain power in the North where he hails from.

This was the position of eminent political leaders and elders of regional bodies in the zones that make up the larger South.

Only recently, one of the northern elements propagating the idea of the North continuing in power after Buhari’s presidency in 2023, Yerima Shettima, said 2023 is not right for Igbo, the only major ethnic group in the country yet to be President, to occupy the highest office in Nigeria.

Buhari doesn’t want to stop those opposed to power shift – Omolulu

National Organising Secretary of Afenifere and former Chairman of the body in the UK, Chief Kole Omololu, said the President ought to have spoken against suspected moves to scuttle power shift in his New Year letter.

Omololu said: “Buhari’s words mean nothing to Nigerians anymore. His government believes in propaganda as a strategy to cover the obvious truth.

“Nigerians are getting wiser by the day. The arrangement of making everyone having a sense of belonging by rotating the presidency between the North and South was conceived by those who believe in one Nigeria.

“Buhari believes he will not checkmate the idea of retaining power in the North in 2023.

His style has retarded Nigeria’s growth in all areas of human endeavours. Poverty has increased in the land. Citizens are despondent and confused, youths and professionals are running away from the country. Nepotism is the second name of his government.”

Silence supports move against power shift —Odumakin

In the same vein, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “The way the President has used power against the South in the last four years does not suggest that he loves the other half of the country to wish power returns there.

“The silence is understood in that context. From all appearances, that is the plan. His silence suggests the plan.”

I’m not surprised – Sen Olajumoke

On his part, elder statesman, Senator Bode Olajumoke, said he wasn’t surprised the President didn’t speak about the clamour for power to remain in the North.

He said: “I am not surprised at President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to do so. A close watcher of his body language in the past few years certainly will understand.

“However, he is not God. We have seen the ease with which he replaces a southern appointee with a northerner not minding whether the southerner is even a statutory appointee.”

Those who want power in the North are enemies of Nigeria – Olajide, YCE scribe

Secretary-General of Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr.Kunle Olajide, said there is nothing wrong with being silent on the issue considering how sensitive it is, adding, however, that rotation of power between the North and the South of Nigeria must remain sacrosanct.

Olajide said: “It is very gladdening that President Buhari had, on several occasions, reiterated his determination to leave office in 2023.

“For me, that is a welcome development and as to his succession plan, it is not his duty to choose who is going to be the next President for us. He could privately have his plan on whom to trust but Nigerians have to choose whoever they consider fit for the zoning arrangements.

Power mongers

“I’m sure the President, by his loud silence in the face of northern power mongers, is keeping his plan to his chest, otherwise, the country may implode, even before we get to 2022 or 2023. It is the accepted norm since 1999 for power to rotate between the North and the South.

“It was death which nobody has any authority over that took President Yar’Adua away from us and caused a little dislocation and I think that has been corrected. Anybody exercising his freedom of speech to destabilise this country is an enemy. We don’t have a nation yet, what we have is a country and mutual suspicions have never been this high in the history of Nigeria.

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“A few things that the current administration did in its first term and has continued to do in its second term, is what is heightening mutual suspicion. The impression is being created that this country belongs to a particular part and not for all of us. The federal character in the constitution is being observed in the breach and that does not give any ray of hope. On the appointments that have been made recently, a southerner would leave a position either by resignation or removal and would be replaced by a northerner.

‘President must come from South-East or South-West’

“For me, that is a brazen effrontery and an assault on the federal character clause in our constitution. Anybody can say whatever he likes but I can tell you that whoever says power should remain in the north is an enemy of progress and that will be resisted. In spite of the deficiency in our constitution, there is a clause that I love so much which says whoever intends to be President of this country must score at least 25 percent of votes in two-thirds of states in the federation.

“Therefore, we have the Middle belt, Southeast, Southsouth, and Southwest. If anybody thinks he can defy the solidarity in all these parts of the country and continue to hold the country by the jugular, that person must be living in a dream world.

“Certainly the President in the next dispensation must come from the South, either, Southeast or Southwest period.”

I’m not carried away by anything Buhari says—Ayo Adebanjo

A chieftain of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said he is not carried away by what Buhari says.

Adebanjo said: “I have lost faith in Buhari. That is why I don’t want to comment because all the things I said about him before he was voted into power have not been proven wrong. I am not one of those that believe in him. Only those who, for one reason or the other, want to be politically correct still support him. There is nothing in his record that shows Buhari is a man of his word. Except somebody wants to deceive himself, I am not one of those to be carried away by anything that Buhari says. He has lost integrity as far as I am concerned.”

APC doesn’t believe in power shift—Ebenezer Babatope

When asked, a former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, was of the view that the All Progressives Congress, APC, may not be disposed to power shift, because it is not in its constitution.

Babatope said: “I have read the President’s speech and what he said was that he would not contest in 2023. Now, as regards power shift, the APC is not committed to power shift because it is not written in their constitution. It is only the PDP that recognises power shift or rotation in its constitution. I wish the APC the best of luck.”

There is a plot against South-East – Achi-Ogbaga, Ohanaeze spokesman

Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Ogbaga, said President Buhari kept quiet over the issue to avoid pre-empting the game plan of the North,

He said: “From the President’s silence on power shift, we were able to understand that there is an orchestrated ploy to deny the South-East the presidential slot and retain it in the North.

“The President is only keeping a studied silence on the matter in order not to preempt the game plan. We will continue to reach out to other geopolitical zones as we state obviously that it is long overdue for the Southeast to produce the President. South East has always given every necessary support to other regions that have occupied the presidency, including the Southwest, Southsouth and even the north.”

“He has no option because the constitution has no provision for third tenure. It is not his pleasure to quit but as a matter of necessity.

“I do not expect him to descend so low to aspire to a lesser position. The only option at his disposal is to leave at the end of his tenure.”

Anyone opposed to power shift is enemy of justice – Onyike

Publicity Secretary of Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, Chief Abi Onyike, insisted that it is the turn of the Igbo, saying anybody opposed to power shift is an enemy of equity and justice.

He said: “There will be a political explosion in Nigeria if the Igbo are denied the presidency in 2023. The Nigerian ruling class would pay for their political perfidy.

“Nigeria is not a banana republic that can be tossed up and down. Buhari has no choice but to prepare to bow out in 2023. He is not doing anybody favour. We are a republican democracy, not an absolute Islamic monarchy like in Saudi Arabia or other Islamic states. As for power rotation in 2023, I am convinced that it is the turn of the Igbo.”

Power shift is not in doubt – Diwe

However, the President, Association of South East Town Unions, ASETU, Chief Emeka Diwe, said there is nothing wrong with the President’s silence.

He said:”Honestly we agree with him to remain mute about that. We have three more years to go and if a sitting President begins to overheat the polity, anything he says becomes a reason for further actions and inactions in the polity.

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“If he had said anything about power shift, it would have kickstarted controversies. 2023 is still very far and he has not delivered on his campaign promises. He needs to concentrate on his campaign promises.

“After Buhari’s tenure, I don’t expect anybody to kick against the presidency returning to the south and if we are talking about the south, it is the southeast.

Sensibility of Nigerians

“Buhari’s statement that he will not go for a third term ridiculed the sensibility of Nigerians. He didn’t need to have informed us because even a kid in the primary school knows he will leave office, except if he meant that the third term allegation was contemplated by him and he has now dropped the idea. It didn’t make any sense telling Nigerians that he will leave office in 2023″

‘Silence means nothing’

On his part, APC chieftain and Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said: “The most important statement that he (President Muhammadu Buhari) made is that he is not running, which is very germane because it is a signal that we are going ahead with the rotation between the north and south.

If he had gone ahead to say it is going to this place or the other, it would have meant overreaching himself. The best he did was to have told those who want to run that he is not running for the election. This is a landmark proclamation for the umpteenth time.

“We are now appealing to the two dominant political parties, APC and the PDP is to adopt the Falae/Obasanjo model in the interest of unity, equity and justice.

“If the two political parties do that, the presidency will come to the Southeast because we are the only geopolitical zone out of the three geopolitical zones in the southern part of the country that has not presided over Nigeria since the zoning convention was adopted in1999. I am not particular about who becomes a President of Nigeria from Igbo extraction but I know it will be a win-win scenario for everybody”.

Igbo should go for power – Ajumbe, President, Ogbako Igbo

Also, the President of Ogbako Igbo, Vitalis Ajumbe, agreed that nothing is wrong with Buhari’s silence on the issue.

Ajumbe said: “Buhari as a father of the nation should not say where the position should be zoned to. He also asked the Igbo to go for the position.

“Power is not given, power is taken. Let the Igbo who seem interested in producing the President should show why power should come to them.

“There has never been any time in the history of Nigeria that any zone will not contest for the presidency”.

Igbo National Council, led by Chilos Godsent, said the President should have made a clear statement on the issue in the spirit of fairness.

Godsent said: “We believe the message was watery as the President was deliberately silent on power shift.

“The Igbo National Council expected the President to make a categorical statement on the geopolitical zone his party will zone the presidency to in 2023.

“The Igbo National Council wants the APC to zone the presidency to Southeast in the spirit of fairness and social justice.”

President has shown preference for North – Senator Fadahunsi

Senator Francis Fadahunsi, PDP, Osun East, said: “You cannot blame President Muhammadu Buhari. His party cannot ensure equity in the polity.

“The party lacks equity and I am not surprised. If you look at the action of the President, he has shown preference for the North, hence, his decision to remain silent on the issue.

“The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, created the arrangement to ensure stability in the polity. It worked wonders and everyone had a sense of belonging. But with the way things are unfolding, the President would rather support one of his kinsmen to become the President in 2023.

“Besides, it is obvious that the party does not have the larger interest of Nigeria at heart. In 2011 when the Southwest intended to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a Yoruba man used his resources and protégés in government to frustrate the move.

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“The same set of people, better described as hypocrites and self-serving are now shouting power shift.

“More importantly, I am of the view that Nigeria should always look at competence when choosing who becomes President rather than falling victim of ethnic chauvinists who divide us with ethnic sentiments.”