*Says issue has brought to fore need to restructure Nigeria

*Describes southern governors forum as gang-up against north

By Juliet Umeh

The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, yesterday described the raging Value Added Tax, VAT, controversy in the country as a wake-up call for northern governors.

Rivers and Lagos state governments are in court to wrest collection of VAT in their domains from the Federal Government.

Southern governors at their last meeting in Enugu, last Thursday, also supported the collection of VAT by states, saying states had the constitutional rights to own such tax.

Speaking in an interview on Arise TV yesterday, the Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Northern Elders Forum, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said time was ripe for governors in the North to depend less on revenue from VAT, wondering what would become of most state governments in the North should the Supreme Court rule in favour of Rivers and Lagos states.

‘’The VAT issue is a wake-up call for northern governors.  If the Supreme Court rules in favour of Rivers and Lagos, what would governors in the north do?

‘’Northern governors should, without delay, develop their own resources; they should develop the huge agriculture resources to develop the North.  The North has a huge population that is largely undeveloped.  This population can be deployed into agriculture to develop the North,’’ he said.

The NEF spokesman said the VAT controversy had raised the need to restructure the country but lamented that the President Buhari-led administration had no appreciation of restructuring and was not ready to tinker with the structure of the country.

According to him, the VAT controversy has brought to the fore the need for fiscal federalism.

On 2023, Baba-Ahmed, insisted that the north could not be threatened and intimidated into submitting to southern governors’ clamour that the next president of the country must come from the South.

The governors had in their meeting, in Enugu said the country’s next president must come come from the South.

But the NEF spokesman, who described the southern governors forum as a gang-up against the North, said:  ‘’The South cannot be threatened to have a southern presidency.  Allow democratic process to decide who becomes the president.

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‘’The North has the numbers.  If the South wants the presidency in 2023, it should negotiate and solicit the support of the North for its candidate and not to say the two major political parties in the country must failed southern candidates.  Nobody can dictate to political parties that have their rules, let democratic principles prevail.’’

Dismissing complaints from such southern leaders as Chief Edwin Clark and Chief Ayo Adebanjo over what they described as his condescending remarks in Zaria last weekend as hypocritical, the NEF scribe said southern leaders had no right to complain when they refused to rage against a similar language used by southerner governors in the meeting in Enugu.

Baba-Ahmed had said at a lecture at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, last Saturday, that the North had the votes and would, therefore, not play second fiddle to the South in 2023, and his comments drew the ire of  the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, its counterpart in the South East, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum, MBF,

Reiterating his position in the Arise Tv interview yesterday, Baba-Ahmed told southern leaders:  ‘’The southern governors call for a southern president is hypocrisy of the highest order.  The southern governors forum is a gang-up against the North.

‘’The North cannot be blamed for using arrogant and condescending language when southern governors are doing the same thing.  Nobody has monopoly of rhetorics.  Don’t say our language is unbecoming, talk to the southern governors.’’

He, however, noted that no northern candidate can become the president of Nigeria without southern support and vice versa, stressing that the next Nigerian president must not be an ethnic, regional or religious president.

The NEF spokesman, who also said both the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, do not have the solution to the nation’s problems, called on the Federal Government to allow electronic voting in 2023 to remove all doubts in the electoral process.

‘’APC and PDP do not have solutions to Nigeria’s problems.  They cannot inspire change; they cannot deal with the issue of corruption.  The smaller parties must be encouraged to wrest power from these two major political parties that have failed the nation,’’ he said.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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