Frontline presidential aspirant, Senator Pius Anyim, on Sunday denied saying that it was not right for the Southeast to produce Nigeria’s next president.
Anyim, former President of the Senate, had declared his intention to seek the ticket of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to contest the 2023 presidential election.
But an online newspaper quoted him as saying on Saturday that it was not right for the Southeast to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor.
The online platform quoted Anyim, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) as saying, “Is it right for the Southeast to produce the next president? My answer is legally no, and the reason is that the constitution is clear. The constitution says every Nigerian of 40 years is entitled to aspire for that office.”
Anyim, who spoke at an event organised by a group, United For Better Nigeria Initiative, in Abuja with the theme, “Imperative of Rotational presidency,” was further quoted to have said, “On the other side, morally, is it right? Is it an entitlement? I will say yes because the federal character principle enshrined in the constitution encourages rotation.
“The reason I have to make this clarification is that when the right you have is not legal, the only approach and the instrument you have is persuasion.”
But a statement by the frontline politician’s media office on Sunday said the report was mischievous and not a true reflection of what he said on the occasion.
Insisting that it would be contradictory for him to be aspiring for the presidency and at the same time saying it is not right for Nigeria to have a president of Igbo extraction in 2023, Anyim said his comment which was premised on a lecture he delivered at the 6th World Igbo Summit at the Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State on December 18, 2020, was grossly misrepresented.
Answering the question on whether a President of Southeast extraction is a right, Anyim said:
“Under the Constitution of Nigeria, every adult of 40 years of age is qualified to be elected to the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Accordingly, there is nothing under the law that disqualifies any Igbo man from aspiring to be President; the challenge is capacity to meet the mandatory requirement of the highest number of votes and spread.
“The other angle to this perspective is whether zoning the Presidency to the South-East geo-political zone is a right? Legally, the answer is no, but morally there is merit in such demand.
“This expectation canvases that the federal character principle has assumed a legal backing. Just as the rotation of the Presidency is not captured in the constitution neither is the geopolitical zoning arrangement.
“Still, the fact of the reality of the application of the zonal structure in our national equilibrium has assumed universal moral force that can no longer be ignored nor dispensed with.
“For such critical national office as the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not to be rotated among the zones can only breed discontent and disharmony.”
He explained that though the quest for a president of Igbo extraction is not a legal right but an equitable one, it must be pursued with vigorous persuasion and consensus building with other regions.
Senator Anyim, therefore, called on the group which is advocating for a power shift to the Southeast to double their effort by strategically engaging other Nigerians through advocacy and dialogue on the need for power to shift to the Southeast adding that in a democracy, power is not given just for asking but through deliberate and strategic engagement for mass support.
He further stated that the journey of building an equitable society is usually a challenging and tough one but many nations have arrived at the desired destination safely.
Nigeria, he said, must continue to deepen and consolidate the gains of its democracy to meet the yearnings and aspirations of all Nigerians.