By Henry Umoru – Abuja

LEADERS of thought, elder statesmen from four of the six geo-political zones of the country, under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF have called on the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and other Political parties in the country to zone their presidential tickets to the South for the 2023 Presidential election.

Rising from a meeting held on Thursday at the Asokoro residence, Abuja of the leader of the forum,  South South Leader and Elderstatesman, Chief Edwin Clark, the Southern and Middle Belt leaders said that any political party that vehemently refused to zone the Presidential ticket to the South, should not expect votes from the region. 

According to them, the choice of the South to produce the successor of President Muhammadu Buhari became imperative because the northern part of the country would have fully enjoyed the Office of the Presidency of the country for the full statutory period of 8 years by 2023.

In a Communique issued at the end of the meeting, the leaders of the Middle- Belt, Ndi- Igbo( Ohaneaze, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, South-South and Afenifere, the groups said  that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is what they described as fair and even sharing of power. 

The groups while reiterating theirs calls for urgent restructuring of the country that will provide for a new Constitution for the country which would guarantee equity, fairness and Justice, said that the present Constitution and structure are grossly flawed and lopsided.  

The leaders have also called on members of the National Assembly and Governors of the four regions to as a matter of urgency,  commit themselves to the subject of Restructuring.

The statement was signed by Chief Edwin Clark as the Chairman of the groups and leader of PANDEF; Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere as the leader; Professor George Obiozor for Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the President- General  and Dr. Pogu Bitrus for Middle Belt Forum as the National President.

The groups also condemned in very strong terms, the continued senseless killings of innocent citizens across the country by terrorists and criminals, especially in the North West Zone, just as they called on the government and security agencies to redouble efforts to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians.

According to them, the meeting extensively discussed various issues on the State of Affairs in the country, particularly, the security situation, Restructuring, preparations for the 2023 General Elections and Zoning.

The Communique read in part, “A meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), held on Thursday, 13th January 2022 in Abuja under the Chairmanship of the Leader and Elder Statesman, Chief Dr. E. K. Clark, OFR, CON.

“In attendance at the meeting were delegations from the four regional socio-cultural organisations, that’s: Afenifere for the South West, Ohanaeze Ndigbo for the South East, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) for the South-South and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) for the Middle Belt. 

“The delegations were led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere, Professor George Obiozor, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President of the Middle Belt Forum and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, FNSE, National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF.

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“The meeting was also attended by former Governors, Ministers, federal and state legislators, top politicians and professionals from the Southern and Middle Belt regions, including His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu, Simon N. Okeke, OFR, Chief Supo Shonibare,  Akin Fapohunda, Amb. Okey Emuchay, MFR, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Prof. G. G. Darah, Solomon Asemota, SAN, Dr. Alex Ogbonna, Mr. Mac Emakpore, Chief Douyi Douglas-Naingba, Mrs. Nella Andem-Rabana, SAN, Prof. Mrs. Chinwe Obaji, Maj. Gen. Henry Ayoola (Rtd), Engr. Ben Akaakar, Dr. Ebun Sonaiya, Comrade Jare Ajayi and Ken Robinson, among others.

” The meeting extensively discussed various issues on the State of Affairs in the country, particularly, the security situation, Restructuring, preparations for the 2023 General Elections and Zoning.

” Arising therefrom, the meeting resolved as follows: That the extant Constitution and Structure of Nigeria are grossly flawed and lopsided, accordingly, Forum restates its demand for the fundamental restructuring of the country by enacting a new Constitution that would enthrone equity, fairness and justice. It must be One Nation, One System 

” Cites that the northern part of the country would have fully enjoyed the Office of the Presidency of the country for the full statutory period of 8 years by 2023, hence, the presidency should rotate to the South;

” THEREFORE, UNEQUIVOCALLY, AND  IN FULL RESOLVE, CALL ON ALL POLITICAL PARTIES IN THE COUNTRY TO ZONE THEIR PRESIDENTIAL TICKETS TO THE SOUTH;

” Advices that any political party that does not zone its presidential ticket to the South should not expect support from the four regions;

“Notes that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power;

“Condemns the continued senseless killings of innocent citizens across the country by terrorists and criminals, especially in the North West Zone; calls on the government and security agencies to redouble efforts to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians;

“Urges members of the National Assembly and Governors of the four regions to commit themselves to the subject of Restructuring;

“Reaffirms commitment to the unity of Nigeria, situated on the tenets of Equity, Fairness, Justice, and the principle of federalism. 

“The meeting was held in an atmosphere of peace and unanimous commitment to the decisions.”

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