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…We’re for Southern presidency —Islamic preachers

…No going back on Southern, Christian president —CAN

…PFN mobilising for Christian president—Source

…Bury zoning, bury Nigeria, SMBLF warns APC, PDP, others

…Zoning tops agenda as PDP’s NEC meets May 10

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Umoru, John Alechenu & Luminous Jannamike, LAGOS

Muslim and Christian leaders yesterday threw their weight behind the South producing President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, next year, and warned leading political parties against ceding their presidential tickets to the North.

Specifically, the leadership of the Supreme Council of Islamic Preachers in Nigeria said that a Nigerian president of southern extraction in 2023 is not negotiable.

The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, shared the views of the Islamic preachers, adding that there was no going back on a Southern and Christian president in 2023.

The religious leaders spoke as the Southern and Middle-Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, yesterday warned leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the main opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, against zoning their presidential tickets to the North.

The SMBLF, in a joint statement by Chief Edwin Clark, National Leader, PANDEF and Chairman, SMBLF; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere leader; President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Professor George Obiozor, Dr Bitrus Pogu, National President, Middle Belt Forum, MBF, warned that burying zoning amounted to burying Nigeria.

The religious and ethnic nationalities/regional leaders spoke against the backdrop of alleged plots by some leaders of the APC and PDP to cede their 2023 presidential tickets to the North.

After zoning their national chairmanship slots to the North, with northerners emerging as national chairmen of both parties, the leading parties have been foot-dragging on zoning the presidency to the South.

The Northern Elders Forum, weekend, clamoured for the presidency to be thrown open to all parts of the country.

APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, on Friday said the party had not taken a decision on zoning and did not disclose when the party would do so. With the APC National Executive Committee, NEC, ceding its powers to the National Working Committee for 90 days, the Senator Adamu-led NWC has the power to zone APC’s offices.

Asked if the party had zoned the presidential ticket to the South, he said:  “I am today privileged to be chairman of the party. The party is greater than me. The party has not made a decision and I cannot pre-empt what the party’s decision will be.”

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The PDP hierarchy is yet to take a decision on the issue. Its committee on zoning led by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, recently recommended that the race be thrown open.

Indeed, zoning and preparations for the May 28/29 presidential primaries are expected to dominate the meeting of the PDP NEC scheduled for May 10.

The non-committal stance of both parties on zoning is eliciting criticisms.

We’re for Southern presidency – Islamic preachers

The Islamic council, which insisted that a southern president in 2023 was non-negotiable, equally observed that the Northern region would have had its turn of eight years in the presidency at the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, next year.

The apex Muslim preachers’ group made this known in a statement by its Director of Media and Publicity, Sheikh Muhammad Nourayn Ibn-Ahmad, in Abuja. The council urged the Muslim faithful to consider a power shift to the South in all their political deliberations ahead of the 2023 general elections in the interest of fairness, justice, and equity.

The statement read:  “As shepherds of our respective adherents, now that the 2023 election is around the corner, we consider it imperative to explore partnership options that align with the emergence of a Southern President come 2023 and therefore urge our followers across Nigeria to support a southern candidate in the interest of fairness equity and justice.

“We are concerned by the way leaders are being thrown up in this country nowadays and believe that to ensure lasting solutions, spiritual leaders must play a significant role in the interest of greater peace of Nigeria and the people.”

The Islamic clerics also said they were concerned about the senseless killings in the land, and prayed for a speedy end to incidents of banditry, kidnapping and the general insecurities across the country.

PFN mobilising for a Christian president—Source

Disturbed by the trend that jostling for the presidency is taking, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, is pushing for the emergence of a Christian President in 2023,  Vanguard has gathered.

Multiple sources, familiar with the workings of the Christian body, told Vanguard that there are also strong moves to thwart the possibility of a Muslim/Muslim ticket.

The source disclosed that underground moves are already underway to mobilise PFN members across the country to actualise the emergence of a Christian president in 2023.

Another source told Vanguard that the PFN has constituted a political arm, headed by Pastor Femi Popoola, to drive home the agenda.

The source said: “What the PFN is campaigning for, regardless of where the candidate comes from, the next President must be a Christian. That is PFN’s position. Secondly, leaders of the PFN have vowed to do anything within their reach to stand against a Muslim/Muslim ticket in 2023.

“They have already started what they call political mobilisation of their members across the country. The PFN has instituted a political arm headed by Pastor Femi Popoola. You know he was former Deputy Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly before he became a pastor.

“So, he is heading the political arm of the PFN and it is campaigning on the propriety for members to be active participants in politics. The PFN does not want to leave it to the politicians alone. That is the position of the PFN. They have their target”, another source said.

No going back on Southern, Christian president – CAN

Also, CAN said it will continue its demand for the emergence of a Christian president of Southern extraction in 2023 despite alleged opposition by some individuals and groups. 

The umbrella Christian body recalled that during its recent meeting with the European Union Delegation led by the EU Chief Election Observer, Ms Maria Arena, it clearly stated that though it has no candidate for the presidency, it is imperative for the country to have a Southern Christian succeed President Buhari next year. 

Speaking to Vanguard in Abuja, yesterday, media aide to CAN President, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, stressed that the association will not go back on its demand. His words: “Since President Buhari is a Muslim from the North, in the interest of equity, fairness, social justice and cohesion, the next President should be a Christian from the South.

“Although Nigeria is practising democracy because of our peculiarities, which include multi-cultural, multi-tribal, and multi-religious nature, ours should be a ‘home-grown democracy’ where every divide should be given a sense of belonging. Even if the constitution is silent on the six geo-political zones rotating representation, the political parties should be wise enough to make use of it in sharing leadership positions.” 

Don’t joke with Nigeria’s unity, SMBLF warns APC, PDP, others

On its part, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, cautioned parties and stakeholders not to tinker with the issue of zoning and rotation of political offices especially, the presidency, warning that doing so would further threaten the fragile threads of the nation’s unity.

SMBLF took exception to a recent statement credited to the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Alhaji Ango Abdullahi that zoning is “dead and buried.”

SMBLF said it is rather unfortunate and absurd that Ango Abdullahi and his Northern Elders Forum would make such a twaddle.  “Are they now ready to dissolve the country? What has happened that zoning, which has been a -sine qua non-in the nation’s political progression has now become a “dead and buried” issue, in the irrational contemplations of Ango Abdullahi and his co-travellers? Could it be due to the incapacity, insipidity and disastrous performance of the Buhari administration or the narcissistic desire to perpetuate Hausa/Fulani hegemony?”

The statement read in part: “It has become necessary to underscore that Ango Abdullahi, with his established disposition of inconsistency and duplicity, is one of the people disturbing the polity and peace of Nigeria. A few days ago, this same Ango fumbled with the idea of a so-called consensus arrangement for Northern presidential aspirants, he has not come out of it, now he has sprung up with this reckless statement that zoning is dead and buried. Ango and his northern elders do not have the power to kill and bury zoning; if they want to kill and bury Nigeria, then we are ready for them.

“The history of zoning between the North and the South is well-known to everybody in this country and has been respected by all the major political parties in Nigeria. In the Second Republic, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, adhered to the policy of zoning. The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has also, since its formation in 1999, adhered to the zoning of principal elective offices.

“Most recently, in 2018, the PDP firmly observed the zoning arrangement by having only northern aspirants participate in the party’s presidential primary, which was held in Port Harcourt. Recall that 12 aspirants, all northerners, including Senator Jonah Jang, Senator David Mark, Kabiru Turaki, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, Dr Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Datti Baba Ahmed vied for the party’s ticket for the 2019 presidential election.

“Before then, all the PDP aspirants (except David Mark, Aminu Tambuwal and Datti Baba Ahmed), and aspirants of other political parties, had interactive engagements, individually, with us, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, to expound their plans for Nigeria, which was supported by the Northern Elders Forum headed by Ango Abdullahi who now wants zoning to be thrown overboard.

“Likewise, for the APC, only Northerners contested the first presidential primaries of the party in 2014, in Lagos, including Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankawso and late Sam Nda-Isaiah, except Owelle Rochas Okorocha who has become a routine presidential aspirant since 2003.

“More so, earlier this year, the nation and global audience were told by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State on a national/satellite television station that zoning of the party and political elective offices exists in the APC. The governor further hinted that all the positions earlier held by the North would be swapped with the South and vice versa. And this was inclusive of the presidency. That was the reason why only Northerners vied for the National Chairmanship of the party, which was zoned to the North and micro zoned to the North Central, during the party’s National convention in March this year.

“Sadly, we are now being told by the newly “imposed” National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, that the APC has not decided on the zoning of the presidency. Such a statement at this stage, with about 30 days to the presidential primaries, amounts to outright dishonesty and chicanery. Who are they trying to deceive and who will allow them? It becomes even more upsetting given the fact that the statement came from someone who himself emerged as National Chairman of the APC through the policy of rotation and zoning.

“More importantly, the APC Constitution, under article 7, relating to its aims and objectives, commits the party to firstly, “promote and foster the unity, political stability and national consciousness of the people of Nigeria.” The question then is would the dumping of the zoning policy foster unity, political stability and national consciousness in Nigeria?

“The APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, ought to know better because he has been in the nation’s political space for quite some time, since the Second Republic and should have a broad understanding of the political interplays that have sustained Nigeria’s oneness to date. Thus, should not dance to the drumbeats of political pillagers but rather, as National Chairman of the ruling party, firmly uphold the patriotic and democratic considerations that have kept Nigeria together as a country.

“It is pertinent to recall that Adamu was a pioneer member of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, and became the first state secretary of the NPN in Plateau State and later state chairman of the party in the state. He was also a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party and became Governor of Nasarawa State between 1999 and 2007. At the end of his two-term governorship, Adamu was appointed Secretary of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the People’s Democratic Party and later won election to the Senate under the PDP in 2011.

Before he decamped to the APC in January 2014, joining four northern PDP Governors including Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto as well as  Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and several other notable northern PDP members including Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Dr Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, among others who had staged a walkout at the PDP Convention in 2013 because of zoning, which they felt then President Goodluck Jonathan refused to respect.

“Quite, unfortunately, these are the same people who are opposing zoning today, because it does serve their purposes now. It is preposterous they pretend to have a short memory when it pleases them.

“It is also necessary to note that the “marriage” between Abdullahi Adamu and Muhammadu Buhari is suspicious because Adamu was a bitter enemy of President Buhari during the APC presidential primaries in 2014. What could be the reason for their new-fangled cordiality? Is it because of their plan of burying zoning to perpetuate the northern “Rulership” of Nigeria?

“It is haughty for anybody to say that this is the time to consider the quality of candidates. Where in Nigeria is deficient in quality candidates, is it the South or the North? Every individual from the South who has indicated interest to contest for the presidency, both in APC and in PDP, is qualified to be President of Nigeria.

“They should stop their trickery, enough is enough. We cannot have a northern president for eight years and welcome another northern president for another eight years or more. That is unacceptable to us.

“We, therefore, strongly caution all our governors, former governors and top politicians not to accept the vice-presidency nomination from any northern presidential candidate.

Remain resolute, Southern govs urged

“We urge the 17 Southern Governors, who unanimously declared that the Presidency must come to the South in May last year, at Asaba, Delta State, to remain resolute. They have our absolute support for the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum and we stand firmly by them. This country belongs to all of us!

“Let everybody take this as a serious warning that the issue of zoning cannot be swept under the carpet; it cannot be dead and buried, if zoning is buried, Nigeria is then buried. And if they are thinking that this is a joke, let it be known that it is not. If we cannot abide by the established principle of rotation and zoning between the north and south, then we should not continue with one Nigeria; we should go back to what we were as a people before the amalgamation of 1914.

“We also earnestly call on the people of the Middle Belt Region and all Minorities in Nigeria to wake up and work conscientiously with the Southerners, if we do, the prospects will be pellucid. This was demonstrated at the National Conference of 2014 to the mortification of those who think this country belongs to them alone.”

Zoning tops the agenda as PDP NEC meets on May 10

Meanwhile, the issue of zoning, as well as preparations for primaries to pick flag-bearers, are expected to top the agenda as the PDP NEC meets  Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

National Secretary of the party, Senator Sam Anyanwu, yesterday, sent out notifications to members of the party’s NEC, announcing a change of date of a meeting earlier scheduled for Thursday, May 4.

A copy of the notification sighted by Vanguard read: “All members of the National Executive Committee of our great party are hereby notified of the change of date of the 96th  NEC meeting earlier scheduled for May 5, 2022.

“New Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2022, Venue: NEC Hall PDP National Secretariat, Wadata Plaza, Abuja, Time 2:00 pm.

“The earlier date clashes with the local government delegate election involving all members of our party. All inconveniences are regretted.”   A party leader who spoke in confidence explained that the shift in date was to give more room for consultations.

He said: “We are aware of the delicate nature of the issues at stake and as such, consultations and negotiations must be given time to bear fruit. Of course, like our National Secretary said, the local government delegate elections and its fallout will also have to be taken into consideration.”

Asked if the consensus option was still on the table, the source said: “This is politics, anything can happen. Aspirants can decide right on the field, during the primaries to step down for somebody when the time comes. We encourage continuous dialogue, and consultations.

“Our leaders at various levels are willing to make sacrifices for our party to return to power, we have tasted opposition and realized that it is not a place where Nigerians who have tasted real democracy will want the PDP to remain in with what the current regime is doing.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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