•MBF, Afenifere, PANDEF, Ohanaeze, Adebanjo, Amechi, Ikponwen speak

•We’ll work against PDP, APC, any party that zones its ticket to North — MBF

•It’ll fly against the spirit of equity, justice — Afenifere

•It may lead to Nigeria’s disintegration — Adebanjo

•Northern Elders fiddling while Nigeria burns — Ohanaeze

By Clifford Ndujihe, Anayo Okoli, Henry Umoru, Dapo Akinrefon, Peter Duru, Ozioruva Aliu, Chinonso Alozie & Chimaobi Nwaiwu

ANGER yesterday, greeted alleged plots of some leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, 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.

Asked if the party had zoned the presidential ticket to the South, he said:  “I am today privileged to be the 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.”

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.

The non-committal stance of both parties on zoning elicited furore, yesterday.

We’ll work against PDP, APC, any party that zones its ticket to North —MBF

 The Middle Belt Forum, MBF, has vowed to collaborate with sister groups in the southern part of the country to work against the interest of the PDP, APC, or any other political party that zones its presidential ticket to the North.

National President of the MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, told Vanguard in Makurdi, yesterday that such political parties would have to contend with the regional groups because of their position and resolve to have the presidency moved to the South in the interest of fairness, equity and good conscience remains intact.

He said: “Our position has not changed and it will not change.

If they decide to do that they will have to contend with us because we are going to campaign vigorously against them. We will work against them.

“And if there is any political party that does the right thing, Nigerians will move in that direction. We cannot continue with the way we are and the way things are. If there are a bunch of cowards and people who do not love Nigeria, in both the PDP and APC, let them try it.

“Nigeria is for all Nigerians, it is not for northerners, it is not for Muslims, it is not for Christians, it is for all Nigerians. And if they feel that Nigeria can be dominated because of their interest, and they feel that they will win if they zone it to the North, let them try it.

“Was it the North that gave Atiku all those votes he scored in the previous election? Was it the North that gave Buhari all the votes? The South has spoken, we in the Middle Belt have spoken and they are going to see the kind of campaign we will embark on. Let them try it.”

It’ll fly against the spirit of equity, justice —Afenifere

In like manner, the pan-Yoruba Socio-political Organisation, Afenifere, warned that any attempt to zone the presidency to the North in 2023 would not only be unfair but also fly against the spirit of equity, justice and harmonious relationship in the country.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, insisted that political parties would not be fair if they failed to stick to the zoning of their presidential slots to the South.

He said: “Since the advent of the present civilian dispensation, the presidency has always been on rotation between the North and South. It started with the South when former President Olusegun Obasanjo ruled for eight years. His administration was followed by that of late President Musa Yar Adua whose life was unfortunately cut short by death. Yar’Adua was from the North thus maintaining the rotational arrangement. Dr Goodluck Jonathan from the South took over and ruled for six years.

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Retired General Muhammadu Buhari took over from Jonathan. Buhari is from the North, and by 2023, he too would have spent eight years in the saddle. It is therefore normal that a southern president must take over from the incumbent President who is from the North.

“Afenifere’s position is in tandem with that of South and Middle Belt Leadership Forum, SMBLF, of which it is a member. The Forum, at its various meetings in recent times, has consistently advocated for the zoning of presidential slots to the South by various political parties in the country. The position was further attested to by the Southern Governors Forum which also called for the restriction of presidential slots to the South.

“Afenifere is optimistic that a southern presidency would accelerate the easing of the tension in the country, resolve the myriads of problems Nigeria is facing as well as ensure a return to true federalism through Restructuring.

“For the North to still insist on having the presidency in 2023 would not only be unfair, but it would also fly against the spirit of equity, justice and harmonious relationship among the constituents in the country.”

It may lead to Nigeria’s disintegration—Adebanjo

Also reacting, Afenifere Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, said he was not surprised at such speculations warning that if that happens, it may lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.

 “You see, what you people don’t want to believe is that the North does not want to leave the place (Presidency) whether they are in APC or PDP. They want to retain power. It is unfortunate that you in the South have not opened your eyes. I am not surprised. Where they zoned, some people still say they do not agree with the zoning. They will present a candidate from the North and say that is the person they will vote for. All the idea of Tinubu, Osinbajo and Fayemi coming out is just a smokescreen to deceive the people that they are doing something. I am not surprised. If they do that and vote for a northerner, they are questioning the unity of Nigeria and that may be the end of Nigeria. I have no doubt in my mind that that is their game plan.”

It’ll be calamitous for APC, PDP to zone presidency to the North — PANDEF

On its part, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, said it would be calamitous if the major political parties zone their Presidential tickets to the North.

According to PANDEF, any attempt by the parties to carry out such a move would be resisted as Nigerians would be mobilized to protest against plans by the North to perpetuate itself in office after the incumbent President Buhari.

Speaking exclusively with Vanguard yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Hon. Ken Robinson said: “Impressions that the North is contemplating perpetuating itself in the presidency are not farfetched. We have heard notable northern politicians and opinion leaders make all manner of unpatriotic and self-serving statements on the zoning of the presidency for the 2023 elections.

“So, it is plausible that there are intrigues and manoeuvres to have the two major parties in the country, that is, the APC and the PDP, both present Northern presidential candidates for the 2023 elections. But that would be calamitous

“Do we need to acquaint these northern political pillagers and their sympathizers that the basis for any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country like Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of critical political offices? And that it would be in the best interest of the nation and our democracy to ensure that the next President of Nigeria, in 2023, emerges from the South?

“We are, however, not taking the impressions of the northern self-succession agenda for granted. We are mobilizing our people and shall resist any attempt at political colonization in Nigeria, under whatever guise.

“PANDEF clearly and loudly reiterates that the zoning of political offices has always been an intrinsic part of the Nation’s political arrangement; it cannot be covetously, casually jettisoned, for any reason now because there shall be inexorable, collateral outcomes.”

Taking the presidency back to the North is inconceivable — Ikponmwen

On his part, former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army and a leader in the South-South, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen, retd,  said plots are undemocratic and those thinking of such an idea do not mean well for the country.“His words:  “It means that the presidency will remain for another eight years in the North after

Buhari’s eight years. That means for sixteen years, the presidency will be in the North. That will not go down well for democracy. I don’t think that will go down well with southerners and I don’t think that is in the right spirit of democracy because democracy preaches freedom in party politics and sharing of political offices on an equitable basis.”

Ohanaeze tackles NEF over zoning, says Northern Elders are fiddling while Nigeria is burning

Also reacting, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo rejected the position of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, that the race for the 2023 Presidency is thrown open against ceding it to the South.

Lamenting the position of the NEF, Ohanaeze Ndigbo expressed disappointment that the Northern Elders are fiddling while Nigeria is on fire and about to be totally destroyed.

in a statement titled: “The zoning shenanigans in Nigeria” by its spokesman, Dr Alex Chidozie Ogbonnia, the apex Igbo group said that it was sad that NEF identified that Nigeria is confronted with unprecedented insecurity, poverty, a large number of internally displaced Nigerians, among others, but instead of seeking for solutions, they are busy strategizing for more destructions to be heaped on Nigeria.

“In their communique, the NEF observed that Nigeria is confronted with unprecedented insecurity, poverty, a large number of internally displaced Nigerians, etc. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is surprised that the leadership of the Northern Elders Forum, mostly elders, will collectively act the fifth Roman emperor, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus who fiddled while Rome was on fire.

“These are issues which have remained unabated because of ethnic and religious induced policies; injustice and more importantly, the inability to make the right choices. It is therefore very strange that the elders instead of seeking a solution to the problems they have so identified are busy strategizing on how to destroy the vital values that have helped to lubricate a precarious balance in the country”, Ohanaeze said.

Going back to some years past, the Igbo apex socio-cultural body reminded the Northern Elders that “at about 1994, some Nigerian patriots conceived an article of faith and principle of rotation of power that guarantees equity and inclusiveness for all the diverse components of the country. Thus, Nigeria was structured into six geopolitical zones; namely, South-South, South-East, South-West, North-West, North-Central and the North-East. It was also agreed that political offices will be zoned or distributed among the zones in such a way that every zone will have a sense of belonging.

“Furthermore, the Presidency will rotate among the zones to promote peace, unity and progress in Nigeria.

“The NEF are aware that Nigeria has religiously followed the rotation and zoning principle since 1999 with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (South-West) as the elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Obasanjo, in keeping with the rotation principle, was handed over to the North in the person of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007.

“At the death of Yar’Adua, a Southerner, specifically the South-South in the person of Dr Goodluck Jonathan was elected the President. Jonathan again, handed over to a Northerner, President Muhammadu Buhari whose second tenure of four years each will end in 2023.

“By the rotation and zoning principle that has been in operation in Nigeria, it is only fair that the Presidency be zoned to the South, specifically the South-East of Nigeria. It remains the moral duty of elders to guide the society on the path of truth and honour because when the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.”

“It is also surprising that NEF is more enamoured of power than the veritable and conducive environment under which sustainable national development can be attained. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no country on the planet earth that can progress under the dire straits and strains of inequity, injustice, mistrust, viciousness, braggadocio and predatory ethnocentrism. The above vices will surely engender crises, conflicts, economic downturn, unemployment, poverty, insecurity, kidnapping, banditry, etc.

“All the ongoing shenanigans about zoning in Nigeria are because it is the turn of the South-East to produce a president in Nigeria. This NEF knows. We want to use this medium to salute the likes of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Chief E K Clarke, Dr. Pogu Bitrus and other leaders for their courage to stand by the right side of history.

“We have supreme confidence in the inevitable natural phenomenon, that a broken leaf, after fluttering in the air must obey the law of gravity.

“Above all, President Muhammadu Buhari has the burden of history to treat the South, the South-East, how Chief Olusegun Obasanjo treated the North in 2007. Obasanjo against all pressures displayed honour and statesmanship when in 2007, he handed over to the North in the person of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

“Today, Buhari is the leader of the country. He pilots the ship of the state. It is hoped that he will anchor the ship at the appropriate bank.”

Alleged plot of APC and PDP to zone the presidency to the North is mere speculation —Mbazulike

Amechi Contacted on the issue, Elder statesman and First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike yesterday described the alleged plan by the APC and PDP to zone the presidency to the North, as speculation.

“I will not like to talk or react to speculation. The alleged plan by the parties is just speculation now. I would not like to react or talk on a matter that is still speculation. It is just speculative at the moment, when it happens, maybe l may be in a position to say something to our people. “However my sincere advice is that we need peace in Nigeria, there is so much tension in the country and it is caused by unfairness. There is a lot of unfairness and lack of equity in the country. Whatever will bring peace and strengthen the unity of Nigeria is what I am after. It is however very imperative that we do not engage in want that will cause problems in the country and continue to heat up the polity. I do not think that relegating one part of the country to total irrelevance is in the best interest of peace and unity in the country,” he said.

Zoning critical to Nigeria’s unity

An analyst, Frank Maduagu, said yesterday that zoning remains the most critical and practical political arrangement that has kept Nigeria relatively peaceful and prosperous since her return to multi-party democracy 23 years ago.

“Beginning from the decision of the major parties to field only candidates from the South-West in 1999, as compensation for Chief MKO Abiola’s lost mandate, to the decision of President Obasanjo to select Umaru Yar’Adua as his successor in 2007, zoning is the most sacred unwritten rule of Nigerian politics,’’ the analyst said.

He said PDP and APC were playing games over zoning in the hope of benefitting from the mistake of the other.

The analyst said one of the reasons APC might not zone the presidential ticket to the South was the fact that a Southern candidate could not beat a Northern one in a presidential election. 

“Believers in this school of thought assert that if the opposition PDP chooses a northern candidate, then they, the ruling APC, would have no choice but to also field a northern candidate.

“Those opposed to this view argued that no president had won the election with the votes of one region alone.

“If northern votes were all a candidate needed to become President, Tofa would have defeated Abiola in 1993 and Buhari would have been president in 2003 or 2007. The idea that northerners would only vote for a northerner is a myth that has no basis in our recent past and current reality, and as such, should have no basis in our near future,” a top politician argued.

“In view of the above, the APC’s fallacy is based on a false premise that erroneously limits their options, in a disguise that appears set to reach their predetermined objective of retaining power. Southerners are not foolish. They cannot and should not be hoodwinked. On the economic side, the difference is way more lopsided in the South’s favour,” he said.

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