Urges aspirants to close ranks, present a credible consensus candidate
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—AHEAD of the Presidential primaries of ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for the emergence of a flag-bearer, leaders of thoughts, 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 hailed President Muhammadu Buhari and Northern APC governors for their support for rotation of the Presidency to the South in 2023.
According to the leaders, the decision by the governors that President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor come from the South in 2023 is highly commendable.
They also called on Southern APC presidential aspirants to close ranks, as suggested by President Buhari and present a credible consensus candidate that we will represent and protect the interest of all Nigerians.
Recall that the SMBLF, under the leadership of former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, had been on top of its voice, calling on Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the APC to ensure their presidential candidates were picked from the South.
However, PDP left the contest for its own presidential ticket open, as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa State, North East, won the ticket to represent the party.
The leaders of the South South, Afenifere, Middle-Belt, Ohaneaze Ndigbo, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, had asked the APC and the PDP in particular not to violate its own constitution, had also firmly reiterated their position on the principle of zoning and power rotation between the North and the South, as the basis on which the Nigerian federation had, since independence been premised.
Those who signed the statement include Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Abdullahi A. Sule (Nasarawa), Prof. B.G. Umara Zulum (Borno), Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (Kaduna) and Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe).“Others were Simon Bako Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and a former Governor of Sokoto state, Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako.
“In a statement yesterday in Abuja, leaders of the SMBLF stressed that the decision of the APC Northern leaders to back the emergence of a presidential candidate of the party from the Southern part of the country was a remarkable development and would fetch a huge relief to well-meaning Nigerians especially from the needless political theatrics, adding that they totally endorse the conclusions of the Governors.
The statement was signed by Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark as chairman of the groups and leader of PANDEF; Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere as the leader; Professor George Obiozor for Ohaneze Ndigbo as President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide and Dr. Pogu Bitrus for Middle Belt Forum as the national president.
The statement, titled “2023 Presidency: Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Commend Buhari, Northern APC Governors,” read: “The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum, SMBLF, has applauded President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the Northern Governors and political leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, The decision of the APC Northern leaders to back the emergence of a presidential candidate of the party from the Southern part of the country is a remarkable development and fetches huge relief to well-meaning Nigerians, from the needless political theatrics.
“We totally endorse the conclusions of the APC governors and political leaders from the Northern states of Nigeria, after their meeting yesterday; that after eight years of northern presidency under President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the 2023 elections should come from the southern states of Nigeria, “in the interest of building a stronger, more united and more progressive country”.
This is in tandem with our long-held position on the rotation of the presidency, and deserves commendation.
“Just when the nation’s future and political fortunes were looking dimmest, with all sorts of appalling shenanigans, the president and the Northern APC Governors have provided a glimmer of hope; indicating that some of our politicians still cherish the “oneness” of Nigeria beyond parochial, political reparations. And, despite certain reservations, this decision has occasioned a level of optimism that perhaps all hope is not yet lost for the country.
“By this development, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has not only ingratiated itself with the people of Southern Nigeria, the Middle Belt region, and indeed, all true lovers of democracy, equity, fairness and justice, but has also demonstrated that it is a truly “national” political party that is committed to the unity, peace and progress of Nigeria.
“We commend the courage and patriotism of Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, for heeding the “patriotic advice” of his colleagues and withdrawing his presidential aspiration. And further urge all other Northern presidential aspirants under the APC and other parties, to withdraw likewise, in the national interest.
“We also appeal to the Southern APC presidential aspirants to close ranks, as suggested by Mr. President, and present a credible consensus candidate that we will represent and protect the interest of all Nigerians.
“We further restate our call on the people of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt region, as well as all well-meaning Nigerians to, as a sacred obligation to the nation, not vote for any political party that does not present a southern candidate in the 2023 presidential election.
“The Forum warns politicians who place their ambitions over and above the health of the polity that the nation cannot afford to fritter away the labours of our heroes, past and present, by allowing such self-seeking politicians to, callously and carelessly, jettison arrangements and understandings that have sustained the oneness and stability of the country over the years.”