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Northern elders, groups reject Southern governors’ position on power shift

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The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has rejected the position of the Southern governors that the 2023 presidency should be zoned to the Southern part of the country, arguing that the presidency is a democratic office and not a rotational position.

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In its response yesterday to Monday’s ‘Lagos Declaration’, the Forum maintained that the North would not be threatened, intimidated or blackmailed into giving up its right to a democratic office, as the region should not be compelled to give up a democratically elected office that can be sought by any person irrespective of where he comes from.

The Forum’s position was made in a statement by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed. NEF observed that as far as the North was concerned, the idea that it would be threatened, intimidated or blackmailed into yielding an office that ought to be settled democratically is not acceptable.

“Thus, NEF sees the decision of the Southern governors as an expression of sentiment that could be best discussed within a political process. We are running a democratic government and decisions over where the next president comes from are basically decisions that will be made by voters exercising their rights to choose which candidate best serves their interest.”

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The Forum explained that the Southern governors come from the two dominant parties: All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Baba-Ahmed noted that the way it should be done was that the southern governors should influence their parties to zone the presidency to Southern states and then work to convince Nigerian voters from all parts of the country to vote for that candidate.

He said that the democratic rights of Nigerian citizens to vote for a candidate cannot be snatched by threats or intimidation, stressing that politicians were becoming very lazy to think they will be given leadership in a manner that suggests an ultimatum.

In like manner, former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani, has faulted calls by the Southern governors that the next president in 2023 should hail from the Southern part of the country. Speaking to reporters in Abuja, he argued that the stance was not only unconstitutional but antithetical to the tenets of democracy.

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Sani, who is angling for the 2023 presidency, insists that eligible Nigerians irrespective of their religious and tribal leanings have the right to aspire for the exalted seat.

“There is nothing in our constitution that talks about moving power from one place to another. Every Nigerian, according to the Constitution, unless it is amended, has the right to aspire to any political office once he is qualified. So, it is not wrong for anybody to say he is contesting the election, even from Daura,” he said.

Another Northern chieftain and former Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Elder Anthony Sani, said the outright ban on open grazing without provision of alternative measures to the plight of herders will spell doom for the country.

“To me, such a fiat approach can be likened to outright banning of subsistence farming using hoes and cutlasses without any viable alternative for modern farming. Any law that is not implementable is as good as of no effect and no use to the society,” he said.

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On the issue of resource control, he argued that “given the 13 per cent derivation to ameliorate environmental degradation of the oil-producing host communities, any other provision, be it five or three per cent for oil-producing host communities amounts to double provisions. It is, therefore, our view that rather than making another provision for host communities, efforts should be made to manage the 13 per cent for the benefit of host communities whose environment have been degraded.”

The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) also disagreed with governors of the 17 Southern states over power shift. CNG noted the gang up against the North, in particular, to force a regional shift of the Presidency in 2023 by whatever means and tactics, is undemocratic. This was contained in a statement issued by the group’s spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, yesterday, in Abuja.

Suleiman said: “The North will continue to play a significant role in the affairs of the nation, it will however not allow its people and what God has blessed us with, human population, to be taken for granted.

“We categorically affirm that the North will not be stampeded or blackmailed into taking major decisions around rotating the Presidency and shall insist that only a candidate who is competent and able to unite and secure Nigeria should be President in 2023, irrespective of where he or she comes from.

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“We warn the Southern Governors and their Northern collaborators that any attempt to ride on the back of such gratuitous insults to democratic fair play and crass political opportunism, to hoist incompetent leadership on the nation in the name of rotation would not be accepted and shall be vehemently resisted.

“We specifically warn Kashim Shettima, Nasir el-Rufai and other northern collaborators, of the futility of pursuing their personal exploits for the vice presidency through this impossible battle to hand over our future and the entire North to interests that see a united and numerically superior North as a major political obstacle.” 

HOWEVER, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has described as bold and patriotic the decision of the Southern Governors’ Forum to enact laws to ban open grazing of livestock in the region, noting that it will bring to an end the lingering crisis caused by armed herdsmen.

Ortom also lauded his counterparts in Southern Nigeria for backing their May 11 Asaba Declaration against open grazing with the resolve to legally prohibit nomadic cattle rearing, a resolution that conforms with the global best practice of animal husbandry.

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The governor in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, further commended his colleagues for their position on the rotation of the Presidency between the North and South. Ortom believes that only equity, fairness and justice can strengthen the unity of Nigeria, give all citizens a sense of belonging and reduce tensions across the divide.

This is coming as governors from the Northeast yesterday converged in Taraba State for a meeting to discuss issues affecting their region. Chairman of the Northeast Governors’ Forum, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State and his colleagues in the region yesterday arrived Jalingo for the two-day meeting.

Zulum was received by the Deputy Governor of Taraba, Haruna Manu, at Danbaba Suntai Airport. Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State, Governor Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe) and Governor Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) were also in attendance. Yobe State Governor, Mai-Mala Buni, was represented by his deputy, Idi Barde.

Discussion on how to tackle growing insecurity and harness the agricultural potential in the region to boost its economy topped the agenda of the meeting.

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Speaking at the opening ceremony, Zulum said the meeting became necessary to advance regional cooperation and tackle the challenges of the region.

Earlier, the host governor, Darius Ishaku, reminded the governors that the Forum has become a strong political voice in Nigeria and urged them to always speak with one voice and support member states in solving the problems of the region.

MEANWHILE, credible sources within the ruling APC yesterday told The Guardian that President Buhari is gravely concerned about his personal integrity and what might likely become of Nigeria if anything should change the unannounced agreement between him and other elements that formed APC in 2014, especially on power shift to the South after his (Buhari) two-term ends in 2023.

It was also learnt that some notable leaders in the North are uncomfortable with ongoing developments in the country and that they weighed seriously the implications of either allowing power to move to the South for the next eight years or the country is forced to restructure and disintegrate with self-determination groups springing up and becoming more daring to security agencies.

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It was said that Northern stakeholders, which include retired military generals, are of the opinion that power shift remains the best option the north can embrace, at least for now, in the corporate interest of Nigeria.

According to the source, “the Northern elites do not want the repeat of the near-war situation, which eventually forced the military regime of ex-General Abdulsalami Abubakar to transmit power to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.”

Reacting to the resolutions of the Southern governors, the General Secretary, PDP, Southwest zone, Rahman Owokoniran, has said Northern governors have to embrace the landmark decisions made at the meeting. He said: “The thoughts are well balanced and accommodating. I, therefore, enjoin the Northern Governors’ Forum to embrace these landmark decisions. They should embrace them in the interest of the unity of our country and on the foundation of equality,
fairness, justice and progress for peaceful coexistence among all Nigeria.”

HOWEVER, the North Central Progressive Group (NCGP) has urged Presidential aspirants who would be 60 years and above by 2023 to steer clear of their quest in the region. President of the group, Comrade Benjamin Sanni, who addressed journalists in Abuja yesterday, added that the region has what it takes to govern Nigeria. He said while the region is still asking all political parties and zones to cede the 2023 Presidency to the North Central, any aspirant older than 60 at the time of the quest should forget about the Presidency in the region.

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