Stakeholders fear South may lose out in 2023 presidential race
• ‘Southwest is playing dangerous, selfish politics’
• ‘North deploying manipulative tendency to outsmart South’
• ‘Igbo deserve a fair share of Nigeria’
Ahead of the next presidential elections, there are concerns that the South may go into the polls playing at the mercy of the North.
This is particularly so from the likelihood that one of two major platforms, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. And what’s more intriguing, neither of the parties is yet to categorically decide on the tricky issue of zoning.
In a clear statement recently, both PDP and APC national leaders, who are from the North Central, said the presidential tickets of the parties are yet to be zoned.
Recall that the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) championed the agitation for the shift of power from the North, after the expiration of Buhari’s tenure in 2023. This was supported by other groups like the Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), Igbo apex socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze, Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, among others.
But in spite of the demands, the leadership of both APC and PDP seem unruffled as they continue to insist the presidential ticket is yet to be zoned to any particular region.
The Southern Governors were not specific on which geo-political zone of the south should produce the next president, while others believe the Southeast is most deserving of it since the zone is yet to taste power since Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1999. They insist that is the way to go for equity, fairness and justice.
While it appears Southeast stands a better chance with PDP, the number of aspirants that have been cleared to participate in the party’s presidential primary cuts across the South and North.
Those that were cleared to participate in the PDP presidential primary include former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; former Senate Presidents, Bukola Saraki and Pius Anyim; former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; Bauchi and Sokoto State Governors, Bala Mohammed and Aminu Tambuwal.
Others are Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; Publisher, Dele Momodu; former banker, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; pharmacist, Sam Ohabunwa, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom and the only female presidential aspirant, Olivia Tariela.
Also screened are the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose; a lawyer, Charles Okwudili; Chikwendu Kalu and Cosmos Ndukwe.
In APC there are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (Ogun), former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole (Ogun), Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Lagos) and the chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).
On the platform of the ruling party are the likes of Governor David Umahi (Ebonyi), Dr Chris Ngige (Anambra), Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba (Imo), Orji Uzo Kalu (Abia), Senator Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ihechukwu Dallas Chima (Abia) and Usman Iwu (Imo), from Southeast have indicated interest to succeed Buhari next year.
So far, only three persons have indicated an interest in the South-South. They are Governor Ben Ayade (Cross River), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Mr Tein Jack-Rich (Rivers).
The North Central has two; Governor Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim (Kwara). The only person from the North East is Adamu Garba II (Adamawa).
Former President Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent Governor of Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele are still being touted as possible contenders pending their declaration.
But observers insist that the South zone may go into the primaries of the major parties and the election being at the mercy of the northern political matchmakers because as things stand, the North has a firmer handle on political machineries of both the PDP and APC.
In APC, President Buhari is from the North as well as the party’s National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu. The structure of the ruling party has remained in the North since the removal of its erstwhile national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, for over two years.
In a similar vein, the current national chairman of PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu is from North-central, although he once promised to resign if the party picks its presidential candidate from the North, this is interpreted to mean that the north is not willing to concede the ticket.
Going by the growing number of presidential aspirants from the South and especially Southwest in APC, the chances of the zone looking threatened.
Most of the aspirants from Southwest have continued with their consultations and are also showing some kind of desperation, without having any consensual agenda to condense their individual resources.
Looking at the development some concerned stakeholders have urged politicians from the South, especially leaders of Southwest APC, to work in unity and desist from deploying “pull him down” political tactics, else the region risks losing the 2023 presidential ticket and the opportunity to the north.
A Presidency source confided in The Guardian that the North is actually waiting for the South, particularly Southwest, to sort out itself and do some housekeeping to present one candidate.
They also expressed the concern that the Southeast only stands a chance in either APC or PDP if there is harmony among its presidential contenders on one hand and with the Southwest.
There’s the fear that power players in the North will not back out of their plot to use former President Jonathan and Amaechi to frustrate consensus from the South.
Speaking with The Guardian in separate interactions, a writer, Professor Adebayo Williams, former Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, erstwhile vice chairman of APC in Lagos State, Fouad Oki and a Chieftain of APC from Osun State, Dr. Laid Tella, warned that the North has not really shown serious signs of willingness to relinquish power.
They urged Osinbajo, Tinubu, Fayemi, Amosun and others not to allow personal ambitions to override the chance of their region.
Commenting on the development, Professor Williams said the South can continue to behave ignorantly, while the fact remains that the north perceives governance and power as the only industry it has in Nigeria, to sustain itself.
According to him, “Southern politicians need not be told that the north is not willing to relinquish power and if at all, it is not going to be done easily. They are only waiting for Southwest to commit the biggest blunders of not forging a common front.
“It is not a moral or ethical question to ask whether the north is willing to relinquish power if the South fails to put itself together.”
The don warned, especially the Southwest political actors that Nigeria risks turning to what the Democratic Republic of Congo is today if its stakeholders refuse to face the reality between now and next year, saying, “It beats one’s imagination why the north hopes to hang onto power after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years and the South is not showing any seriousness.”
Oki said the north cannot be blamed, if after all these years those who were expected to know better politically in Yoruba land, refuse to eschew politics of selfishness. They are still playing “destructive politics” due to personal interests.
According to Oki, “If we insinuate that the North is really not interested in relinquishing power in 2023, so far, for now, the major presidential aspirants on the platform of APC are from the South and the few from the north like Governor Yahaya Bello are not the threat.
“I wonder the reason anybody will brand the vice president a traitor because he declared to contest for president. Let’s wait and see if Fayemi, Amosun and others would be branded similarly if they eventually declare to contest as Osinbajo has done?”
He predicts that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will give its ticket to the north. “Anybody doubting that should factor in the fact that out of about 15 presidential aspirants of the party, the majority are from the north. Governor Nyesome Wike and former Governor Ayo Fayose are not known to be serious contenders. I also doubt the seriousness of others from the Southeast. The South itself appears to be lackadaisical in wanting to get the presidential ticket next year.”
Shittu said what is important is for the ruling party to ensure a meritorious presidential primary election otherwise APC will be embarrassed in the general election.
He noted that whichever part of Nigeria the president comes from does not bother him as far as the person has the capacity to rule well.
But a Chieftain of APC in Osun State, Dr Laid Tella, said the Yoruba nation is in a serious crisis.
Tella said “The Southwest is not really playing politics the way it should and you will not blame the north if it decides to field a candidate. Politics is a game of numbers.”
Tella wonders whether Fayemi and Amosun are really contesting and advises them not to be used to playing spoiler roles in the Southwest.
Convener, Progressive Lawyers for Osinbajo, Dr Kayode Ajulo, said this is not the time to throw mud but to critically examine who will serve the interest of the South and the entire country, based on hand-son experience, competence and capacity.
He noted that despite the fact that Tinubu brought the Vice President into the political limelight, first by appointing him as Commissioner for Justice and attorney general in Lagos State and later nominating him as running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 election, the ties that bind Tinubu and Osinbajo are nothing but shared commitments to public service. “Certainly, those ties don’t have to break because both of them are seeking the same elective post.”
When contacted, Bola Adeyemo, the spokesman to Amosun, said he could not confirm if his boss is interested in throwing his hat into the race. “Let’s wait and see how the development unfolds.”
BUT a Southwest socio-political group, Yoruba Ronu Forum, insists that it was the turn of Igbo to rule Nigeria after Buhari.
The group warns the North against the antics of manipulating the South out of the 2023 presidential race.
President of the forum, Akin Malaolu said, “We have watched with keen interest the pace at which some northern leaders are showing off their skills with manipulative and cunning steps at cajoling the South out of rotational presidency through acts of betrayals and subterfuge and these actions are more common within the enclaves of the PDP.
“We equally see the APC following in the same style if we put our minds on the decisions reached some months ago by the Northern Governors from the camps of PDP and APC and with some of their arrogant friends, that they will not respect the rotational presidency agreement in practice.
“Going forward, we are equally happy to see so many desires and energy being expended by the totality of the southern leadership to caution the North to respect agreements and the courage to call the bluff of the North could be clearly observed. With more pressure and conversations, the North will bow to superior arguments and come back to appreciate the need for harmonious relationships in our diversity.
“However, in this political struggle that is ongoing, we have seen more interest shown so far by the Southeast leaders whose turn it is to take the mantle of leadership in the country. The spirit of togetherness that is within them and the support from everywhere in Nigeria given the time will translate into victory for a Southeast presidency of our aspirations.”
He continued: “ As leaders of thought in the Southwest, we are both in spirit and in body with all the Southeast political aspirants for the Presidency come 2023 and this will remain with us regardless of any political party. Every Igbo candidate is also our candidate.
“ From this position, we urge all Southeast presidential candidates to show absolute love for oneness and togetherness in their combined action and put behind them the era of individuality and unneeded independence amongst their ranks and files. We are also assuring our Southeastern brethren that we are talking with some friends and leaders in the Southwest and in the North on the need for them to shelve their untoward interest as it would be the turn of their zones later, for example, Southwest’s turn will be in 2039 when the North would have taken its eight years beginning from 2031 to 2039. Those who can’t wait can go into other ventures like farming, fishing, mountain climbing and many others.
“Our position to install Igbo man as president of Nigeria is a task that we must all achieve together. On Igbo Presidency we still stand.”