The South East Should Have Presidency in 2023 — Adebanjo, Yakassai, Clark

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AS race for the 2023 Presidency begins in earnest, some prominent Nigerians have canvassed power shift to the South.

Those who took the position include elder statesmen, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, in Kano State, Brig-General Idris Dambazzau, retd, and National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd.

Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Chief Bode George, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Chief Supo Shonibare and Senator Femi Okorounmu also spoke in like manner.

In fact, most of the leaders in the South-South contended that the Presidency should be narrowed to the South-East which, according to them, has never had a taste of the office.

Although Alhaji Yakassai noted that zoning of the Presidency to any particular region of the country was at the discretion of political parties, he said the South should be given the opportunity to produce the next President, since the North would have concluded its eight years run in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

His words: “Rotation or zoning is not sacrosanct; it is a party’s arrangement among members because it is not in the Nigerian constitution. So it is up to members of the party to decide where the Presidential candidate should come from.

“The APC produced Buhari for second term and by the end of the term, he has completed eight years. So it is ideal for the party to respect and stick to the zoning arrangement on ground and look for a presidential candidate from the South.

“The PDP fielded Atiku Abubakar as its presidential candidate in 2019. So, I don’t know what will happen to the PDP and other parties.”

Speaking in a similar vein, Brig. Gen. Idris Bello Dambazzau, retd, said the Presidency should go to the South in 2023, based on zoning arrangements in the political parties.

“It depends on the political parties. You know the parties have zoning arrangements. But for the APC, since the North-West produced the President this time around, next is supposed to be the South.

“South-West should produce the next president because APC government was an alliance of North-West, North-East, South-West and part of Middle-Belt. So, the Vice President should automatically be next APC candidate.

“For the PDP, since there is zoning, they should zone theirs to maybe South, Atiku’s running mate was from South-East. So going by zoning arrangement, the South (South-West or South-East) is supposed to produce the next president. And then the Vice President should now come from the North-East or North-Central.”

On the other hand, another prominent Northern leader, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said he was more concerned about competence than zoning of the presidency.

“Frankly speaking, if you have read what I have been saying since I have been in politics in Nigeria since 1978-79, this question would not have arisen. Because I definitely have a viewpoint, I have explained that viewpoint, I see no reason I should continue to repeat myself for almost 30 to 40 years.

“The question should be directed to those who believe they can produce leaders by simply shifting from one place to another or from one quarter to another and do not want to talk about ideology or principles which under-rate their stance as far as political matters are concerned.

“I want to know, what are the advantages to be derived by having a president or the head of government from one part of the country or another? I believe Nigeria should be ruled by a competent Nigerian, irrespective of his tribe, region or religion,” he averred.

President of the Yoruba World Congress, YWC, Professor Banji Akintoye, shared Junaid’s views. “You will be surprised by my answer; I don’t particularly care where the President comes from or who he is,” he said.

On his part, Afenifere chieftain, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, said: “It should go to the South, that is not debatable. Let us not deceive ourselves, the South should have it and when it comes to the South, the question we will now ask is where should we go from there?

“We need to review the constitution because the constitution is awkward. I don’t want anyone to divert my attention. I am glad that Olusegun Obasanjo and others have realized what I have been talking about. Let us agree to mount pressure on Buhari to restructure the country now. That is the way forward.”

Similarly, former Transport Minister and PDP chieftain, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said: “As far as I am concerned, what will make Nigeria work is to ensure the Presidency goes round the country.

“As it is now, the South-East is yet to be allowed to produce a President but this is not compulsory because the political parties have a right to do what they want.

“I think, in all fairness, we should allow the South-East to produce the President but if that is not possible by the calculation of the political parties, they should ensure that justice and fairness dominate what they want to do in terms of zoning the presidency. I belong to the PDP and I believe the PDP will allow justice and fair play to play out.”

On his part, Chief Supo Shonibare, another Afenifere stalwart, said zoning the presidency to the South is the ideal thing but was quick to state that there is the need for restructuring of the country.

He said: “What is really critical is restructuring. We have had Southern Presidents so there’s nothing novel about another one emerging but we are also witnesses to the fact that this has not enabled us achieve the necessary growth in development or addressed security issues, nor a solution to our diverse economic, security and agitation for devolution and self- rule.”

Former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George, also supported the clamour that power should shift to the South.

He said: “If the North has spent eight years, by the zoning principle and for the purpose of oneness, for equity and justice, it should come to the South. But that is still subject to a lot of discussions among the party hierarchy, elders and leaders of the parties to keep the country one.

“If it goes that way, the only thing to do is to look into the constitution because restructuring is a must. It will douse a lot of tension in the country and President Buhari has nothing to lose. The constitutional conference has submitted its report, what is wrong in getting that report, implementing it and letting us move forward?

“So, we need to restructure if we must move forward but for fairness and equity, the presidency should return to the South.”

Also, former National Secretary of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu, said he was not interested in where the presidency is zoned.

His words: “My personal opinion is that I am not interested in where the presidency is zoned except there is restructuring of the country. All that is needed is restructuring of the country.”

In the same vein, Chief Edwin Clark, said: “Nigeria’s unity demands that North and South should rotate the office of president and after President Buhari serves his eight years, presidency should return to the South and specifically go to the South-East zone in 2023.

“Some people argue that they want people who are intelligent, who have integrity and worthy personality, I dare say that such people are not scarce in Nigeria, whether in North-East, North-West, North-Central, South-West, South-South and South-East.

“So also the Presidency should not remain in the North-West, it should also go to North-Central and North-East, similarly in the South, it should not be South-West, South-South and South-East

“Therefore, anybody who believes in the unity of this country knows its sustenance depends on quality leadership and ability of all sections of the country to aspire to any position in the country.”

PANDEF Chairman, Nkanga said: “Our position is that if there is arrangement of North and South, we should keep to it. If it is coming to the South, it should be South-East zone. But above all, we are calling for restructuring.

“If there is restructur-ing, things will go well in this country, look at what they did to us in Ghana, if the country has been restructured, things will not be going this way, they will not be taking us for granted. At least, let us restruc-ture this country to make things work. President Buhari should sign the Electoral Bill so that we can hold proper election in this country. In 2019, he won power, not election.

“Other than restructur-ing the country, we will continue to be a laughing stock and a beggar nation. I am not really much concerned about where presidency goes, we are not so much concerned but let there be restructuring.”

Second vice chairman, Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, Pere of Akugbene-Mein King-dom, Delta State, HRM Luke, Kalanama VIII, stated in his contribution: “In my own view which is also an advisory one, for the sake of honesty, sincerity and stability, power should move to the South in 2023.

“When it gets to the South, the South-East, which is also part of the country, should have a bite of the presidency.

“After South-East does its two tenures, the ideal thing, of course, is that power should go back to the North. Again, when power gets to the North, the North-East has never produced any president in the history of this country. Therefore, it should be given same opportunity.

“So for the sake of stability and equity, power should be rotated to Southern Nigeria in 2023 and if they want to micro-zone, they should give opportunity to the South-East. Our role as traditional rulers is to advise the government and I have played my advisory role in the interest of Nigeria.”

National Coordinator, South-South Elders Forum, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said: “The South-South is most respectfully demanding that the 2023 Presidency should be zoned to the South-South geo-political zone for us to complete our second tenure in the Presidency.

“Nigeria will be 60 years in the next few months and the South-South zone that contributes greatly to the nation’s wealth and neatness has only ruled the country for five and half years. We are, therefore, asking for at least our second tenure in the Presidency.

Former Delta State governorship aspirant under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, who slightly differed from others, said: “As I keep saying, it is not region or rotation that is Nigeria’s problem. With the stage we are now, what Nigeria needs is leadership, not North or South rotational issue.

“We need to move on, we need leadership with capability and capacity. We need leadership that can diversify the economy from oil economy to technology-driven digital economy.

“I do not care where that president will come from, but what I care about is a modern, secular economy powered by true definition of democracy where federal character and rational government will be replaced by merit and performance. We need leadership devoid of religion, ethnicity, tribalism and corruption.”

APC chieftain in Cross River State, Chief Utum Eteng, agreed with him, saying: “If the president is to come from the South, I will encourage and support its coming to the South-South because Dr Goodluck Jonathan only served out late Musa Yar’Adua’s tenure and did just one original tenure of four years.

“We are the chicken that lays the golden eggs because Jonathan did five years only, I would really encourage it to be given the South -South again, if not, it should go to the North in all fairness.

“But the South-West has done eight years in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and so when you add that to the six years, that is 14 years, which means the South has had a fair share because when you look at the North, they could not complete their tenure under Yar’Adua, who did not complete his term and now Buhari is going to complete eight years.

“To be candid, it should go to the North in all fairness to balance the equation. As for the South-East, they are not good risk takers. They are not in one house, they are not united, if they must present anyone at all, they must be able to do that in one voice.

“It seems they have already keyed into the PDP to get the ticket, but even at that, they have a lot to do. I must tell you from the depth of my mind, the South-East has a lot to do, they must be able to assure and guarantee the people in the South-South that they will be carried along if they must attempt to take over in 2023. This a major challenge for whoever they might want to present.

“From the depth of my heart, the APC can either take it to the South- South or the North, the South-East is already aligning with the PDP.”

Former Presidential aspirant under the platform of the APC, Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, however, faulted Onuesoke and Eteng.

He said: “The issue of Presidency is very dear to every component part of the country. Just as you have asked me which part of the country should produce the 2023 presidency, should it be North or South? I think we do not need forensic expert to tell us. If we are sincere to ourselves, it is the turn of the South to produce it.

“Not just South, but the turn of the South-East. The North has had its fair share as well as the South-West if we must move forward. There must be equity and justice as Nigeria belongs to all of us, Nigerians.

“No section should be denied or made to feel inferior. The North has over tasted the leadership, therefore, they should excuse themselves. Similar-ly, the South-West has had their fair share, they should also give way to others.

“Every other component should rally round the South- East come 2023, as no section should monopo-lise the seat of power.”

Credit: Vanguard