2023: Southern leaders warn North against dumping zoning
by Olusola Fabiyi, Femi Makinde, Mudiaga Affe, Tunde Ajaja and Alexander Okere
The controversy over the alleged witch-hunt of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo ahead of the 2023 Presidency by a pro-North group in the Presidency is far from over as prominent leaders of the South-West, South-South and South-East have lent their voices to the matter.
They are a leader of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark; and a former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
They spoke just as other groups from the South also queried the motive behind the cabal’s action. They are the Yoruba Council of Elders, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Ijaw Youth Congress
President Muhammadu Buhari during week replaced the Economic Management Team headed by Osinbajo with the Economic Advisory Council.
The seven-member EAC headed by Prof Doyin Salami is to report directly to the President. There are also reports Osinbajo has been directed to henceforth seek clarifications before taking major decision on the agencies he supervises.
The moves have been seen by many as actions deliberately taken by the cabal to reduce the influence of the VP ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
This is coming barely two months after Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State said there was a need for the country to drop zoning in future elections, including the 2023 presidency to enable the country to have a competent leader..
While Adebanjo warned that the North should not be trusted, Clark and the IYC said it would only be right for power to return to the South at the expiration of Buhari’s tenure.
Clark, who said he was not going to comment on any issue about Osinbajo, said, “I do not want to talk about the Vice President because he has been dancing to their tune. All I want to say is that in 2023, the South-East will have it. However, when I am ready to speak on it, I will let you know.”
Speaking along the same line, the President of the IYC, Mr Eric Omare, said going by an unwritten power rotational agreement between the North and the South, it would be dishonourable for northern leaders to attempt to project one of theirs own for the 2023 presidential election.
Ezeife said the South-East would lobby other regions to support its bid to land power in 2023. He, however, said if all its efforts failed, the region would know that Igbo were no longer wanted in Nigeria.
He said, “A newspaper quoted me wrongly that I threatened that Nigeria must be given Igbo President in 2023, but there was nothing like that. We shouldn’t use threat; we should employ lobbying as our approach. It is not just a matter of what we like, we would do what it takes to get power.
“We would organise ourselves in Igboland, make sure that it is only one person that we would bring out. Then, we would lobby, and not threaten, all the other ethnic groups to look at our case. We know that when they see our case, it is a must that an Igbo person would become President.
“If we do all that and we fail, then we would know we are not wanted in Nigeria anymore. If in 2023 they don’t encourage Igbo to become the President of Nigeria, then you don’t want Igbo as citizens of Nigeria and it should not surprise you if they feel pushed away to join IPOB.”
On the alleged sidelining of Osinbajo, Ezeife said in the kind of presidential system run by Nigeria, all executive powers derived their root from the Presidency.
He said, “Therefore, the President may need to give his consent to certain actions and if he does, that doesn’t mean he’s running down that office. I think concluding that way is not fair.”
Like Clark, Omare stated that it would be the turn of the South-East to produce the next President, adding that it was time for the South to allow the East to produce their candidate.
He said, “I think it would be too early to make a categorical statement as to whether the North wants to deny the South power in 2023 or not at this point.
“However, it suffices to say that by 2023, based on the unwritten power rotational arrangement, it would be the turn of the South to produce the President of Nigeria.
“It is on record that northern leaders have been strong advocates of power rotation; hence it would be most dishonourable and unpatriotic for northern leaders to attempt to deny the South power in 2023. In any case, no particular section of the country has the power to determine who becomes President without the support of the other section.
“Only the North cannot produce the President without the support of the South. Furthermore, even in the South, the point must be made that it is the turn of the South-East to produce the President in 2023.
“If the South wants justice from the North, those of us from the South must also be fair to each other by conceding power to the South-East in 2023 to give them a sense of belonging.”
Adebanjo, who said he would speak on the matter in due time, simply noted, “I have said it before, but they would not listen. Do you just know that it is their (northerners) plot? Did not trust all these people.”
Yoruba elders warn against scuttling rotation
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, in an interview with one of our correspondents warned against scuttling the rotation of Presidency between the North and South.
Olajide, who said Osinbajo’s exclusion from the newly formed EAC looked suspicious, said it would be unfair for the North to hold on to power beyond 2023.
The YCE chief said he was one of the people who believed that the combination of Buhari and Osinbajo was okay but expressed surprise at what is happening.
He said, “I want to let everybody know that we have yet to build a nation out of Nigeria and this is not the time to jettison the rotation arrangement between the North and South.
“There is heavy mutual suspicion in the country. People are suspicious of the Fulani and their domineering nature, and if they don’t want to cause confusion, they should allow the rotation between the North and South to continue until we build a nation out of Nigeria.”
He said North should be cautioned against any statement that could further trigger suspicion.
Olajide said the statement attributed to a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, that Nigeria needed a competent President irrespective of their region in 2023 showed what some northern politicians were planning.
Fulani cabal plotting to remain in power –Ohanaeze
Pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, told Saturday PUNCH that the actions of the President, allegedly under the influence of a Fulani cabal, against the wishes of the majority of Nigerians did not come to them as a surprise.
The group also noted that though the National Assembly ought to have risen to its responsibility of checking the excesses of the executive arm, its leaders had come under the control of the Presidency.
Spokesman for the organisation, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, said, “If they (cabal) could dismantle the judicial system by removing a former chief justice of the nation, what else will they not do? Is it the Vice President? They can do anything with him.
“The rule of law has faded into oblivion; we have been politically handcuffed. There is a Fulani cabal that wants to be at the helms of affairs by hook or by crook.”
We’ll decide on power rotation when the time is ripe – PDP
In its reaction, the Peoples Democratic Party said it was too early for it to be talking about power rotation, adding that it was more focused to retrieve its alleged 2019 stolen mandate.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke to one of our correspondents, however, said the party would take a position that would be in the interest of Nigerians in 2023.
He said the PDP would pursue its case at the Supreme Court against Buhari’s declaration as the winner of the 2019 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission with vigour.
He argued that there was no way there would be a just society where ‘‘injustice and suppression of people’s rights reign.’’
He said, ‘‘It is too early to be talking about the 2023 general elections when we are still packing the mess of 2019. We are in court to retrieve our stolen mandate and you are asking us about 2023. We will talk about it when the time is ripe.
“We should all be worried about the level of decadence in the nation. None of us can even predict what will happen tomorrow, yet we are talking about 2023. Let us pray that we will have a country then before we start talking about power, which belongs to God Almighty.’’
We are focusing on governance now, not 2023 – APC
In its reaction, the All Progressives Congress said it was not interested in issues like power rotation, elections and 2023.
It also said it had asked its members to focus on governance, not on politics.
The ruling party said it had taken the decision as a policy.
Spokesman for the party, Mr Lanre Issa-Onilu, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said it would be too early for anyone to be discussing politics now.
He said, “As a matter of policy, we are focused on governance now. We have asked our members, not to waste energy on issues like elections, power rotation and 2023. Our focus is on governance.”