The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), has on Tuesday said the way out of the different positions taken by governors of the North and South on power shift in 2023 is negotiation.
In response to Southern governors’ position that power should shift to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, governors from the North and monarchs, on Monday described the call as confrontational and unconstitutional.
Many groups, including the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere, have chided the North’s governors for rejecting power shift in 2023.
But Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said rather than hold on to rigid positions, the two sections of the country should negotiate the power shift.
Spokesman of NEF Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed in a statement on Tuesday said: “We hope everyone will now sit back and do the real work of politics, by discussing what can be done, what should be done and how those things can be done.
“What is left now is for the Northern governors to engage their Southern colleagues in productive discussions on the way forward. Southern governors are saying you must bring the presidency to the South, Northern governors say read the constitution again, there is a way this is done.
“They need to find a way to bridge the gap that exists between them. Their rehtorics are splitting the the country; they are causing more mischief and this country has enough problems. We don’t need very senior politicians fighting over something that should not tear the country. Where the president comes from is not as important as the survival of Nigeria.
“What the North is saying is that, there are constitutional provisions for how presidents emerge. There is also a political process within which you can decide how it emerges. There is a law you cannot break and you can break that law by demanding that what is not in the constitution is done. Outside that, there is a political process, a very wide process and politicians know how that is done and they should do it. They should not break this country and the way they are going about it. It is going to cause a problem for the country.”
Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middlebelt Forum and Southwest Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) disagreed with Northern governors and traditional rulers position on zoning.
To Ohanaeze, it is most unconscionable that Northern governors and monarchs were busy strategising on how to retain power in 2023, instead of seeking solution to the problems confronting the country.
Afenifere endorsed the resolution of Southern governors that power should shift to the South in post Buhari era.
A legal luminary, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said the constitutions of the two major parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – have provisions for zoning in the spirit of unity and peace.
In a communique at Ibadan, Oyo State capital, at the end of its third quarter meeting, CAN urged Southwest governors to pursue true federalism to create a just and equitable federation.
The association noted the on-going legal tussle and political debates on Value Added Tax (VAT) collection and demanded that stakeholders should handle the issue dispassionately and without recourse to emotion and political manipulation.
The communique was signed by Southwest CAN Director of Legal and Public Affairs Sir Steve Alabi, Zonal Secretary Rev. Luke Bamigboye and Zonal Chairman Rev. Fr. Raphael Osegboun.
Ohanaeze said the attempt by PDP to zone its presidential ticket to the North will backfire.
The group expressed worry over the involvement of Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the spiritual leader of the Nigerian Muslims, in the fight against power rotation between the North and South.
Ohanaeze spokesman Alex Ogbonnia said the position of the North indicated a bleak future for Nigeria. He said the North should honour the agreement of 1998 between the North and the South on presidential rotation.
Ohanaeze lamented that the North had failed to resolve its problems, despite the fact that it has produced more leaders than the South.
MBF leader Dr. Pogu Bitrus chided Norther governors for rejecting zoning, saying that they have misunderstood the philosophy behind power rotation
He said: The reason behind zoning that emphasised the need for power rotation between the North and South is to avail all zones a sense of belonging in providing leadership in the country.
“We are surprised that it is now that the NGF, whose members are beneficiaries of power rotation, is kicking against power shift to the South. We are shocked that instead of harping on the bloodshed ripping across the country, the governors and traditional rulers of the so-called North are concerned with which of the zones takes over power in 2023.
“As the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the MBF resolved in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, we called for power rotation among three regions of the North, Middle Belt and South. We deplore a situation where the Middle Belt Region is completely excluded in the power sharing arrangement”.
Bitrus added: “We have been consistent in insisting that for equity and justice to hold sway, power rotation is irrevocable. We have demanded that the 2023 Presidency be zoned to the Middle Belt. In the event that such demand is unrealisable, all ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt Region are resolved to support any presidential candidate from the South.”
Reiterating its support for power shift, Afenifere, led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said it stood by the Southern governors that a person of Southern extraction should become president in 2023.
Adegboruwa maintained that the constitutions of the two major parties support zoning and power rotation.
Reacting to the issue on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, he said the framers of the constitution made provisions in the law to accommodate national cohesion through distribution of power.
Adegboruwa said Section 14(3) of the constitution stated clearly the need for zoning and power rotation to ensure national cohesion, so that there will not be dominance of a particular ethnic group or tribe.
He said: “When we examine various sections of the 1999 Constitution, it is clearly written, especially in chapter 2, that the framers of the constitution had envisaged that we were going to get to this stage in our national lives.”
“So, enough provisions have been made to accommodate national cohesion, to carry everybody along in governance and to ensure unity, equality and justice in the distribution of power and offices.
“In particular, I’ll refer to Section 14 of the 1999 constitution, in particular section 14(3), which talks about the need for a spread in the distribution of offices and composition of government, in such a way that there is no dominance of a particular state, ethnic group, or a tribe should have that dominance in terms of the sharing of power.
“So, in that regard, it is meant that we should promote national cohesion and unity and a sense of loyalty amongst all the ethnic groups and indeed, the geopolitical zone that makes the federation of Nigeria.
“Their Excellencies on their position that rotation is contrary to the constitution of Nigeria; the section they referred to in particular only talked about the mode of election, how a person can be elected as a president of Nigeria.
“But the constitution itself before that provision had envisaged that there must be that national spread and balance, in such a way that a particular ethnic group or tribe is not seen as dominating.
Adegboruwa said APC and PDP constitutions also support the principle of zoning and power rotation.
“It is not anything new, it’s been in the Nigeria political system. The PDP in Article 7 of its constitution specifically stated that it will adhere to the principle of zoning of elective offices between the various regions in Nigeria,” he said.
“And even in the APC Constitution, Article 7 also specifically says that the party will promote national unity.”
Also, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) said Northern governors were insincere and insensitive to other sections of the country.
He said: “They are right to say that rotational Presidency is not in the Constitution. That is the truth. There is no position for alternating or rotating the office of the presidency or any office in our constitution.
“However, the whole thing is been done In the interest of justice, equity, peace and mutual understanding. That is true.
The President-General of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), Goodluck Ibem, said: ”When it comes to how resources are to be allocated, Nigeria belongs to all her ethnic and national groups, but when it is election, especially that dealing with the presidency, Nigeria becomes a theatre owned by North. As a coalition, we believe in the principle of fairness, and that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
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