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Some chieftains of the All Progressives Congress in the southern part of the country have said power should shift to the southern part of the country in 2023 for the sake of equity and fairness.
They noted that even though zoning is not expressly stated in the constitution, it has become inevitable for peace and justice to reign in the country.
This came amid open debate between northern and southern governors over the region that should produce the next president when the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), completes his second tenure in 2023.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, a party chieftain from the South-East and Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, said zoning of the presidency was a settled matter and does not require fresh negotiation.
Okechukwu said he was not only angered by the disagreement between the northern and southern governors over the matter but was also bewildered.
He said, “Bewilderment in the sense that after over 20 years of return to democracy, we are still debating zoning as if it is not a settled matter. Zoning, to my own understanding, is a settled matter.”
Okechuckwu said it could have been more politically correct for the APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party to resolve the issue of zoning in-house “as there is no need for self-denial.”
Also, a member of the yet-to-be inaugurated Board of Trustees of the ruling party, Brig. Gen. Joseph Okoloagu (retd.), in an interview with one of our correspondents, said even though the northern governors have freedom of expression, the unity of the country might be at stake if power does not shift to the South.
He added, “It is not a threat. As an elder statesman and APC chieftain, I must say all of us have a stake in the survival of Nigeria. Anybody in the North espousing for power to remain in the North after 2023 does not want the project Nigeria to continue existing.
“I am advising that power should shift from the North to the South if they don’t want to kill the project Nigeria in 2023.”
Chieftains of the APC in Ebonyi State also kicked against the position of northern governors over power shift to the South in 2023.
The Majority Leader, Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Mr Victor Chukwu, said a country with a nascent democracy like Nigeria should not always rely on the constitution to solve some national issues.
He stated, “You cannot discuss security and unity in isolation of equity, fairness and justice. There is nothing the North would present as justification for not supporting a southerner to become the president in 2023.”
The South-East Coordinator of the APC Youth League, Okenwa Uka, said even though rotational presidency was not enshrined in the constitution, the matter on the ground was an issue of conscience.
He added, “There is this feeling in the South that the people have not been fairly treated and it is not as if we don’t have people who are qualified to be the president. Even though power is negotiated, the South should be allowed. It should not be a war-like situation; diplomacy and negotiation should be deployed to achieve this for the South.”
A former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof Obasi Igwe, said power rotation was an affirmative action intended to achieve national unity and harmony in the difficult process of state formation in a diverse society like Nigeria. He explained that it is mostly an act of statesmanship and morality rather than politics and legality.
He added, “Since 1999, all presidents, including Buhari, have been beneficiaries. If they want to change the goalpost midway and refuse to extend the same to politically-disadvantaged states or groups, the South should insist.
“Northern leaders, governors, etc have been ignoring the spirit of unity and holding divisive meetings, issuing peremptory communiqué based on logic or mutual consideration. Now that the South has woken up, there should be no relenting. Power must shift to a southerner.”
In the South-South, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC in Cross River State, Senator Matthew Mbu, said the position taken by the northern governors was unfortunate as it could undermine the unity of the APC and the country.
He added, “Justice demands that if the North, under President Buhari, has had it for eight years, it is only fair that it should come to the South. Even at that, it shouldn’t just be any southerner. They should look for the best southerner, a statesman who will represent the interest of the country at large.”
A former Senate Leader and APC stalwart, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said the public position of the northern governors was all politics and that they had merely raised the stakes for the inevitable negotiations.
He added, “There is an underlying understanding that the presidency should come to the South and I trust that the northern governors who have a compelling stake in the unity of the country will abide by that understanding.”
A former military governor of Ogun and Rivers states and chairman of APC Elders Forum in Akwa Ibom State, Group Capt. Sam Ewang (retd.), also said although rotational presidency is not in the constitution, power should shift to the South for peace and justice.
He said, “There is no constitutional provision that power must shift to the South, but it has been a conventional practice, and for me I will encourage that convention to continue for the sake of peace and justice.”
A former Cross River State Chairman of the APC, John Ochala, also said the northern governors were being too clever by half over their position that rotation of presidency between the North and the South was not in the constitution.
He said, “The essence of power shift or rotation is for all the regions to have a sense of belonging. When the President finishes his second tenure, it is only logical, right, just, equitable, reasonable and fair for presidential powers to shift to the South. Anything short of that may lead to political quagmire.”
Also, the National Coordinator of the newly inaugurated Progressive Patriots Initiative, Athanasius Okon, said the people who said power shift is not constitutional were right because it is not written in the constitution. He added that it is only by convention that power shift could be guaranteed.
“In the case of rotation, it is by convention and in that case, when it’s your turn today it is my turn tomorrow so that there will be no acrimony and everybody will be happy at the end of the day,” he added.
In the South-West, the immediate past chairman of APC in Ondo State, Mr Isaac Kekemeke, said the position of the southern governors did not contravene any part of the constitution, noting that if a particular region or tribe holds onto the highest office in the land, it offends the spirit and letters of the constitution.
He added, “The southern governors are right and their view is consistent with the spirit of the constitution and the need to promote the unity, peace and stability of Nigeria.”
Similarly, a former APC governorship aspirant and Pro-Chancellor/Chairman Governing Council of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Dr Tunji Abayomi, said the request of the southern governors was not out of place for the sake of fairness and justice.
He added, “There is no provision in the constitution for zoning, so the northern governors are correct, but the constitution speaks about unity, fairness, justice, cohesion, national interest and avoidance of dominance by one group. The constitution cannot provide for everything. What the constitution expects is that Nigeria will be led by sensible men and women.”
An ex-acting chairman of the APC in Osun State, Mr Lowo Adebiyi, said zoning might not be constitutional but in the spirit of fairness, justice and Federal Character, the presidency should be zoned to the south.
He added, “With the economic, security and unemployment challenges we have now, the best thing is to allow the best man from anywhere to be president to save us from this crisis but in the spirit of fairness, the presidency should come to the South in 2023.”
A chieftain of the APC in Ogun State and former deputy governor of the state, Senator Gbenga Kaka, also warned against any attempt by the party leaders to change the zoning agreement.
Kaka said, “If within the understanding of the parties they agreed that the position should be rotated between the South and the North, I see no reason why some people will try to play smart. They are no longer talking of the Federal Character.
“They now want 100 per cent of everything and by the time we have monopoly by a particular section marginalising the whole system, the height of injustice will naturally make peace elusive for us.”
Meanwhile, the Delta State Chairman of the APC, Mr Jones Erue, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the matter should be decided by political parties and not governors. He added that if governors had performed well, people would have no difficulty relying on their decision.
He added, “The southern governors only created controversy, not that they care about the welfare of the people. Hunger does not know North or South. I was once robbed in Lagos, the armed robbers did not care about region; they were united in purpose.
“Some people should not eat our common prosperity and when it comes to critical issues about governance, they resort to sentiment, support of their religion and region.
“It does not matter where you come from, when someone wants to be president, let him tell us what he has done, what he can do and what he will do and not on regional sentiment.”
Also, the Ondo State chairman of the party, Mr Ade Adetimehin, said the northern governors never said they wanted the presidency to remain in the North but that politics is a game of numbers.
He added, “I think what they meant was that governors in the South should lobby them and as you know, in politics you lobby for whatever you want. In my view, they are on the same page. I think the southern governors should lobby the northern governors and get their consent.”
The chairman of APC in Enugu State, Dr Ben Nwoye, also said what Nigeria needed at this time was a president that could fix the country.
“North, South, East, West or Centre, we need a president that can fix this country,” he added.