Some Northern groups under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and Arewa Youths Forum (AYF) have rejected the request by Southern governors to zone the presidency to the South.
Recall that governors of the Southern states met in Lagos on Monday as a follow up to their May 11 meeting in Asaba, Delta State capital.
At the meeting, the governors requested for the Presidency to be zoned to the South in 2023 in the spirit of fairness and equity. They also agreed to enact anti-open grazing laws by September 1, amongst other things.
Reacting to these resolutions, however, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), through its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the North will not be intimidated into yielding an office that ought to be settled democratically.
It sees the decision of the Southern governors as an expression of a sentiment that could be best discussed within a political process.
“We are running a democratic government and decisions over where the next president comes from will be made by voters exercising their rights to choose which candidate best serves their interest,” NEF said.
For its part, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), in a statement by its spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, accused the Southern governors of ganging up against the North.
Describing the proposed anti-open grazing law as retrogressive, the group said it threatens the legitimate presence of pastoral communities in the South.
CNG said: “Their (Southern governors) support for treasonable felony, by the subtle endorsement of the activities of such criminal separatist forces, led by the likes of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu, by warning the nation’s security agencies against operating in the region without obtaining permission from the governor of the particular state is a matter that must be given the seriousness it deserves.
“It is ironic for such leaders of a society that delights in unleashing mayhem against fellow citizens of other regions at the slightest of pretexts, to expect the other sections of the country to trust them or any of their proteges with presidential powers.
“The Southern governors’ resolutions in that regard have further exposed a deliberate attempt to impose a contentious system of a rotational presidency that turns all democratic norms and accepted indices of our national demography on their heads; a rotation system that is clearly aimed at achieving dubious political goals; and one clearly designed to weaken the North.
“The Southern governors’ threat to impose and enforce this undemocratic leadership selection process on the North, irrespective of its advantage of numerical superiority and inherent political sophistry, is part of a calculated design to continuously weaken our region politically and pauperise it economically.
“This conspiracy is actively perpetrated with the connivance of some northerners and accommodated by the personal ambition of a few of those that present themselves as northern political leaders.
“Inevitably, the immediate trigger to the Lagos pronouncements was the collaborative assurances by the former Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima and the Kaduna State Governor Nasir Elrufai given just two days earlier.”
CNG insisted that the North would not be stampeded into making major decisions around power shift.
It added that only a candidate who is competent and can unite and secure Nigeria should be President in 2023, irrespective of where he or she comes from.
“We warn the Southern governors and their northern collaborators that any attempt to ride on the back of such gratuitous insults to democratic fair play and crass political opportunism, to hoist incompetent leadership on the nation in the name of rotation would not be accepted and shall be vehemently resisted,” CNG noted.
Furthermore, the Arewa Youths Forum (AYF), in a statement by Gambo Gujungu, said the governors’ resolutions were not only unconstitutional but “unfortunate”.
It said rather than being concerned about insecurity and economic hardship, the governors were worried about where the president would come from.
“Our advice to the southern governors is: before we talk about the 2023 elections, they should work to settle the problems ravaging their states and regions.
“It is only when some of these impasses are resolved that any one should begin to talk about the Presidency in 2023, under an atmosphere devoid of rancour, bitterness and the present pronounced division,” the group said.
AYF believes that some of the resolutions, especially the governors’ rejection of certain provisions of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), “do not engender peace, unity and fairness that the Southern governors said they want by asking for the Presidency in 2023”.