REGIONAL body the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has rejected the position of the Southern Governors Forum that the south should produce the next president of Nigeria come 2023 saying there should be no automatic rotation.
Although not constitutional, Nigeria’s component parts have a gentleman’s agreement that the presidency will rotate between the north and the south of the country. President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure will end in 2023 and being a Fulani northern Muslim, it is expected that the next president will come from southern Nigeria.
Yesterday, the Southern Governors Forum met in Lagos and the 17 of them unanimously agreed that the next president should emerge from the south. However, the NEF rejected this stance, with Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, its director of publicity and advocacy pointing out that the idea that northern Nigeria would be indirectly threatened or intimidated or blackmailed into yielding an office which ought to be settled democratically is not acceptable.
Dr Baba-Ahmed said: “We are running a democratic government and decisions over where the next president comes from are basically decisions that will be made by voters exercising their rights to choose which candidate best serves their interest.”
He explained that the southern governors come from the two dominant parties the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party, so should have some influence in them. According to Baba-Ahmed, the way it should be done was that the southern governors should influence their parties to zone the presidency to southern states and then work to convince Nigerian voters from all parts of the country to vote for that candidate.
Baba-Ahmed opined that the democratic rights of Nigerian citizens to vote for a candidate cannot be snatched by threats or intimidation, stressing that politicians were becoming very lazy to think they will be given leadership in a manner that suggests an ultimatum. He added that the NEF and other notable personalities said there was no way northern Nigeria could be intimated, insisting that democracy had its tenets which must be respected.
Governors who attended the meeting included the chairman of the forum Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Douye Diri of Bayelsa, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu and Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom. While the governors of Anambra and Cross River were absent, those of Edo, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi states were represented by their deputies.
Socio-cultural groups Afenifere and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (Pandef) have expressed total support for the resolution of the southern governors that the presidency must be ceded to the south in 2023. Acting Afenifere leader Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said the rotation of the presidency between the north and the south as advocated by the southern governors was the right thing to do in a democracy to give every section of the country a sense of belonging.
Pandef publicity secretary, Ken Robinson, added that the decision of the southern governors was received with elation as it represented what his organisation stood for. He said that other ethnic organisations such as Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and the Middle Belt Forum had in the past clamoured for power shift from the north to the south.