SEVERAL southern socio-cultural groups have warned the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to abandon plans to field a candidate of northern extraction for the presidency come 2023 as it breaches an informal rotation agreement.
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.
However, over the last week, President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet have stepped up attacks against vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo, seen as an attempt to incapacitate him and prevent him from running in 2023. There has also been a systematic stripping of his powers with the Economic Management Team which he chairs being replaced with an Economic Advisory Council that will report directly to President Buhari.
Afenifere chairman Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Pan Niger Delta Forum chairman Chief Edwin Clark and a former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, have all warned the ACF to desist from heating up the polity with their plans. Other southern pan-social groups including the Yoruba Council of Elders, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) have also queried the motives behind the actions of President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet.
They claim that the actions are designed to reduce the vice president’s influence ahead of the 2023 presidential election. About two months ago, 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 Nigeria have a competent leader..
While Chief Adebanjo warned that the north should not be trusted, Chief Clark and the IYC said it would only be right for power to return to the south at the expiration of President Buhari’s tenure. He added that the southeast in particular should produce Nigeria’s next president.
Chief Clark 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 southeast will have it.”
IYC president 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 for the 2023 presidential election. Chief Ezeife added that the southeast would lobby other regions to support its bid to land power in 2023, adding that if all its efforts failed, the region would know that Ndigbo were no longer wanted in Nigeria.
YCE general secretary Dr Kunle Olajide, added: “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 and 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.”
Ohanaeze Ndigbo added that the actions of the president, under the influence of a Fulani cabal, against the wishes of the majority of Nigerians did not come to them as a surprise. It 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.