There have been growing agitations among the major tribes in Nigeria ahead of the 2023 elections and zoning of the presidency. TOPE SUNDAY writes.
Almost every two years before an election year in Nigeria, stakeholders and political leaders would renew their calls for the zoning of the presidency to their zones. The South-west, South-south and South-east geo-political zones as usual have renewed the agitations to clinch the presidential ticket come 2023. This is coming at a time that the North, the current occupant of the number seat, appears not ready to relinquish power.
In July, 2020, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) declared that the Yoruba nation was ready to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari, come 2023, and called on prominent Yoruba leaders in the All Progressives Congress (APC) to urgently address the division among its ranks to ensure that the South-west region clinches the presidential ticket of the party.
The body’s publicity secretary in Ekiti state, Prince Michael Ogungbemi, while speaking with journalists, said the zone has both the human and material resources to prosecute its ambition, and asked the political leaders of the Yoruba nation to embark on consultations with a view to clinching the presidency.
He said: “ARG had met and we had concluded that the Yoruba nation is ready to lead Nigeria. We have a blueprint that we can present to any presidential candidate that can bring better democratic governance to all Nigerians. The southwest is ready to take over. We have human and material resources. The political leaders must go on consultations. We have six geopolitical zones, South- west is just a block.
Ogungbemi specifically called on the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to lead the crusade, saying, “Tinubu must lead this block. Also, Luckily, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is the NGF chairman, is from the South-west. They must move for a united family to clamour for the presidency for the South-west and produce a unified front. If they can speak with one voice, we will actually clinch this ticket, because it is our turn.”
The Igbo nation has since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 been clamouring for presidency and, 22 years after, the agitation hasn’t materialized and two years into the next general elections, the zone has also renewed its crusade to rule Nigeria. To this end, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Coalition of South East Professionals Network in Nigeria and Diaspora (CNEPNND), in January this year, declared that the South-east stands in good stead to produce the next president in 2023.
The group, which also alleged that desperate politicians feeling threatened by the chances of Igbo to produce president are sponsoring leader of the Indigenous People of Biafran (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to scuttle the bid, condemned the activities of Kanu and appealed to South-east governors and the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to rise against the proscribed group by denouncing it wholeheartedly.
The CNEPNND national president, Prof. Madumere Chika, and national secretary, Anayo Uchemba, in a statement, stated that the region must be vigilant and not succumb to Kanu’s antics of speaking or carrying out his actions on behalf of the region.
“We wish to authoritatively say that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is not working for the interest of Ndigbo, rather he is being bankrolled by a certain Nigerian politician who is contesting the 2023 presidential elections from the South against the Igbos. We are vindicated by the findings and happenings around Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the fugitive leader of IPOB, and we call on all Ndigbo around the World to distance themselves from this Kanu and his terrorist group.
“This politician is doing this through some of his key aides to cause disaffection in Nigeria between the Igbo and other regions of our country. The politician, having realised that the general mood in the country now is the high sympathy Nigerians have for Igbo people in 2023 general elections, decided to employ this method to set Ndigbo up against Nigeria and we must not allow this,” the statement read in part.
The South-south zone whose son, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, is the immediate past president, has also joined the crusade to produce the next president on the account that the second tenure, which the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 denied them, should be completed.
The elders from the zone under the auspices of the South South Elders Forum said the zone would seek the support of Nigerians for an opportunity to complete the second tenure, which the defeat of former President Jonathan in 2015 denied them.
The national coordinator of South South Elders Forum and national publicity secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Annabs Sara-Igbe, said it would be erroneous for anyone to believe that the North could foist itself on the country beyond 2023 when President Muhammadu Buhari would have done his two terms of eight years, without any backlash or resistance from other zones, adding that “at the moment it is only the South-south and South-east that have good reasons to agitate for the presidency in 2023.”
He added that by 2023, the North would have completed two terms of eight years through Buhari after the South-west had also done eight years with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, and that in keeping with the existing unconventional agreement that the presidency should revolve between the North and South, the position should return to the South in 2023.
Though the 1999 Constitution, as altered, is silent on zoning, the agitations are now rifled as the three other zones seem to be skewing the North out of the race. But the president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Shettima Yerima, declared that the North still wants the presidency in 2023, and would not cede power to the South, stating that it irritates the entire North for some southern politicians to think that the Northerners will leave power for them in 2023.
Yerima, who spoke in a recent interview, said: “How can you think we will cede power to the South in 2023? The North still wants the presidency. The South is in charge of the economy and they have everything, so why would they want to take away the only thing we have.”
Despite the insistence of the north to retain power in 2023, Blueprint Weekend, observed that the major zones who are advocating for the 2023 presidency seem to be divided. Like in the case of South West, no fewer than three prominent sons of the zone—Asiwaju Tinubu, Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and the Ekiti state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who is also the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, reportedly are nursing the presidential ambitions.
As the ARG Publicity Secretary in Ekiti state, Prince Michael Ogungbemi, said, the zone cannot clinch the presidential ticket with a divided house, saying that: “We can’t go into that race with a divided house. Tinubu, Fayemi, Akande, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Prof Banji Akintoye, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, Chief Afe Babalola(SAN) and others must convey a meeting of the progressive politicians in the zone so that we can be United. If we have a candidate that is acceptable to both the North and the South, we will surely win. But the Yoruba nation will blame Tinubu, Fayemi and Akande if the southwest fails to clinch the ticket”.
Also, as it stands, the South-east geo-political zone in 2019 gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a northerner, their votes against the President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC.
This development angered the Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Ameachi, who was the director-general of President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation during the last election, said the people of the South-east region had lost their chance of securing the 2023 presidential slot after they voted massively against the APC and President Buhari during the February 23 presidential election.
The minister, who is from Rivers state in the South-south, said: “I don’t know what they will do now for voting against the APC. For refusing to support the APC, they cannot come to the table to demand the presidency slot.
While his assertion may work out or in the contrary, political observers are of the view that who will champion the course of the Igbo nation? Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, a former presidential candidate, and a two-time governor of Abia state, is said to be nursing the presidential ambition, while the Ebonyi state governor, Dr. Dave Umahu, who just dumped the PDP for APC last year, had denied his presidential aspiration. The governor of Imo state, Senator Hope Uzodinma, is a first-time governor. Going forward, if the zone walks the talk, observers are asking on what platform considering the Igbo nation’s affiliation with the PDP.
The South-south zone had once ruled Nigeria and is now still agitating to complete the second term of Dr. Jonathan. But are the odds that favoured Dr. Jonathan still there?