The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) Monday hit the southern governors on zoning of the presidency, insisting the contest should be thrown open in the 2023 general elections.
The Southern Governors’ Forum, led by Ondo state Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, had declared that the next president should come from zoning in the spirit of fairness and equity.
The position was however countered by their northern counterparts and the Northern Elders Forum.
And addressing journalists after its meeting in Abuja, CNG spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said democracy is a game of numbers and the North would therefore not be intimidated.
“Since democracy everywhere is a game of numbers, under no circumstance will the North succumb to intimidation, blackmail or threat from any quarter to abandon its collective franchise by not seeking the presidency in 2023 or any time in the future,” the CNG said.
The group further said: “Driven by deep patriotism, and commitment to the continuation of democratic politics, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) is extremely disappointed and profoundly agitated by the recent threats by the Southern Governors and elite to intimidate the North out of the presidential race.
“We find the renewed desperation by the South to threaten Northern people’s right to franchise a deliberate attempt to bastardise democracy, cause greater instability in the guise of a contentious, undemocratic power shift arrangement and therefore downright unacceptable.
“As evidence of an agenda to impose a nonexistent zoning arrangement on the North that has its root and pattern in our history, recall that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which initiated the idea of zoning, had itself literally bungled it at all subsequent elections since 1999.
“One may recall that in the 1999 elections, when the presidential slot was presumably zoned to the South West, during the PDP’s convention in Jos, Abubakar Rimi from the North and Alex Ekwueme from the South East also aspired alongside Olusegun Obasanjo in the same party, which proved the absence of any enforceable agreement.
“Similarly, Southern politicians like Rochas Okorocha contested in the same PDP against Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007, when the slot was meant for the North, as testimony that the claimed zoning arrangement was dead even before birth.
“Again, Goodluck Jonathan, a Southerner, who was supposed to hold the two-year brief following Yar’Adua’s death and allow the North to complete its remaining four year-tenure, clung unto power from 2011 to 2014 and even refused to give way in 2015 all in the same PDP.
“The PDP as well jeopardized the purported zoning arrangement when for instance, a presidential candidate of the party emerged from the same region as the national chairman of the party. Colonel Amadu Ali, a northerner from Kogi State, was national chairman between 2005 and 2008 when Yar’Adua, another Northerner, was allowed to aspire and secure the PDP presidential ticket.
“And Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo from southern Nigeria was national chairman in 2010 at the same time Jonathan, a fellow Southerner, clinched the PDP’s presidential ticket for the 2011 election.
“Worse, the consciousness appears to be eroding the southern politicians and elite that for the entire 16 years of PDP leadership, the North enjoyed only a two-year presidency and for the 22 years of the return to democracy in 1999 the North is holding power for the 7th year presently.”
The CNG spokesman said the group would not sit and watch the nation disintegrate as a result of controversies surrounding zoning, especially as it affects the North.
He said: “Against the backdrop of these concerns and observations, the CNG does not wish to remain silent or passive and allow things that affect the North and potentially cause greater democratic instability in the country to continue unchecked.
“In the unfolding political chess game, therefore, it is essential that the North anticipates and checkmates the manoeuvres of the South in all possible and likely scenarios, and obtain ascendency over the voices of threat, intimidation and blackmail sounding from the South.
“We thus make the following stand of ours known: That since democracy everywhere is a game of numbers, under no circumstance will the North succumb to intimidation, blackmail or threat from any quarter to abandon its collective franchise by not seeking the presidency in 2023 or any time in the future.
“That the northern population, which is in clear majority, will never accept any presidential candidate who is the product of an undemocratic zoning process from whichever party.
“Call the attention of the northern public to get prepared and sensitized to hold any political party, by whatever name it is called that attempts to deny northerners the right to contest the presidency as enemy of the North.
“To warn any political party that takes any step to block the window for the possible emergence of a northern presidential candidate shall be roundly rejected by the North.
“To specifically point out that no conspiracy in whatever form will stop the North from fielding a Northerner for the presidency in the PDP in 2023 irrespective of its recent body language that tends to block a northern candidacy by quickly zoning the national chairmanship position to the North which is unacceptable. The North shall definitely seek the presidential even if it holds the national chairmanship.
“We reiterate our call on Northern voters to mobilize against sole concentration on party candidates and vote any credible, transparent, capable, and competent leaders.
“The CNG has resolved to expose the faces of identified unpatriotic northern traitors who have been paid huge sums of money to market southern candidates.”
Furthermore, CNG said that it will side with the position taken by Northern Elders Forum and the Northern Governors Forum in kicking against zoning of the presidency to any region.
“The CNG, after due consultation with prominent stakeholders, leaders and elders, has categorically resolved to firmly and solidly align completely with the position taken by the Northern Elders Forum as expressed by Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed and that of the Northern Governors Forum, that zoning of elective positions is unconstitutional, undemocratic and must be jettisoned.
“For the avoidance of doubt therefore, the CNG hereby declares that the North, a major stakeholder in whatever happens in and to Nigeria, shall not be obliged to respect any zoning arrangement of any elective position in whatever party.
“As we categorically reject anything to do with any undemocratic process such as zoning, we urge all northerners to resist the antics and tactics of the self-appointed antagonists and hired cronies from the North who are today all over the place conscripted in the conspiracy to deceive northerners into abandoning what God has blessed us with; its human resources,” Suleiman said.
He added: “We will ensure that the permit of any Igbo man obeying the sit-at-home order by IPOB in the North is revoked. The Igbo in the North are not harassed, intimidated or prevented from doing their businesses in the North, so they have no reason to obey IPOB. Complying means that they’re supporting IPOB.
“For the purpose of emphasis, NEF, NGF and others are saying there should be nothing like zoning. Any obscure group that is allegedly championing the northern interest and advocating for zoning should be disregarded. Also, the presidency should not necessarily be zoned to the North. It should be open for all competent Nigerians to aspire, though we are blessed with human resources, especially voting power in the North.”