NEF to Nigerians on 2023: North won’t play second fiddle

The debate around who succeeds Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 continued weekend as the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) insisted democracy is a game of number and nothing stops the region from producing his successor in 2023 if it garnered majority votes.

The position came as Ondo state Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said the South is waiting for the national leader, All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to return from his medical trip abroad and speak up on his 2023 plans.

Akeredolu, who described Tinubu as our ‘capon’ (leader), said the former Lagos state governor would give the direction to people of the South.

The debate/controversy

There has been heated controversy over zoning between the ruling APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Southern Governors Forum (SOGF)  had made it abundantly clear at the end of its several meetings that the zone would produce the next president.

Although the forum which comprises the APC, PDP and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) governors, unanimously agreed via a communiqué late last week, Ebonyi state Governor David Umahi mocked his PDP colleagues that their body language was not in favour of the forum’s position.

And in a swift response, the PDP and its governors via separate statements cautioned Umahi to face his business and focus on APC, a party he defected to from the PDP.

Also, some northern leaders have spoken up on the need for the South to take another shot at the Presidency in 2003, even as some others argued that rotational presidency is not in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

For instance while Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufai backs power shift to the South in 2023, a lawmaker and former governor of Nasarawa state, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, believes the north won’t back down on its bid for the nation’s top seat in 2023.


And joining the controversy, the NEF said heaven won’t fall if another northerner emerges Buhari’s successor.

NEF Director of Publicity Hakeem Baba-Ahmed made the position known weekend while speaking at the maiden Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture Series organised by the student-wing of Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria.

 Baba-Ahmed, who said northerners were not second-class citizens of Nigeria, insisted  the north would not accept to serve as a second fiddle in 2023 when the region has the population to go to the first position and win.

He said: “The North is not for sale and northerners will surprise those waiting for them to queue up in 2023 and be given money in exchange for their votes.”

The NEF spokesman also charged the students to be proud of whom they are as northerners, challenging them not to accept being treated as second-class citizens in their own country.

Baba-Ahmed said: “We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before, whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria. We have the majority of the votes and the democracy says vote whom you want. Why should we accept second class position when we know we can buy form and contest for first class and we will win?

“Why does anybody need to threaten us and intimidate us? We will get that power, but be humble because power comes from God. We inherited leadership, being honest is not being stupid.

“There are Nigerians who believed that because the economy of the North is being crumbled; we are running away from insecurity, we are politically vulnerable, they think they can buy us for 2023; they are making a mistake.

“We are ready for this, we will consider every economic adversity, challenge, we will fix the Northern economy and we are the only one who can fix this Northern economy. For that reason, we are not for sale. We are in the process of rebuilding the North and we will rebuild the North from 2023.”

The NEF image maker further said whether a northerner occupies the office in 2023 or not, those with penchant to see the country break up won’t stop as they would continue to look for excuses.

While charging the youths to stay relevant in politics, he said: “Don’t accept second class status because you are a northerner, no northerner is a second-class citizen in this country. If we want to support a southerner, we will support a southerner because that will be in our own interest and we can decide for ourselves.”

Also speaking, a Commissioner in the Police Service Commission (PSC), Hajia Naja’atu Bala Muhammad, urged the youths to stop being intellectually lazy and selling their rights to leadership for peanuts.

Speaking on “Ethical Reorientation for Positive Attitudinal Change: An Urgent National Imperative,” the guest lecturer,  Dr. Riyahuddeen Zubair Maitama,  called for urgent ethical reorientation for positive attitudinal change among Nigerians.


However, Governor Akeredolu said the South would decide when Asiwaju Tinubu returns from his medical tour in the United Kingdom.

He spoke while featuring on ‘Arise TV Sunday Talk Show’ and monitored in Akure.  

The governor said his visit to the former lawmaker was not 2023-related, assuring the former governor would return to the country soonest. 

 On whether he would back the APC national leader on 2023, the governor said: “APC is a party. APC will decide who the candidate will be. I have said it several times. I’m going nowhere. If I leave APC, I am going back to my chamber. For me, whatever APC decides, I will follow. 

 “We went to London because it was important for us to go and see for ourselves how he’s doing. He’s the capon for us here. By the time he comes, we can make some serious decisions.” 

 The governor also spoke on the VAT controversy, saying the amendments sought by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) at the National Assembly would not sail through at the state assemblies.  

 “That’s the position of the law. The FIRS seeking for amendment is a confirmation that they don’t have the power. The amendment will be dead on arrival. Why seek an amendment to a constitution when the provision is so clear?” Akeredolu asked.  

 On what FIRS could do, he said: “You can only collect VAT on behalf of the states and hand their money over to them. You can only take percentage there for helping us to collect the money.”