By Chukwudi Nweje, Lagos and Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Pan Yoruba socio- political organisation, Afenifere, pan Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Yoruba Council of Elders and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF) have lashed out at Yobe State governor, Mai Bala Buni over a statement credited to him that the All Progressives Congress (APC), had yet to zone its political offices for 2023.
Buni, who is Chairman APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) was quoted in a statement signed by his Director General, Press and Media Affairs, Mamman Mohammed in Damaturu, on Wednesday, as saying that reports that the presidential slot was zoned to the South were “false, baseless and unfounded.”
The APC was reported to also pooh-poohed the list on the zoning of party offices in circulation ahead of its national convention, and described it as fake news.
However, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, YCE, MBF and Pan Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF) have insisted that all the political parties should zone their presidential ticket to the south in 2023.
The groups insisted that parties that fail to present Southerners as presidential candidates would jettison votes from the South.
Afenifere National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, said: “Our position is that the presidency should go to the South in 2023. In fact, we have said that all political parties should zone their presidential ticket to the South. That remains our position.”
However, Publicity Secretary of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Alex Ogbonnia, said the political parties should specifically zone their presidential ticket to the South East for equity, justice and fair play.
Ogbonnia further said that Nigeria currently sits in “a precarious balance” and that Gov Buni’s assertion that the presidential ticket has not been zoned further threatened the peace and continued corporate existence of Nigeria.
He said: “Every Nigerian knows it is the turn of the South East to produce the President of Nigeria in 2023. It was done in 1999 when both political parties zoned their presidential ticket to the South West. In 2007, President Olusegun Obasanjo ensured that the presidency went back to the North and the major political parties zoned their presidential tickets to the North.”
The Ohaneze Publicity Secretary further said that 2023 is a moral burden on the entire country, which can only be assuaged if the presidency is given to the South East.
He added: “There are two kinds of people in this country – those who want Nigeria to remain one and those who want it to disintegrate. President Muhammadu Buhari must take the bull by the horns, he is the leader of the APC and he should ensure that the party’s presidential ticket is zoned to the South East. The President should replicate what President Obasanjo did in 2007 and ensure that power returns to the South East.
According to Ogbonnia, “For peace, justice and equity to reign and for the continued peaceful corporate existence of Nigeria, the political parties should zone their presidential ticket to the South East because we didn’t know for how long we can continue to hold back these young boys.”
The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) also insisted that the Southern part of Nigeria must be allowed to produce the president of the country in 2023, irrespective of political affiliations, in a bid to ensure peace, stability, progress and development for the nation.
Secretary-General of the council, Dr. Kunle Olajide, who made the disclosure in a brief telephone interview with Saturday Sun on Friday, noted that though the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria does not recognise zoning, “morally, Nigerians have accepted the zoning because so many Nigerians want stability, progress, and development of the country.
“This also goes with the fact that Nigerians did not take part in the making of the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution was written by a few people, during the military regime of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, to give us the so-called constitution. In Nigeria, we don’t have our constitution yet. The 1999 Constitution does not accommodate zoning.
“But it is only by zoning that the progress and peace of Nigeria can be guaranteed. The geographical south must be recognised and rotating political power among the two zones – North and South, will guarantee stability, progress and development for Nigeria.
“So, a new constitution will be a panacea to peace and stability in Nigeria. We need people’s constitution in Nigeria that we would all sit and write, and as well agree how we want to live together. We are different people. This must be recognised and that is the reality of Nigeria. We are different people and we must sit down together and discuss the facts of our union in a people federal constitution.
“So, for me, any Nigerian who appears not to recognise zoning, sharing of political positions and political powers must be living in grand delusion. Though I am not desperate about the 2023 presidency and YCE is not a political party, the South must produce the president in 2023 for peace and stability of this nation. Then, the three zones in the South will sort it out among themselves who they will present.
Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), had at a meeting on Thursday, January 13, in Abuja, also called on all political parties in Nigeria to zone their presidential tickets to the south.the southern and Middle Belt leaders also warned that any political party that does not zone its presidential ticket to the South should not expect support from the four regions that constitute the body. The meeting, held under the chairmanship of Dr Edwin Clark and attended by Afenifere acting leader, Ayo Adebanjo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide President General, Prof George Obiozor, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President of the Middle Belt Forum and Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF) noted that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power.
It noted: “The northern part of the country would have fully enjoyed the Office of the Presidency of the country for the full statutory period of eight years by 2023, hence, the presidency should rotate to the South.” They noted that the extant 1999 Constitution and structure of Nigeria are grossly flawed and lopsided, and demanded the fundamental restructuring of the country by enacting a new Constitution that would enthrone equity, fairness and justice.