Tony Osauzo, Benin
Former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Roland Owie, has brought a new dimension to the debate over which part of the country should produce the next President when President Muhammadu Buhari finishes his second term in 2023, saying that power should remain in the North at least for another four years to ensure equity and fairness.
Besides, he canvassed that when power eventually shifts to the South, the Presidency should be ceded to the South East region of the country.
Owie who stated this while speaking to journalists in Benin, explained that his position is hinged on the fact that the South has had more time at the presidency than the North since 1999 as a result of the sudden death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the decision of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest after he finished the tenure of Yar’Adua against his advice.
“The problem we have in Nigeria particularly those of us from the southern part is that we are sometimes not realistic and we forget that if we are going to equity, we must go with clean hands.
“Presidency came from South West with Olusegun Obasanjo even though he lost his unit, he lost his booth, he lost his local government and lost the entire zone but he became President of Nigeria and did eight years even though he was trying to take a third term. Then the thing shifted to the North and produced Yar’Adua, one of the best presidents Nigeria has ever had – may his soul rest in peace.
“The man who agreed that his election was flawed, and brought peace to Niger Delta died and the vice president took over.
“You can see the wisdom of Abacha in his constitution that was not used where he made provision for a second vice president from the zone that produces the president. If we had adopted that constitution, it means when Yar’Adua died, the vice president from his zone would have taken over; we would not have been where we are today.
“Yar’Adua died and Jonathan took over and finished the remaining years in the tenure and took another four years. If there were no greedy leaders, I knew what I said in our South South leaders meeting that Jonathan should allow somebody from the North run for the presidency, age is on his side and that when it rotates back to the South-South, he can still run but those who felt that they owned PDP, who were not there when PDP was formed, lured the man and pushed him to go for a third term.
“Today, when you calculate after Buhari’s tenure expires in 2023, the North will have four years, 244 days to complete their own quota of the presidency. So, it is not turn of the South yet. When there is no justice, there can’t be peace.
“So, the slot for 2023 is for the North and when the thing finishes, the presidency will come to the South and then should go to South-East”, Senator Owie said.
Giving reason why the presidency should be ceded to the South-East when it rotates to the South the former Senate Chief Whip said: “It is the south easterners that are making this country remain united. Go to every part of the 36 states of the federation, after the indigenes, the next most populated group are the Igbo. When presidency comes back to the south, it should go to South East, not South West, not South-South.
“However, the only thing we are going to talk about is that power should now return to the South after the next four years. So whichever party is fielding a candidate in 2023, that candidate must be willing and ready to sign that he will do four years and then the 244 days can be sorted out through a doctrine of necessity probably by compensating them with appointments”.
According to Senator Owie, as far back as 1983, there was already plan that the presidency should go to the South-East after the second term of Alhaji Shehu Shagari before the military truncated the Second Republic.
“Our second generation founding fathers, late Alex Ekweme and co, after all the hustle, finally agreed on the six zonal arrangement and the civilian regime started in 1999. Quite frankly, I was the Edo State coordinator for Ekweme ahead of the PDP presidential primaries. It was clear power was going to shift to the East because when Shagari came in 1979 and did four years and he came in 1983, it was not negotiable that by the time he finished his second term, the presidency will go to the South, and go to the South East and by all standard, everybody was looking up to late Ekweme that he would take that slot but unfortunately, the evil carriers, the military came and truncated that regime in 1984 and so all those plans could not materialise.
”A civilian regime again came in 1999 and it was clear that the thing will start from the South and for me, I supported that it would go to South East but at the end of the day, my mentor, a man I respect, President Ibrahim Babangida and some others thought otherwise.
“When myself and late Chuba Okadigbo visited Ibrahim Babangida in the build up to that election, he made a veil reference about the presidency going to South West one night and I went back to him for clarification and he said yes, it had to go to South West.
“He said: ‘Roland, it is not my fault, for me I need to equalise June 12; God knows my heart, the buck stops at my table, they say June 12 was annulled, I took responsibility but only God knows what happened; the underneath things that happened’; by the time he told me that, I pitied him,” Owie said.