The southern governors had at their meeting in Enugu last Thursday reaffirmed the position, which they adopted during their meeting in Asaba, Delta State, earlier in the year.
But some Arewa leaders, who spoke with The Guardian on the development, declared the move as unconstitutional, saying Nigerians should not allow ethnic or regional considerations to determine who becomes the president during 2023 general election. They argued that it was the adoption of such parochial parameters as basis for selection in other sectors of the country that have retarded Nigeria’s progress.
Former Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Elder Anthony Sani and National President of the Arewa Youths for Development and Progress (AYDP), Danjuma Sarki, who spoke in Kaduna, said the call by the southern governors must not be taken seriously by Nigerians if the country must move forward after the 2023 general election.
Speaking in an interview, Sani said: “The constitution allows any Nigerian to aspire for any position. So, if southerners aspire to produce the president in 2023 democratically, it is their right as Nigerians. What the constitution has not provided for is the rotation of the president of Nigeria by rotation between the North and the South.”
According to the ACF chieftain, “in order for both North and South to come together and produce the president, the constitution provides that the candidate must garner not only majority votes but must also secure at least 25 per cent of the votes in at least two thirds of the 36 states and FCT. And because none of the region has the 24 states, it becomes necessary for the political parties and their presidential candidates to crisscross the country, break barriers and build bridges in executing their winning game plans.”
Sani stated that, “in a way, correct practices of our multiparty democracy can go a long way towards uniting the nation in peace and prosperity.” He added: “The southern governors are not justified to insist on producing the president undemocratically. That is to say, if they want it done undemocratically through affirmative action. But if they want it through our multiparty democracy as provided for in the constitution, then there is no qualm. More so that under the nascent democracy the South will have governed for 13 years and the North for 11 years by 2023.
“Somehow, I believe rotation of president and zoning of public offices are tacit admission of failure of leadership to provide fair, just and equitable access to national resources of employments, appointments, projects and major contracts to their constituencies. “As a result, Nigerians are being made to believe that such access to national resources should be turn-by-turn. And they hanker for politics of identity in blithe disregard for the fact that there are several dividing lines of regions, religions, ethnicity, gender and of generation of youths and adults.”
Sani continued: “We have seen such practices supplanting politics of identity on performance, which is not given its place on the ballot. We may wish to note that Ethiopia, which has never been colonised, operates ethnic based federalism, and still has problems. Lebanon, which practices politics of religious divides has president as Christian, prime minister from Sunni and speaker as Shia, is never without challenges.”
He argued further: “Nigeria is undergoing challenges which are natural concomitant of process of nation building that is work in progress. But hard time should bring about national grandeur, purposeful leadership and the best in everyone, and not to stoke divisions through promotion of cleavages of the nation along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
“We better come together and unleash our synergistic potential against collective challenges for the good of all. Our situation is never beyond redemption.”
Speaking in the same vein, National President of AYDP, Sarki Danjuma, said the southern governors were fighting for their personal interests. “Southern governors’ resolution might be seen in the light of fighting a regional cause, but I want to tell you that there is no other interest being fought by the southern governors apart from personal interest.
“We know that there are a lot of these southern governors who want to aspire for the presidency. Governor Umahi has never hidden his interest in aspiring for the presidency of Nigeria. We also have in the PDP somebody like Governor Wike. If we look at the issues critically, the southern governors are not yearning for southern presidency based on objectivity or rational reasoning; it is laden with some selfish interests,” he said.
Danjuma stated that, “in view of the state of the nation today and the way the Buhari administration has battered Nigeria and taken us backward, I think the agitation now for regional presidency is not the best idea.”
He added: “For people to narrow down the presidency of Nigeria to a particular zone will not augur well for our country. In fact, presently we need a leader in 2023 that is truly a nationalist that would be patriotic and be able to reposition the country. If we limit the choice of the presidency to a region, it is like we are going to cage Nigerians and resist their choice.”
On his part, an elder statesman and founding member of ACF, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, who spoke in Kano, advised southern governors to employ persuasion in their quest. Yakasai noted that none of the two leading parties in the country could decide which zone would produce the next president of Nigeria, adding that it was a question of number and persuasion.
He stated that he had since thrown his weight behind the quest for southern presidency in 2023 but frowned on the way and the manner the governors were going about it. “You don’t take a common ground on something that is not completely your own birthright. You need to employ wider consultation with other stakeholders for you to get what you want.
Another prominent politician in Kano, Alhaji Haruna Musa Fatahi, also described the clamor for the presidency to be zoned to the South as undemocratic. Fatahi, a two-time House of Representatives member, insisted that majority should carry the vote.
He argued that in a democratic dispensation, “you do not impose any presidential candidate on anybody. “That is against the tenets of democracy,” he noted.
He added that zoning is neither in the Nigerian constitution nor in the APC or PDP constitutions, emphasizing that politics is a game of number.