Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The South-South Elders Forum has expressed the interest of the people of the geopolitical zone to run for the presidency in 2023.
The zone said they would seek the support of Nigerians for an opportunity to complete the second tenure, which the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 denied them.
The National Coordinator of South-South Elders Forum and National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Annabs Sara-Igbe, told some journalists in Abuja at the weekend that it would be erroneous for anyone to believe that the North could foist itself on the country beyond 2023 when President Muhammadu Buhari would have done his two terms of eight years, without any backlash or resistance from other zones.
According to him, the forum believes that at the moment it is only the South-south and South-east that have good reasons to agitate for the presidency in 2023.
Sara-Igbe said: “We are saying that if the constitution, which is the force binding all of us says two terms, then we should be allowed to go for two terms. And we will know that our brothers and sisters are with us. But if you don’t allow us to go two terms and you have gone two terms how will it work?”
He added that by 2023, the North would have completed two terms of eight years through Buhari after the South-west had also done eight years with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007.
He said in keeping with the existing unconventional agreement that the presidency should revolve between the North and South, the position should return to the south in 2023.
In addition to being on the verge of finishing its two terms of presidency in 2023, Sara-Igbe said the North has ruled Nigeria cumulatively for 40 years out of its 60 years of independence.
He explained that from available records, the South-west had done 12 years; the South-east had only been in power at the centre for only six months through the late military Head of State, Major Gen. Thomas Aguyi-Ironsi, while the South-south held the office for four years.
He said the body language of the northern political elite showed that they were not comfortable with the idea of ceding power to either the South-west or the South-east in 2023.
According to Sara-Igbe, the South-south is a stabilising force in Nigeria and will not allow Nigeria to degenerate to that level where there will be conflict.
“If the north holds on to power because they don’t want the east or they don’t want the west, we are going to face chaos – serious chaos and I know that Nigeria will not be the same. So, if we can avoid it by sacrificing few years and we get peace and everything moves on, I think it is more important than out of greed, we allow this country to disintegrate or the country to boil from different angles,” he added.
Sara-Igbe explained that the forum has been consulting with leaders from the zone and before the end of the first quarter, an expanded lobby group made up of top leaders from the Niger Delta, including former governors, senators and traditional rulers, will formally come together to present the position of the area.
“Well, before the end of this quarter, you will see the south-south coming out fully. We are going to come out, different persons will speak, former governors, former senators, traditional rulers from the region will come out to demand this. But thereafter, we are going to make contacts; we are going to lobby the various ethnic nationalities, political parties and the political class,” he stated.
Sara-Igbe said that anyone in the North insisting on the presidency again in 2023 did not mean well for the country.
When asked about the position of the forum to a similar demand by the South-east and South-west to be given opportunity, Sara-Igbe said both had at several fora indicated their interests in restructuring the country to make it more cohesive and economically viable.
“The Afenifere said they are not interested in the presidency and Ohanaeze Ndigbo also said they are not interested in the 2023 presidency but rather, they are interested in restructuring. We in the South-south support restructuring wholeheartedly and we believe that restructuring will help Nigeria but we believe strongly in the presidency.
“Because, we believe we have not completed our second tenure and it is our right constitutionally for us to go for two terms. And if other Nigerians were gracious to allow us one tenure, they should be able to give us the second tenure so that we will also rest our case and allow the presidency to rotate,” he added.