Power Must Shift to South in 2023, PANDEF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze, MBF Insist

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*Describe anti-zoning protagonists enemies of Nigeria

Emameh Gabriel

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), made up of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Middle Belt Forum, has insisted that power must shift to the Southern part of Nigeria in 2023.

The forum, therefore, labelled groups and individuals opposed to the zoning of the presidency to the South in 2023, as unpatriotic and parochial, describing them as enemies of Nigeria, who were barefacedly fanning the embers of dissent and disunity, which could exacerbate the crisis in the country.

SMBLF, had in a meeting held in Abuja on January 13, 2022, insisted that the presidency should be zoned to the south in 2023 and that any political party that refused to adhere to the existing zoning and rotation protocol, should not count on their support from the regions.

However, in another statement issued yesterday and signed by leaders of the various groups, Chief Dr E. K. Clark, chairman, SMBLF; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader, Afenifere; Prof. George Obiozor, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Dr Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle Belt Forum, the group said the suggestion that the 2023 presidential contest should be left open to every region of the country, for the best candidate to emerge, was borne out of infantile reflections and political irrationality.

It noted that the concept of zoning and rotation of political positions, particularly, in a diverse and complex society like Nigeria, was consistent with basic tenets of democracy, saying expressions that it was anti-democracy, were illogical.

“It is worthy of note that zoning has been an important factor in Nigeria’s political system, and it has helped to bolster harmony, understanding and confidence in the polity. We cannot ignore substantial and justified precedents.

“Protagonists of ‘anti-zoning’ are, therefore, advised to heed history and review their obtuse suppositions in the interest of peace and unity of the country,” the statement stated, explaining further that the debate against zoning was originally propagated by Mamman Daura, nephew of President Buhari, who inferred that zoning should be jettisoned to have a competent person become president.

According to the statement, “Duara’s sentiment has now been adopted by some northern commentators, canvassing that there should be no more rotation and zoning but competence. Giving the impression that there are more educated and competent persons in the North than in the South. That is not only ridiculous but erroneous.”

The group wondered why the same region that kicked against Nigeria’s independence in1953, when Chief Anthony Enahoro, moved the motion for independence for some reasons and vowed never to return to the Lagos Parliament, was now talking about competency just to hold on power for another eight years.

It asked: “What do they want? That the north should retain the presidency after the 8 years of President Muhammadu Buhari? That is simply absurd!

“Undoubtedly, political parties have the inalienable right to field candidates of their choices by established guidelines, and certainly, every Nigerian has the right to aspire to any office in the land, but it must be understood that rights are entwined. One citizen’s rights do not begin at the end of the rights of another.

“We further urge patriotic northern leaders to prevail on those individuals and groups to stop their needless shenanigans. We stand by our resolution at our recent meeting in Abuja on 13th January 2022, that the presidency should be zoned to the south in 2023 and that any political party that refuses to adhere to the existing zoning and rotation protocol should not count on our support.

“The future of our democracy, and indeed that of the nation, depends on how those entrusted with positions of leadership resolve thorny national issues, objectively and dispassionately, without succumbing to conceited considerations and hubristic biases, in the overall interest of the nation,” SMBLF advised.