2023: Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Reject Interim Government

Sunday Aborisade in  Abuja

Leaders of the various ethnic groups in four of the six geopolitiwcal zones of Nigeria have vowed to resist any plans to scuttle the forthcoming general election.

They also warned those planning to impose an interim government on Nigerians to bury the idea.

The leaders under the auspices of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum stated this in a communique issued at the end of their extraordinary meeting held in Abuja, and made available to THISDAY yesterday. 

The SMBLF’s 13-point communique was signed by its Leaders, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader (Afenifere), Dr. Pogu Bitrus (National President, Middle Belt Forum), Dame Betty Igbeyi, (National Woman Leader, of Pan Niger Delta Forum), Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele and Amb. Okey Emuchay, the Secretary-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. 

SMBLF warned, “That any attempt to scuttle the 2023 general elections and impose an “interim government” will be vehemently resisted.” 

Delegates to the meeting included former governors, ministers, federal and state legislators, community leaders, top politicians, and professionals as well as women and youth leaders from the Southern and Middle Belt regions.

Those in attendance also included Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Oba Oladipo Olaitan, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike, Chief Sola Ebiseni, Professor A. B. C. Nwosu, and Chief Dr. Simon Okeke.

They also included, Mazi Dickson Iroegbu, Professor Charles Nwekeaku, Amb. Eddy Onuoha,  HRH Eze Nwosu Ibeh, Hon. Mrs. Sarah Dokotri, Chief Edozie Ezeugwa, High Chief Denzil Kentebe, Dr. Stella Dorgu, Amb. Ozo Nwobu, Charles Emeka Oputa, Amb  Orjiako Umuuna, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia,  CP Lorbes Ihagh (rtd)- PG MUT, Engr.  S. L. S  Salifu.

Also in attendance were Engr. Ben Akaakar, Mrs. Beatrice Eze, National Treasurer Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mrs. Daba Obioha, Mrs. Elizabeth A. Jibrin, Chief Douyi Douglas-Naingba, Engr. Ben Akaakar, Dele Farotimi, Prince Maikpobi Okareme, Hon. Bassey Ekefre, Sir (Dr.) Eric Iku, Ibrahim Welye, Hon. Jonathan Tsaku, Orusoso Don Pedro, and Hon. Ken Robinson, among others.

The meeting deliberated extensively on the state of the nation and the 2023 general election as well as other worrisome issues, particularly, the current hardship Nigerians are facing due to the unavailability of the new currency notes, the fuel situation, the problems with Permanent Voters Card (PVC) collection. 

SMBLF reaffirmed commitment to the unity of Nigeria but it insisted that it must be sustained on the principles of equity, fairness, and justice. 

The communique expressed “grave concern over the debilitating state of insecurity across the country and calls on the federal government and security agencies to redouble efforts to address the situation especially now that the 2023 general elections are around the corner.”

It applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for his reiterated commitment to non-interference in the electoral process to guarantee free, fair, and credible elections.

It commended the efforts of the President and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the redesign of the naira notes to mitigate illicit financial transactions.

It, however, noted that the current hardship Nigerians are facing due to the non-availability of the new notes was intolerable.

It called on the CBN and commercial banks to take urgent steps to improve the management of the process, to alleviate the sufferings of citizens. 

The group warned that the current situation portends danger to national peace and security.

Part of the communique read, “Meeting reviewed previous resolutions of the Forum as well as pronouncements by its leaders and other eminent Nigerians on the 2023 presidential election. 

“Reminds all Nigerians that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power.

“Maintains that the northern part of the country, as represented by President Muhammadu Buhari, would have fully enjoyed the Office of the President of the country for the full statutory period of eight years by May 29, 2023, hence, should yield the presidency to South;

“Observes that the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), His Excellency, Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, stands out amongst the presidential candidates in terms of credibility, integrity, competence, and national outlook.

“Believes that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) represents the Nigerian conscience, moral probity, generational hope, and redemption epiphany, among others.

“Notes that Nigeria is at an unprecedented threshold, ensnared by a myriad of problems and that Peter Obi, and his running mate, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, is the answer!

“Therefore, without equivocation, calls on all Nigerians, who believe in the unity, peace, stability, and sustainable development of the country to embrace the candidacy of  Peter Obi in the 2023 presidential election, because therein lies the unity and progress of Nigeria.

“Further urges Nigerians to go out en masse, in all the 176,846 polling units across the country, on election day, 25th Feb 2023, to exercise their franchise and give to the nation a president who will bring about the “change” we truly desire and deserve.

“Further cautions political stakeholders, particularly the candidates and their supporters, at all levels, to shun all acts of violence, before, during, and after the elections. Let us give peace a chance; Nigeria is our country, and we do not have any other.

“Warns that any attempt to scuttle the 2023 general elections and impose an “interim government” will be vehemently resisted.

“ The meeting paid glowing tributes to leaders of the members who passed on recently; Professor Amb. George Obiozor, President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; His Excellency, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd.), former military Governor of Plateau State and Leader of the Middle Belt Former, as well as Senator Inatimi Rufus-Spiff, who was until his demise the Chairman of PANDEF, Bayelsa State Chapter.”

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