Hakeem Baba-Ahmed
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed

With new comment, Northern elders reinforce North-South dichotomy on rotational presidency

NEWS DIGEST – As political parties and elder statesmen across regions discuss the ethical question of zoning the presidency, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, said on Sunday that the North had the numerical advantage to keep the presidency if the 2023 general elections were to result in a numbers game.

“We have the majority of the votes and democracy says vote whom you want,” said the spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum. Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.

Rotational presidency has quickly turned out, again, as one of the most discussed topics ahead of the election year in 2023. And in sharp contrast to the feeling of ill-treatment by southern social groups, the Northern elders feel “threatened” by these talks.

The North retains that claims in the South-West and South-East that a southern presidency would answer the question of inclusivity and put an end to secession calls are just “excuses”

Dr Baba-Ahmed’s speech ended on a tough note. “If the majority of Nigeria voters vote for a candidate from the North and he becomes the President and somebody doesn’t want to live under the Nigeria President, the person can leave,” he said.

Whether or not there should be a rotational presidency had already polarised opinions in the 2015 general elections, with the CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi urging Nigerians to instead ask themselves “fundamental questions” as to what kind of leaders they wanted.

Dr Sanusi’s appeal to the North, who at the time requested the zoning of power back to the North from President Jonathan, a Southerner, called it “irresponsible” to frame election based on ethnicity.

“How do you grow a nation on ethnicity ad expect it grow without problems,” Dr Sanusi asked.

Last August, Senator Edwin Clark, who like President Jonathan is from the South-South, said it would be hypocritical for the North to reject zoning of the presidency back to the south because it used the same tune to win President Buhari the presidential seat in 2015.

“A Nigeria where no region will continue to dominate the others is the panacea for peace,” he said.

Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has already laid the demands of the Southern Governors’ Forum concerning the 2023 presidency.

The Chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum, told Channels Television on Friday that the governors within the forum were “unanimous” in their position that the next president of the country should emerge from South Nigeria.

“We have competent people in the North as we have in the South,” he said. “So the president can come from any part of the country.”

Recently, civil societies across all 36 states asked political parties to ready candidates with qualities desirable by Nigerians ahead of a transfer of power back to the South.

Some persons have already, in the past, called this obligation to question.

As the framework for a rotational presidency was not entrenched in the 1999 constitution, Yahaya Bello, Kogi State Governor, noted in July the need to consider “equity, fairness and justice” if a rotational presidency was to be reasoned with.

Although Mr Bello had said a rotational presidency wasn’t “in our APC party constitution,” members of the ruling party had, sundry times, mentioned a gentleman’s agreement at the inception of the party in 2014 to zone the presidency back to the South after President Buhari’s eight years.

PDP chieftain, Dr Doyin Okupe, faults the frequent defection of legislators and governors on the indecision of the party leadership on zoning.

While political parties evaluate their options ahead of 2023, there is more grumbling within the South, by elder statesmen in South East, the only region yet to produce a president in the South, to finally get one of its own into office.

Its leaders said in August that any arrangement “which denies the Southeast of presidential slot in 2023 will be resisted by every possible legal means.”