By Paul Omorogbe
THE outbursts of prominent pressure groups in the North, including the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), over Southern governors’ demand for power shift and their position on open grazing have further betrayed the “arrogant delusion” of the North that only the region can determine who governs Nigeria, the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere, has said.
This is even as the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) reiterated its stance that for Nigeria to remain as one beyond the next election year, the South must produce the next helmsman of the country.
The two organisations made the comments in separate statements to the Saturday Tribune on Friday. Afenifere, in its statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, maintained that NEF and the other Northern groups were hypocritical in saying that the positions held by the Southern governors on the 2023 presidency and open grazing were undemocratic.
The organisation said: “If anything, it is their position that is undemocratic. It is a fact, for instance, that by 2023, the North would have been in power for eight years consecutively. What is wrong in letting the South also produce the president if only to ensure equity and fairness?”
It also said the “so-called advice” of the Northern groups “is another way of pulling wools on our eyes.”
Afenifere said: “They know very well that the intensity of insecurity in the North is far greater than in the South. Furthermore, they know that the power to control government agencies that could checkmate insecurity is not in the hands of the governors.
“So, asking them to face insecurity issue only is to be unfair to them, especially when it is known that it is the power at the centre that is hampering the governors’ efforts at dealing with insecurity in their respective states.”
According to the organisation, the Northern groups’ claim that they would not concede the presidency to the South unless the Southern governors go back on their resolve to ban open grazing “is also insulting because the assertion presupposes that the power to determine who governs the country belongs to them exclusively. This is nothing but self-delusion.”
Afenifere said: “The condition being given by these Northern elements is even contradictory. They are asking Southern governors to tackle insecurity on the one hand and on the other, they are asking them not to ban open grazing when it was crystal clear that open grazing is one of the major causes of insecurity in the country presently. How more hypocritical can a set of people be?”
It said the “retrogressive mindset” that was reflected in the statements credited to the Northern groups was the reason why restructuring must take place, and soon. PANDEF insists on power shift Also, the South-South socio-cultural umbrella group, PANDEF restated its support for power shift to the South in 2023 and threw its weight behind the Southern governors on their decision to ban open grazing, urging Northern leaders to wake up to the modern reality of ranching.
The Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Mr Ken Robinson, in an interview with Saturday Tribune on Friday, said: “It is unfortunate that we are receiving these kinds of responses from the North. You know, Nigeria is a funny country. In countries with decent leaders and people of integrity, some of the conversations we are having on ban on open grazing and power shift in 2023 would be unnecessary.
“After the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari from the North, it is only rational that there should be power shift to the South come 2023.
“PANDEF and other socio-cultural groups in the South and the Middle Belt have been saying for some time that power must shift to the South after Buhari’s presidency.
“As some of them are saying they will resist it, it is unfortunate. If their erroneous supposed numbers become the only determinant factor of who becomes president, then we would know that Lagos and Kano States would have been producing presidents perpetually since they have the numbers.
“But this is a democracy. Nigeria should be seen as populated by decent and civilised people, and what is proper, just, equitable and fair must be sustained and maintained.
“Southern Nigeria supported Buhari. He couldn’t have been a president with only Northern votes because the laws talk of at least two-third of the votes of the federation. The 19 Northern states do not provide the two-third of the states.
“So, Buhari needed votes from Southern states to become president. Now we are saying after his tenure, power should shift to the South and uninformed and ridiculous persons are making obnoxious statements.
“It is best to ignore them. Then the South will mobilise its people and ensure that power shifts to the South. Where the president will emerge from in the South West, South East or South-South – is a completely different matter.
“But we will insist that power shifts to the South come 2023 unless we don’t want Nigeria to exist. That is our position.”
Speaking further on the planned ban on open grazing and the September 1 deadline for Southern states to enact laws to back the resolution, the PANDEF spokesperson insisted that the governors were on the right track.
“On the ban on open grazing, Northerners must realise that it is an outdated practice that creates problems in modern society. They must accept this fact as responsible citizens who have respect for humanity and sanity to sit down and discuss with leaders of Southern Nigeria and see how this matter can be resolved in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
“Because as long as we continue to have this open grazing issue, destruction of farmlands, rape and molestation of our women by gun-wielding Fulani herdsmen, there will be conflict and we will continue to resist it.
“PANDEF is completely in tandem with Southern governors on the ban on open grazing and they must accept it, sit down and discuss it since we know that transiting from open grazing to ranching is not something that can happen overnight.
“We have enough months to discuss this and come up with amicable resolutions,” Robinson said. (Tribune)