Southern leaders and groups have warned the North to stay off the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 in the interest of the unity of the country.
The Southern groups, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere and the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC), in separate interviews with Saturday Tribune, warned that any move by the North to use the current incumbency to retain power might have dire consequences.
However, the North, speaking through the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), told Saturday Tribune that there is nothing wrong if the next president is also a Northerner like the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari.
The umbrella body of Ijaw youths in Nigeria, the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), has warned that alleged plans by the North to retain the Presidency beyond 2023 against the existing rotation of the post between the North and the South is unhealthy and would amount to political suicide.
The IYC said the permutations suggesting that the core North is unwilling to relinquish power, thereby relegating other geopolitical zones, would further divide the country.
In an interview with Saturday Tribune, the national president of IYC, Mr Pereotubo Oweilaemi, said “we know the core North is seriously contemplating retaining power come 2023. This will be political suicide.”
Oweilaemi, in the exclusive interview, noted that while the plan might be achievable “because of the flawed political structures in the country,” it was a way to alienate some already marginalised geopolitical zones and further divide the country.
“If we all value the unity of this country, I don’t think it is proper to sideline and segregate some parts of the country in the affairs of governance.
“I am not a prophet but I must say that this continued political alienation of the South East will definitely, one day, dismember this country,” Oweilaemi said.
Also, Afenifere described any attempt by any section of the country to hold on to the presidency at the expense of others as a recipe for “dislocation.”
In a statement by its spokesperson, Mr Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said any attempt to toy with a third term or for the North to hold on to power beyond 2023 would result in a social disequilibrium that would not augur well for the country.
The organisation’s statement reads in part: “We have noted the denial of a third term bid by Garba Shehu against the backdrop of the claim by top officials of the administration to lift 10 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years when they have a four-year mandate.
“We hope the denial is superior to the earlier misspeak.
“Any attempt to toy with a third term or for the North to hold on to power beyond 2023 will definitely create a serious social disequilibrium that will not augur well for our social health.
“We were all here in 2014-15 when politicians from the North almost brought heaven down on earth over ‘its own turn’. To now have eight years and for irredentists from the North like Nasir El-Rufai to suddenly become apostles of ‘merit’ that was alien to their faculty five years ago is so jejune and taking the rest of us on a ride that will become bumpy .
“Ultimately for those of us who push for restructuring of Nigeria, there would be less concern over where the presidency comes from when people have autonomy to run their lives at the federating units in the manner Ahmadu Bello considered the PM of Nigeria to be inferior to the Premier of Northern Nigeria.
“But while we are still locked in the current arrangement, any attempt by one section to hold on to the presidency at the expense of others is a recipe for dislocation.”
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chuks Ibegbu, in an interview in Enugu, dismissed the alleged plot by the core north to retain power in 2023, insisting that it is the turn of the people of the South East geopolitical zone to produce Nigeria’s president after the second term of President Buhari.
The Ohanaeze spokesman said there was no cause for alarm on the kite being flown by some core northern elements, pointing out that not all northerners would allow power to remain in that region in 2023 for the sake of justice, equity and fairness.
“2023 is still afar off. We should not panic over the so-called North’s plan. There are some core northern people who believe in Igbo presidency. And when the chips are down, common sense will prevail. Take note that not all northerners are hawkers. There are many just and reasonable ones who believe in the feasibility of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023. Without fear of contradiction, Igbo presidency is very feasible and realisable in 2023,” Ibegbu said.
On steps Ohanaeze might take in case such moves became afoot, he said, “Ohanaeze will join forces with those that want justice and equity in Nigeria to ensure that the hawks in the North do not have their way.” (Saturday Tribune)