By Ononye VC
As the debate over zoning of Nigeria’s presidential position gathers momentum, leader of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has stated that political leaders from the Northern Region are not ready to relinquish power in 2023 but are instead, working on dividing the entire South to get the ticket.
Chief Adebanjo made the assertion at Greater Nigerian Conference (GNC), organised by Nzuko Umunna, a global non-partisan Igbo Think Tank, on Monday April 25, at the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja which was monitored virtually by Prime Business Africa.
Adebanjo claimed that the Northern political elites are scheming to divide especially, the Southwest through political maneuvers meant to cause rife and at the end give them opportunity to pick their own candidate for the presidential post.
The elder statesman said the Northerners hope to achieve their hidden goal by urging some political leaders in the South-West to contest for the post as a way of crushing the area’s cohesion.
“If the Yorubas continue to be divided, they will forever remain subjugated by the Fulanis,” the Afefere leader stated.
He likened the North’s quest to retain power at the expense of other parts of the country to a horse and the rider.
“A part wants to be the rider while others become the horse,” Adebanjo stated.
The Afenifere leader who has been voicing his support for the presidential ticket to be zoned to South-east region in the 2023 election, reiterated the call, stating that denying the region the opportunity amounts to being insensitive to the principle of equity.
The Afenifere leader condemned Buhari for the manner in which leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is being treated by the Department of State Service (DSS) for leading agitations for an independent state due to perceived marginalisation.
In his keynote, president of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus said Nigeria cannot be prosperous as desired if some of its constituent parts behave as if it’s the “natural master of everyone,” while excluding others from having access to power.
Bitrus said it is the turn of South-East to produce the next president of the country, and urged political leaders from other parts of the country to see reasons to accept zoning of presidency to South-East in 2023.
“It’s only disingenuous to throw around a competent-only tantrum after your own region has been served in a consensus that is meant to stabilize the Nigerian polity and give all of its people a sense of belonging,” Bitrus said.
The Middle Belt Forum leader emphasized the need for mutual forgiveness by the citizens and different parts of the country for peace and national cohesion.
He further called on Southeast politicians to come together and and nominate a candidate for the presidential position.
Similarly, elder statesman and leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clarke reiterated his call for the country’s next president to come from the South-East.
Clarke noted that among aspirants from the geo-political zone, there are competent individuals who can lead the country.
He thanked organisers of the conference.
GNC was organised to raise national conversation on the need to zone presidency to South-East in the interest of peace, justice and fairness.
Former governor of Enugu State, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo stated that the essence of the meeting was to appeal to the conscience of the stakeholders in the country to accept enthronement of the next Nigerian president from South-East, in order to heal wounds of marginalisation, injustice and inequity.
Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, former governor of Enugu State.
Chairman of the occasion, Chief Gari Igariwey, in his address said those who deny power rotation, deny equity, justice and peace in the country. “You can’t have peace where there is injustice and inequity,” Chief Igariwey stated.
Highlights of the conference were unveiling of presidential aspirants from Southeast. The aspirants who attended the event include former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, Ebonyi State governor, Engr Dave Umahi, Former governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Former Secretary to Government of the Federation , Anyim Pius Anyim, minister of labour and productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, convener, New Nigeria Movement, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, APGA Chieftain, Chief Victor Umeh, among other aspirants and dignitaries.