Southern and Middle Belt leaders converged yesterday at Abuja, the nation’s capital, and restated their call for power-shift to the South-East, saying since all the other zones have taken their turns at the presidency, it would be unjust to deny Ndigbo a seat at the table.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo the leader of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, warned former President Goodluck Jonathan, and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, that they were being deceived by President Muhammadu Buhari in their quests to become president in 2023.
The leaders also spoke at ‘The Greater Nigeria Conference, GNG, with the theme ‘’Together We Can,’’ held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
An initiative of the Igbo Think-Tank, Nzuko Umunna, the conference received total buy-in from all groups based in or linked to the South-East.
The occasion was chaired by Dr Idu Igariwey, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Professor George Obiozor served as chief host.
The presidential aspirants from the South-East were also present at the event. A leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark and the leader of Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo were key speakers.
Others speakers were Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, Obi of Obinigwu; the keynote speaker, Dr Bitrus Pogu, who is also President of the Middle Belt Forum, Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senator Victor Umeh and Senator Chris Anyanwu.
Buhari is deceiving Tinubu, Jonathan, says Pa Adebanjo
Pa Adebanjo said while those in charge of Nigeria’s political future know the right thing to do, they, however, do not want the South-East to lead the country.
He recalled how he told Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to put his trust in President Buhari as the latter would never support such ambition. Adebanjo also chastised former President Jonathan, saying he had allowed himself to be disgraced by coming out to say he was even considering whether or not to enter the contest for 2023.
“We all know the truth. They don’t want the South-East. It is not because they don’t know what is right. He added
‘’I only like to point to the fact that they are just deceiving you. All you are hearing, that they (the North) are supporting the South-West is an element of deceit to deprive you, to be able to rule you. They don’t like anybody.
“I told Tinubu himself, not in the papers, face-to-face. ‘You believe this man (Buhari) will make you President?’ He said ‘yes’. I said ‘he wants to make you President and yet he asked (Yemi) Osinbajo to contest? He asked (Kayode) Fayemi to contest, he asked Amosun (Ibikunle) to contest?’ All in the West, why? He wants to divide the West first.
“The unfortunate thing is that President Goodluck Jonathan allowed himself to be disgraced by mentioning the fact that ‘I am considering whether to be president or not. For what?
“Now that it is the turn of the South-East, they are propounding a new theory, it must be based on merit and all that. If it is the question of merit, who in the North qualifies to lead Nigeria? If it has been based on merit, the East alone would produce the President.
“I am saying all these because of the talks about ‘go and sell yourself, go and campaign, go and lobby’, it is all rigmarole. They know the truth.
“Although I don’t like all the people that came out from the East, for the fact that they are saying you have no people, I am happy you have demonstrated that you have people. But go and unite. A house divided against itself will not stand. The North doesn’t want to leave power. While the South is slugging it out, they put their candidate up”.
He added that the nation could still be a united entity “if we have a government that will give autonomy to regional governments”.
Nigeria can’t stand without Ndigbo, by Edwin Clark
In his address, titled “The Nigeria I knew”, Chief Clark said Nigeria was a country with 36 states, stating that if five of the legs were broken, then the country could not stand.
Lamenting that at almost 95, he is still worried about Nigeria, “you cannot marginalize and oppress a people, and expect them not to speak out.” the Ijaw leader said.
He said: “Nigeria has been independent for about 62 years now but before then, Nigeria became self-governing in 1957. Any child in any part of the country, when he or she grows to 17, 18, 19 and becomes independent of his parents and is able to reason for himself, has the right to ask whether he is truly part of this country when all that he sees is discrimination, hatred, injustice, unfairness in the offices, in the streets, at workplaces and even in institutions of the government. It is pathetic.
“We can no longer describe Nigeria as a pot anymore because we now have 36 legs and if any part of these 36 legs gets broken, the country will not be at ease and that is exactly what we are experiencing today. The young ones who belong to the disadvantaged legs are fighting and people are pretending not to know why.
“What right does the antagonist have that the protagonist does not have? What right do you have that the man you are accusing of disturbing you does not have? The reality is that the man who wants to destroy and the one who is preventing the destruction have equal rights.
Why South East should have the presidency
“Why the South-East should have Presidency is because the children from that geopolitical zone are asking whether their own leg is k-legged, or deformed or broken, thus resulting in the inability of their zone to present the President.
For the information of all of us, if five or more legs out of the 36 legs of the pot are broken, definitely, the pot cannot stand.
“I also hear the argument of some people that the North-East has not produced a Head of State. This is not true. The South-West, South-South and the North, have produced persons who have headed the country, including the North-East.
No one has a better right over Nigeria than any of us.
“Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was from the North-East. He headed this country as the first and only Prime Minister thus far, for nine years, from August, 1957 to 15th July, 1966. Let me say this, no one has a better right over Nigeria than any of us.
“Who says the military Heads of State who ruled this country for about 30 years are not Nigerians? It will be dishonest and insincere for anyone to suggest that that period should be ignored. We cannot because that was the period when most of the political, structural and administrative decisions, such as creation of states, creation of local government areas/councils, the revenue allocation systems, and even the framing of all the Constitutions, from the 1979 Constitution to the 1999 Constitution, which we are currently using, were made.
‘’During the civil war, one out of the original three legs of the 3-legged pot was broken due to the civil war. For that reason, the South-East, which is the broken leg, has been marginalised in the political equation of Nigeria.
“The people of the South-East deserve to have a sense of belonging in this country. So, the clamour for a president for the South-East geo-political zone is supported by me. Today, with no other tangible reason for still wanting to hold on to power, some people are talking about merit and competence.
‘’To these people, my response is simple, we must all woo and win one another because every part of this country has a beautiful bride and every part has a handsome groom. It will not cost money or anything to make Nigeria better.
‘’All that is required is for us to demonstrate reciprocal respect, love and understanding to one another. Let us do what is right; let us accommodate one another, and be fair to one another. Let all other Nigerians support a South-Eastern candidate for President, come 2023.
‘’I repeat, very soon, I will be 95 years old. I have spent more than 70 years of this period in Nigerian affairs. I have seen it all. For the peace and sanity of the country, I appeal to all, in the name of the Almighty God, to make this concession to the Igbos to present a President for Nigeria.
‘’Like every other part of the country, they have the men and women who are competent, patriotic, loyal, intelligent, industrious, healthy and active, whom Nigerians will be proud of, to occupy the position. Let us give them a chance.”
Northerners still want to rule — Pogu
The President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Pogu, in his keynote address, said it was surprising that after the monumental failure of leadership by presidents of northern extraction, the region would still be clamouring for another shot at the plum job.
He said: “If we look at what is happening in this country now, someone would be surprised why the North, after the monumental failures within this period, will even be contemplating to again want to rule after Buhari. But the unfortunate thing is that everybody thinks if one of theirs is not there, they will be short-changed.
“The National Party of Nigeria, NPN, which was the first beneficiary of Nigeria’s transformation into presidential, had an Igbo Vice-President who could have succeeded the first Executive President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, but was overthrown.
“It is now time for Major General Muhammadu Buhari to rewrite the roles he played in 1983 after he overthrew a democratically elected government. It is time for us to ask him to right that wrong.
“There are some people out there who feel that without terrorizing others, they can’t continue to rule and that is unfortunate. It was late General Sani Abacha who argued that the presidency should rotate among the six geo political zones to cure the malady of fear of domination.
“The 1999 political arrangement is something similar to what we are having now. The situation we are in now calls for a similar approach by Nigeria. We have to develop a nation, we cannot continue to afford to remain as so many nations within a state. To have a nation we can all call our home; we need justice, equity and fairness.
“It will be disingenuous for anyone in 2022 to argue that where the President of Nigeria comes from does not matter. If it does not matter, northern governors, sitting governors will not jeopardize the chances of their own party and give the presidency to the opposition in 2015, so it does matter.
“It is shocking that it is the same characters who were groaning in their eyes in 2014 over zoning in PDP that is arguing that the zone that produces the President does not matter, it does matter.
“By 2023, Buhari would have spent eight years as president. It is only fair and equitable that the position of the President is occupied by a Nigerian, not from Buhari’s zone. We have always said that the South should be left to decide which zone from the South should occupy the Presidency in 2023 but we believe that it is clumsy and inelegant for the South-West to seek the presidency at this time, not after Obasanjo’s eight years as President and Osinbajo’s eight years as Vice-President.
“For us, the debate should be a straight one between the South-South and the South-East. But the South-South has occupied the seat of President for one term and the South-east has never occupied it at all.
“The North that currently is occupying the number one position in Nigeria and the South-West that has been served should not entertain any thought of throwing their hats in the ring.
“After your own region has been served, a consensus to stabilize the Nigerian polity and give its people a sense of belonging, still wanting more would amount to taking the food tray away in a banquet hall after dishing enough food to one’s plate. Of course, others in the queue will be well within their right to chase and deal with such a selfish people
“Our northern brothers need to have a rethink for whatever reason they are still talking about the presidency in 2023. We should think twice, Nigerians are not fools. The insurgents, the killing, and the abduction for ransom have opened people’s eyes to know that all is not well.
‘’It is only proper that we take this thing to the South and it is the turn of the South-East to produce the president. Nigeria cannot be a stable and prosperous country if some of its constituent parts behave as if they were the natural masters of everyone and that everyone else exists at their pleasure and to serve them”.
On his part, Dr Nwodo noted the South-East was currently bleeding from marginalization and injustice. Nigeria must come together and install a President from South East. This marginalization must end. Any part of this country that is bleeding, this country must go there and stop the bleeding.
‘’It was done in the South-South. Why is it that when it comes to South East, the conscience of Nigeria takes a flight?” He queried.
The purpose of the conference — Chris Anyanwu
Senator Chris Anyanwu earlier in her welcome address said: “The purpose of the conference was for leaders of the South East and friends of the South East to come together and make the case for all political parties in Nigeria to zone their presidential candidacies to aspirants from South-East Nigeria”.
While she thanked governors of the zone for their support, she lauded the efforts of Niger Delta activist, Madam Ann Kio Briggs, for holding on to the courage of her convictions in consistently calling for equity and supporting the South East for Presidency in 2023.
“Our thanks also go to the Nigerian media who have spoken up in favour, with particular reference to Akin Osuntokun, Dele Sobowale (of Vanguard Newspapers) and others. We are indeed grateful,’’ she added.