Northern Elders Forum Hails Region Governors on 2023 Stance
By Adebayo Fajinmi
The Northern Elders Forum Tuesday hailed the governors of the region for rejecting rotation of the 2023 Presidency to the south which the Southern Governors Forum are craving for.
Spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, while speaking at a press conference in Kaduna on Tuesday, limned the demand by the Southern Governors on the 2023 Presidency “unacceptable”.
Baba-Ahmed who had earlier said the northern part was not prepared to play second fiddle in a nation where it clearly enjoys numerical strength, said the southern governors constituted a threat to the nation’s democracy with their demand.
According to him, any president to be elected should be done democratically and not through threats and intimidations.
He said, “We had raised the issues two weeks ago, but we are happy that the Northern Governors have also spoken out that. Rotational presidency is not located in the constitution of Nigeria, but this does not make it illegal, or only means that it can only be handled at the political level.
“We drew attention to the fact that there are tendencies the 17 Governors of the South to gang up and create a bi-partisan assault against the North on virtually all issues from open grazing, rotational presidency and other issues.
“The Southern Governors represent a serious threat to the democratic process. What the democratic process recognises is that there are political parties, there are candidates and there are voters. Whoever emerges as the candidate should be the product of negotiation and expression of popular will.”
Baba-Ahmed stated that the NEF had wanted Nigerians from the Southern part to recognise the fact that the democratic values were still on the ground and sacrosanct.
According to him, democratic values are not negotiable and, as such, southern governors cannot use expressions like ‘presidency must move here or there’.
“There can be a Southern president; there can be a Northern president and nobody should build boundaries around which region produces the President. What is important is that it must be a committed and a very competent Nigerian; a Nigerian everybody can identify with and not a product of region, religion or tribe,” he said.
Argument and Response
The governors of the 19 Northern states have rejected the position of their Southern colleagues that the 2023 presidency should be zoned to the Southern part of the country, arguing that the presidency is a democratic office and not a rotational position.
The Southern governors had in a meeting in July in Lagos State demanded that power must shift to their region.
However, at an emergency meeting with Northern traditional rulers at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna, on Monday, the Northern Governors Forum said the region could not be compelled to give up a democratically elected office that could be sought by any person irrespective of region.
The forum added that though some Northern governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three geo-political zones in the South, with a view to promoting unity and peace in the nation, the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South is unacceptable.
Reading from the resolutions of the meeting, Plateau State Governor and Chairman of the Forum, Simon Bako Lalong said, “The statement is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended that the elected President shall secure at least 25 percent of the votes cast in 2/3 states of the federation. In the case of run-up simple majority win the election.”
However, the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, on Monday, said that the Northern Governors’ Forum was merely exercising its rights to freedom of expression over its position on 2023 presidency.
Reacting to the resolutions of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Akeredolu said “They have expressed and indeed exercised their rights under Freedom of Expression. No one can stop them from expressing themselves.”