The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has issued a warning to those trying to jettison zoning of the presidency in the country, saying any attempt to abandon zoning, as being said in some northern quarters, would spell the end for Nigeria.
The leaders condemned a statement credited to the chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Alhaji Ango Abdullahi, that rotation of the presidency between the north and south was “dead and buried”. They declared that another eight years of northern presidency, after President Muhammadu Buhari, was unacceptable.
The position of the leaders was contained in a joint statement on Monday by National Leader, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and Chairman, SMBLF, Chief Edwin Clark; leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Professor George Obiozor; and National President, Middle Belt Forum, Pogu Bitrus. They said they were prepared for those attempting to upturn a practice – zoning – that had sustained the country.
The group warned that any attempt to kill and bury the age-long power rotation agreement between the north and south was tantamount to an attempt to kill and bury Nigeria.
SMBLF warned that the move to tinker with the rotation of the presidency was inimical to national unity.
The Southern and Middle Belt leaders also warned Abdullahi’s NEF, and wondered if the northern body was now out to dissolve the country.
The statement said, “SMBLF says it is rather unfortunate and absurd that Ango Abdullahi and his Northern Elders Forum would make such twaddle. Are they now ready to dissolve the country? What has happened that zoning, which has been a sine qua non in the nation’s political progression, has now become a ‘dead and buried’ issue, in the irrational contemplations of Ango Abdullahi and his co-travellers?
“Could it be due to the incapacity, insipidity and disastrous performance of the Buhari administration or the narcissistic desire to perpetuate Hausa/Fulani hegemony? It has become necessary to underscore that Ango Abdullahi, with his established disposition of inconsistency and duplicity, is one of the people disturbing the polity and peace of Nigeria.
“A few days ago, this same Ango fumbled with the idea of a so-called consensus arrangement for northern presidential aspirants, he has not come out of it. Now he has sprung up with this reckless statement that zoning is dead and buried. Ango and his northern elders do not have the power to kill and bury zoning. If they want to kill and bury Nigeria, then we are ready for them.”
The elder statesmen stated that the “history of zoning between the north and the south is well-known to everybody in this country and has been respected by all the major political parties in Nigeria.” They recalled that all the ruling political parties from the Second Republic, such as the now defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the current opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had adhered to the principle of zoning.
The elders also accused the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Adamu Abdullahi, of outright dishonesty and chicanery for saying APC had not decided the zoning of the presidency.
According to SMBLF, “More so, earlier this year, the nation and global audience were told by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State on a national/satellite television station, Channels Television, that zoning of the party and political elective offices exists in the APC.
“The governor further hinted that all the positions earlier held by the north would be swapped with the south and vice versa. And this was inclusive of the presidency. That was the reason why only northerners vied for the national chairmanship of the party, which was zoned to the north and micro-zoned to the North-central, during the party’s national convention in March this year.
“Sadly, we are now being told by the newly ‘imposed’ national chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu that the APC has not decided on the zoning of the presidency. Such a statement at this stage, with about 30 days to the presidential primaries, amounts to outright dishonesty and chicanery. Who are they trying to deceive and who will allow them?
“It becomes even more upsetting given the fact that the statement came from someone who himself emerged as National Chairman of the APC through the policy of rotation and zoning.”
The southern leaders added, “It is haughty for anybody to say that this is the time to consider the quality of candidates. Where in Nigeria is deficient in quality candidates? Is it the south or the north? Everyone of the individuals from the south, who has indicated interest to contest for the presidency, both in APC and in PDP, is qualified to be President of Nigeria.
“They should stop their trickery. Enough is enough! We cannot have a northerner president for eight years and then welcome another northern president for another eight years or more. That is unacceptable to us. We, therefore, strongly caution all our governors, former governors, and top politicians not to accept the vice presidency nomination from any northern presidential candidate.
“We urge the 17 southern governors, who unanimously declared that the presidency must come to the south in May last year, at Asaba, Delta State, to remain resolute. They have our absolute support for the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum and we stand firmly by them. This country belongs to all of us!
“Let everybody take this as a serious warning that the issue of zoning cannot be swept under the carpet; it cannot be dead and buried, if zoning is buried, Nigeria is, then, buried. And if they are thinking that this is a joke, let it be known that it is not. If we cannot abide by the established principle of rotation and zoning between the north and the south, then we should not continue with one Nigeria; we should go back to what we were as a people before the amalgamation of 1914.
“We also earnestly call on the people of the Middle Belt Region and all minorities in Nigeria to wake up and work conscient.’’