The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) on Tuesday disagreed over where the next Nigeria’s president should come in 2023.
While the NEF applauded the position of the Northern Governors Forum and monarchs that rotational presidency is unconstitutional, the MBF said it would only accept a president from either the South or the middle belt.
Speaking at a press conference in Kaduna, the NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said Monday’s declaration by governors of the North, who were in the past reluctant or shy to respond to their counterparts from the southern region, was a strong vindication for NEF.
“There is a law governing how presidents will emerge and this is our position and we are comforted by the fact that finally, the 19 northern governors have taken a position that is consistent with the position we have advocated for a long time,” he said.
Baba-Ahmed said in a democratic setting, tendencies that suggest that intimidations and threats will yield results are not the way to go.
According to him, it amounts to breaking the law for anyone or region to demand the implementation of what is contrary to the constitution.
“Now, southern governors are saying you must bring the presidency to the South and northern governors are saying read the constitution again, there is a way this is done. These are politicians; they need to find a way to breach the gap that exists between them.
“We welcome this position they have taken publicly and we hope that their counterparts from the southern part of the country will take note of this and we hope that the governors as a whole and other politician will sit down and do the real work of politics, discussing what can be done and what cannot be done and discussing how those things that can be done should be done.
“What the North is saying is that there is a constitutional provision for how presidents emerge and there is also a political process within which you can decide how it emerges.
“There is a law you cannot break and you can break that law by demanding that what is not in the constitution is done.”
The forum urged the governors from the North to engage their counterparts in the south for productive discussing on the way forward.
But reacting to the northern governors’ rejection of the call for power to rotate to the South, the MBF said power should rotate between the three zones of the North, South and middle belt as the idea of a monolithic north was dead and buried.
MBF in a statement by its National President, Dr Pogu Bitrus, contended that North’s insistence on the presidency in 2023 “could capsize the ship of the Nigerian State”.
The forum said, “By resorting to the constitutional provisions as the basis for rejecting power shift, the northern governors and traditional rulers are simply being clever by half as they are only attempting to hide behind a finger.”
“The reason behind the zoning arrangement that emphasised the need for power rotation between the North and South is to avail all zones a sense of belonging in providing leadership in the country.
“As the umbrella body of all ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt Region, we are surprised that it is now that the NGF whose members are beneficiaries of power rotation is kicking against power shift to the South.
“We are shocked that instead of harping on the bloodshed ripping across the country, the governors and traditional rulers are concerned with which of the zones takes over power in 2023.”
Bitrus added, “We have called and demanded that the 2023 Presidency be zoned to the Middle Belt. In the event that such demand is unrealisable, all ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt Region are resolved to support any presidential candidate from the South.”