*Insists that South must produce next president
*Warns North to stop tearing Nigeria apart
By Ezeocha Nzeh
As stakeholders from Northern Nigeria insist that the zone will seek to retain the presidency in 2023, when President Muhammadu Buhari completes his second term in office, the South-South Elders Forum (SSEF) has warned that insisting to retain the presidency in 2023 by the North will be an open invitation to anarchy in the country.
The elders declared that for peace, stability, equity and fairness, the North must relinquish the presidency at the 2023 presidential election.
The South-South elders warned that any attempt by the North to insist on going for the presidency again after the end of President Buhari’s tenure in 2023 will not only breach the gentleman’s agreement of power rotation, but will lead to crisis that could tear the country apart.
Speaking to newsmen in Abuja at the weekend, the National Coordinator of SSEF, His Highness, Anabs Sara-Igbe, said that while the North have ruled for 40 years, South-West for almost 12 years, the South-South has only ruled for four years, while the South-East had a shot at the presidency for only six months.
Sara-Igbe said allowing the South-South zone to complete its second term at the presidency, which was terminated in 2015, will not only promote economic stability of the nation, but work quickly to reintegrate the South-East into Nigeria, as well as help them forget the wounds of the civil war.
The elder, who is also the National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), argued that the South-South will only be favoured to produce the next President in 2023, since according to him, the North would not be too comfortable to give support to a president of South-East extraction because they have not dropped memories of the civil war, adding that Ndigbo have never failed to express their bitterness towards the North over the perceived marginalisation of their zone.
He also argued that the position of the South-West on the raging controversy over the recently launched regional security outfit, Amotekun, as well as the threat from Miyetti Allah may have triggered a sour relationship between the two regions, to the extent that the West too will not enjoy the support of the North for the 2023 presidency.
He also maintained that while the South-East and South-West have continued to wish away their demand for the presidency, and concentrated on their call for restructuring as their only interest, the South-South although fully in support of restructuring, is also very much interested in the 2023 presidency and will embark on a lobbying press across the country to curry desired support.
“For us, the race for the presidency has started and it is a clear fact that there is an unconventional agreement that the presidency should go North and South.
“Presently, the presidency is in the North and they have completed their two terms. It implies that the presidency will come back to the South. The South-West has had its complete tenure through President Olusegun Obasanjo; the South-South had had one tenure through President Goodluck Jonathan; the South-East has not got it in the new dispensation.
“But if you are talking about since independence, the North has ruled for over 40 years, South-West has also ruled for almost 12 years, the South-East has ruled for six months and the South-South ruled for one tenure of four years.
“So, it is right for the South-South to complete its two tenures, thereafter the South-East will have a shot at it.
“Besides, the South-East today is insisting on Biafra; it is not insisting on the presidency. We in the South-South believe in the restructuring of this country but we are also interested in the presidency.
“And considering that we are the hub carrying Nigeria, the nation should be fair to us by allowing us to complete our second tenure. When we complete our second tenure, we will believe that Nigeria is with us.
“Although the three regions – South-East, South-South, South-West in the South and the Middle-Belt in the North, believe in restructuring. The South-South is willing to stand by restructuring, but that does not mean that we will throw away the presidency. So, we are appealing to Nigerians to please do us that small favour of giving us the second term.
“We know that Nigerians can do it like when the Yoruba agitated; all the political parties then allowed only Yoruba candidates to vie for the presidency – Obasanjo, Falaye and co. So, we are saying that all the parties in Nigeria should field only candidates of South-South extraction as was the case in 1999”.
Asked to explain how the agitation of the Nnamdi Kanu-led separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has become the official position of the South-East, he said that at a meeting of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and PANDEF, Ohanaeze said they are not interested in the 2023 presidency, but in restructuring.
On insinuations that the North was planning to run for the presidency in 2023, the PANDEF spokesperson declared that another Northern presidency in 2023 would be invitation to anarchy.
Sara-Igbe said: “For the North to insist on getting the presidency again, they do not mean well. And that is why the Arewa group came out boldly to condemn those advocating for another tenure for the North and they put their weight behind the South-South presidency.
“When Yar’Adua was president, he wanted to use military might against the Niger Delta and within months, the economy was crippled. He rather begged for amnesty and gave us the things that we required.
“Buhari came and thought he could use military might and the economy was crippled, we went into economic recession until PANDEF came and salvaged this country. So, you cannot say anybody cannot do anything.
“Even the Igbo that are not happy today can do something. The Niger Delta can do something, the Middle-Belt can do something. Every part of Nigeria has the potential to do something because we are a union. And we don’t want crisis in this country. If the North wants to hold on to power, then they don’t want peace in Nigeria and I think the North will do that.”
Asked what should be expected should the North insist on retaining power in 2023, he said: “Well, except they want chaos in this country. If they want chaos in this country, then they can insist”.