How Southern governor’s declaration will alter 2023 political permutations
The Asaba and Lagos declarations by the Southern Governors Forum, where they boldly insisted on the zone producing the next president of Nigeria in 2023, as well as the endorsement and agreement on the take off date for a total ban on open grazing in the zone will no doubt shape the 2023 political permutations, writes Correspondent, MYKE UZENDU
Despite the amalgamation of 1914, the Southern states have been politically polarized along ethnic and religious divides while the North had been existing as a homogenous region and making unimpeded political conquest of some sections in the south. The north further perfected a political strategy that keeps them close to the corridors of power at every general election.
The two dominating tribes in the south, since the civil war have nursed mutual ethnic suspicion and distrust leading to each zone trying to outsmart the other in political alliance with the north. The north over the years has harvested heavily from this rivalry to the detriment of the south in the power equilibrium.
But the political deluge between the Igbos and Yoruba’s seems to fading out as witnessed during the EndSARS protest where some prominent voices from the West came heavily in defense of Igbo’s when they were accused of using the protest to unleash mayhem on the Yoruba nation in Lagos. The recent Yoruba cessation agitation has also been interpreted as another point of collaboration between Igbos and the Yoruba nation.
It may not be wrong to assume that the seeming imbalance in the present political equation, the land grabbing agenda of marauding herders in the south, rise in insurgency and present marginalization woke the 17 Southern governors from political docility.
The governors irrespective of party affiliations, disappointed naysayers, opened a new political horizon and came out with a more coordinated strategy so as to reposition the region ahead of 2023 general election and combat other threats in the region during their meeting in Asaba and Lagos respectively.
Some of their resolutions include “that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria”, including cattle movement to the South by foot, restructuring, “state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments”.
The governors further demanded for the convocation of national dialogue as a matter of urgency and the “need to review appointments into Federal Government Agencies (including Security Agencies) to reflect federal character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogonous”.
The forum declared that “the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region” just as it agreed that Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 is deadline for the promulgation of the anti-open grazing law in all member States.
These resolutions were welcomed by some northern leaders including Gov. Umar Ganduje of Kano State, Gov. Bala Mohammed of Bauchi state, former Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State including the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
They argued that the movement of cattle from the North to the South is archaic, obsolete and reduces the economic value of the cows while herders were exposed to persistent clashed with farmers over quest for vegetation and grazing routes.
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom described the decision as bold and patriotic, noting that it will bring an end to the lingering crisis caused by armed herdsmen as well as reduce political tension.
But these resolutions did not go down well with some political actors in north.
First to launch a salvo was the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) which described the meeting of the Southern Governors as “a call for secession”, saying that the governors are “confused and mischievous”.
Also on the list of the unsettled Northern Leaders are the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, Tanko Yakassai, Professor Usman Yusuf, Senator Ali Ndume, Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi state to mention but a few.
They queried the audacity of the Southern governors to make such decisions without consulting the North and called out governors of the ruling party for joining the opposition in the ‘threatening alliance”.
Reacting to the development, The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) through its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said in a statement, “NEF sees the decision of the Southern governors as an expression of sentiment that could be best discussed within a political process. We are running a democratic government and decisions over where the next president comes from are basically decisions that will be made by voters exercising their rights to choose which candidate best serves their interest.”
He said that the democratic rights of Nigerian citizens to vote for a candidate cannot be snatched by threats or intimidation, stressing that politicians were becoming very lazy to think they will be given leadership in a manner that suggests an ultimatum.
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) in a statement by the group’s spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman said that the North will not be stampeded or blackmailed into taking major decisions around rotating the Presidency and shall insist that only a candidate who is competent and able to unite and secure Nigeria should be voted in 2023, irrespective of where he or she comes from.
But addressing their concerns, Reuben Abati, former Spokesperson to former President Goodluck Jonathan faulted the North for assuming a decision endorsement body and asked if the South was consulted when some states in the north commenced the implementation of sharia law and hisbah police.
“The point needs to be stressed that being an APC Governor is not a willful submission to slavery or mental lobotomy. Bi-partisanship is a civilized, public-spirit mode of politics. Membership of a political party should not turn politicians into zombies without a mind of their own.
“Since the Asaba meeting, I have seen reports that APC Governors in the South are being summoned to meetings, ostensibly to whip them into line. It is shameful that this is the kind of politics we play”.
As the general election inches closer, the two major political parties are yet to disclose the zone that will produce the next presidential candidate.
A source informed The AUTHORITY that “the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is morally bound to present a northerner as its presidential candidate since the last President produced by the party was from the South while the ruling party should present a Southerner since the President is from the North”.
The source said that PDP is aware that an early pronouncement on the zone to produce the next President would shut out some aspirants hence the party through it committee headed by Gov. Bala Mohammed recommended that the party throws its Presidential slot open to all zones.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders are of the view that the role of President Buhari in the choice of zone that will produce his successor will be another opportunity to subject his statesmanship and ethnic disposition to test.
It was also learnt that some notable leaders in the North are seriously weighing the implications of either allowing power to remain in the north which will increase the clamour for restructuring and increase agitations for cessation and self-determination.
Some norther retired military generals, are of the opinion that power shift remains the best option to douse the present agitations so that all the federating units will be carried along.
According to a source, “the Northern elites do not want the repeat of the near-war situation, which eventually forced the military regime of ex-General Abdulsalami Abubakar to transmit power to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.”
Meanwhile the North Central Progressive Group (NCGP) has stated that it is the turn of the region to produce the next president. President of the group, Comrade Benjamin Sanni, who addressed journalists in Abuja said that the region is asking all political parties and zones to cede the 2023 Presidency to the North Central, adding that any aspirant older than 60 at the time of the quest should forget about the Presidency.
However, the Southern governors declaration has reinforced the aspiration of the APC leader Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, Senator Sani Yerima, Rochas Okorocha, Rotimi Amechi.and many others.