Mixed reactions, ye s t e rday, trailed the position of Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, that power should shift to the South in 2023. While the apex Igbo body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, commended the Kaduna State governor over what it described as his discerning mind and being fair enough in supporting power shift, pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, warned against trusting el-Rufai.
This is as some prominent opinion leaders of Northern extraction, including Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, Junaid Mohammed and Alhaji Balarabe Musa, expressed divergent views on el-Rufai’s submission.
The Kaduna State governor had, amidst the controversy over the propriety of rotational presidency between the North and South, said that no northerner should contest for the presidency in 2023.
He also dismissed insinuations that he was interested in the race. His position is on the heels of the assertion by President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, that merit should determine who becomes the country’s next president rather than zoning.
In an interview with BBC Hausa Service at the weekend, el-Rufai said: “In Nigerian politics, there is a system of rotation in which everyone agrees that if the North rules for eight years, the South will rule for eight years.
That is why I came out and said that after President Buhari has been in office for eight years, no northerner should run for office.
Let the southerners also have eight years.” But Ohanaeze, apart from commending el-Rufai on his position, asked those in support of power shift to the South to go the whole hug by specifying that power should shift to South-East for the sake of equity.
The Igbo group proposed the 1999 arrangement that saw two south westerners, Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae, as the candidates of the then main political parties – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Peoples Party (APP).
Ohanaeze spoke in an interview with New Telegraph through Chief Emeka Attamah, Special Adviser on Media to its President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo. He said: “I must say that I received the statement with every sense of happiness, gratitude and appreciation.
At least for his discerning mind to know that we can’t keep any polity in bondage by insisting that a particular side of the country must produce the leader of the country at any given time.
“But again, with discordant notes coming from the same camp, it becomes difficult to discern which of them is really true, because people can’t speak from both sides of the mouth, which is what the North is doing now.
You can’t approbate and reprobate at the same time. You can’t be saying that power should go to the most qualified and all that without recourse to the power rotation in the country and another person is saying there will be power rotation that will take it to the South and you want Nigerians to believe you entirely?”
When reminded that those were individual opinions, he said: “Yes, but there are opinions that really must inform, because it’s like flying kites.
Politics is like that, so these are subject to implementation and ratification until they begin to show us reasons that they want power to shift to the South by the major parties picking their candidates from the South, specifically from the South-East. “When you talk of the South, South is omnibus; you have South-West, South- East and South-South.
But equity demands that it should be South-East. So, if anybody is talking about power shifting to the South, the person should be specific that it is shifting to the South-East and not leaving it in an ambiguous situation.”
Warning against trusting the Kaduna State governor, Afenifere, through its spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, said: “el-Rufai is not a man you can trust. A few months ago, he was singing Mamman Daura’s competence song. Now, he is singing zoning song, maybe because he is aware of some decisions at cabal level that may not favour his ambition. We can’t be fooled by his deceptive game.”
Describing the Kaduna State governor’s move as a bait, which must be carefully sieved, Odumakin alleged that the North’s agenda is to be in power beyond 2023.
His words: “This is the third statement that el-Rufai will be making in respect of the 2023 presidency. He first said he does not believe in zoning, that he believes in competence, just like Mamman Daura.
We don’t know what is making him to make the categorical statement again that it is the turn of the South. “Talks like this makes you lose your guard. It is deception. The way they have used power in the last five years, they wish they can continue that way. What we will say is that Nigerians should remain vigilant on this matter.”
Also, a member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, has advised the All Progressives Congress (APC) not to field a northern candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
Yakasai, a former Political Adviser to the President during the Second Republic, said while he agreed with el-Rufai on his current position, the governor actually spoke in the context of APC and such opinion cannot be binding on other political parties. “I think Governor el- Rufai was talking largely about APC because it is the party in power.
By 2023, the APC would have spent eight years in power with a northerner as the president and is not expected to sponsor another northerner to the same position. “APC should not sponsor any presidential candidate from the North. They can only sponsor a candidate from the South if they want to respect the zoning formulae adopted in 1999. It will be unfair to deny the South that opportunity.
“However, that rule is not binding on other political parties who are not in power or have not been in power. It will be unfair to rule out the right of other parties,” he said.
Yakassai argued that while the North had held sway since 2015 till date, the northern political elite should be prepared to make sacrifice by stepping back from the seat of power and allowing their compatriots in the South to mount the saddle. Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Muhammad, on his part, said Nigerians should be suspicious of those coming out to speak on the 2023 elections.
He told New Telegraph that the idea of zoning and rotation is undemocratic and wonders why some politicians choose to speak now when they did not speak before. “I think those that have supported and benefited from zoning like el-Rufai should speak on this issue, because I have never sup-ported zoning.
The whole idea of zoning has not been the idea of the majority of the people and it is alien to democracy. Zoning and democracy do not co-exist. There is no way you will zone power and still be talking about democracy. You just have to make a choice.
“Also, if people want us to support what they say, it should not be because they are holding political positions. If we want to practice democracy, let it be a brand of democracy that is credible.
The one that is based on zoning and rotation is not a credible democracy; it is not based on free choice by the people. In 1999, some people put Olu Falae and Olusegun Obasanjo from the same ethnic group to contest, so that they can get the desired results. But did that settle the issue?
“We must be sure that whoever is governing this country must be the right person, who has what it takes to govern this complicated country. What some of these people are saying now is suspect.
For example, someone recently talked about competence; these are people who have been with Buhari since he has been contesting elections, but they have never talked about competence. So, the question is: Why now?”
Former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who chose to be more specific on his position, said power must not just shift to the South, but should be made to reside in the South- East geopolitical zone in the next dispensation.
In a chat with New Telegraph, Musa said to insist on retaining presidential powers in the North after President Muhammadu Buhari must have served the two terms allowed by the constitution, will offend the power rotation principle in the country.
“The North brought about the law on Federal Character and the principle of zoning in Nigeria. Power rotation is part and parcel of the Federal Character. So, why should the North be opposed to zoning because it was brought into our politics by PDP?
“Like I said, zoning is part of federal character and we should encourage our political parties to adopt it whenever they are making critical decisions.
“Second, I want to be specific on what I think should happen in 2023. It (power) should go to the South-East for the sake of peace, equity, justice, national unity and continued progress of Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, the North is worse off in poverty and insecurity, vowing to support a candidate from the South in 2023.
“El-Rufai is very right, that is very good. He has made a good statement and I am in support of him. I don’t believe that the North should contest in 2023, the rest of the country should have a sense of belonging. Why should the leadership of this country always be about the North?
“The rest of the country also need to have a sense of belonging. Also, what has the North benefited from being in power. What has been the benefits of the ordinary Northerner? Nothing.
“You can see the situation now in terms of poverty, insecurity. Is the North not worse off than the rest of the country?
And the president is from the North. We are not getting anything from having the president, so, why can’t it go round. Even if any party brings out a candidate from the North, I will support the one from the South,” the former governor of Kaduna State said.