President Muhammadu Buhari
Northern leaders and groups championing the interest of the region are currently divided over power rotation and the 2023 presidency, just as some elders under the banner of Northern Elders Forum have called an emergency meeting for next week to manage the cracks and explore the possibility of presenting a common position.
One of such cracks is in the ranks of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the northern socio-cultural mouthpiece as the Acting Chairman and Secretary General of the Forum (ACF), Alhaji Musa Liman Kwande and Anthony Sani have respectively disagreed over the region’s position to produce the nation’s president post-Muhammadu Buhari’s end of tenure in 2023.
While Sani argues that north’s numerical strength alone cannot give it the presidency in 2023, Kwande thinks otherwise. “The constitution is very clear on how to become president, to wit, that the person must win not only majority votes but also at least 25% of the votes in at least two thirds of the 36 states and FCT. That means no regional votes alone can make a region produce a president.
This is because two thirds of the 36 states is 24 states while the North is only 19 states. Unless a part of the South supports the candidate from the North, there is no way the candidate can emerge the president with northern votes alone”, Sani had told Saturday Sun in an interview. Kwande on the other hand said only a single candidate of northern extraction will be voted for in 2023 presidential election, irrespective of political party.
This is even as the Middle Belt Forum as well as the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU) have distanced themselves from the position of the ACF leaders. For the Middle Belt Forum and SOKAPU, it is high time the core north left the presidency for the Middle Belt region, just as they pressed for the restructuring of the country.
Speaking to Saturday Sun in reaction to the stance of the Acting Chairman of ACF, Alhaji Kwande, who said that north will produce candidate for 2023 presidency, Sani said the Chairman was expressing his personal opinion.
According to the ACF scribe, “I have been saying this over and over again about the 2023 presidency, and my position has always been that it is too early to talk about the 2023 presidential race. The moment we start talking about the 2023 presidential election, we are down playing performance in our national politics.
“Secondly, we are down playing the chance of political parties to present their own candidates. And again politics of zoning has no national consensus. In the last election, for example, there were a total of 76 presidential candidates, and only six were from the north, and 70 from the south. So the national consensus is not binding. I want to believe that, that is the spirit my Chairman was expressing his personal opinion because in the absence of binding national consensus, anybody can come out and contest.
“And again, north doesn’t even have the numerical strength to produce the president because the north cannot retain the presidency without the support of the south. North doesn’t have the numerical strength because the region must have the majority votes and 25 percent in 2/3 of the 36 States, which is 24 States. North doesn’t have 24 States, south doesn’t have 24 States. So north alone cannot produce the president, south alone cannot produce the president.
“I believe those who put it this way in the Constitution want us to make friends across the country in our democratic system. The Constitution did not say that north alone can produce the president or south alone can produce the president”.
However, the National Legal Adviser, Middle Belt Forum, Mark Jacob said it is the turn of the middle belt to produce the nation’s next president in 2023. Mark Jacob was one time national legal adviser of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Attorney General of Kaduna State respectively.
According to Jacob, “The middle belt has better qualified candidates for the 2023 presidential election than any other part of the north. We have cooperated and supported other parts of the north to produce Presidents for the country. So we believe that the time has come for other parts of the north to support the middle belt because we have better qualified candidates for the job.
“There is nothing wrong with having and identifying with Middle Belt Forum because it is a geopolitical entity like any other geopolitical zones in the country.
And I want to quickly add that restructuring of the country is even more important to us than the 2023 elections because the current structure of Nigeria is faulty, so we believe in restructuring because it will ensure stability of the nation”.
For the national president of SOKAPU, Jonathan Asake, his people would rather pitch tent with other socio-cultural groups that believe in the restructuring of the country, and not with ACF that does not believe in restructuring.
Specifically, Asake said SOKAPU will reach out to the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum as well as Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) to press for the restructuring of the country.
He said, “Our leadership will reach out to other sociocultural groups such as the Middle Belt Forum, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Afenifere, and Ohaeneze Ndigbo with whom we share common ideals and aspirations on the Nigerian project such as the restructuring of Nigeria including resource control, power sharing and power rotation, States creation, land tenure and land ownership, devolution of power, self determination, and traditional institutions matters, to mention but a few”.
Worried by the divergent views coming from the region, the Northern Elders Forum under the leadership of Prof Ango Abdullahi has called for an emergency meeting for next week to address urgent issues bordering on unity of the north, insecurity and the 2023 presidency among others. While the elders support restructuring of the country, ACF does not.
A source privy to the agenda of the NEF meeting said, “the elders are concerned about the conflicts between our frontline royal fathers and the government of the day whether at the federal or state level. For instance, it is obvious there is no cordial relationship between the Sultan of Sokoto and the Buhari government; there is no peace between the Kano state government and the Emir of Kano; while the hostile relationship between the Emir of Zazzau and the Kaduna state government is just showing some signs of improvement recently.”
The source further stated that the elders are worried about the lack of sufficient federal interest in the security challenges in Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina. “We are also aware of the aspiration of some of our governors to vie for the 2023 presidency and the discordant tunes coming from the various socio-political and cultural organisations. These are some of the issues the elders will be considering next week with a view to mobilizing support for a common position for the entire north.”