The Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, yesterday, expressed full support of Southern Governors’ Forum (SGF)’s position on the need to shift power to the South in 2023, which the Forum’s chairman, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, reiterated on Tuesday, The Guardian reports.
The Ondo State governor had made the call while hosting members of the Power Shift Movement, who visited him in his office in Akure, the state capital, recalling that the Southern governors had last year made the power shift declaration.
This, he said, reinforced his warning that any political party that fielded a Northerner as its presidential candidate for the 2023 poll would fail.
Afenifere’s expression of support was contained in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Comrade Jare Ajayi, following the criticism that trailed Akeredolu’s statement by Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG).
Spokespersons of ACF and CNG, Mr Emmanuel Yawe and Mr Abul-Azeez Suleiman, respectively, had descended heavily on the governor in their separate statements on Wednesday, with ACF describing Akeredolu’s statement as amounting to a threat, and therefore, unacceptable to them, while CNG insinuated alleged hatred for the North.
Afenifere, however, dismissed ACF and CNG’s positions, saying that Akeredolu’s stance was in line with that of ethnic nationalities, particularly in four zones of the country, namely Southwest, Middle-Belt, Southeast and the South-South as represented by their respective organisations.
Afenifere listed the organisations as Middle Belt Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which it said collectively formed the South and Middle-Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF).
It said: “All the groups were represented at the meeting with Governor Akeredolu. They were there along with Comrade Kennedy Iyere, co-coordinator of the Power Shift Movement and the 40 Million Ballot – an important component of the Power Shift Movement.
“Governor Akeredolu is very much in line with the position of the SMBLF as further reiterated at its recent meeting in Abuja, where all political parties in the country were urged to field candidates of Southern extraction for the purpose of the 2023 presidential election.
“He spoke our minds when he said that ‘only a party that is determined to lose will field a Northern candidate.’ What we, along with the Southern governors, stand for is fair and equitable power rotation. The only fair thing is that after eight years in the North, presidency should come to the South,” Afenifere posited.
Similarly, a Southwest socio-political group, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, has also berated Northern leaders, for their stand on power shift.
The body was reacting to the recent position of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), which insisted that the North will retain the presidency beyond 2023, saying it is the region of actual kingmakers that decide who becomes the president of the country.
President of the forum, Akin Malaolu, said the statement ascribed to the Northern elders reeks of arrogance and betrays their understanding of critical issues that make up nationhood in a diverse country made up of many nationalities, one of which is rotational presidency.
The forum, therefore, urged the ruling elite in the North to let peace reign and allow power to rotate to the South as had been the convention since the coming of the Fourth Republic in 1999, noting that it is on the basis of rotational presidency that the forum supported President Buhari in 2015 and same reason it is advocating Igbo presidency in 2023.
Malaolu said beyond the swearing-in into office of a Southern president of Igbo extraction in 2023, the forum is not relenting in its vanguard for restructuring, true federalism and many other anomalies keeping the nation from advancing in togetherness.
Continuing, he said: “Historians and topographers make use of evidences and witnesses to solve problems, particularly, why nations were lost and why others continue to prosper. We shall therefore make use of their skills.
“As could be seen today, things are almost assuming the shape of an uprising in the North and this may topple the feudalism that had long held the people down since 1808 with the defeat of Sarki Yunfa at the battle of Alkalawa, the capital of Gobir State.
“One very strange behaviour, which history also recorded was that the Fulanis introduced into their new system of government and in all conquered states in the 19th century, denial of tasks to the indigenous people that they ruled over. The consequences are visible everywhere in the North, and seems to be their albatross and pains today. This illegitimacy of status is now at play within the Nigerian state and therefore the fear to relinquish power.
“Today, the Fulanis have granted themselves astounding privileges to the detriment of those rightfully entitled to them and these are not by virtue of any law, local or national, which in a certain way legitimise these inequalities by tradition, but by destroying and upsetting the established rules and substituting it with its own.
“Today, the Fulanis are more protected by the police, military and other security institutions because of fear and the power they wielded, thereby making them a minority living in the midst of hostile majority.”
The CNG, had, however, insisted that the North would field candidates when the time comes for the 2023 presidential election. This was even as they described Akeredolu’s statements as empty threats that won’t work.
CNG, through its spokesperson, Suleiman, warned that as far as the North was concerned, the idea that it would be directly or indirectly threatened or intimidated or blackmailed into yielding an office, which ought to be settled democratically is not acceptable.
He condemned the threat by Akeredolu as another desperation to brutally encroach on the fundamental rights of political parties to field candidates of their choices, and the right of voters to freely exercise choices over who leads them.
While warning that the right of Northerners to aspire to any elective position in any party is non-negotiable, Suleiman said the North would not be deterred by empty and provocative statements from Akeredolu and groups in the South, who believe in threats and hate campaigns as the hallmark or defining elements for elections.
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