The clamour for the presidency to return to the North in 2015 is growing. No fewer than four prominent groups are now championing the cause. The campaign was initially spearheaded by two groups – Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Northern Elders Forum (NEF). Last week, the four northern groups signalled that the presidency will not remain with a southerner beyond the next general elections.
In other words, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, from the South-south, suspected of nursing re-election, will not return to power. They claimed to have conceded power to the South to give it a sense of belonging, saying, whether by power rotation or voting power, the North would upstage the South from the presidency in 2015.
The groups also said that once North was back in power, it could decide to hold unto it indefinitely. The spokesman for the groups, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who spoke in Kaduna, said: “Let me state that ACF, to many people, is not being as assertive on 2015 as they wish. This is not correct. Here in the North , we have certain tradition that sometimes people misread as a weakness”.
North must take back power
“The fact that we don’t come out in shouting match and in abusive language and so on sometimes gives the wrong impression that we do not have deep-rooted concern for ourselves about 2015. This is not true. The South-south is a tiny enclave of a few people, perhaps not bigger than Kaduna State”, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, a former vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU) and the NEF leader, told journalists.
He continued: “The North is determined and is insistent that the leadership of the country will rotate to it in 2015. “And I am making that very clear. ACF in front because they have been the oldest group, the Middle Belt Forum and our other groups have been very active and strong. All of us are likely to have this very tough but a common agenda.
It is not that the North is power blind. No! it will be argued on the rational agreement on ground today. “The North, on the basis of one-man-one-vote, can keep power indefinitely in the present Nigeria state. If it is on the basis of one-man – one-vote, the demography shows that the North can keep power as long as it wants because it will always win elections.
No zoning in the constitution
“Some of us who participated in conferences- constitutional conferences from 1987 to the last one, the Political Reform Conference – accepted that every part of this country should feel it is part of the leadership and that is the basis of the acceptance of the rotation arrangement between the North and South. This is what happened at the constitutional conference.
There was no question of geo-political zones. The geo-political zones were later introduction. So when this happened, of course, the argument was that it was supposed to be in the constitution but the government in power at that time said it was better for parties to use it to attract support and growth from all parts of the country. And this is what the PDP, the ruling party, now accepted.
I was part of the constitution drafting committee of the party and we incorporated it that there would be rotation between the North and South and, particularly in terms of the top leadership of the party. The question that followed immediately was that where would the rotation start? We, northerners, thought we should concede, that it should start with the South.
“This was because the North, over the years, whether military or civilians, had taken a good share of the leadership. And before then, there had been a crisis that led to the annulment of the June 12, 1993election. For example, somebody from the South-west was believed to have won the election that was annulled. This was the cumulative issue that informed our decision that the South should start.
That is how eventually Obasanjo came to be our president under an arrangement and the tenure clearly for four years. And when he asked or rather begged for the arrangement to be extended to match the constitutional allowance that the president could go for two terms, this was extended in an expanded caucus to make it eight years for Obasanjo.
“This particular president(Jonathan) was there as deputy governor representing the governor of Bayelsa State in that caucus meeting. He signed as number 37. It is in the document. The meeting agreed that the South will have eight years and then the North will have eight years. But, Obasanjo, after seeing some lacuna, tried to abandon the zoning as well as the constitution to seek third term. Of course he failed.
He came to the North and thought we will allow him to go without resistance to hand pick his successor. He hand picked my younger brother, the late Umaru Yar’Adua. But the condition had been satisfied, a northerner was president. Umaru soon took ill and died two and a half into his first term. It is obvious the constitution says if the president for whatever reason is not there, his vice will take over. That is why Jonathan, being his vice, became the president and we thought that at least, on moral grounds, at the end of four years, the North should take over.
North to blame
“It must have been the fault of northerners as far as I am concerned that they allowed this because it was their turn in 2011. But they allowed it. I thought Jonathan should have been first, purely on moral grounds, knowing that there was a rotation arrangement in place and that there was an agreement and all of them were signatory, but they came out to say they didn’t know about rotation. Obasanjo started it, he said he didn’t know about rotation. Jonathan himself said it that he didn’t’ know about rotation.
“But if you go to Chief Audu Ogbeh, who was chairman of the PDP at the time the agreement was brokered, he will give you the full story of how this thing happened. But the issue here is that we now have another four years pending. But, recently, we are now getting to know from one of the governors that they had some secret arrangement that they will still allow Jonathan to go for another four years.
They haven’t expatiated but it was revealed by at least governor of Niger State that there was this pledge to do one term by Jonathan in 2011. But it makes you think, really, how could leaders be trusted if they can not honour simple agreements whether written or unwritten? The hallmark of decent leadership is to honour agreements.
“The North is insisting that the presidency should come to the North whether on the basis of rotation or on the basis of voting power and we have the voting power.
Middle Belt and the North
“It is true that we are not as united as before. The Middle Forum has been there as part of the North. Last month, they went to say they supported Jonathan. Someone is taking advantage of the problems confronting us in the North to divide us. But we are working on that. We are going to bring back everybody to a roundtable so that everyone will say his mind, and we will come out with a political solution that will address the fears and needs of everyone. The North will always remain one.
“When we decide on our candidate, we will pick a northerner. It does not matter his religion and ethnicity. We shall look for a qualified northerner and support him. He can come from any tribe, state or religion. The most important thing is that we get back power”.
Hands of the Presidency
On the crisis in River State, the northern groups denounced it, including “the role of the spouse of the president in the impasse.
Their spokesperson added, “The shameful and disturbing abuse of power and rule of law in Rivers State are signs that Nigeria is descending into anarchy and lawlessness rarely seen in our history.
“The hands of the Presidency are clearly visible in all these events that appear to draw inspiration from the ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan to stay in power in 2015. The most recent development in Rivers State represents a new low in the shameful conduct of political office holders at the highest levels, and they should be condemned by all Nigerians.
“The crisis in Rivers State is a sad reminder of our experience in the Western Nigeria crisis of 1963. We call on President Goodluck Jonathan to order an immediate cessation of hostilities in Rivers State and stop using the Nigeria Police to settle his political disputes. The police must not be dragged into the internal crisis of the president’s party. The governor of and people of Rivers State and, indeed, all citizens of Nigeria deserve the full protection of the law and their rights to live in peace under the state-guaranteed security”.