by Rachel Ogbu
“The North is determined and is insistent that the leadership of this country will rotate to it in 2015,” spokesman for Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) and former Adviser on Food Security to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Ango Abdullahi was quoted as saying on Tuesday at a news conference in Kaduna.
Abdullahi warned that if parties failed to adhere to the existing agreement that the Presidency should return to the region in 2015, the North would use its numerical strength to ensure that power returned to it.
“The North on the basis of one man, one vote can keep power indefinitely in the present Nigerian state. If it is on the basis of one man, one vote, demography shows that the North can keep power as long as it wants because it will always win elections,” he added.
On Tuesday at the news conference, six Northern organisations, including the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Northern Elders’ Forum, Arewa Reawakening Forum, Arewa Research and Development Project, Northern Union and the Code Group , all agreed with Abdullahi who according to reports said that that the ACF was in the forefront of the quest by the region to have a Northerner as President, added that even the Middle Belt Forum and other groups in the region were clear in their calls for a Northern President in 2015.
“All of us have this very tough and common agenda. Not that the North is power hungry. No; it (power rotation) in 2015 will be argued on the rational agreement that is on the ground today,” he explained.
The Punch reports:
The former presidential aide pointed out that it was morally wrong for President Goodluck Jonathan to contemplate contesting in 2015 since he was aware that such a pact existed.
Abdullahi mentioned former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Jonathan as some of those who signed the pact. Jonathan, according to him, signed as number 37 when he was the deputy governor of Bayelsa State.
“He (Obasanjo) was the first to sign. This particular President (Jonathan) was there as deputy governor representing the then governor of Bayelsa State. He signed as number 37. It was found in the document,” the NEF spokesman claimed.
Abdullahi, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, also said that Obasanjo started the circumvention of the pact by seeking a third term in office.
“We had agreed that the South will have eight years and then, the North will have eight years but when Obasanjo saw some loopholes, he tried to abandon the zoning as well as the constitution to seek third term,” the former presidential adviser alleged.
He noted that even after Obasanjo’s tenure, the North was short-changed due to the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, who only spent two and half years instead of eight years of two terms contained in the said agreement.
When reminded of a former Information Minister Chief Edwin Clark’s insistence that Jonathan must rule in 2015, the former Vice- Chancellor, argued that the South-South where he (Clark) hails from is “a tiny enclave of a few people, perhaps not bigger than Kaduna State.”
Abdullahi added that the North would have continued to dominate the political turf if not for the voluntary sacrifices it had continued to make in the cause of the nation’s history.
He said, “Some of us who participated in constitutional conferences from 1987 till the last one – the Political Reform Conference – accepted that every part of this country should have a taste of leadership and this is the basis of the acceptance of the rotation between the North and the South.”
He explained that it was based on the afforementioned that the South through Obasanjo had its share of the eight years of two terms before handing over to Yar’Adua, who could not complete his own eight years before his death.
Abdullahi said, “It is obvious the constitution says if the President for whatever reason is not there, his deputy will take over. And this was why Jonathan as vice-president then became the President. We thought at the end of that four years, the North should take over. If we didn’t have eight years because of that truncation, at least, we should have had six years but they said no.
“So, it is mainly on the grounds that first, there was an agreement for rotation of power and that there is immorality in their refusal to hand over to us that we are insisting on clinching power in 2015. The North is insisting that the Presidency will come whether on the basis of rotation or on the basis of voting power since we have the voting power to make sure that it (Presidency) comes to the North .”
He stated that the region would pick a competent person from either “the core-north or Middle Belt” as a candidate for the presidential poll in 2015.
The Presidency, immediately reacted to the groups’ comment on Jonathan’s alleged ambition, saying Nigerians, and not Northern elders as represented by Abdullahi, would decide who rules Nigeria in 2015.
Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said Abdullahi did not represent the North as the region did not believe in his leadership.
He warned the elder statesman and his ilk to avoid heating up the polity by their utterances.
The presidential aide added that while Abdullahi and his group had the constitutional right not to vote for Jonathan, others also had the right to vote for him.
He said, “In the first place, Abdullahi is not a character that represents the North because the region does not believe in his leadership. Nigerians will be the ones that will decide who becomes President in 2015 and not Abdullahi. He has no say in who becomes the President.
“As we speak, President Jonathan has not made up his mind to re-contest. People should be calm. This is the time for the President to work for Nigeria. He will tell them when he makes up his mind.
“Abdullahi and his ilk should not heat up the polity. They should act as elder statesmen and not as restive elders.
“They have constitutional right not to vote for President Jonathan. Other Nigerians also have constitutional right to vote for him. At the end, the majority will carry the day, that is the beauty of democracy. Minority may have their say but the majority will have their way.”