M’Belt, Southern Leaders Rally Support for Southern Presidency
•North-west, South-south, South-east intensify lobby for more states
Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Leaders from the Middle Belt and the South yesterday joined the crusade for power shift to the South in 2023, after the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s final tenure in office.
They also expressed concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the country and called on the federal government to impose a state of emergency in the sector.
The leaders, under the auspices of Southern and Forum (SMBLF), rising from a meeting in Abuja, during which they discussed the state of the nation as well as the 2023 general election, called on all political parties, including the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to give preference to the South in choosing their presidential candidates.
The leaders said the North would have enjoyed the presidency for the full statutory period of eight years by 2023, hence, the need for the office to return to the South in accordance with the country’s practice of rotational presidency.
They also urged the federal government to urgently come up with proactive strategies to restore peace and security to all parts of the country.
In a communiqué jointly signed at the end of the two-hour closed-door meeting by SMBLF leaders, including its National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Afenifere Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor; National President, Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus and National Chairman, PANDEF, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, the forum warned that the forthcoming general election may not take place if the recurring issue of banditry is not checked.
The leaders stated that if the security situation is not dealt with and banditry stopped or contained, it would not be feasible to have proper elections in 2023.
The communiqué called on the federal government to heed the nationwide calls for a transparent national dialogue and take urgent steps towards restructuring and birthing a new constitution, to bring back equitable harmony to the country.
The forum added that it is imperative to immediately restructure the country, considering the precarious prevailing atmosphere, before any further elections.
It reaffirmed its commitment to the unity of Nigeria, but stated that it must only be sustained on the principles of equity, fairness and justice.
SMBLF, while condemning the federal government’s stance on the resolutions of Southern governors banning open grazing and restructuring, said cattle rearing remained a private business enterprise.
“As such, the federal government should avoid committing state resources to promote any particular business, beyond providing the enabling environment in the performance of its regulatory roles,” the group said.
The forum also extended its condolences to the families of the late Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru, and 10 other military personnel who died in the military plane crash in Kaduna on May 21.
It called on the military authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident to ascertain the actual cause of the crash.