The apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo at loggerheads with the Northcentral leaders over the contentious rotation principle of the Presidential zoning, as controversy deepened.
For the South-East group, the zoning would foster equity, fairness and justice, while the Northcentral leaders under the aegis of Northcentral People Forum (NCPF) in objection held that it is divisive and a negation of merit and competence.
Swiftly, the Ohanaeze while criticizing Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State for rejecting zoning and describing it as unconstitutional, insisted rotational presidency was a product of an agreement between the South and the North.
According to them, Bello was an undergraduate when the North and South reached the agreement on rotational presidency.
Bello said that, “Nigerians should be allowed to make their choices for the best candidate to emerge for the top post.”
The Governor stated this at the maiden edition of the Governor Yahaya Bello Seminar for political and crime correspondents in Abuja at the weekend
However, Governor Bello’s position was backed by Northcentral leaders, who faulted Southern governors’ call for power shift to the South in 2023.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo in a statement by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia, accused Governor Bello of being obsessed with a political ambition, adding that he lacked conscience and principle.
The Igbo group said: ”Governor Bello, no doubt, has demonstrated a remarkable obsession with ambition shortly after providence paved way for him to be sworn in as the governor of Kogi State in 2015 at an impressionable age of 40.
“There is no doubt that Bello has a date with destiny going by a smooth political ascendancy that life has presented to him. However, we have our fears that he is embarking on a political adventure that lacks both conscience and principle.
“Governor Bello was still a student, studying accountancy at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria when an agreement was reached between the North and the South with respect to rotational presidency.
“The meeting was held at the National University Commission (NUC) Conference Centre, Abuja in 1998. Dr.Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory spoke on behalf of the South while Alhaji Abubakar Rimi spoke for the North. The likes of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the late Chief Solomon Lar (late), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo,, etc were at the meeting.
“The Nigerian statesmen examined the merits and demerits of zoning and rotation of power between the composite zones in Nigeria. At the end, it was resolved that the Presidency be conceded to the South and that it would rotate between the South and the North in the interest of equity, unity, and corporate existence of Nigeria.
“The foregoing was the basis for the emergence of presidential candidates of the mainstream political parties from the Southwest in 1999.
“Since then, patriotic and peace-loving Nigerians have adhered to the rotation principle such that at the end of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s second tenure, President Musa Yar’Adua was elected; Goodluck Jonathan and then President Muhammadu Buhari.
”The above exposé informs the resolution by the Southern governors that the South should produce the next President after President Buhari.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo advises Bello that it will serve his interest better if he supports the resolution by his southern colleagues; since age is still in his favour. Bello is beckoned to the ethical functional relationship between the morality of an agreement and the legality of the constitution.”
But the North Central Peoples’ Forum (NCPF), said it is not supporting zoning.
According to the North central leaders, “competence and integrity” should be the criteria for election at every level, adding that every part of the country should be given opportunity to occupy the highest political office in the country.
While speaking with journalists in Abuja, the NCPF Secretary-General Khaleel Bolaji said that the Northcentral had been particularly shortchanged in the scheme of things in the country.
He said zoning has the potential of dividing the country at a time Nigerians should work for unity, stressing that Southern Governors’ position in 2023 Presidency was not tenable and should be jettisoned.
He said, “We in the Northcentral do not believe in what the southern governors are saying. They are dividing the country more. We should look for the right person to lead the country. We should go for competence and integrity.
“Even if some northern governors say it, we will also oppose it because zoning is dividing the country.”