The position of the Southern governors that the 2023 presidency should be zoned to the Southern part of the country appears to have divided the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), as state governors are not on the same page on the issue, Daily Independent has gathered.
According to the communiqué by the Southern governors read by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, “The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the southern region.”
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who is the chairman of the NGF, was also present at the Southern Governors’ Forum where the decision was reached.
In an apparent response to his Southern counterparts, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State at the weekend said the 1999 constitution does not recognise the zoning of presidency.
Bello, who is from the North-Central zone of the country and is seeking to contest the presidency in 2023 on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), said consideration should be given to merit rather than zoning.
“On zoning presidency to a particular zone in 2023, we must apply equity in the process. Democracy is all about free will. Let no political party limit the choice to a particular zone.
“Zoning is not recognised in the 1999 constitution, it’s absolutely unconstitutional. If we must continue with the sentiment of rotational presidency, it’s okay, but let’s do it right in the interest of equity, fairness and justice.”
A credible source in NGF, which is the umbrella body of the 36 state governors in Nigeria, said some Northern governors were shocked by the decision of their Southern counterparts on the “future of the country post-2023 without carrying them along”.
According to him, being a national issue that is not limited to the Southern region alone, the issue should have been discussed among the governors like every other issue that affects the whole of the country and not the manner the Southern governors treated it as a “coup against the other part of the country.
“Yes, I can authoritatively tell you that the 36 governors who are members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum are not on the same page on the issue of the zoning of the 2023 presidential ticket.
“Some of the members of the NGF, especially those from the Northern part of the country, felt it is a very sensitive national issue, it should have been discussed among them, instead of what their colleagues in the South are doing by treating it as a regional issue.
“I am sure if the issue was tabled at NGF meeting, those in support of zoning the presidency to the South in 2023 may still carry the day because we have seen some Northern governors who have publicly said it must be the turn of the South in 2023. I know the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has said that severally.
“The issue of the 2023 presidency is not entirely a PDP or APC affair. It is also neither a Northern governors’ nor Southern governors’ affair. It is a burning national issue that should be agreed upon by all stakeholders, especially by the state governors as represented by the NGF”, he said.
Also speaking, a former governor in the North-Eastern part of the country, said it is very likely that the position of the Southern governors will divide the NGF.
While sharing the view that the issue of zoning the presidency in 2023 is a national issue, he, however, said it cannot be discussed at the NGF level based on the ambition of some of the governors both in the North and Southern part of the country.
“Yes, I believe there will be cracks in the NGF. If you consider the fact that some of them have presidential ambition. If you look at it, Fayemi is the chairman of the NGF while Governor Aminu Tambuwal is the deputy. They both have presidential ambition in 2023.
“There is no way they can discuss that at the Governors’ Forum meeting because Tambuwal who is from the North will see it as an attempt to shut him out from the race while the decision by the Southern governors clearly favours Fayemi.
“I also know someone like Bala Mohammed of Bauchi and the Kogi governor may not agree to the idea that the ticket be zoned to the South. They will rather argue that it should be thrown open. So such a meeting will be rancorous”, he said.
When contacted by Daily Independent, Abdulrazaque Bello Barkindo, Head, Media and Public Affairs of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said the issue of zoning is a political issue which the NGF does not dabble into.
“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum does dwell on political issues. Only people who represent APC or PDP can respond to that. The issue of the zoning of the 2023 presidency is a political statement. It is not part of what we discuss, so I can’t comment on that. We don’t do politics at the NGF”, he said.