The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) says it will amount to “deceit” if political parties refuse to zone their presidential tickets to the southern region.
The group was reacting to the position of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on zoning.
On Thursday, Ango Abdullahi, the chairman of NEF, had said the next president should emerge through merit and not zoning.
He had also said the concept of zoning or power shift is “dead on arrival”.
On Friday, Abdullahi Adamu, chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), had said the party is yet to decide on if it would zone its presidential ticket.
Speaking on the development in a statement on Monday, the SMBLF said the concept of zoning and power shift cannot be “buried”, adding that it is the turn of the south to produce the next president.
“SMBLF particularly took exception to a recent statement credited to the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Alhaji Ango Abdullahi, that zoning is ‘dead and buried’,” the statement reads.
“SMBLF says it is rather unfortunate and absurd that Ango Abdullahi and his Northern Elders Forum would make such twaddle. Are they now ready to dissolve the country? What has happened that zoning, which has been a sine qua non in the nation’s political progression, has now become a ‘dead and buried’ issue, in the irrational contemplations of Ango Abdullahi and his co-travellers? Could it be due to the incapacity, insipidity and disastrous performance of the Buhari administration or the narcissistic desire to perpetuate Hausa/Fulani hegemony?
“It has become necessary to underscore that Ango Abdullahi, with his established disposition of inconsistency and duplicity, is one of the people disturbing the polity and peace of Nigeria.
“A few days ago, this same Ango fumbled with the idea of a so-called consensus arrangement for northern presidential aspirants. He has not come out of it, now he has sprung up with this reckless statement that zoning is dead and buried. Ango and his northern elders do not have the power to kill and bury zoning; if they want to kill and bury Nigeria, then we are ready for them.”
On the comment by Adamu, the SMBLF said it would be “outright dishonesty and chicanery” if the party refuses to zone its presidential ticket to the south.
“Who are they trying to deceive and who will allow them? It becomes even more upsetting given the fact that the statement came from someone who himself emerged as national chairman of the APC through the policy of rotation and zoning,” the forum said.
“More importantly, the APC Constitution, under article 7, relating to its aims and objectives, commits the party to firstly, ‘promote and foster the unity, political stability and national consciousness of the people of Nigeria’. The question then is would the dumping of the zoning policy foster unity, political stability and national consciousness in Nigeria?”
The group also urged the southern governors and other stakeholders in the region to remain resolute in their call for a president from the zone.
“We, therefore, strongly caution all our governors, former governors and top politicians not to accept the Vice Presidency nomination from any northern presidential candidate,” the statement reads.
“We urge the 17 Southern Governors, who unanimously declared that the presidency must come to the south in May last year, at Asaba, Delta State, to remain resolute. They have our absolute support for the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum and we stand firmly by them. This country belongs to all of us.
“Let everybody take this as a serious warning that the issue of zoning cannot be swept under the carpet; it cannot be dead and buried. If zoning is buried, Nigeria is then buried.
“And if they are thinking that this is a joke, let it be known that it is not. If we cannot abide by the established principle of rotation and zoning between the north and south, then we should not continue with one Nigeria; we should go back to what we were as a people before the amalgamation of 1914.
“We also earnestly call on the people of the Middle Belt Region and all minorities in Nigeria to wake up and work conscientiously with the southerners. If we do, the prospects will be pellucid. This was demonstrated at the National Conference of 2014 to the mortification of those who think this country belongs to them alone.”