2023: Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal, other presidential aspirants from North must jettison idea of contesting — Clark


2023: Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal, other presidential aspirants from North must jettison idea of contesting — Clark

Says it is the turn of the South to produce Buhari’ Successor

Warns that Zoning between the North and the South is the best antidote to the break up of Nigeria

Says it is the panacea for Peace and Unity in Nigeria

Says Zoning has been practiced in the nation’s policy even before Independence

FORMER Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark has asked former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and other northerners who have Presidential ambition ahead of 2023 should in the interest of justice, jettison such an idea.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, Clark who warned that Zoning the Presidency

between the North and the South is thei best antidote to the break up of Nigeria and the Requisite for Peace and Unity in the country, however said that it is the turn of the South to produce the next President in 2023 and not the north.

According to the Elder statesman, zoning has been practised in the nation’s policy even before Independence, when Tafawa Balewa, in 1954, was the Prime Minister, Nnamdi Azikiwe was the Governor-General.

Clark said, “Firstly, I wish to use this medium to advise my most respected Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chieftains in the persons of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State, and other PDP aspirants from the north, that in the interest of maintaining the unity of this country to which they have contributed so much, to re-consider their desire of wanting to contest for the Presidential election in 2023, because both by the PDP Constitution and by convention, it is now the turn of Southern Nigeria to produce the President of Nigeria, in 2023, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s 8 years. To do otherwise is to invite chaos, which will lead to the disintegration of our dear country.

“Zoning has been practised in the nation’s policy even before Independence, when Tafawa Balewa, in 1954, was the Prime Minister, Nnamdi Azikiwe was the Governor-General. Zoning of political offices, particularly the Presidency of the country, is the best antidote to the breakup of Nigeria, and the panacea for peace and unity of the country.

One of the reasons why the north opposed Chief Anthony Enahoro’s motion for independence in1953, was that they felt they were not equal to the South in education; that they were not in a position to produce proportional candidates who will run an independent government with the south because, at that time, they had only about 4 graduates.

“They subsequently walked out of the Parliament, went back to the north, and swore never to return to Lagos again. That was what led to the Constitutional Conferences held both at the Lancaster House in London and at Ibadan, Nigeria, purposely to keep Nigeria one. The impression was that no one group or section of the country should dominate the government of Nigeria at the expense of other parts of the country.

“When Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, who was Deputy Premier to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of Western Nigeria, was to travel to the north to lobby northern political leaders like Mallam Aminu Kano and others to support the Action Group.

“Some northern radicals in Kano got wind of it and were ready to attack Chief Akintola at the Railway Station in Kano. But the Colonial Government in Lagos got to know about the plan and stopped Chief Akintola at Zaria while on his way to Kano, and asked him to return to Ibadan. But because the northerners were not aware, they still went to the Rail Station to cause the crisis.

“With the disappointment, they went into town and unleashed mayhem in kano, burning houses and shops of Igbos, as if Chief Akintola was an Igbo man. My good friend, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, who was a Reporter of Comet Newspaper in 1954, was present at the Railway Station when the incident happened.

“When Nigeria got Independence in 1960, the key positions in the Federal Government were distributed (shared) between the regions that formed the Protectorate of Northern and Southern Nigeria.

“The North took the office of the Prime Minister, and the south took the office of Governor-General and the President of the Senate. The Eastern Region had the Governor-General and the western region had the President of the Senate.

“Another example of zoning was in the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Army was controlled by British Officers, and the General Officer Commanding the Army was a Briton. But after Independence, and when Nigeria was to take over in 1965, the most qualified Officer at the time, who went to Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, United Kingdom, was a northerner, Zakariya Maimalari.

“The then Minister of Defence, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu, intervened that he was already the Minister of Defence, so it would not be proper to appoint another northerner to be the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Nigerian Army. That was why General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, from Eastern Nigeria, was appointed, and he became the first indigenous GOC of the Nigerian Army.

“Even in the Legislative Houses, zoning has been the pattern adopted to keep Nigeria together. I remember, when Alhaji Shehu Shagari, from Sokoto in the North, was the President of the country, Senator Joseph Wayas from Obudu in Cross River State, south-south Nigeria, was President of the Senate, while Rt. Hon. Edwin Ume-Ezeoke from Anambra State, south-eastern Nigeria, was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, for the same reasons given above.

“In 1999, the zoning pattern was also observed, more so, the country wanted to compensate the Yorubas because of the June 12 incident. That was how Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, from the south, contested the elections with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the north as his Running mate under the PDP.

“Chief Olu Falae, also from southern Nigeria, also contested with Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi from the north, as his Running mate under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) political party. Zoning was sustained at the end of Chief Obasanjo’s tenure of eight years, giving the Presidency to the North in 2007, whereby Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Governor of Katsina State, northern Nigeria, became the Presidential candidate of the PDP and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from Bayelsa State, southern Nigeria, became his running mate.

“Because of this zoning consideration, northerners did not want him to continue and contest the election in 2011. They objected to his appointment as Acting President of the country. I remember, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, the father of Dr. (Sheikh) Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, came to my house and pleaded with me to ask Dr. Jonathan to step down for a northerner because it was the turn of the north.

“That Dr. Jonathan should, in fact, be a Vice President to another northerner who should take the place of Dr. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and that when the north had finished, then Dr. Jonathan could come back and become the President of the country. My response to him was that that will be against the Constitution of Nigeria, which provides that when the Office of the President becomes vacant either by death, or by illness, or any other occurrence, the Vice President shall take over, under Section 15 of the Nigerian Constitution.

“The opposition against Dr. Jonathan was from various quarters; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Dr. Bukola Saraki were major parts of that opposition, which was carried through the 2015 Presidential elections. Though it was his constitutional right to re-contest in 2015, to complete the 8 years, as provided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Dr. Jonathan’s succeeding late Dr. Yar’Adua, did not obliterate his right to seek a second term.

If we copy the American system of government, then we should have realised that the Vice President will only be disqualified to contest if the time the President who died, or vacated office, was less than two years into the administration. Dr. Jonathan had not done half the period of the first term of Dr. Yar’Adua and, therefore, was qualified to contest if we are adopting the American system.

“Again, Section 137 (1b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), provides that a person shall not be qualified for election to the Office of President if he has been ELECTED TO SUCH OFFICE AT ANY TWO PREVIOUS ELECTIONS”, it did not say if the person has been sworn in twice as was claimed by Barr. Yadudu of Kano State, who posited that the time that Jonathan was first sworn in, when he took office with Dr. Yar’adua as Vice President, and was sworn in again when he assumed office as President on 6th May, 2010, following the sad demise of Dr. Umaru Yar’Adua. This position is completely incorrect and inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the country.

“Nevertheless, the northerners still felt Dr. Jonathan should not contest the 2015 election because it was their turn. Hence most of the northerner leaders, including Governors and politicians from the PDP decided to support Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, rtd, and even contributed funds to his campaign, including the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Dr. Bukola Saraki. Most PDP leaders, from the north, who collected campaign money from the party did not use the money for the purpose. There were only a few exceptions among the northern leaders of the PDP. That was why I said that it was “PDP that defeated PDP in the 2015 Presidential election.”

“The argument that Dr. Yar’Adua’s Presidency lasted for only about 2 and half years, and, therefore, that the north should be allowed to produce another candidate to complete the north’s statutory eight years, was complied with in 2019, when only northern candidates contested the Primaries of the PDP in Port Harcourt, where Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won with a resounding victory. Similarly, the Presidential Primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014, was majorly contested by northerners, with exception of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, a southerner, also contesting.

At the end, Muhammadu Buhari won, while Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came second.

“It is instructive that the nation’s two main parties, the APC and the PDP, have been religiously, following the zoning and rotation system between the north and the south. By 2023, the north would have ruled for another 8 years. It is, therefore, rational and right, to insist that the Presidency should rotate to the south. It does not matter whether the presidency has been produced from the APC or the PDP since 2015.

“To which sub-region the presidency should be further zoned to in the south, is a different matter entirely. At the appropriate time, we will decide as to which area, section or region of the three regions of South-East, South-South and South-West, should have it.

“It must be understood that the north has had the Presidency for about 45 years of our nation’s history as an independent country, including both civilian and military regimes as follows:

5 years and 3 months of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
9 years of Gen. Yakubu Gowon
6 months of Gen. Murtala Mohammed
1 year and 8 months as Military Head of State of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari
4 years and 3 months of Alhaji Shehu Shagari
8 years of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida
4 and half years of Gen. Sanni Abacha
1 year of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar
8 years of President Muhammadu Buhari that will end in May, 2023.
“South-West had Chief Ernest Shonekan for a short period of 3 months as Interim President, and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for 8 years. If the 3 and half years of his (Chief Obasanjo’s) Military Head of State are added, then the South-West have held the nation’s number one office for about 12 years.

“South-South had Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as President for five years (May 2010 to May 2015).South-East had Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi for 6 months in a military regime (January 1966-July 1966).

“The 17 Governors of southern Nigeria both of the APC and the PDP, under the leadership of Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, Governor of Ondo State, resolved at a meeting in Asaba, Delta State, that the Presidency should rotate to the South in 2023, in keeping with the tradition of zoning.

The South and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, under my leadership, has held two important meetings to support the resolution of the 17 Governors of the southern Nigeria, that presidency of the country, should rotate to the south. One of the meetings was held at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, on 30th May, 2021, which was attended by over 500 members of the Forum from the four regions of the Middle Belt, South-East, South-South and South-West. The second meeting was held also in Abuja on 13th January, 2022, and had in attendance, prominent members from the regions.

“As I have said earlier, I have observed with dismay, that some of my respected friends, especially, the former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and the distinguished former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who opposed former President Goodluck Jonathan for contesting the Presidential elections because they felt it was the turn of the North, are now wanting to contest for the presidency under the PDP in 2023.

“They are already campaigning through the length and breadth of the country, even after a northerner will be having a straight 8 years, come May, 2023. Is it no longer not a negation of the ‘zoning agreement,’ for which former President Goodluck Jonathan was castigated? Is it no longer threatening the unity and survival of the country? As the intention of these and others who may follow, will be going against the zoning system of the PDP. It may even be the deciding factor for the PDP, whether to be or not to be.

“The recent resolution by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum that the presidency should be zoned to the south and that those who refuse to heed to our plea/decision, should not count on our support, is wholly supported by me, as the leader.

“I would have died about three months ago. I was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital for 23 days, out of which I was unconscious for about two days, before I was restored. I believe the Almighty God still wants me to stay alive to play leading roles in the efforts to make Nigeria a better nation for all of us, Nigerians.

“The former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, under the zoning arrangement, contested the PDP Presidential Primaries in 2019, with other northern presidential aspirants, like the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, the Governor of Sokoto State, former Senate President David Mark, former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, former Governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makafi, former Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, former Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, SAN and Sen. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed. There was no single southern candidate that contested with them. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won overwhelmingly with about 3000 votes. We all supported him. Unfortunately, he lost in the general election. All that is now history.

“The issue of 2nd term for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar does not arise, because he did not win the presidential election in 2019. He is, therefore, not entitled for a second term, which is only meant for a sitting president serving first tenure. As a result, power has to return to the south. Same also applies to my respected former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

“However, I am very happy to note that there are still some patriotic Nigerians from the North, who believe in the unity of Nigeria and are advocating for the return of power to the South in 2023. Among these patriotic Nigerians from the north are Governors Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State, Babangida Aliyu, former Governor of Niger State, and my life long friend, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, who is now 96 years old, while I am 94 years old.

“We both have seen it all in Nigerian politics.

At this juncture, may I reproduce the Press Statement of my good friend, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, as in the Daily Trust Newspaper of Monday, January 24, 2022 “2023: It’s unjust for North to retain power. How can it be that it is always we the Northerners that will rule? There is no justice in this matter, we rule, they (south) rule, that is justice. Even though we didn’t do much in all the years that the Northerners ruled. What will we say to the people? What will we show to the citizens of Nigeria that they benefited or will benefit in order for them to give us their votes? In these six to seven years, what have we done?

“I have observed with satisfaction that both the PDP and the APC, have zoned the position of their National Chairman to the North. PDP selected Sen. Iyorchia Ayu, former Senate President, from Benue State, North-Central as its National Chairman. While about eight to twelve APC Party chieftains, all from the North, are contesting for the position of National Chairmanship of the party in its next Convention billed to take place on 26th February 2022.

“This definitely gives one the impression that both the APC and the PDP have decided to zone their presidential tickets to the south. It is, therefore, my passionate appeal to my northern compatriots, for the unity and survival of our great nation, to do the needful by allowing the south to produce the next President, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.

“It will be disastrous for anyone to attempt to use the force of power, population, religion and ethnicity, to suppress the rights of other Nigerians without regard for Justice, Equity and Fair play.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”