Those pushing for power to shift to the Southeast made themselves clear yesterday: only Igbos from the region will be recognised and backed for the top job.
No Igbo from the Southsouth can claim to represent the Southeast, they said.
Leading Southern social-cultural and political organisations – the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Middle Belt Forum (MBF) – yesterday made a case for the micro-zoning of the presidential slot by major political parties to the Southeast.
Leaders of the socio-cultural groups met in Abuja at the Greater Nigeria Conference (GNC).
It was an initiative of an Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna, which received the buy-in of groups based in, or linked to, the Southeast, with the theme: “Together We Can.”
They argued that in 1999, the political class led by retired generals conceded the presidency to the Southwest.
To them, the same approach should be adopted for the Southeast in 2023.
Also yesterday, a former All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) National Chairman, Senator Victor Umeh, said based on all considerations, the next president should come from the Southeast.
PANDEF leader, Chief Edwin Clark, speaking at the GNC, asked the country to concede the presidency to the Southeast.
He noted that the country has 36 legs, each of which must not be broken.
Clark said: “If any part of these 36 legs gets broken, the country would not be at ease and that is exactly what the country is experiencing today.
“The young ones who belong to the disadvantaged legs are fighting and people are pretending not to know why.
“Why the Southeast should have presidency is because the children from that geopolitical zone are asking whether their leg is k-legged or deformed or broken, thus resulting in the inability of their zone to present the President.”
He insisted that the people of the Southeast deserved a sense of belonging in Nigeria.
“So, the clamour for a president for the Southeast geo-political zone is supported by me.
“Today, with no other tangible reason for still wanting to hold on to power, some people are talking about merit and competence.
“To these people, my response is simple: we must all woo, and win each other because every part of this country has a beautiful bride and every part has a handsome groom.
“It will not cost money or anything to make Nigeria better. All that is required is for us to demonstrate reciprocal respect, love and understanding to one another.
“Let us do what is right; let us accommodate one another, and be fair to one another.
“Let all other Nigerians support a Southeastern candidate for President, come 2023. I repeat, very soon, I will be 95 years old.
“I have spent more than 70 years of this period in Nigerian affairs. I have seen it all.
“For the peace and sanity of the country, I appeal to all, in the name of the Almighty God, to make this concession to the Igbos, to present a President Nigeria.”
MBF leader, Dr Pogu Bitrus, faulted the argument that where the President comes from next year does not matter.
Noting that President Muhammadu Buhari would have spent eight years, he said it was only fair and equitable that the position is occupied by someone from the Southeast.
Recalling what happened in 1999, he said: “In the collective wisdom of the departing military and the political class, it was agreed that zoning presidential power to the Southwest was the most expedient thing to do.
“The situation we are in now calls for a similar approach by Nigeria.
“We have to develop a nation; we cannot continue to afford to remain as so many nations within a state.
“To have a nation we can all call our home, we need justice, equity and fairness.”
The conference observed that the Southeast was fully committed to the unity of Nigeria, and having supported other regions in their quests for the presidency, all political parties should zone their presidential slots to the region for equity, fairness and inclusion.
It was also noted that there are credible and qualified aspirants from the Southeast who compare comfortably and favourably with the best from other geopolitical zones.
As part of the resolutions, GNC reaffirmed its commitment to the unity of Nigeria and resolved that zoning does matter, as other regions have benefited from it.
Noting that zoning is constitutional, GNC resolved that the ambitions of all presidential aspirants of Southeast extraction would be supported, regardless of party.
“The GNC resolved that for equity, fairness and inclusion, it is right that all political parties should zone the Presidency to the Southeast.
“GNC resolves that a president from the Southeast will usher in unity, peace and progress in Nigeria and, being grounded on justice, equity and fair play, will help to douse all manners of agitation in the Nigerian state,” a communique issued after the conference adds.
Presidential aspirants of Southeast extraction at the conference were Senator Rochas Okorocha, Senator Chris Ngige, Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, and former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim.
Umeh: it is time for Southeast President
Senator Umeh, who spoke on Channels, explained why it is the turn of the Southeast to produce President Buhari’s successor.
He said: “We are united by the aspiration that somebody from the Southeast should be given the opportunity to become the next president of Nigeria.
“Looking at the historical perspective of this matter, 2023 is the right time for the president to come from the Southeast on the basis of rotation.
“Right from 1960 till now, the Northeast and Northcentral have had their shares and they should be excluded.”
He said any attempt to prevent the Southeast from clinching the presidency would amount to political injustice.