As North, South youth strategise for 2023 presidency…

Barely 11 months into the re- election of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the scramble for his successor is gathering momentum. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes on the youthful handshake across the Niger for south to produce the president in 2023. 

The calls, the moves 

Like a coordinated military operation, the Coalition of Northern Youth in their numbers filed out on January 1, 2020, to demand that the 2023 presidency be zoned to the South, especially South-south. 

The first shot was fired from Kano where the Southern and Northern youth at the end of a two-day consultation, resolved  to work together to explore the possibilities of reviving the traditional political partnership between the two regions ahead of the 2023 general elections. 

In a communiqué jointly presented to the press by the coordinator, Northern Emancipation Network, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, and a leader of the Niger Delta Congress, Comrade Davies Opiri McLean, the groups stated that: “In the light of the building apprehension with regards to the elections, the meeting resolved to mobilise all politicians to develop the highest levels of tolerance and a recommitment to respect the will of the Nigerian people.  

“The meeting resolved to work together to explore possibilities of reviving the traditional political partnership between the two regions that thrived during previous republics, and to marshal support for a generational shift of power.  

“This meeting, therefore, resolved to consult further on the possibility of reviving this alliance that thrived throughout the first, second and third republics, and extended well into the current republic.  

“The meeting also agreed to device ways of taking comfortable advantage of the window provided by the Not too Young to Run act in order to achieve a smooth intergenerational transfer of power.”   

They stated further: “The meeting observed that in view of widespread criticism against the existing federal arrangement, the need may arise for a national dialogue to holistically and sincerely discuss Nigeria before the 2023 elections.  

“The meeting agreed to work together to ensure that the composition of the delegation to any future conference should genuinely represent a serious commitment to holistically addressing the complex problems of the nation, without violating any of the principles of justice, fairness, inclusiveness and equity.  

“It noted that any discussion for the future of Nigeria must demand that the obvious imbalance in representation between geo-political zones, age and gender interests be redressed to ensure that issues which may further threaten our peace, security, harmonious co-existence, or which may offend the provisions of the Constitution are avoided.”  

Similarly in Kaduna, a coalition of northern youth under the umbrella of Arewa Youths Assembly said they would “do all that is politically required to ensure an emergency of a South-south candidate for the 2023 presidency. 

Addressing the press on behalf of the group, the leader of the coalition, Mohammed Salihu Danlami, said it is unfair for the North to retain power beyond 2023. 

He said, “The North has occupied the leadership position of the country since independence, more than any other region it is time for South-south youth to produce the next president in 2023 to complete their eight years of leadership.  

“Whosoever wants to emerge must have a global inter-disciplinary perspective, must engage in long-term empirical planning, have strong communication skills, must be able to prioritise social justice and well-being over financial growth. 

“We seek to re-define the role and leadership development process of the country; we are charting a new path to national re-birth to put an end to the issues of recycling old politicians for leadership. Nigeria is a nation standing half in the light of progress and promise and half in darkness of injustice. We live in a period of grave uncertainty. 

“As things now stand, we have no idea where the nation would be heading to if the North retains power in 2023. The greatest challenge facing Nigeria today is that of leadership; Nigeria needs a leader that the people can identify with and who can inspire them to greater heights. 

“We are calling for power shift to the South-south. We need leaders with vision and passion because sound and visionary political leadership is vital for Nigeria’s peaceful co-existence. 

Shettima disagrees 

In his reaction, the national president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, lampooned the Arewa Youth Assembly and other northern youth groups that are agitating for the South to produce the president in 2023, stressing that the “North cannot let go for now.” 

Shettima, in a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend, said, “Unlike some of these so- called groups, before I speak on behalf of my people I consult my people; this is because it is not about me. It’s about the country and the interest of where I’m from, that is the North.” 

“Power will remain in the North because we can’t afford to let go right now. The truth of the matter is that in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice courtesy demands that power remains in the North. We can always be intimidated and be blackmailed by some interests because they believe they control the media and will always rubbish the North. No, this is not acceptable; gone are those days. 

“The South held onto power for 15 years and so even after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure the North will be left with just nine years. That is not equity, fairness and justice. Some people paid those jobless youth; they did not even consult us before talking as if they are representing our people. No, they are not representing the North. 

A political analyst’s view 

On his part, a political analyst, Hide Ojo, said the call by the northern youth for the South-south to produce the next president was not genuine,” adding that the “next president of Nigeria should come from the Igbo extraction.” 

He said, “It is not a genuine call from the Arewa Youths Assembly and the other groups that 2023 presidency should be zoned to the South-south. What is their political strength and what is there numerical strength? What is their membership size to be able to make that kind of statement? I think they just want to seek political relevance as far as I am concerned.  

“The next president of Nigeria should come from the Igbo extraction. It should be from the South-east. The Yoruba has had its shot at the Presidency; we had it for eight years. We are the number Two citizen for another eight years. The South- east after the ceremonial presidency of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, with the exception of Alex Ikuweme as vice-president to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the second republic, the Igbo have not occupied the number One position.” 

He stated further: “And I feel and very strongly too that if you are talking of justice, equity and fairness and you are talking of inclusive politics that number One seat should be ceded to the Igbo. The Igbo are contributing immensely to the economic development of Nigeria. In 1999, it was deliberately arranged even when we had three political parties that the Yoruba should produce the next president of Nigeria. So, the front line contestants in both APP and PDP were both Yoruba men – Chief Olu Falae and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. It was a doctrine of necessity to give Yoruba a sense of belonging and to appeal to them for the nullification of June 12 1993 presidential election. Similar thing can be done to give the Igbo a sense of belonging.  

“The Igbo have been marginalised a great deal in this country. Look at their contribution to trade and investment. All these calls from Bafra, IPOB and MASSOB will die down the moment you give them that sense of belonging. They feel as part of Nigeria and when their people call for succession, their political leaders will say look what else do you want? We are the one occupying the number One position in this country. If we give the Igbo a sense of belonging by ceding the next presidency slot to them, I tell you all the agitations of marginalisation will naturally die down. All it will take, even we don’t want to have a constitution amendment, is for the two major political parties, PDP and APC, to agree they can get it done.  

Isa Funtua’s position 

The life patron of Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigerian (NPAN), Alhaji Samaila Isa Funtua, appearing on Arise Television’s The Morning Show, said the Igbo must play inclusive politics if they are serious about producing the president of Nigeria. 

“They should belong. They should join the party. They want to do things on their own and because they are Igbo; should we dash them the presidency? That was the reason I said is it turn by turn Nigeria limited? 

“You are talking of politics, which is an issue of votes. My very good friend of blessed memory, MKO Abiola, defeated Bashir Tofa in Kano. Was MKO Abiola from Kano? But he defeated Bashir in his town, Kano. Why? Because the man played politics, he embraced everybody. 

“If you send him an invitation for anything, if he is not there, his representative will be there and he will play his part. You cannot sit down and say because you’re an Igbo man, there is no fairness. 

“With due respect to the Igbo, they fail to understand that when the South-west chose to remain on their own as opposition, they did not go near power. To a large extent, the North in terms of religion and culture is closer to the South-west than to the South-east. When Ekwueme contested (for the PDP ticket), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo defeated him. 

“I know Nigerian politics, you choose your candidate who will be able to bring votes to you to win election, not on regional basis, not on tribal basis. Is he going to be the president of the North, East, South-west, South-south or whatever? 

“If the Igbo want to be president, then they must belong. If you don’t belong, then you can’t be president.”

Igbo youth’s take 

The president-general of Igbo Youth Assembly, Worldwide, Ifeanyi Nwaudunna, cautions that the clamour for 2023 presidency is too early; that the interest of the Igbo is for peace, unity and growth of Nigeria. 

In a phone chat our correspondent, Nwaudunna said, “My view is that the clamor is too early. We believe that the present government still has some time and that we should heat up the polity. Our thought is for the general interest of everybody. This is because we believe that irrespective of the agitation our interest remains the peace and unity of the nation. 

“Beyond that, 2023 is key because it will play a very fundamental role in the unity of Nigeria; because the unity of Nigeria is paramount. So to get right as a nation we need a leader who has the country at heart, irrespective where they are from, South or North should be allowed to take the mantle of leadership. We have tried both southerners and northerners. So, at this juncture our position is that the person that has the best interest of Nigeria at heart should be the next president of Nigeria in 2023; that is my position.”