2023: Bury zoning, bury Nigeria, South/Middle belt leaders warn

Afenifere, Yoruba socio-political organisation, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Middle Belt Forum, on Monday met in Abuja to demand power shift to the Southeast geopolitical zone in 2023 in the interest of equity, justice and fairness.

The occasion was the Greater Nigeria Conference, an event organised by Nzuko Umunna, an Igbo think tank group, tagged, “Together we can.”

The leading sociopolitical groups in the South and Middle Belt argued that if the political class and the retired military generals could concede the presidency to the Southwest in 1999, the same approach could be adopted and micro-zone it to the Southeast in 2023.

Among Igbo leaders at the event were a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; former governor of Imo State, Achike Udenwa; Senator representing Imo West, Rochas Okorocha; former governor of Anambra State, Okwesileze Nwodo; ace Journalist, Chris Anyanwu; and former chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Senator Victor Umeh.

Speaking at the event, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, elder statesman and leader of Afenifere, said there was a need for aspirants from the South, especially from the Southeast to be united.

According to him, the decision of presidential aspirants including the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike who are from the South South to contest would only give the North undue advantage over the South.

The elder statesman pointed out that that the truth was that the north did not want to leave power in 2023.

He said, “I only like to point to the fact that they are just deceiving you. All that you are hearing that they (the North) are supporting the South-West is an element of deceit to deprive you to be able to rule you. They don’t like anybody!

“I told Bola Tinubu himself, not in the paper, face-to-face. You believe this man (Buhari) will make you President? He said ‘yes’. I said he wanted to make you President, he asked (Yemi) Osinbajo to contest? He asked (Kayode) Fayemi to contest, he asked Ibikunle (Amosun to contest? All in the West, why? He wanted to divide the West first.

“The unfortunate thing is that President Goodluck Jonathan allowed himself to be disgraced by mentioning the fact that, ‘I’m considering whether to be President’; for what? Who are you consulting?”

Adebanjo, 94, wondered why political leaders from the North were now propounding a lot of theories when they realized it was the turn of the South-East to produce the President in 2023.

“Now that it is the turn of the South-East, they are propounding a new theory, it must be based on merit and all that. If it is the question of merit, who in the North? All of them…if it has been based on merit till today, till kingdom comes, the East alone will produce the President”, he said.

The Afenifere leader said that all the talks that the aspirants from the South must go and lobby, campaign and sell themselves was all rigmarole, saying the North knows the truth.

“Although I don’t like all the people that came out from the East. But for the fact that they are saying you have no people, I’m happy you demonstrate that (you have people). But go and unite. A house divided against itself will not stand,” Adebanjo advised.

Meanwhile, speaking at the event, Mr. Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State and presidential hopeful, called for unity among Igbo aspirants for president in 2023.

Obi, an aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said “I thank my brothers and sisters who are also aspiring. I want us to do it in unity and ensure that one of us emerges and is supported by all of us,” he said.

The former governor blamed rising insecurity in the country on the high population of unemployed youths, noting that Nigeria needs to move from being a consuming nation to prioritising production.

“Everyone has talked about injustice in Nigeria and everybody knows that this country thrives on injustice. But beyond that, I want us to look at the true description of a failed state — when a system is no longer in control of its territory, economy. Is Nigeria in control of its territory, economy? And the reason is simple, Obi said at the event organised by Nzuko Umunna.

“When Pa Adebanjo was talking about Nigeria when it was good, he talked about how the west kept cocoa money, the east kept for palm and the north kept for groundnut. That was when Nigeria was producing. Today, what Nigeria is doing is sharing, sharing, sharing. All I want to do is stop the sharing and start production.

“Development is hinged on human development index (HDI). Let’s invest in education; let’s pull people out of poverty — with 100 million people living in poverty, you’ll have crisis and that’s the crisis we face today.

“I’m a wealth creator and I know what it means to create wealth. I’ve travelled to 31 countries of the world and know that you cannot have 55 percent unemployment, with 70 percent of your youths not knowing where the next meal will come from and you think you’ll have peace. No.

“We need to invest in youths. That’s what’s happening in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, everywhere. I want to invest in youths. The opportunity is for me to move the country from consumption to production.”

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