PRESIDENCY IS OUR INHERITANCE, AND THE NORTH WILL NOT PLAY SECOND FIDDLE IN 2023- NEF SPOKESMAN, HAKEEM BABA AHMED

By AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna

• Okupe to PDP: retain zoning

Northern Elders Forum (NEF) spokesman Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed and one-time presidential Spokesman Dr Doyin Okupe on Sunday disagreed on the zoning of the presidential ticket in 2023.

Buba-Ahmed said the next president should come from the North; Okupe warned that any political party that decides to field a candidate from the North risked losing the election.

The NEF publicity Secretary described the presidency as the inheritance of the North, adding that the region has the majority of voters who can vote for a Northerner to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.

Stressing that the North will not play a second fiddle in 2023, Buba-Ahmed said heaven will not fall if power is retained in the North.

The NEF spokesman delivered a keynote address at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, at the maiden Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture organised by the student wing of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG).

Buba-Ahmed said: “We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before. Whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria.

“We have the majority of the votes and the democracy says vote whom you want. Why should we accept a second class position when we know we can buy forms and contest for first class and we will win?

“Why does anybody need to threaten us and intimidate us? We will get that power, but be humble because power comes from God. We inherited leadership, being honest is not being stupid.

“There are Nigerians who believed that because the economy of the North has already been crumbled; we are running away from insecurity. We are politically vulnerable, they think they can buy us for 2023. They are making a mistake.

“We are not for sale. We are in the process of rebuilding the North and we will rebuild the North from 2023.”

He added: “Whether the North holds power in 2023 or not, anybody who wants to break up in this country will say so. They are just looking for excuses.

“This is democracy. If they don’t like what Nigeria is, they will say they want to break up from this country. We don’t pay attention to those people. We are focused on the fact that we are running a democratic system.

“If the majority of Nigerian voters vote for a candidate from the North and he becomes the President and somebody doesn’t want to live under Nigeria President, the person can leave.

“We inherited the North that determined where Nigeria went. We dropped the ball and we are leaving you to pick it.

“The North is not for sale, our legacy is not for sale; if there are Nigerians who are thinking that in 2023 we will line up because they will give us money, they are making a terrible mistake because the North is not for sale; our future is not for sale, we have learnt from our mistakes and we will not repeat those mistakes.”

But, Okupe, in a piece, disagreed with Buba-Ahmed, saying that zoning and power shift are imperative.

He maintained that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may lose the 2023 presidential election if it picks its flagbearer from the North.

Okupe said the resolution of the Southern governors, including PDP governours, that the presidency should be zoned to the South should not be ignored.

He said: “It will be folly, reckless and insensitive for any political party to ignore the position of the Southern governors.”

Okupe said: “There is a strong indication that the party is erroneously tilting towards zoning the presidency to the North.

“Zoning is a veritable instrument that ensures equity and balance in the nation, gives hope and confidence and support to our national unity.

“The zoning arrangement which the PDP started in 1998 was based on the assumption that the party will be in power consistently but the moment it lost power in 2015, automatically the arrangement has to be reviewed in view of the development

“When the PDP lost power, there was a southern president in power. If the party didn’t lose power and completed in 2019, zoning would kick in and power would have shifted to the North. However, the party that won the election presented a northern candidate who by 2023 would have ruled for eight years.”

“We still carried on as if the former arrangement was still in place in 2019 and it was justifiable within the PDP at that time for us to put forward a northern candidate.

“But in 2023, with APC having ruled for eight years with a northern candidate, it will be preposterous, unjust, uncaring and blatant for the PDP to zone the presidential ticket to the North because the arrangement expired the moment our party lost power in 2019.

“There should be a reset of the zoning arrangement in 2023. It does not make sense to replace a northern government of eight years with another northern government.”