The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday took on Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, over his opposition to the clamour by Southern governors and others for the region to produce the next president in 2023.
It dismissed Bello’s stance that rotational presidency is unconstitutional, saying the governor was still a student when the North and the South reached an agreement to rotate power.
But Bello doubled down on his position, insisting that merit and not ethnic sentiments should be the criterion for picking the next president.
Bello, during a maiden edition of the ‘Governor Yahaya Bello Seminar for Political and Crime Correspondents’ in Abuja on Friday, had described rotational presidency as “unconstitutional.”
He had said Nigerians should be allowed to pick from the best the nation could produce to fill the presidency.
However, Ohanaeze, in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, slammed the governor, saying that he has demonstrated a remarkable obsession with ambition shortly after providence paved the way for him to be governor in 2015 at an impressionable age of 40.
It added: “There is no doubt that Bello has a date with destiny going by a smooth political ascendancy that life has presented to him.”
It expressed fears that the governor was embarking on a political adventure that lacked both conscience and principle.
Ohanaeze stated that all the miseries and evils, which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the inner still voice or conscience.
“Governor Bello was still a student, studying Accountancy at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria when an agreement was reached between the North and the South with respect to rotational presidency.
Ohanaeze stated: “The meeting was held at the National University Commission Conference Centre, Abuja in 1998. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo spoke on behalf of the South while Alhaji Abubakar Rimi spoke for the North. The likes of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Solomon Lar, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, etc were at the meeting.
“The Nigerian statesmen examined the merits and demerits of zoning and rotation of power between the composite zones in Nigeria. In the end, it was resolved that the presidency be conceded to the South and that it would rotate between the South and the North in the interest of equity, unity, and corporate existence of Nigeria.
“The foregoing was the basis for the emergence of presidential candidates of the mainstream political parties from the South-west in 1999. Since then, the patriotic and peace-loving Nigerians have adhered to the rotation principle such that at the end of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s second tenure, President Umaru Yar’Adua was elected; Goodluck Jonathan and then President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Ohanaeze stated that it was on that basis that the Southern governors resolved at their Lagos meeting last week that the South should produce the next president.
Ohanaeze advised Bello that it would serve his interest better if he supported the resolution by his Southern colleagues; more so as he is still young.
It urged Bello to embrace the ethical functional relationship between the morality of an agreement and the legality of the constitution.
It said: “Morality is the universal foundation of laws. On the other hand, law should be seen to stand in defence of morality.”
But in a swift response, Bello insisted that a rotational presidency is unconstitutional.
The governor said he had people from different regions of the country in his government, stressing that he places primacy on competence over and above tribal sentiments and mediocrity.
The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, in a statement, said where Bello was studying at the time did not matter, arguing that competence and capacity could not be sacrificed for mediocrity.
He said: “We have practised rotation, but what do we have to show for it as a nation? Who remembers where a good president comes from?
“The South-east can bring forward their best to contest the election. What the nation needs now is the best for the job.
“Our constitution doesn’t respect the rotational presidency. It was the convenience of the political class.”
He added that the governor didn’t dispute such unwritten agreement, but he is only faulting it.
“We need a young, vibrant, and pragmatic president come 2023. We need a man who will be at home with everyone from everywhere. The agreement made while he was in school over 20 years ago must not necessarily be in force forever, especially when it has not taken our nation to where we want to be as the true giant of Africa.
“We need a new one for a generation that wants to see Nigeria prosper,” he stated.
According to him, Bello is working with a man from Anambra State as director-general, Research and Development; a man from Borno State as his special adviser on public relations and an indigene of Lagos State as his special adviser on legal matters.
“Nigeria will never be great as long as we think our greatness is in the shell of ethnic competition. Let the best emerge in 2023,” he said.