Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe is the National Coordinator of the Southsouth Elders Forum. In this interview with TONY AKOWE, he speaks on the agitations by the regions for zoning of the Presidency in 2023.
What is the position of the Southsouth on zoning?
For us, the race for the Presidency has started and it is a clear fact that there is a non conventional agreement that the presidency will rotate between the North and the South. Presently, the Presidency is in the North and by 2023, they would have completed their tenure.
It then implies that the presidency will have to return to the south. In the South, we have three zones. The Southsouth, the Southeast and the Southwest. The Southwest has had their complete two term through former President Obasanjo, the Southsouth has had one term through Jonathan and the Southeast has not gotten it in the current dispensation.
But, talking about global Nigeria, the North has ruled for over 40 years. The West has also ruled for almost 12 years, while the East has ruled for six months and the Southsouth has ruled for one tenure and it is right for the Southsouth to complete their two term, after which the East can have a claim to it.
But, beside that, the East today are insisting on Biafra and not on the presidency. We in the Southsouth believe in the restructuring of this country and the presidency. We want to complete our two term and considering our role in the economic development of Nigeria.
We believe that we are the hub, carrying Nigeria and so, the nation should be fair to us by allowing us to complete our second term. After that, we will now believe that Nigeria is with us. We are not interested in dividing Nigeria, but we are interested in repositioning Nigeria.
We want to assure Nigeria that the Southsouth will douse the present feelings of the Igbos because the Southeast and the Southsouth are brothers of the same father and mother, while the Southsouth and the Southeast are brothers of the same father, but different mothers.
So, we believe that when a Southsouth president is completing his tenure, he will talk out the Igbos from Biafra. Although the three zones of the South and the Middle Belt believe in restructuring, we are ready to stand by restructuring. But, that does not mean that we will throw away the presidency.
We are appealing to Nigerians to do us this small favour of giving us a second term. We know that Nigerians can do it like they did when the Yorubas agitated. In all the parties, the Yorubas were allowed to present the presidential candidates.
We are saying that all the parties in Nigeria should present candidates from the Southsouth and Nigerians can choose the best among them. If a Southsouth man come, he will help Nigeria. Our oil production will increase, our gas production will increase and we will also give intellectual contribution.
We will have an intellectual think tank that will assist the president in ensuring that this country is effectively managed. We believe in one Nigeria and that is why we are appealing that Nigeria should consider us because we will not divide this country.
There are complex countries in the world that are working together. Even the America that we are celebrating today is an amalgamation of several states and despite their differences, because they have fiscal federalism, their economy is restructured, everybody is doing its own. That is what Nigeria need.
The North is insisting that they want to retain power in 2023 and they are already strategising and saying all the parties should field northern candidates. What are you doing to engage other zones to buy into your agitation.
Before the end of this quarter, you will see the south south coming out fully. Different groups of people from the region will come out to demand this. After that, we are going to make contact, lobby the various ethnic nationalities, political parties and the political class.
For the North insisting on coming back in 2023, it would mean that they dont mean well. That was why the Arewa group came out bolding to condemn the north for advocating for another tenure and they put their weight behind the Southsouth presidency.
If you want stability in this country, you must be fair to all and dont under rate anybody. When Yar’adua was there, he wanted to use military might in the Niger Delta and within months, the economy was crippled. He begged for amnesty and gave us more of the things we required.
Buhari came and thought he can use military might and the economy was crippled and here was recession until PANDEF came and salvage this country. So, you cannot say people cannot do anything.
Even the Igbos that are not happy today can do something, the Niger Delta can do something, the middle belt can do something. Every part of Nigeria has the potential to do something because we are a union and we don’t want crisis in this country. If the North wants to hold on to power, then they don’t want peace in Nigeria and I think the North will not do that.
Should the North insist on retaining power in 2023, what do we expect?
Except they want chaos in this country. If they want chaos in this country, then, they can insist. But, I can tell you that the Southsouth is the stabilising force in Nigeria.
We will stabilise the country and we will not allow Nigeria to go to that level where there will be conflict. We will try as much as possible to marry all the groups so that we can curtail everybody to ensure there is stability, peace and understanding amongst ourselves.
Is the clamour not too early and what exactly is propelling this agitation from the Southsouth?
Constitutionally, we are entitled to two tenure. You are aware when some people came together and were trying to force the President to run for a third term in office like what happened during the Obasanjo era. The president has graciously come out to say I dont want chaos in Nigeria, I am not going for third term.
That means people have started agitating and if you don’t put the things right early enough, people will be misled into believing issues like the North wanting to hold on to power. I don’t believe the North wants to hold on to power because the North is comfortable with the Southsouth.
We have been very close and if you look at our voting pattern, the North have more confidence in the Southsouth than any other region. So, I don’t think the North will be against the Southsouth. What is important is the Nigerian.
Even, if the North supports the Southsouth, what about the Southwest and the Southeast. That is why we are appealing to all sections of the country to bury the hatchet and work with us and let us do our second tenure, which others can take their turn.
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There is this dangerous trend of every zone wanting a shot at the presidency of this country. Does that not mean that there is something that is potentially wrong. Must every zone have a shut at the Presidency before we have fairness?
You must look at Nigeria in the true context of how we behave. Nigerians don’t believe in true federalism. We are not operating the federal system like America where anywhere you live is your state and your home. Nigerians still believe in ethnicity, tribalism.
Its like a family where a man have children from different children and when only children from one wife are the ones dominating, there will always be problem. Our constitution is very clear and the understanding in 1998 was very clear.
Even, the various conferences that took place after 1999 were very clear that the presidency will always rotate between the North and the South. It is an agreement that is ruling Nigeria. If we are saying we want to rule, I am not the person that will rule and I don’t even know the person that will come from the Southsouth.
But, we will be more fulfilled that as Nigerians, we have been given our due right, that we have been accepted by Nigerians and people believe in us. We cannot produce all the revenue that is used to run this country and we are not allowed to taste it.
We are happy that today, in the National Council of States meeting, we have one president. In the past, we don’t even have one. Every part of this country wants to belong to the highest club and we are saying that, if the constitution, which is binding on all of us says two terms, then we should be allowed to go for two terms.
Then, we will know that our brother and sisters are with us. But, if you don’t allow us to go for two terms and you go for two terms, how will it work?
Will the Southsouth be ready for dialogue with other zones in the South to have a compromise on this matter?
I have said this is the first stage of making our intention known. After this stage, the Southsouth themselves will speak. The owners of the Southsouth will speak, which we are going to lobby and visit the various interest group, including ethnic nationalities and political parties to buy into our dream.
We are not going to use force to get it because politics is all about lobbying. We are willing to lobby, we are willing to talk. That is why we are talking and appealing, we are not using force or threatening anybody even though we have the instruments. We are saying let us reason together.
For the igbos, we sympathise with them and we understand their feelings. We know how they feel and are in a better position to protect them. We will not allow an Igbo man to go only one tenure.
When it is time for the Igbos to be president, we will support them to go for second tenure, even if others done want a second tenure for them because that is their right and we believe that every zone should have that second tenure. One zone should not have one tenure, while another zone have one tenure. It is unfair.
You said the Southsouth and Southeast are from one parent. For the sake of fairness, if the Southeast indicates interest in the presidency, will the Southsouth support them?
The Southsouth has never opposed the south east. But, with the present condition of Nigeria, if we don’t want the North to continue to hold on to power, then the Southeast should forget it because we know that the North will not give power to the Southeast now because of the fear of Biafra and the North will not give power to the Southwest because they also have their fears.
The only people they are comfortable with now is the Southsouth and if the Southsouth is not allowed, they will use it as an excuse to hold on to power. Anybody body with a political discerning mind knows it that the Northers are not comfortable with the Igbos.
Zoning will be non-existent if every leader truly care for the Nigerians they rule over.
In reply to this post by Philbankz1
this power tussle is crazy...
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