Leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has alleged that the political bigwigs in the North including President Muhammadu Buhari are dividing the South as part of their game plan to retain power in 2023.
Adebanjo spoke on Mondday in Abuja, during a Greater Nigeria Conference (GNC) organised and well-attended by political bigwigs in the South East consisting of serving governors, former governors, senators and others.
The theme of the conference was ‘Quest for presidency of South East extraction #togetherwecan#
Adebanjo said the Northern political gladiators have been emphasising zoning but now preach merit and competence to manoeuvre their way for the North to retain power after President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said if it were by merit and competence and not the principle of zoning, some former presidents of Northern extractions wouldn’t have been president.
He said, “Let’s tell Nigerians where it should be and stop deceiving ourselves. We are now at a crossroads. My position is to say it as it is.
“The North does not want to yield power and the only thing they know is to divide the South so that they can have power in 2023. They want to divide the South West first. Now that is the turn of the South East, they (North) are now talking of competence, merit.”
Chief Adebanjo also asked former President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Nyesom Wike and other aspirants from the South South to shelve their presidential ambition and allow the South East to produce President Buhari’s successor.
He said, “I’m appealing to Wike and other aspirants from the South South, they are not helping matters. People like Jonathan are not helping matters. President Goodluck Jonathan allowed himself to be disgraced.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Middle Belt Forum have backed South East for the 2023 presidency.
Speaking at the event, President of the PANDEF, Edwin Clark said, “The people of the South East deserve the presidency of this country and they have my support. Let us do what is right. Let everybody support a president of the South East extraction. Let us give them a chance.”
Similarly, the President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Pogu Bitrus, said, “The South East will produce a president that will be sworn in on May 29, 2023. All of us are here for that singular reason. If we are not in support of this, we wouldn’t have been here.”
No apologies rejecting zoning – Northern elders
Reacting, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said the forum will continue to argue that every Nigerian should have a fair chance to compete for every office available in the country.
The NEF on Monday in a reply to Chief Adebanjo said it has no apologies for insisting that zoning which is recognized only by the Peoples’ Democratic Party limits the scope for leadership selection, harms the country in terms of the quality of leadership that emerges and should not represent a source of conflict in the country.
The NEF, through its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba- Ahmed said NEF will not trade insults with Chief Adebanjo because the forum has realized that doing so will be a waste of time.