Stephen Ukandu (News/ Features Editor)
The pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, has told the Northern Elders Forum NEF, that it had no apologies for throwing its weight behind a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023.
According to the apex Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, supporting Ndigbo to ascend the presidency is not only equitable and just, but will guarantee national inclusiveness.
In a statement by its General Secretary, Chief Sola Ebiseni in Akure, Ondo State, Afenifere declared that its position was in the “interests of fairness, equity and national inclusiveness and without apologies.”
Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has been unwavering in his support for the South-East to produce the president in 2023.
But not satisfied with Afenifere’s consistent advocacy for a president of South-East extraction, the Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, flayed Adebanjo for his pro-Igbo stance.
According to him: ”The real politicians who know and understand the depth of the Nigerian nation and what it will take to lead it know that it is talk like this from Chief Adebanjo, and not the identity of the next President, that represents threats to our future.
In a counter reaction, Afenifere blasted the Northern Elders telling them to stop over-rating themselves.
The statement was entitled “2023 Presidency: Who Does Baba-Ahmed Speak For?”
It read in part: ”The current struggle of the Afenifere, its leaders and strategic partners for better Nigeria, through its restructuring along with the foundational federal architecture, is a task in tandem with its ideology, principled tradition and ethos.
“The guiding insistence of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, as leader of the Afenifere, on Igbo Presidency in the interests of fairness, equity and national inclusiveness, is without apologies to those who have never been credited with any original and positive idea in the nation’s history but thrive on the unfounded divisions amongst the indigenous tribes of Nigeria.
“The stakes of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, veteran Awoist and patriot who for all of his 94 years on earth has been committed to the ideals of peaceful coexistence among the diverse groups of Nigeria, HIS ONLY COUNTRY, cannot be expected to be the same with a 65-year-old man who has another country to which he is indigenous and inevitably more loyal.
“Baba-Ahmed’s unprovoked vituperations on a man, his father’s age mate, is a strange and eloquent testimony of his imported culture. His usual references to and threats of some ill-defined northern interests which determine its voting habits show how much Baba-Ahmed understands Nigeria as a country whose leadership has never been a product of any regional political decision
”Chief Ayo Adebanjo, over the weekend, reiterated his position, shared by the majority of well-meaning citizens, that the next President of Nigeria, after Muhammadu Buhari of the North, should emerge from southern Nigeria and specifically expressed a preference for a person of South-eastern origin.
“It is this patriotic view, expressed within the context of a deep analysis of the country’s political history, that Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in his characteristic uncouth language, dismissed as a laughable threat targeted at the North (his own north) which he said would continue to vote according to the dictates of its interests.
”It is instructive that the same view expressed by Chief Ayo Adebanjo of the Afenifere on the need for power-shift, is shared by the Ohaneze Ndigbo for the South-East, PANDEF for the South-South, the Middle Belt Forum which influence straddles the North-Central mainly and the substantial parts of the remaining northern zones of North-West and East.
“It is therefore clear that Baba-Ahmed and those he claims to speak for are only dwelling in their myopic and minority positions about Nigeria and its politics.
“We are not strange to the kind of tantrums by those who have never been credited with any ideals for Nigeria.
“When Nigeria was in search of a suitable form of government, Ayo Adebanjo, now 94 and his Afenifere compatriots, in their youths, after painstaking research and analyses, came up with the idea of federalism.
“We note the laughable crocodile tears of Baba-Ahmed and his group on the current pervasive and intractable state of insecurity in Nigeria and the call for the resignation of President Buhari as if any clear-thinking Nigerian is so impressed.
“This volte-face lamentation, is borne out of the poverty of ideas and most hypocritical of those who have resisted all ingredients of true federalism, including the imperative of state police as a panacea for insecurity.”
The Yoruba socio-cultural organisation urged politicians from the South to place the region’s interest above their party and personal considerations.