Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
“The South-West as I have pointed out has produced a President and currently sits as VP, the South-South has spent a total of six years in the Presidency, but the Igbo people of the South-East have never tasted presidency in Nigeria, and now that the power is due back in the South equity demands that it be ceded to the Igbo.” – Pa Ayo Adebanjo
Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has declared that if truly Nigeria is sincere about her continuity as one united political entity, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, who hails from the South-East should be voted into power in 2023.
This, according to Afenifere, will give the South-East zone the opportunity of taking its own turn in the presidency of the country based on equity and justice.
The South-East is yet to produce Nigeria’s President since the return to the current democratic dispensation 23 years ago.
Afenifere Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, who addressed a press conference Monday in Lagos, urged progressive and equity-conscious Nigerians to remain steadfast in their support for Obi and his running mate, Yusuf Datti-Ahmed.
The 94-year-old elder statesman who argued that apart from equity advantage, Obi towers tall among other presidential candidates, hence, the unfeigned support for his ambition by Afenifere.
Reading from a prepared text, the nonagenarian said: “We enjoin the Labour movement, students, youth organisations, women associations, and every institution whose foundation is built on fairness and justice to join hands in this task of enthroning a democratic government by supporting Peter Obi.
“If we are sincere and honest about keeping Nigeria together in peace, the slogan henceforth should be: ‘To keep Nigeria one, everyone should be Obi/Datti compliant.’
“In the final analysis, let it be said that we have no apologies but due courage of our conviction that Nigeria can only prosper in righteousness.
“For me, in the twilight of my sojourn on earth at 94, it is too late to derail me on the track of true federalism and national inclusiveness on which I have travelled for over 70 years of my life as one of the few surviving initial prophets, I prefer to ascend on a chariot of fire, fueled by justice and equity.”
Pa Adebanjo insisted that the principle of federal character demands that power should go to the South-East in 2023 being the only zone in the South to take a shot at the Presidency.
“The principle of federal character enshrined in the constitution dictates that the government of the federation or any part thereof shall not be concentrated in any ethnic group or a combination of such groups.
“It is therefore preposterous to adopt this principle for employment in public service, admissions in educational institutions, political appointment, the composition of the executive committee of a political party only to jettison it in the most important question of rulership of the federation.
“In this quest for peace, based on equity and inclusiveness, the Yoruba took the first turn at the zoning arrangement in 1999, and that led to the emergence of Chief Obasanjo, the current Vice President is a Yoruba man and equity forbids us for presuming to support another Yoruba person for the presidency in 2023.
“The current President is a Fulani from the Northwest and by virtue of the zoning arrangement that has governed Nigeria since 1999, power is supposed to return to the South imminently.
“The South-West as I have pointed out has produced a President and currently sits as VP, the South-South has spent a total of six years in the Presidency, but the Igbo people of the South-East have never tasted presidency in Nigeria, and now that the power is due back in the South equity demands that it be ceded to the Igbo.”
Afenifere which said it had no apologies supporting Obi said that 2023 election should not be based on tribal sentiments but competence and equity.
“After the primaries and the candidates emerged with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from the South-West, APC, Atiku Abubakar on the platform of PDP and Peter Obi on the platform of Labour Party and I announced Afenifere’s support for Peter Obi, not a few Yoruba leaders question why I should be supporting Peter Obi a candidate of Igbo extraction against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a Yoruba.
“I took my time to explain that the presidency is not a contest between the Yorubas and the Igbos and to a large extent I was able to convince many.
“But ever since social media has been filled with comments tending to ethnicize the campaign instead of making it issue-based.
Afenifere has therefore decided to address you today and through you educate the public on the ideological and equitable principles which have influenced our decision.”
Afenifere said that it was unjust to compel Ndigbo to remain in One Nigeria but deny them their rights and entitlements in the united country.
“We cannot continue to demand that the Igbo people remain in Nigeria, while we at the same time continue to brutally marginalize and exclude them from the power dynamic.
Peter Obi is the person of Igbo extraction that Afenifere has decided to support and to back, he is the man we trust to restructure the country back to federalism on the assumption of office.
“We will not compromise this principle of justice, equity and inclusiveness because one of our own Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a front-line candidate.
“It is on this same principle, we condemn the PDP for sponsoring Atiku Abubakar, a Northern Fulani Muslim to succeed General Muhammadu Buhari another Fulani Muslim who will soon complete eight years of uneventful and disastrous rule. One can imagine such a high degree of political insensitivity.
“On our part, we are certainly not alien to sacrificing personal interests in the quest for a National coalition to put Nigeria on the proper pedestal.
“In this regard, the starting point is Southern solidarity for which we first enacted a handshake across the Niger, which had dovetailed to the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum.”