Leader of Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo weekend, warned that any attempt by a Nigerian of the northern extraction to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 will hurt national unity.
Adebanjo, who canvassed an Igbo Presidency in 2023, in a chat with Vanguard in Lagos, said: “All those who say the South-East cannot be President, ask them” what has the South-East done? Are they not part of Nigeria? Is the South-East not part of Southern Nigeria?
“If you want peace in Nigeria, the South-East should produce the next president of Nigeria. Olusegun Obasanjo had done it for eight years, Yemi Osinbajo would be Vice President for eight years by 2023, Goodluck Jonathan was president for six years, is the South-East not in Nigeria? And then, you want it to go back to the South-West again.
“I told Bola Tinubu: How can you say Buhari is supporting you when he is supporting the likes of Kayode Fayemi, Ibikunle Amosun and Osinbajo? And then, they threw the bait at Jonathan again.
“Jonathan disappointed me, instead of rejecting it, he said he was thinking about it. What is he thinking about? I regret ever giving him my support and this is on principle.
“Mind you, the moment you avoid principle, equity, honesty and ideology, you can’t get anywhere in this country. If you gang up against a section of the country, how do you want to get peace? Should a Northerner win the 2023 elections, it will be goodbye to Nigeria. I have said it and I want them to come and arrest me.”
In sensitivity to the cautionary words of Pa Adebanjo, 94, Dr Bitrus Pogu, National President of MBF, who spoke to Vanguard in Makurdi, Benue State, said that everything possible must be done to save the country and not plunge her further into eventual disintegration.
Dr Pogu said: “What he (Pa Adebanjo) said is the correct picture portraying the Nigerian situation. And while all these deceits and vilification of the Igbo have been going on over the years, the truth remains that marginalisation has to stop for Nigeria to move forward.
“We are insisting that the presidency has to go to the South because we want Nigeria to remain one entity. The truth is that Adebanjo has exposed what will likely happen if the North tries to continue to lead the country after President Buhari.
“That is why we are insisting that if for any reason, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is the main opposition party decides to leave its presidential ticket open and a Northerner picks it, we are going to work against that Northerner; so that we can save Nigeria from disintegration.
“So, to save Nigeria, ab initio, just like in 1999, it was not just zoned to the South, it was micro-zoned to the South-West to save the situation. Our situation now is more challenging and dire than in 1999.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, said: “Chief Adebanjo is an experienced Nigerian politician, an elder statesman, a visionary; in fact, any time he is talking, he is not talking for himself, he talks for the future of this country. He has seen Nigeria in and out, he knows the heartbeat of Nigeria, and he knows the consequences of whatever step Nigeria takes in 2023.
“So, what is happening now is a dilemma of either to reintegrate the Igbo after over 50 years after the civil war or not to reintegrate them. So, if the Igbo are reintegrated, that is the presidency we are talking about, but if they are not reintegrated, you are giving vent to the agitation by restive youths; it will intensify and some of us will not have any basis to plead with them. The insecurity will increase.
“The elder statesman understands the implication of denying Igbo the presidency because there is no reason on earth why it should not come to them except the dilemma of whether to reintegrate them or not reintegrate them.
So, if Nigerians conspire not to reintegrate the Igbo, it will give credence to the agitation by Indigenous Peoples Biafra, IPOB, Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and others, and it will be difficult for us to do anything about it.
On their part, the National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Mr Ken Robinson, differed with the Yoruba leader on the call that power should move to the South-East, adding that Southern leaders would hold a conversation and come up with a consensus.
He said: “Chief Adebanjo is one of our fathers and leaders. When one of our leaders takes a position, it is difficult to go against it.
“PANDEF is part of the Southern Leaders Forum, comprising of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and others. At one of our meetings, we had insisted that power should shift to Southern Nigeria.
“But, specifically to the South, we completely stand for justice, equity and fairness. Of all the parts of the country as the elder statesman has said, the South-East is the only section that has not produced a president in this president political dispensation in the South.
“We have sympathy for the South-East, but, PANDEF has also said there are sentiments in the South that the South-South did not complete the statutory eight years. We will at the appropriate time, the South-South, South-West and South-East, will have a conversation and when we have a consensus from that, we will definitely make a statement.”