Denies link to alleged third term plot
Kodilinye Obiagwu and Clifford Ndujihe
STRIDENT opposition in the
North notwithstanding, the leaders of Nigeria's southern
geo-political bloc yesterday reaffirmed their resolve not to yield
grounds on their claim to the presidency in 2007.
The office, as affirmed recently at the Southern Leaders'
Conference in Enugu State, should be occupied by a Nigerian from
either the South-South or the South-East, they added.
The chairman of the Southern Forum, the name adopted by the
leaders at the Enugu meeting, Chief Matthew Mbu, yesterday said
that the resolutions of the group were the basic minimum
requirement for fairness in the country.
Mbu, a former foreign affairs minister, at a press briefing
yesterday in Lagos, also dismissed insinuation that the group was
a part of an alleged plot to extend President Olusegun Obasanjo's
Mbu said that it was pure conjecture for the forum to be linked
to the speculations of the third term, which he claimed is even
He noted that there was nothing in the works to suggest that
the constitution would be amended to support a third term agenda
just as no one in the group is working for the President.
Mbu said: "Our demand for the presidency to remain in the
South-East or South-South is based on equity, fairness and
He noted that Southern leaders had met at three separate
meetings in Owerri, Lagos before that of Enugu State, where they
unanimously agreed that the presidency should go to either of the
two zones in 2007.
Northern leaders have consistently argued that the office of
president should go back to their zone after Obasanjo, since a
southerner would have occupied it for eight years by 2007.
But the Southern Forum in Enugu argued that northerners had
held the office for 35 out of Nigeria's 45 years. Mbu, however,
said that the decision to boycott future elections was not
Cautioning against undue worry, he asked: "Suppose that the
constitution is reviewed in a manner that it should be, do we have
a reason again to boycott any election? No."
He noted that the forum was aware of the dangers of boycotting
elections, but it would consider the option if "what we have put
forward is not considered."
Mbu announced that the forum would soon inaugurate a working
committee to give effect to the decisions it took three weeks ago
in Enugu State.
The decisions are that the South-East or South-South should
produce the president in 2007, the constitution must be reviewed
to ease the way for true federalism and the revenue allocation
formula emphasis on derivation.
Other decisions are the inclusion of ethnicity and religions in
the data for the census and the creation of an additional state in
The conference had decided that if other zones refused to let
the South-South or South-East to produce the next president, the
entire South, including the West, would boycott future elections
or opt for a confederacy.
On how the forum believed that it could address the issues,
which could not be resolved at the National Political Reforms
Conference, Mbu said that it was arguable if the work done at the
confab was in futility or not.
He said: "I would reserve the judgment to posterity. We did our
level best...it was a worthwhile exercise. We have sent our report
and recommendations to the Presidency. I understand the President
has forwarded the request to the National Assembly. It is now up
to the National Assembly to give effect to our recommendations;
accept some and reject some or reject them in totality."
Mbu added: "There are over 110 items listed for
consideration... we cannot anticipate what they will finally come
On the anticipation of difficulties for the South-East and the
South-South to produce a common presidential candidate, Dr. Dejo
Raimi, the secretary general of the forum, allayed fears.
He said: "The South-West had already asked to be left out of
the race, let the South-East and South-South bring out one
presidential candidate and we shall support him. With that kind of
maturity, which nobody has ever exhibited before, I can assure you
that if you give the two zones one week, we will come out with a
On a live television programme in Lagos yesterday, Mbu also
said that it would not be difficult for the southern zones to
agree on a consensus presidential candidate. Mbu, who is also
chairman of the Board of Trustees of the South-South Peoples
Assembly (SSPA), said the leaders of the South-East and
South-South zones had reached an agreement to produce a credible
"For proper sense of belonging in the country, if the agreement
was reached, it should be reviewed to accommodate our fair and
just demand. It is not fair that a region that produces the bulk
of the resources that sustain the nation has not had a chance to
rule," he said.
On next week's National Assembly public hearing on amendment of
the constitution, he said: "We should not work against the
constitutional amendment because of third term," which he
described as a conjecture.
"If we don't carry out constitutional reform, we cannot move
forward. The National Assembly has a duty to carry out the
amendment. Let us wait and see what they will do; we will cross
the bridge when we get there. We need to carry out basic reforms
to move the nation forward," he explained.
On the issue of resource control, Mbu said: "Let us go back to
the 1963 Republican Constitution that enshrines 50 per cent
derivation to the regions and 50 per cent to the centre. In a true
federation, the states have a fair control on the affairs of the
On the census, Mbu said: "It is important because it has to do
with national planning. Demography is important. Population
distribution of the world tends to be heavy in areas of heavy
rainfall and forest and less in arid regions. In Nigeria, the
reverse is the case."