Battle For Presidency: Why North should wait till 2027, by Ogbemudia
The battle between the North and the South-south over 2015 presidency took a twist as a two-time former governor of the defunct Bendel State, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, said the North has no claim to power until 2027.
Ogbemudia argued that the North's right to the presidency would be valid after the South-south would have completed eight years, and the South-east taken its turn of eight years.
He acknowledged that South-west set the precedent when former President Olusegun Obasanjo, from the zone, did eight years at Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
The Professor Ango Abdullahi-led Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has been at the forefront of the agitation for power to return to the North in 2015 on the grounds that the region was short-changed when President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, who assumed office in 2007, died midway into his tenure, and President Goodluck Jonathan, his deputy from the South-south, succeeded him.
Jonathan not only completed Yar'Adua's tenure as president but also secured re-election in 2011.
The bone of contention now is whether he should proceed on second term in 2015 or power should revert to the North.
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State claimed there was a gentleman's agreement with the North that Jonathan will serve one term only to enable the region return to power in 2015.
'The South-west came in, in 1999 and served for eight years. The South-south should also do eight years. And the truth is that the South-east is also entitled to the presidency when the South-south must have finished its eight years,' Ogbemudia contended.
The former governor and leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spoke in an interview with Sunday Vanguard.
Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees, is an old war horse in politics. The time- two former governor of the old Bendel State has been abroad for medical check-up and broke his silence on political issues to Sunday Vanguard last Wednesday. While declaring the support of the leaders of the South-south for second term for President Goodluck Jonathan, the former military tactician explained why the North is not entitled to the presidency until 2027.
And contrary to the statement by the PDP that Governor Adams Oshiomhole begged to join the party prior to the 2007 and 2012 governorship election in Edo State, Ogbemudia disclosed how he led some PDP leaders to appeal to Oshiomhole to join the party, but the plea was turned down by the former labour leader. He spoke on other national issues.
While you were away, Nigeria celebrated Democracy Day. How do you assess our democracy so far?
The assessment one can give is that it has been smooth, in the sense that everyone in Nigeria today appreciates democracy. Democracy means freedom, but freedom has its own obligations. I am enjoying democracy. We have made tremendous progress.
But Nigerians are worried that despite our resources, government is unable to give us steady power supply and employment opportunities for the youths among other basic things?
Yes, those who are worried are people who do not know the problems government faces. To lay one line that will carry eleven KVA from Delta to Sokoto or Maiduguri costs fortunes, and it is more than anything a state can produce. So one must first of all appreciate the enormity of the problems facing the Federal Government and then try to encourage it to do more. I know that the purpose of opposition is to pressurize the government to do more, but sometimes they get it wrong. Once in a while, they should say, 'Yes, the President is trying in some areas but can do more'; that will encourage him.
Nigeria Governors Forum crisis
The Governors Forum, according to experts, is not in the Constitution, but, as far as I am concerned, whether it is in the Constitution or not, it has come to stay. When five people come together to form a group, it may not be in the Constitution but they feel it is the right thing. The governors are the custodians of the democratic votes, they are the ones running the states, they are supposed to be the chief security officers of their states. So if you want their cooperation, you implore them to help you, talk to them like brothers, talk to them like friends, talk in a way that will encourage them to help you the more. But if anybody has succeeded in intimidating someone to do what he likes, I don't think the Governors Forum is the one that can be intimidated to do what game they want them to play. So it is through negotiation, Nigeria has developed a language called dialogue, so they should dialogue. The President should be the arbiter, he should not support any one. He should call the two warring factions together and settle the problem. I expect the President to settle the issues so that the governors don't break into factions, otherwise the 2015 elections will not be smooth.
What is your position on Chief Tony Anenih's call for automatic ticket to PDP governors and the President?
Well Tony Anenih has spoken his mind. It is left for the electorate in each state to decide whether the governor has performed to deserve a return ticket. You cannot come from Edo State to tell the man in Kaura Namoda that his governor has done well. He will not believe you if he has not performed well.
State of emergency in three states
I think the logical conclusion is that the state of emergency is necessary. But my personal view is that if the governors have been allowed to perform their functions as chief security officers, there would not have been need for the state of emergency. They don't have the apparatus available to the Federal Government, if the Federal Government had allowed the governors to do their jobs and given them all the facilities they needed, this emergency would have been unnecessary. So I expect the Federal Government to allow the governors to function effectively as the chief security officers of their state after the emergency. The governors should get all the powers that accompany being their respective states chief security officers.
But some people attribute the insurgency to the tussle for the 2015 presidency between the North and the South.
My view is that we in the South-south want Jonathan to continue in power beyond 2015. The North is equally interested in the presidency. We should sit down and talk. If we talk, four years will not do any harm to anybody; the matter can be resolved. The South-west came in, in 1999 and served for eight years. The South-south should also do eight years. And the truth is that the South-east is also entitled to the presidency when the South-south must have finished its eight years.
Does that mean North should not think about power returning to them until sometime around 2027?
Message to Nigerians
We have come a long way from 1914 to 2013; during those years, we passed through thick and thin and the lesson that we ought to have learnt is that we needed to work together as a team with all hands on deck to achieve our ultimate goal. It is still not late, the people should cooperate with the government of the day, four years in the life of a nation is nothing, but, in the life of a person, it means a lot. For this nation to survive, we all need to put all hands on deck and we should all support the government of the day.
Back to Edo, you have been passionate about a Benin man becoming the governor after Oshiomhole. Is that where you still stand?
I belong to the group that strongly supports the Benin agenda, I also belong to the group that wants the candidate picked on merit to serve at Osadebey Avenue, to continue the good job Oshiomhole has done. So if a Benin man is the one that will do it, so be it. But all Binis are interested and want a Benin man to be the next governor because they think they are not receiving their due share, they are being marginalized and I hold the same opinion and we should meet and again talk at a round table, there will be no hidden agenda.
Your party, the PDP, has been in trouble in the hands of the Adams Oshiomhole- led ACN in the state. What is the way forward for the party?
The PDP requires no advice now because they already know that united they stand, divided they remain where they are. So they are working towards bringing everybody on board. That is why I led a delegation of Senator Oyofo, Dr Willie Ogbeide and three others to persuade Oshiomhole to come to PDP and he told us that if he joined PDP, his friends in the media will kill him.
I was therefore embarrassed when I heard that the PDP said he came to them and they rejected him. The answer to the PDP challenge in Edo lies in the leaders coming together, embrace internal democracy and re-organize their management of victory.