Amid the ongoing controversy over rotational presidency, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has said Northern governors did not oppose power shift to the South in 2023, as widely reported in the media.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, El-Rufai said some of the Northern governors have been very public about their support for power shift.
He said: “I first made my views clear on this matter late in 2019. We did that because we believe that it will help advance and promote national unity. What is not proper is for our colleagues in the South to be couching their demands with words like ‘must’ in a process that requires discussions, negotiations and consensus-building. What the Northern governors did was to condemn that statement for saying there must be power shift. We did not condemn or oppose power shift.
“What we saw and read in some newspapers was not the reason why we met, and it wasn’t what we said. We were surprised by what we saw from some media outlets.”
The governor stated that although the Northern governors during their meeting talked about what they heard from their Southern colleagues that the presidency must be zoned to the south, he said the words the Southern governors used and the way they said it was what annoyed them(Northern governors).
“That whether the North wants it or not, the presidency must be zoned to the South. What brought the issue of ‘must’ in democracy? Democracy involves sitting down and negotiating. Northerners have supported Southerners. We supported General Olusegun Obasanjo as president. We supported Jonathan and he is also from the South.
“Northerners have that spirit of cooperation, but what brought the issue of compulsion into it? There is not anywhere in the Nigerian Constitution where zoning is explicitly stated. But some parties developed the idea of zoning to promote national unity.
“Every party has its own rules, but we in APC don’t have anything like zoning. Even PDP that has these rules, it didn’t work during Jonathan. It is unconstitutional to deny any Nigerian to contest for president just because he is from a certain part of Nigeria. This is not part of the Nigerian Constitution. If that is the case, what brought the issue of compulsion or saying must when you don’t have any backing for it.
“Many of the Northern governors like me have expressed my opinion that after the tenure of President Buhari, the presidency should be zoned to the South. And we said that because of the relationship we have with the South, not because there is no qualified candidate from the North that wants to be president. Even when I said that many people were not happy and even challenged me that why should I even say that. I am not the only person that said such, there are other governors who also expressed the same thing.
“Why would the Southern governors issue that kind of statement? Is it good for us as Northern governors to come out and issue a statement that we do not agree that any person from the South should contest for president? This is exactly what they did to us. We are also governors like them, why would they not invite us for a meeting and discuss it? This is how it is done. We are practicing democracy. That is the reason we are not happy with the way they made the statement. And that is the reason we came out to condemn it because it is not part of the Constitution of Nigeria and that of our parties.
“And we also reminded them that in Nigeria, there is no way one can become the president until he has 25 per cent of votes cast from 24 states, including Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. We have said these things to show that we are practicing the Constitution. It is a process where people sit to reconcile and agree on issues.
“What annoyed us is where the Southern governors said power must shift to the South. What brought ‘must’ in this? Meaning that it is under must, whether we like it or not, power must shift to the South.
“We did not reject power shift to the South, but they should come and sit down with the political leaders of the North and seek our support,” El-Rufai added.