The president of the country cannot be chosen by the North, according to Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the head of the Yoruba sociocultural organisation Afenifere.
Adebanjo delivered a speech on Monday during a public lecture with the title “Nationalism and nation-building in Nigerian history” at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs on Victoria Island in Lagos.
He said, “It was said that the South-East must come to negotiate with the North because politics is a game of numbers. My case is – and I told people yesterday – the case for the East is not to beg for a favour; it is their right. Yet, each time I hear that they should go around because the North has the population, what fraudulent population? You can’t sell that to me.
“They tell us to work together but unfortunately because they now have produced a president at the helm of affairs, they say ‘no one can become president except you come to the North and unfortunately, some southerners have been brainwashed that they can’t do anything except they bow to the North. I don’t believe it.
“What right has the North to dictate who will become our president? We were brought together not by peace, not by agreement, they forced us together and we agreed, so to continue to live together in peace must be by agreeable terms.
The East has the right not because he is Igbo but because it is in Nigeria. The principle of Afenifere is on ideological basis and principle of rightness, inclusiveness and not any sentiment.”
In his opening remarks, Prof. George Obiozor, President of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, explained that no generation of Nigerian leaders had been able to establish a climate of credibility to secure Nigeria’s claim to a political future as one nation since independence.
He said, “Recently, some Nigerian political leaders have said that Nigerian unity is non-negotiable. This is an irony because these leaders seem to have forgotten Nigerian history or have failed to learn the lessons of history in general.
“Nigerian unity is definitely negotiable and must be re-negotiated for it to stand or survive the test of time. The reality over the years remains that in spite of the best efforts of all our leaders, past or present, Nigerian unity is not guaranteed.
“It is simply, at best, an aspiration and not yet an achievement. Consequently, the statement that Nigerian unity is ‘non-negotiable’ is simply a historical fallacy.”
On his part, the National Director of Publicity of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Ahmed, said, “Some Nigerian political leaders have said Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. I don’t know who these people are, but I can tell you they are not of the North and they are not related to the NEF.
“Nigeria’s unity is negotiable. You either negotiate it because nations are very fragile and very delicate and you have to nurture them and pay attention to their need or they break and we are at that breaking point.”
Prof. Jide Osuntokun, the guest lecturer, lamented that Nigeria had struggled since 1966 to find a way to balance the regional desire for autonomy under a national structure.