The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) says the next president should come from the south-east region of the country in the interest of promoting national reconciliation.
The group stated this in a communique issued after its meeting, which also involved various stakeholders from the regions, on Thursday.
Speaking on calls for the presidency to be zoned to the south, the SMBLF said there would be “grim consequences” if political parties present northern candidates in the next general election.
“The forum firmly reiterates its stance on the principle of zoning and power rotation between the north and the south, as the basis on which the Nigerian federation has, since independence, been premised,” the communique reads.
“The forum states unequivocally, that the zoning and rotation of the presidency of Nigeria are fundamental to the future existence of the country.
“The forum, accordingly, condemns, in strongest terms, obvious schemes by the two main political parties, the PDP and APC, ahead of their presidential primaries, to jettison the time-honoured principle of rotation, which has traditionally served as the glue holding the Federal Republic of Nigeria together.
“The forum warns that the reported permutations by the main political parties to foist northern presidential candidates on the nation would be a grave misadventure, with grim consequences on national concord and harmony.
“The forum, therefore, calls on all delegates of all political parties, and true lovers of democracy, as a sacred obligation, to reject presidential aspirants, or candidates, from the north, and only vote for those from the south in the party primaries.
“The forum calls on all politicians and professionals from the south not to accept, on any account, the position of vice president, as that would amount to a shameful committal of present and future generations of southern Nigeria to senseless political vassalage.
“The forum further insists that, in observance of the principles of justice, equity, fairness and political inclusiveness, the south, and particularly, the south east zone, being the third leg on which Nigeria’s political trajectory had revolved, should produce the next president of the country in 2023; insists that this would bring the Igbo quest for full reintegration and reconciliation, since the end of the Civil War in 1970, to full realisation.”
The group also commended northern governors who have supported the zoning of the presidency to the south, and urged “other well-meaning northern leaders, who believe in the oneness of Nigeria, to support this cause, because therein lies the unity and progress of Nigeria”.
Signatories to the communique are Edwin Clark, an Ijaw national leader; Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere; Pogu Bitrus, president-general, Middle Belt Forum; George Obiozor, president-general, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide; and Emmanuel Essien, national chairman, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF