2023 Presidency: Northern Govs insensitive, 1999 Constitution against dominance of one region –SAN

Human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), has said that the 1999 Constitution recognises the principle of power spread and oppose the dominance of one ethnic group against the others in terms of power-sharing.

Adegboruwa also described as “insensitive”, the resolution of the 19 Northern Governors after their meeting in Kaduna on Monday, opposing power shift to the Southern part of the country in 2023 elections.

The senior advocate made this known on Tuesday when he spoke on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ breakfast programme.

As the 2023 general elections draw nearer, there have been intense political posturing, permutations and fireworks. The 17 Southern Governors had met twice in the year and demanded power shift to their region while the 19 Northern Governors also met on Monday opposing such move and noting that the candidate with the highest votes will emerge as President in the next general elections.

The Northern Governors in a statement signed by their chairman, Simon Lalong, who is also the Governor of Plateau State, had said, “The Forum observed that some Northern States Governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three Geo-Political Zone in the South with a view to promoting unity and peace in the Nation.

“Notwithstanding their comments, the Forum unanimously condemn the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South.

“The statement is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended that the elected President shall: – score the majority votes; score at least 25% of the votes cast in 2/3 States of the Federation.

“In the case of run-up simple majority win the election.”

But speaking on the television programmed, Adegboruwa said the Northern Governors might have taken the decision due to improper legal counsel.

He said, “Maybe because of improper legal counsel, it may have been that their excellencies overlooked certain provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria and even the Constitutions of the political parties they belong to before making categorical statements that zoning and rotation is illegal.

“When we examine various sections of this 1999 Constitution, it is clearly written in several portions, especially in Chapter 2, that the framers of the constitution had envisaged that we were going to get to this stage in our national life. So, enough provisions have been made to accommodate national cohesion, to carry everybody along in governance and to ensure unity, equality and justice in the distribution of power and offices.

“In particular, Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, in particular, Section 14 (3), which talks about the need for a spread in the distribution of offices, in the composition of government in such a way that not a dominance of a particular state, ethnic group or tribe should have dominance in terms of sharing of power.

“So, when their excellences were reeling out their positions to say that rotation is contrary to the Constitution of Nigeria, the Section they referred to in particular only talked about the mode of election, how a person can be elected as the President of Nigeria, to secure 25 per cent, to be able to have majority votes. That has to do with elections.

“But the Constitution itself had envisaged that there must be that national spread, national balance in such a way that a particular tribe or ethnic group is not seen as dominating.

“So, if you look at Section 14 (3), it will be a little insensitive when you consider that President Muhammadu Buhari is from the northern part of Nigeria and when it is time for election in 2023, having spent eight years and exhausted the maximum two-term period, what Section 14 envisages is that you would have to balance the power in such a way that other sections of Nigeria won’t feel any marginalization.”

The lawyer also said both the All-Progressives Congress and the People’s Democratic Party’s constitutions support the spread of political positions amongst different ethnic stocks in the country to foster unity and national cohesion of a heterogeneous state like Nigeria.

Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution:

The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.

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