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'Middle-Belt is part of the North’

Posted by The Punch on 2005/08/07 | Views: 465 |

'Middle-Belt is part of the North’


Professor Itse Sagay is an expert in constitutional law and a leading figure in the struggle of the South-South against oppression and marginalisation. In this interview with Kolawole Igandan, he speaks on why the presidency should not go to any part of the North in 2007

Professor Itse Sagay is an expert in constitutional law and a leading figure in the struggle of the South-South against oppression and marginalisation. In this interview with Kolawole Igandan, he speaks on why the presidency should not go to any part of the North in 2007

The Middle-Belt on Tuesday threw its weight behind the South-East bid for the presideny in 2007. The Middle-Belt had been in alliance talks with the South-South earlier on. Is the South-South alliance with the Middle-Belt severed?
No. You see, the alliances are not exclusive. In other words, there is no principle or understanding that if A and B form an alliance, then, automatically, A cannot form another alliance with C. The South-South and Middle-Belt alliance does not preclude the Middle-Belt and others from establishing alliance with each other.

In fact, at the conference, I mean the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), four different zones met continuously throughout and these were the South-South, South-East, Middle-Belt and South-West. So we are widening consultation. What the South-East and Middle-Belt are doing is a continuation of widening process of the caucaus arrangement. The strength of the group that emerges also increases. If you look at it, South-East and Middle-Belt alone cannot constitute a majority. If we are all involved, there is a good chance of building a formidable team. I can assure you that the alliance between South-South and Middle-Belt is still intact.

But are you not surprised or disappointed that the Middle-Belt which has been supporting the South-South has jettisoned the South-South for South-East in its presidential bid?
Let me just put it this way, the South-South is very determined to produce the president in 2007, but if for any reason, that is not feasible, the South-South will support a South-East candidate. So the point I am making is simple. For 2007, the South-South alone tolerates presidency for two zones, either South-South as number one or the worst scenario, South-East. Beyond that, the South-South will not tolerate any candidate because these are the two zones that have not produced any president. The South-East have said this much. They themselves have told us that they are quite relaxed and happy having a South-South president if they themselves cannot clinch it.

The South-South leaders at a meeting in Benin, recently said no governor of South-South should be running mate to any Northern presidential aspirant in 2007. How do you hope to enforce that since some of your governors have gone far in their resolve to be a vice-president in 2007.
Not just governors, no South-South person should seek it. It is a prohibition; we are barred from accepting to be vice-president to anybody and any such act is an act of treachery and betrayal which will definitely not be tolerated. I know the rumours of some of our governors signifying interest in the slot of the V-P has been making the rounds, but I also know that whatever might have been their previous intention, even if it were true, that was before. Now they know the decision of the people of the South-South on the issue, I have no doubt that they will comply.

It could vary. We might have a scenario where the different political parties could choose a South-South person as a Vice-President nominee. How can you handle the issue of political party’s preference?
The political party does not matter. The situation is that you are a South-South citizen first and foremost and a party man second. So, whatever the South-South decides is final. I don’t see any governor, after this declaration has been made, doing the opposite. Such a person should now aim for the position of the president because we have finally discarded forever the second class citizen mentality.

Another point is the numerical strength of the South-South. The zone is often times described as a minority. With this status, how do you muster enough votes to win the presidency in 2007?
The point is that you are a minority if you think you are. It is a psychological thing; we know that we are no minority. We are a powerful zone; we produce 91 per cent of the federation account. We sustain this country, so the question of accepting second class citizenship when we are the one sponsoring Nigeria, cannot arise again. We are now conscious and enlightened about our status in this country. Not only are we enlightened, we also know that the selfish individualistic way people negotiated for themselves at the expense of the people of the South-South has been eliminated. Everybody is now working for the upliftment of the South-South people.

We have discarded the previous individualistic selfish attitude of promoting personal interest at the expense of the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. There is a paradigm shift in the orientation of our people in the South-South.

The dilemma here is also the role the Middle-Belt may will play in 2007. Do you foreclose a situation where the South-South will be a running mate to a presidential candidate from the Middle-Belt?
Middle-Belt is part of the North. Middle-Belt had had a shot at the presidency more than anybody. General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) is from the Middle-Belt and he spent nine years. Niger State could be said to be Middle-Belt and General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) is from that zone. I have spoken the mind of many South-South leaders, no South-South person is going to be a vice-presidential candidate to a Northerner as far as that issue is concerned. The only area that is tolerable is the South-East.

SUNDAY PUNCH, August 07, 2005

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.