It is the turn of the South to produce the next president, Cross Rivers State Governor Ben Ayade said yesterday.
He urged the All Progressives Congress (APC) to respect the zoning agreement between the North and the South made at APC’s inception.
Ayade said zoning was adopted to ensure an egalitarian and equitable power sharing.
The governor spoke when the frontline APC presidential aspirant, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, visited him at the Government House, Calabar, the state capital.
Tinubu, former Lagos State governor, was in the state to mobilise delegates for the proposed primary at Eagle Square, Abuja, on Monday.
He consulted with party delegates at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar, where he spoke on his plans for the country.
The eminent politician also visited the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, who described him as a “great former Lagos governor, a great power broker and a great leader of APC.”
Tinubu was accompanied by Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje; Senator Tanko Al-Makura; Senator Kashim Shettima; former Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba; presidential aide Mallam Yau Darazo, and Chairman of Tertiary Education Fund (TETFUND), Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim-Imam.
Echoing the resolution of the Southern Governors’ Forum on rotation and power shift to the South, Ayade, who is also a presidential aspirant, said zoning would ensure ethnic balancing.
Read Also: VIDEO: Joy as Ayade welcomes Tinubu to Cross River
Also yesterday, APC National Vice Chairman (Northwest), Salihu Lukeman, enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to rescind his decision to pick a presidential standard bearer for the ruling party.
He said the party should stick to the culture of a democratic primary for throwing up a popular candidate.
Reiterating his commitment to power rotation, Ayade said: “Zoning is a provision of our constitution to ensure balancing. It should not be about ethnic or regional domination but balancing. It’s the turn of Southern Nigeria in 2023.”
Ayade said the country was in dire need of change and a new way of doing things, stressing that with Nigeria’s potential “as around number seven in the world, in terms of oil and gas deposit, it is regrettable that the country is still importing petrol to meet its local demand.”
Describing Tinubu as a trans-generational leader and political strategist, the governor said the frontline contender has the capacity, experience and exposure to lead the country.
Ayade emphasised that Tinubu is eminently qualified to serve as president.
Ayade said history would be kind to Tinubu as the man who propelled the APC to power in 2015, adding that the APC national leader was a cornerstone of the party’s success.
The governor, who said he has a long-standing cordial relationship with Tinubu, added that each time he sought his advice on issues, he always got it.
He applauded Tinubu for what he described as his “insensitivity to party affiliation, to age difference, to religion and ethnicity.”
Acknowledging Ayade as a co-contestants, Tinubu ruled out any friction or collision, saying: “Mine is to respect you as you respect me.”
He added: “I appeal to you as your senior brother and the first to declare his intention, not to endorse me today, but when you get to Abuja, you can endorse me fully.
“We must have that unity of purpose. We must work together, not only for the unity and economic development of Cross Rivers but also for the country. We owe that to the present and future generations.”
Tinubu promised to work with the state for the full development of Calabar Port if elected president.
Tinubu told the Obong of Calabar and APC delegates that he shared their feelings over the loss of the Bakassi Peninsula and the neglect of the Calabar Seaport.
He promised to speed up the rehabilitation, resettlement and re-energising of the economy of Bakassi victims.
He said the Calabar Port and the dredging of the seaport waterways would be given urgent attention.
Tinubu said he has the intellect and capacity to create a commodity market and guarantee national prosperity.
Shettima said if APC is desirous of retaining power in 2023, the option available for victory is Tinubu.
He said with the emergence of Atiku Abubakar in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the dynamics have changed.
Shettima said APC must field a candidate that is head and shoulders above Atiku in terms of intellect, capacity and credibility.
He added: “We all must rally around Tinubu to make him our candidate and the next president. If we don’t, we should be ready to go back to the opposition.”