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2023: North Will Back Any Credible Candidate From Any Region – NEF Declares

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has declared that it would back a candidate from any region for the 2023 presidential election.

Spokesman of the forum, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, stated this in an interview with Daily Sun at the sideline of the fourth Malam Maitama Sule Leadership Lecture at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State.

He, however, said the north would not accept a presidential candidate thrown up for the 2023 poll by a political party on the basis of regional consideration.

Ahmed, in a paper delivered at the lecture on behalf of NEF, entitled: “The President we want” warned that the north would turn its back to any party that deliberately tilts advantages to presidential candidates from particular regions in the 2023 electioneering.

“We don’t want the president to emerge as a product of ethnic or religious pushes. We don’t want a president that will be answerable to a portion of Nigeria. We won’t accept it,” he said.

He flayed moves by a section of the country to occupy the presidential office through violence, saying it was counter-productive to peace and unity efforts. He said the current situation in the country does not require a leader produced by cohesion or secession threats.

“The next president should emerge from a credible election from any part of the country but he or she must be first and foremost a Nigerian president. The north would back any credible candidate from the region who understand the problem, possess capacity to solve them (challenges) and can build bridges across the country.”

Ahmed said the north was concerned about the violence in the South East as much as it was worried by insecurity in parts of the north.

He, however, said the north would not be cowed by threats of secession ahead of the 2023 election.

“We don’t want organised violence or threat to produce the president of Nigeria. Secession is a bad option for South East. It is not in the best interest of this country or anybody.”

He asked self-determination group, IPOB, to stop the violence in the region.

“Why should the Federal Government allow IPOB to strangulate five South East states? If this administration do not have the capacity and willingness to ask this question, to deal with this problem, then the next administration should do so.”

Meanwhile, pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and former Anambra State Governor, Dr Chukwuemka Ezeife, have knocked Ahmed over his comment that the north would not accept any presidential candidate from any political party for the 2023 election if such candidate emerged on the basis of regional consideration.

Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, said NEF spokesman by his statements and pronouncements has over time shown he does not love Nigeria.

Ogbonnia said Ahmed lacked the knowledge of Nigeria’s political history as all the country’s presidents since 1999 were products of regional agitations.

“Many patriotic Nigerians have discovered that from all his remarks Dr Ahmed does not love Nigeria. He should know that all Nigeria’s presidents since 1999 emerged due to regional agitation. President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged due to the massive agitation by the South West after the election of Chief Moshood Abiola was annulled. Based on the agitation, the rulers at that time in their wisdom conceded the presidency to the South West. After the Obasanjo presidency, the north agitated that it was their turn and that agitation produced President Umaru Yar’Adua. Of course, the agitations from PANDEF and other South South groups during the Yar’Adua gave rise to the amnesty programme to the Niger Delta militants and also produced the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Even the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is a product of collective agitation by the north.

“So, it is clear that the NEF spokesman doesn’t know what he is saying and he has no knowledge of Nigerian political history or political science. Agitation is part of democracy. The agitation by the South East for example or any other region is a way of expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo. Well-meaning patriotic Nigerians who understand the need for the continued corporate existence of Nigeria should concede the 2023 presidency to the South East because it is an agitation that is asking for equity and justice.”

Reacting, President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said the statement only showed that the north was afraid of southerners taking over from Buhari. He said the statement was insulting to other Nigerians because the issue of credibility was not an exclusive preserve of the north as there were qualified candidates to rule Nigerians from all over the country.

He also dissociated the Middle Belt from the statement saying: “Even in the north, they are not speaking for us because we are Middle Belters and we are not going to play second fiddle to anybody. All the falsehood they have been adducing about the population, which doesn’t exist, will be exposed with time. But, as far as I am concerned, his statement means he is afraid of a southern Nigerian taking over from Buhari because they know they have committed a lot of atrocities. I want to advise them to get out of that fear and become true Nigerians.”

Also, Ezeife, said the position of the NEF spokesman was consistent with his mannerism. He, however, said the quest for the Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023 should start with getting the November 6 Anambra State election right.

“The Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023 is needed to douse the political tension in the country, however, that is not our problem now. It is important to first ensure a peaceful Anambra State governorship election on November 6. If we get the right governor for Anambra State, we will get our man for the 2023 presidential poll, but if the election is rigged and we lose Anambra State to the wrong person, then it will be difficult for our hope for 2023 to be realised.”

He lauded IPOB for understanding the value of supporting the election by calling off their sit-at-home.

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