THE North will support the presidential candidate with genuine commitment to deal with its problems and meet the region’s aspirations in 2023, the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) said on Sunday.
Its convener Prof. Ango Abdullahi said: “The forum has observed that political maneuvres around the 2023 elections are targeting the North as a region available for exploitation.
“We want to make it clear that people of the North will be very careful in committing to persons seeking their support on the basis of their region or wealth.
“The North knows its interest and will stand together to elect only persons who meet the standards and interests of the people of the North.
“No politicians should assume they are entitled to our support unless they show a clear understanding and a commitment to deal with our problems and meet our aspirations.”
He spoke after a meeting of the forum.
With him during the briefing was the froum’s Director, Advocacy and Engagements, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who read the statement.
In attendance at the meeting were: Former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alamin Daggash (retd), Secretary of the Coalition of Northern Groups, Abdullahi Usman, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, Deputy National Chairman, Alhaji Bello Kirfi (Wazirin Bauchi), DIG Labaran Wurno, Alhaji Yakubu Shehu and former Managing Director, defunct Bank of the North, Hajiya Amina Yahaya, among others.
NEF also said President Muhammadu Buhari had failed to tackle insecurity in addition that the government appeared helpless in finding solutions to poverty.
Dr. Baba-Ahmed said: “The Forum regrets that by any standard of judgment, the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation in the vital area of improving its security.
Poverty, particularly in the North, and massive social security have worsened under this administration. The relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, but the administration does not appear to have any idea on what will provide relief or solution.
“It gives the Forum no pleasure to say that it had warned Nigerians that President Buhari lacked the will, the competence and commitment to lead it into a secure and prosperous future before the 2019 elections.
It is shocking that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the nation’s multiple security challenges, President Buhari appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians.
“With this type of mindset, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation.
Nonetheless, we believe that Nigerians must continue to raise our voices and organise through all legitimate means to demand that the administration addresses major failings in his perception of our situation and his response to our demands for our rights to security.”
The Presidency described the NEF as irrelevant and its leadership a “paper tiger”. (See box).
Many of the members of the NEF were against President Buhari’s reelection which he won without their support.
The Forum also called for “a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies, and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity and accountability in the manner our troops and the police and security agencies deal with security challenges. We appeal to our religious leaders and fellow citizens not to fall into the trap of insurgents to set us up against each other.
“We condemn the tactic of targeting Christians and publicising their executions by an insurgency seeking to exploit our different faiths. We also condemn the murder of thousands of Muslims and Christians in communities which the insurgency has made permanent targets in the last decade.
These are times when we must unite and resist a common enemy as well us demand that our leaders protect us all as Nigerians.
“In principle, the Forum supports the idea of improving the policing capacities of the nation. It is important to emphasise, however, that all initiatives to improve public safety must find accommodation within our laws, and must not be designed to threaten or harass particular groups or interests.
We recommend the adoption of a more vigorous and inclusive process which will result in the creation of acceptable frameworks and higher levels of confidence among all communities with respect to policing strategies.
On other issues, the Forum said it noted the comments of the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), in response to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar, and described it as not in conformity with the culture of respect and reverence for leaders which Northerners are noted for.
“The Forum demands that the Chairman of BOT of Coalition of Northern Groups should apologise to His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto without reservations.”
On the ban on Okada and Keke in Lagos. The forum recognized “ the rights of the Lagos State government to take decisions that improve the environment and public safety”, but added: “We are constrained to draw attention to the impact of its policy on banning Okada and Keke in parts of the State on the poor and operators, many of them from the North, who earn honest living through this trade.
We urge restraint in the responses of those who are immediately affected by this policy, while we urge Northern State Governments to mobilize and support the people who will be compelled to relocate back to the North with other sources of legitimate living.
“The Forum had engaged a broad spectrum of opinion on the stress in relations between the palace of Sarkin Kano and the Government of Kano State.” It said the Forum would engage with Governor Abdulahi Ganduje and Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II.