The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has stated that President Muhammadu Buhari lacks the political will and competence to fix the country's problems, especially in the Northern region.
The group berated the Buhari-led administration, saying that the North suffered more under his administration, in terms of terrorism, banditry and negligence of the North.
Convener of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, stated this at the 10th anniversary of the Northern General Assembly, of NEF, held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja on Wednesday.
The NEF convener warned against any attempt to scuttle the conduct of a free, fair and credible election, adding that the North will stand by any presidential candidate that emerges as the winner.
He further cautioned against those saying that the North had no business in contesting for the presidential seat, explaining that the North had a 4-year deficit. Abdullahi emphasised that the North had “rubbed more backs,” of leaders from other regions of the country.
According to him “When we believed that General Muhammadu Buhari was a better candidate than President Jonathan, we campaigned for him and went to great lengths to have him elected in 2015. When it became obvious that President Buhari lacked the political will and competence to fix the problems of Nigeria and the worsening circumstances under which Northerners lived, we publicly campaigned against his administration’s ineptitude and lack of commitment to accountability.
“In 2019, we vigorously campaigned against his re-election, believing that our insecurity, crumbling economy and social problems would worsen. He won re-election, and our projections were sadly proved right.
“Yet we consistently demanded safety and continued welcome for other Nigerians who had made the North their home, and we will continue to do so. We followed national discourses and sentiments and noted how the Northerner was being held responsible and vilified for the shortcomings and failures of President Buhari.
“Yet, no region had ever suffered under any leader than the North did under the current leadership; and no region benefitted from more undeserved advantages than the South did under him. Our governors and legislators abandoned us.
“We have followed candidates through their campaigns, remaining neutral until we are satisfied that we can justifiably advise fellow Northerners on the directions that best suit our interests as Northerners. We have a healthy respect for the rights of all Northerners to make their own choices, and we are sensitive to the huge trust of our fellow Northerners to advise them in making the right choices.
“We have been saddened by the deterioration of the campaigns to levels where region, ethnicity and faith have been made defining characters of many of our leading candidates. We have resisted the pressure to follow suit, choosing instead to give every candidate a fair chance to show their character and potential.
“We have been worried over the alarming and inciting campaigns by supporters of some candidates, some of them explicitly threatening the continued existence of Nigeria if their candidates lose in a democratic contest.
“We have advised Northerners to remain calm and prepare to vote in a peaceful atmosphere. Nonetheless, we must remind fellow Nigerians of the position of the North: these elections must hold and a credible result must emerge from them. Leaders who win fairly will be accepted by Northerners, and we do not expect anything less from other Nigerians.
“Our response to threats that certain parts of the country will be locked down and out of the elections is that this is a threat to all Nigerians. We demand that the government of President Buhari and all other leaders and elders must call out this dangerous bluff. Those who say they will not accept credible results from the elections unless their candidates win represent threats to national security, and should be treated as such.
“We appeal to all persons with responsibility and influence to lend their weight behind the conduct of credible elections and a peaceful transition. We should also assure all communities that they will be safe before, during and after the elections. We hear of conspiracy theories and other fanciful contraptions being peddled by people in place of credible elections. Let our voices be heard now: the North will not accept any arrangement produced through the violation of our constitution, and we have faith that millions of other Nigerians share the same opinion.”
On his part, Director-General, NEF, Prof. Doknan Sheni, emphasized that the North will accept any candidate who emerges fairly as the next President to lead Nigeria.
He said, “Since 1999, the South has ruled the country for 14 years and the North for 10 years. There would therefore be a deficit of 4 years in favour of the North. Constitutionally, any Nigerian is free to contest elections. The north will continue to accept any candidate that wins the elections fairly, on the terms of one man one vote.
“We do not intend to be intimidated by improper or uncivil utterances or threats of violence. Nor will we be coerced to supporting a candidate based on non-democratic principles. Nigerians and particularly the people who love democracy will not accept any contraption of governance that is non-constitutional. If this happens it will create an unnecessary fault line that will challenge our management skills. Thankfully there are Nigerians with similar stances and perspectives from other parts of the country.”
Dignitaries who graced the event were, the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, the Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, and a representative of the Vice-Presidential Candidate of the All-Progressives Congress, Senator Kashim Shettima, as well as a representative of the People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar.