The Northern Elders Forum says it will declare its favoured candidate for Aso Rock’s top post in the upcoming February presidential election following a demanding, but fruitful interrogation process as campaigns start on Wednesday.
Additionally, the forum stated that its chosen presidential candidate from among the 18 legally recognised political parties must be mentally and physically capable of leading Nigeria and addressing the critical security and economic issues plaguing the nation.
“We have an idea what the next President should look like,” NEF Spokesman Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics programme last night.
He added that the northern elders would learn from their error in 2015 when they endorsed Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and exhorted the populace to give him their bloc votes.
The next president of Nigeria, according to Baba-Ahmed, needs to be able to secure the nation, strengthen the economy, and develop plans for the 34 million out-of-school children in the area. He also notes that the candidate’s views on reorganisation and other national issues will be considered.
“It will be a basis with which the north will support a candidate,” he stated.
Regarding the area or zone the next President should come from, the NEF spokesman stated, “What he intends to do in terms of satisfying us that he has the mental capacity, the physical capacity, the intellect, the willingness to tap into the best that is available, and sensitivity to a number of key issues that are central to our survival as a country. The reasons behind our support for a candidate will be based on those things.
Bola Tinubu of the APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party are among the front-runners for the 2023 general elections. While Tinubu and Obi are from the southern part of Nigeria, Atiku and Kwankwaso are from the northern
However, Baba-Ahmed said, “At this stage, our options are open. We will not vote on narrow prisms like where you (candidates) come from…
“I can speak for the northern elders’ forum. We’ve not said we will only support a northern candidate; what we said is we will defend the rights of northerners to compete freely and equally with others, we will help a northerner if we think he is the best, and we will not go to apologise for that at all.
“We will support a southerner if we believe that he will do justice to the interest of the north and the interest of other parts of the country. What is important for us is that we are looking for the best available.”
The NEF spokesman stated that the organisation has enough sway over northern Nigerians to be able to endorse the most qualified candidate. He also emphasised that the NEF is obligated to do so extremely seriously.
“We are not supporting anybody, and we will keep the best candidate that represents the best.
“We will put all those candidates through a rigorous process if they are willing, and they had better be willing because, believe me, we carry the responsibility on our shoulders to advise a lot of people in the north where to go, and we will exercise that responsibility very seriously,” he said.