The Northern Elders Forum has sparked concerns that racial prejudice and greed would prevent the creation of a nation with the potential to reverse its fortunes in 2023.
This was contained in a statement by the NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in Abuja on Wednesday.
The forum raised the alarm over recent changes in several political spheres in Nigeria as they relate to the 2023 elections and beyond. They accused politicians of “desperately shepherding Nigerians into two irreconcilable religious divides, all in a bid to garner undeserved advantages at the expense of religious tolerance and coexistence.”
Baba-Ahmed said, “These developments threaten our already distressed democratic process. Our politics now operates outside safe and tolerable boundaries. The nation will pay dearly for the desperation and limitations of those who ought to show leadership and responsibility among our politicians.
“It is not responsible for resisting the urge to caution politicians only on the ground that many matters that will impact our lives and the quality of our national existence are purely internal affairs of political parties.
“The search for a running mate for the APC’s presidential candidate with the religious faith of two individuals as the sole issue at stake represents a sad reminder that our politicians will not allow our democratic system to grow beyond the narrowest of confinements.
“Nigerians take their faith seriously, but we are also painfully aware that the faith of our leaders has never been a factor in how we are governed. The political manoeuvres in the APC now divert attention from serious issues around the quality of governance and point to the danger that we are a multi-religious country whose citizens will pay dearly if one politician is not a Christian or Muslim.
“The melodrama around a selection of the PDP’s presidential candidate’s running mate and the role of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike will remain constant reminders that power and wealth, irrespective of how they are acquired, have made our political process its hostage.
“The ransom that will be paid to free our democratic process may be such that the nation cannot afford it. Our nation is being carved into strongholds controlled by powerful individual politicians who must be placated at all costs. We will pay a huge price if these politicians succeed in stamping their personalities into the democratic process.
“Among a handful of other parties with the potential to make a difference, ethnicity and greed are threatening to frustrate the emergence of a nation with the capacity to turn around its fortunes in 2023.
“Instead of exploring options and opportunities that will improve their chances of giving Nigerians real and credible, we only witness frightening levels of hostility and ethnic chauvinism, as we saw recently in exchanges between Labour Party and NNPP leaders. Ethnic identity, in particular, looks capable of being elevated to a point where it alone can cripple a successful transition to 2023 and beyond.
“Our politics has become an additional burden on the Nigerian citizen, dwarfing the spreading insecurity, poverty and cynicism over the prospects of our survival as one nation. If the way our politicians are seeking power is any indicator of the quality of leadership they will provide, then the nation has a very genuine reason to worry over its future. Other leaders representing particular interests compound our worries with periodic threats and ultimatums that an already weakened leadership has no solution for.
“The prospects for the safe conduct of electoral activities and a free and fair election are being threatened by the conduct of our politicians. We must find the resolve and the strength to step back and pull the nation away from its precarious position. What is at stake is more than an election. It is the survival of our country.”