Following alleged plans to draft former President Goodluck Jonathan into the 2023 presidential race, notable northern organisations have expressed divergent views on whether or not he should contest in the poll.
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) maintained that any eligible and qualified Nigerian has the right to vie for elective positions position, while the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) said that they are more concerned about the insecurity ravaging the north and will not want to waste time deliberating about the politics of 2023.
But the apex northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), while stressing that it is apolitical and will not delve into politics, however, noted that it will wait for political parties to choose their candidates before deciding who to support based on the interest of the North.
Speaking on the issue, director of publicity and advocacy of NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the elders’ forum recognises the constitutional rights of all Nigerians to aspire for any political office they are qualified to contest.
He said, “The Forum recognises that all Nigerians have a constitutional right to aspire to and contest for all offices for which they are qualified.
“We in the NEF have been consistent in advising that Nigerians should prioritise competence and proven personal integrity over all other considerations in choosing the next set of leaders.
“The north, over the years, is paying a huge price for wrong choices, even if the motives of many voters were sincere”.
For 2023 contests, Baba-Ahmed said all options are on the table for the north and advised northerners not to be stampeded or blackmailed into supporting the agenda of few politicians, noting that it will not serve the interests of the north.
He stated: “We will advise northerners not to be stampeded or blackmailed into supporting a few politicians’ agenda which will not serve the interests of the north.”
He further advised that attempts by persons in power to foist successors based on selfish motives should be critically scrutinised and resisted.
On its part, the CNG, through its spokesperson, Abdulazeez Suleiman said it was neither aware of such an arrangement nor concerned about the politics of 2023 at the moment.
“We are more into the struggle to ensure a secure northern region as well as to retrieve it from the bankruptcy of its present ruling elite,” Sulaiman said.
The coalition said it does not make sense to begin political discussions on succession three years away in a country that has become one of the least patrolled or supervised in the world in terms of anti-crime activities.
He said it was even more ridiculous to be concerned with succession matters at a time when there is very little in the Police Force that could inspire confidence or even fear to prevent the escalation of crime and criminality in the society.
“The CNG is more concerned about the security drawbacks that are the reasons why deadly insurgency, destructive banditry, violent communal conflicts, incessant rape cases and kidnappings persist, particularly in northern Nigerian communities,” he stated.
On its part, the ACF said it does not get involved in this kind of secret political activism.
“We are an open organisation that conducts its affairs openly. The 1999 Constitution empowers only political parties to canvass for votes,” the forum’s national publicity secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, said.
Yawe noted that the ACF is not a political party even though its members belonging to different political parties are free to canvass for whomever they want.
“It is their constitutional rights as citizens and we cannot stop them. When the political parties choose their candidates, the ACF will engage the candidates and see who will serve the interests of ‘mutanen’ Arewa better,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the director general Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 36+1, For Yunusa Dandam-Jilli, said that as a PDP support group, they are ever ready to support anybody that emerged the flag bearer of the party come 2023.
He said, “As for where the presidential candidate will come from, it is the turn of the southern part of Nigeria and the zone has South South, South East and South Eest, noting that anyone from the Southern part of Nigeria is eligible, including former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“He might decide to run for the 2023 presidency to pursue his second term that was denied him in 2015,” he said.
On his part, the president of the Plateau Initiative for Development and Advancement of the Natives (PIDAN), Dr Madaki Aboi said the group is yet to meet as a council to take decisions on who to support for the 2023 presidency.
He however said that in his capacity, he wants a president that will improve the security of Nigeria and stop the killings in Plateau, Southern Kaduna and particularly in the North Central States in 2023.
“Any president that can make North Central and the entire country safe will receive our endorsement,” he said.
Also, former Middle Belt Youth Leader and secretary of Christian
Youth of Nigeria, Comrade John Pofi, claimed that those urging former President Jonathan to contest the 2023 presidency are trying to make a mess of him.
Pofi said the former president should play the role of a leader and critical stakeholder, stressing that Jonathan should groom or mentor other people to assume leadership positions.
He pointed out that Jonathan will earn the respect of the people of this country as a statesman if he heeds to the advice.
Also speaking, the national publicity secretary, North Central People’s Forum (NCPF), Hon Audu Sule said the organisation’s core objectives are for peace and unity of Nigeria.
“We are non-political, non-religious and non-ethnic organisations, so we cannot delve into politics. Our major concern in the North Central People’s Forum is the unity of Nigeria, unity of our zone, development of the North Central states and also security and peace in our zone. So we are not a partisan politics organisation where we delve into that,” he added.
BY ISAIAH BENJAMIN, ACHOR ABIMAJE,