Northern Leaders Begin Consultation over 2019

  • Hint at consensus candidate Seek alliance with South

Paul Obi in Abuja

Members of northern Nigeria’s political elite met saturday in Abuja to deliberate the fate of the region ahead of the 2019 presidential election and what they should do about the spate of insecurity in the North. Held under the aegis of Northern Elders and Stakeholders Conversation, the meeting had in attendance former political office holders from the North, some of who talked about the need for a consensus candidate for the region before the presidential election.

The gathering was full of reminiscences of an earlier exercise before the 2011 presidential poll, when former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged the North’s anointed aspirant following a selection process by some “17 wise men” led by Mallam Adamu Ciroma. But Atiku was defeated by the immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, at the Peoples Democratic Party primary.

Judging by the opinions of some attendees of yesterday’s meeting, especially on the question of a compromise candidate, the current consultations may thwart the yet-to-be-announced second term aspiration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a northerner. Members of the northern elite observed during the meeting that getting a consensus presidential candidate had become urgent since the major political actors in the country were disposed to the North retaining the presidential position in 2019. They talked about the need to take ownership of the selection process, because the two presidents the region had produced since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, Buhari and late President Umaru Yar’Adua, were not really nominees of the region, but leaders systematically foisted on the North.

The Northern Elders and Stakeholders Conversation was convened by former PDP national chairman, Dr. Haliru Mohammed Bello, former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Nasiru Mantu, and Senator Paul Wampana, and chaired by Alhaji Tanko Yakasai. It was attended by former governors of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna, and Niger State, Babaginda Aliyu; and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’Abba. Others were former governor of Bauchi State and ex-PDP national chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Senator Bala Mande, Senator Solomon Ewuga, Alhaji Ango Abdullahi, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, Alhaji Bala Mohammed, and prominent lawyer, Professor Awwal Yadudu.

In a communiqué signed by Mantu on behalf of the forum, the members said their objectives were, among others, “To review the general security situation in the North and proffer viable solution,” and, “To appraise the current state of politics in the North in relation to the unfolding national political dynamics with a view to creating a common northern position for alliance with our fellow citizen in the southern zones.”

The forum regretted the promotion of nepotism, incompetence, and lack of credibility in appointments, especially by state governors in the region. It lamented the “drastically collapsing” security architecture in the North and the country, generally, saying, “There is no attempt to arrest the problem.”

However, the communiqué noted that the forum would remain “nonpartisan but political, non-ethic and non-religious.”

The members decided to establish the Northern Elders and Stakeholders Conversation as a standing forum for the North, to be called Northern Political Leaders Forum, suggesting an interesting reminiscence of the pre-2011 forum that had produced Atiku. The meeting set up five subcommittees to address the various challenges identified in the North. They were the security subcommittee, political subcommittee, northern unity subcommittee, the 2019 election subcommittee, and restructuring of Nigeria subcommittee. It approved the holding of a Northern Political Submit on March 15 “to commemorate the attainment of self-government of the Northern Region in 1959.”

Dr Umar Ardo was chosen as secretary of the NPLF and Commodore Isaac M Mankilik (rtd) was appointed deputy secretary.

In his opening address, Bello said, “From what is apparent in the political arena today, it is clear that the major political operators have agreed that in the forthcoming 2019 general elections, it is the turn of the North to produce the president…

“But from what we have seen earlier, it has always been zoned to the North but the decision on what to do and who to be has never been a northern decision.

“What we observed is that the same trend is starting now. We have seen all kinds of movements coming up. If you look at what is happening now and remember what happened when it was the time of the North to produce president, President Umaru Yar’Adua of blessed memory was produced but was he really a northern choice?

“At the end of the day, Yar’Adua had mishap and lost his life in the process and somebody else was also chosen, his Vice President. We knew the struggle that went on when it was decided that the presidency should leave the North. It wasn’t the northerners who decided that the Presidency should leave the North. We had to follow the bandwagon.

“The same thing happened in 2015, the North voted for the northern candidate but the decision on who should be the candidate wasn’t a northern decision. What we want is that this time around, let us have the opportunity to come together so that whatever is decided for the North, it is the northern leaders who decide it and then we get support from other regions.”

Bello added, “There is therefore an urgent need for consultations across all shades of political opinions within the North with the principal aim of forging a common front to partner with our brothers and sisters in other regions to ensure that, this time around, the leadership that shall emerge is one that can unite and develop our country with equity, justice and peace for all. This is the main objective of this meeting.”

Addressing the gathering, Yakasai stated, “Our country is once again in a big problem in which northern Nigeria seems to be passing through its most trying times since 1914. There are issues of insecurity, civil strife, internecine ethnic killings, killer herdsmen, indigene/settler conflict, kidnappings, collapse of civil authority, etc.”

He said, “For the people of the North to come out of these challenges, undoubtedly triggered by poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment, lack of honest and sincere leadership and the huge lifestyle disparity in the society, they must resolve the current leadership failure in the region, and return the region back to its rightful position in Nigeria’s national balance of political power.”