Northern Youths Ask Buhari, Atiku to Shelve Presidential Ambition

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• nPDP remains with APC, says Baraje

• Oshiomhole pushes for ideology-based ruling party, says APC not for all comers

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna

The Coalition of Northern Youths has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice-President Abubakar not to contest the 2019 presidential election.

In a communiqué issued at the end of their summit in Kaduna Monday, the group urged the two leaders to leave the stage for younger people between the ages of 18 and 60.

The communiqué, which was read by Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, spokesman of the group, said they had previously advised Buhari to leave the stage for younger people.

“We had advised him (Buhari) to look for a younger person who has the integrity like him to run for the presidency. Anybody above 70 years of age should give way to the younger generation,” the group, which last year issued an ultimatum to Nigerians of South-east origin to leave the North, said.

The Northern youth coalition explained that the advice became imperative in view of the fact that Buhari and Abubakar who are both in their 70s “participated in debates that gave birth to the current national arrangement that is largely acknowledged as having failed our national aspirations”.

The group maintained that Nigerians are worried that older people who have dominated the political stage since independence have not moved the country forward.

The communiqué called on Nigerians to insist on a generational change in the leadership of the country.

“Frustrated young Nigerians, having paid their dues in the national development efforts, have been manifestly left to suffer from the suffocating consequences of the prevailing exclusive and defeatist leadership selection process that has been imposed on the country over the years, by succeeding ruling elite.

“It is time they formed a rallying point from which younger Nigerians can make a strong demand for a new political order to usher in a generational power shift as reparation for past marginalisation in the nation’s political leadership,” the group said.

It also frowned on what it described as “the seeming endorsement by some Northern leaders of a brand of restructuring that clearly places the region at a disadvantage”, declaring that it was unacceptable and must be discountenanced.

The group said the North will “not settle for any restructuring plan that is not total, comprehensive and wholistic…”

nPDP’s Grievances

The push for the generational shift in Nigeria’s leadership came just as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) acknowledged Monday that the issues raised by its aggrieved members, who form the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) bloc of the ruling party, were genuine and needed to be addressed.

The group, which left the then ruling PDP at the height of its crisis in 2013 to fuse with the APC coalition, had accused the latter and the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of marginalising and maltreating their members, despite the role they played in bringing APC to power in 2015.

Specifically, they complained of being treated as outsiders in a party they helped to build and sustain.

The group also lamented that while some of their members had been denied security cover to visit their constituencies, others were being prosecuted and faced a witch-hunt by agents of the government.

The members led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje issued a seven-day ultimatum to the leadership of the party to arrange a meeting with them in order to address their complaints.

The group’s ultimatum elapsed last week, fuelling fears that the APC may have called their bluff.

However, addressing reporters Monday shortly after an hour-long meeting with the aggrieved group at the APC national secretariat in Abuja, the Deputy National Chairman of the APC, Senator Shauib Lawan, said the party considered their grievances legitimate and something that should be looked into.

He said although the matter was yet to be resolved, the party was taking it very seriously.

“We have not yet resolved the issues. They wrote a letter to us, they are party men, they have grievances, we have looked at the letter and their grievances are genuine,” he said.

While explaining the apparent delay in addressing their grievances, Lawan said: “They requested a meeting within seven days and before the seven days expired, I called them and they were not ready to come, they said we should shift the meeting till today, which we did.

“So, we are listening to them, we have listened to them and we are taking up their matter seriously, we will address it. We don’t ignore our people except if you don’t send your grievances to the party. But if you send them, we will always address your grievances.”

Speaking on the outcome of the much-anticipated peace talks, Baraje said his group will remain with the ruling APC, but discussions were still at their infancy, noting however that the nPDP was satisfied with the response of the APC leadership.

According to him, “So far so good. We have just started. And when you start a race, you don’t say whether somebody wants to see you until you get to the middle or to the end. But it’s a good start, it’s a good beginning.

“As you are aware, we requested that we wanted to see the party, and the party, very sensitive party, very responsible party, responded to our requests adequately and we think it was a very encouraging thing.

“Since last week, they got across to us, but because of one logistic or the other, we couldn’t come until today. We begged the party to shift the date until today, and today we have seen our party leadership.

“We are party members, this office is our office, we have only come home to discuss those observations we wrote in our letter. The meeting was very beautiful.”

When asked in specific terms what was discussed, Baraje said: “We have not concluded and the discussions will continue.”

Baraje also dismissed the splinter group led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, saying that as far as he was concerned, 99.5 per cent of the members of the nPDP were in support of the demands he made.

Earlier, Senator Lawan had said the APC leadership did not receive any letter from the Senator Adamu-led group.

Members with Common Ideals

Meanwhile, former Edo State governor and aspirant for the position of the national chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has declared that the ruling party should only admit people who share its ideology and who will add value to the party, going forward.

Oshiomhole, who spoke Monday during a visit to former Abia State governor, Orji Kalu, said political parties are not an all-comers affair but for those that are ready to add value to their activities.

He said as a party, the APC should be able to tell some people whose beliefs run counter to the ideals of the party to look elsewhere for membership of a political party.

He said political parties ought to be governed by a set of value-adding ideals that members must subscribe to, “otherwise you are not supposed to be a member”.

Oshiomhole, who expressed concern over the continued feud between the executive and legislative arms of government, said that the party could not afford to be an onlooker in the current rift between both arms of government.

He said as chairman of the party, he would make sure that all party organs are made to function as constitutionally mandated, adding that “when the party organs are not functioning, then we are just a collection of people”.

According to the chairmanship aspirant, the responsibility of a political party goes beyond providing a platform for elections.

“The party should monitor the conduct of its members as well as how elected representatives of the people are keeping faith with the manifesto of the party,” he noted.

Continuing, Oshiomhole said: “We are at a critical juncture in our country and over the next couple of months, the political environment will be heated up when all the aspirants and candidates would have emerged and our party is expected to, as the governing party, lead by example.

“I believe that after the historic amalgamation of the four and half parties that now form the APC, it is enough for us to have welded into a party and provide the kind of leadership that Nigerians expect from a political party that is based on the principle of social democracy which was why we carefully choose the name ‘Progressives’.

“It is not a secret that we have our own fair share of internal challenges. I believe that there is nothing wrong in parties having internal challenges, but what matters is a leadership that has the capacity to manage those challenges and encourage internal democracy and evolve a style of leadership that is based on inclusion rather than exclusion.

“We must strengthen the process of the bottom-up approach to decision making so that when we talk about a party position, it will be one in which party leaders and members will say, yes, we participated in the process that led to this decision.

“The organs of the party must be made to function. When organs of the party are not functioning, then we are just a collection of individuals.

“It is my hope that we move beyond creating a platform that is simply there for election purpose, just like a public taxi. It should also be a platform to continue to engage all those who are elected on the platform of the party and ensure that what they do and how they do it is in line with the manifesto and the core values that bind the party together.

“I think it is the duty of a political party leadership to monitor the activities of government and the various organs, and where there are disagreements, you intervene in a way that will provide solutions.

“In the real world, you get what you are able to negotiate. In a democracy, we must have the skills to negotiate, skills to persuade, skills to reach a compromise, and as they say, the strength of the people in power is measured by the way they deal with those who are completely powerless.

“The gains of democracy are the promises to protect the weak. Working with leaders like you, I believe we can build a functional, democratic mass base – a membership driven and membership funded political party that is accountable to its members.

“That way, Nigerians will begin to see the difference between the APC and other parties. We must begin to consciously work towards building a strong party. So, if a reactionary element wants to join the APC with his antecedents, and we feel that his values and actions do not conform with the core values of social democracy, we should be able to engage such a person and say, Mr. Applicant, maybe you might look elsewhere.

“I don’t think we should be a platform for all, beginning from the extreme right to the extreme left and even fascist, if they are able to manipulate the people in their constituencies.

“I think over time, this must be the objective so that in the years to come, Nigerians should be able to say the APC, this is what they stand for on issues.

“In opting to join or leave a party, it should be based on what you believe in or what you know that the party stands for; anyone wanting to contest elections at any level must be someone that subscribes to these core values.

“This is a task I believe we must work together to build. So that Nigerians should be able to make informed choices on Election Day.

“We have seen it from the PDP that because that bond was simply based on money, and the philosophy was about sharing the money, once access to the money was disconnected, the centre could not hold. So, there are huge lessons to be learnt from that – that money as a glue to bind a party together is not sustainable.

“What is sustainable are shared values, a shared commitment to an identified goal and creating a platform for contestants and allowing policy choices and how best to get there, even when the goal is not in dispute.

“You know that one of the challenges we have at the moment is the problem between the Executive and the National Assembly. Again, I believe that the party should not be a spectator in moments like that and wait for things to get out of control.

“Party business is not a casual business and a political party is not an unorganised organisation. It is a formally structured organisation based on rules and those rules provide us with the basis to be able to interrogate those involved in any contestations and realise that at the end of the day, you can debate and realise that common goal we all subscribe to.”

Responding, the former Abia State governor expressed support for Oshiomhole.

He also expressed optimism that there would be no rancour after the party’s convention and urged Oshiomhole to remain a statesman and ensure that party leaders whom he would be succeeding are treated with respect when they step down.