The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has declared that the Northern region would not be forced to vote for any presidential candidate against their will in 2023.
Speaking against the backdrop of the clamour for power to return to the south with a southern presidency, NEF through its spokesperson, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said those championing the call for the southern presidency have to prove they deserve it by working for it.
He added that what the country needs at this time and going forward is not a northern or southern president but a Nigerian President.
“We don’t want another tribal or regional president,” he told The Nation in an interview in Kaduna.
According to Baba-Ahmed, Nigerian voters should be allowed to choose their leader in 2023 without undue pressure.
“Power does not return or go anywhere, power is determined by voters; this is why we have a democratic process, we are a democratic country,” he said in response to a question on the recent call by Southern governors that the presidency should return to the south after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
” Voters should decide who they want to vote for.
“Since 1999, Nigerians have been voting; we voted a southern president in 1999 to 2007, we then voted a northern president in 2007 who ruled for only two years and a southern president completed his tenure and was voted again in 2011.
“Then, we voted a northern president in 2015. In all these times, it was the power of the voters that determined who becomes the President. Votes don’t carry regional connotations.
“The democratic process says Nigerians should exercise right, that every Nigerian above the age of 18 is qualified to vote for who they want to be president, that is it. You cannot arm-twist that provision.”
He noted that regardless of the region the political parties decide to pick their candidates from, it is the voters that will eventually decide who becomes the next leader of the country after President Buhari in 2023.
“If we have five parties and one of the parties fields a northern candidate and the northern candidate scores the highest votes, he becomes the President. You cannot force a voter to choose a candidate that is not his choice, just because the candidate comes from a particular region of the country.
“You cannot tie up northern voters completely and totally and say he must not vote for any party that fields a northerner for the position of the president. You need to persuade people, you need to do the hard work of politics.
“People who believe that having a southern presidency is central to the survival of this country should in the name of God get up do the real work of lobbying and politicking and persuade people that the future of this country is contingent on the emergence of a southern president.
“But, you cannot do it by threat, intimidation and blackmail. If you keep pushing this rhetoric that it must be southern president or we will leave this country or the heavens will fall, then northern voters will say, what about my right to choose whoever I want? What do you do with my right? How can you force me to choose a southerner if I have a choice to choose a northerner or southerner?
“That is the point we have been making. You cannot legislate this, it is not in the law.”
The NEF spokesman also blamed the various agitations and calls for secession by some people in the country on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the current government has pushed the country apart and the likes of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho are only expressing the view of many Nigerians who don’t have the platform to express themselves.
According to him, ”All these arguments we are making about lack of inclusion, abusing our diversity, have their roots in the way in which this President runs his government. People don’t feel belong. And the same people who are saying they are not part of the Buhari’s government are now saying give us this presidency.”
He said the President has failed to “address issues that give chance to irredentists, secessionists, adventurers and killers who ride on this idea that this part of the country does not belong to Nigeria and he has failed to reach out and find a way to integrate them into mainstream political system; that is his job.
“You cannot be indifferent to sentiments in South East, you cannot be indifferent to what is happening in Southwest and still hope that you can run a safe and secure country.
“You ought to have detected this a long time ago and move to nip it in the bud and assure communities that will ordinarily feel that people like Igboho and Kanu have a case to make. They have no case to make.
” Every element and every community in Nigeria has been sidelined by incompetence, by indifference and by a president who doesn’t think that it is his job to perform the political role of a leader. So that is the mismanagement that people talk about. It is sad and tragic that we are where we are today when we should be stronger politically.We are not.”
Source: Naija News