The Spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed has faulted viral reports claiming the group endorsed former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed as consensus presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the North.
Naija News had reported earlier that NEF spokesperson, Ango Abdullahi, confirmed in Minna, Niger State capital on Friday, the emergence of Mohammed and Saraki as northern consensus presidential aspirants of the PDP.
The declaration has since generated mixed reactions by candidates from the region and party stakeholders.
Abdullahi had told reporters that the decision to select Saraki and Bala was arrived at after they scaled the criteria for selection.
According to him, these criteria included candidates assessment, zonal assessment, and PDP previous experiences.
A new statement, however, from NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, has rubbished the announcement made earlier by Abdullahi.
Bala-Ahmed said NEF was never in a roundtable to conclude on such, noting that the attempt to come up with a consensus among the aspirants was that of the aspirants themselves.
He said: “Northern Elders Forum is not affiliated with any political party or aspirant and is strongly committed to the creation of a level-playing field which will allow the emergence of the best leaders in the 2023 elections.”
Baba-Ahmed explained that Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Mohammed, Saraki and Mohammed Hayatudeen had initially consulted the former head of state, Badamasi Babangida, to make known their intentions.
According to him, the aspirants have requested elderly intervention and advice in the event that their efforts failed to produce consensus.
Baba-Ahmed said: “Babangida in turn requested Prof. Ango Abdullahi in his individual capacity to design and manage a process that could improve a consensus agreement among the four aspirants. Prof. Abdullahi concluded that assignment and released a detailed report and recommendation, signing it in his individual capacity.”
He stated categorically that NEF was involved in the entire process and that the reported decision was not a product of the group.
Baba-Ahmed stressed that Abdullahi is at liberty to undertake any lawful activity as a citizen, and genuine misinterpretations of his role are understandable.
He added: “Northern Elders Forum is not affiliated with any political party or aspirant and is strongly committed to the creation of a level-playing field which will allow the emergence of the best leaders in the 2023 elections.
“It has also remained consistent in its conviction that all parts of the country should play their parts freely, unhindered by restrictions which offend principles of inclusion and fairness. The forum believes the North has excellent candidates whose fate should be left to party delegates and voters to decide.”