By Abba Hamisu Sani
Africa-Press-Nigeria Ahead of the 2023 General election, critical stakeholders from the North led by the leadership of the Northern Elders Forum ( NEF) who met under the aegis of Northern Leaders of Thought in Kaduna, have dismissed the notion that power is shifted to the South in 2023.
They insisted that Northerners have equal rights to aspire to all offices in Nigeria.
The stakeholders who included leaders of Northern based NGOs, CBOs and numerous faith-based organisations, agreed that such persons aspiring for leadership positions in 2023 must be competent, possess evidence of personal integrity and commitment to the rule of law above all other considerations.
In a communiqué of Northern Leaders of Thought, issued at Arewa House Kaduna, after a one-day meeting with a theme “Rebuilding the North” on 15 January 2022, they said
“we the Northern Leaders of Thought, on this historic day of January 15th 2022 at Arewa House Kaduna, deliberated on the theme “Rebuilding the North” after extensive discussions and deliberations on the affairs that affect the North and Nigeria as a whole, we hereby resolve as follows;”
“The meeting agreed to release this Communiqué, which was signed by Professor Doknan Decent Danjuma Shenni, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Plateau State University.”
“The current state of insecurity in the North is unprecedented and unacceptable. While commending the efforts of the nation’s defence and security forces in rolling back sundry threats that have weakened the Nigerian State and made life almost valueless, the meeting advises the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Governors and Legislators to revisit and re-prioritize spending on security and addressing the scourge of poverty. We recommend the increase in recruitment of security personnel.”
“The Fundamental rights of all political parties to field candidates of their choices, and the right of voters to freely exercise choices over who leads them cannot be compromised.”
” Northerners have equal rights to aspire to all offices but they must raise competence, evidence of personal integrity and commitments to the rule of law above all other considerations.:
“Northerners should ignore provocative statements from groups in the South of Nigeria who appear to believe that Command Democracy in which threats and hate campaigns are their hallmarks or defining elements will work in Nigeria. North should vote for the best Leader.”
The Meeting notes the desperate condition of the economic existence of most Northerners, poses additional threats to security and the democratic process. It recommends that leaders should avoid pushing the population into deeper poverty and desperation with challenging economic policies and a lack of empathy. Government at all levels should consider a form of the structured welfare system to alleviate poverty in the populace.”
” The Meeting advises the Federal Government to postpone the planned 2022 National Census in view of the large numbers of displaced Nigerians and the proximity of the census to the 2023 elections.”
“The Meeting urges the National and States Assemblies to prioritize constitutional amendments currently being processed. It further urges President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act, as this will improve the quality of elections, starting from 2023.”
” The Meeting urges key Northern Groups to engage groups from the South to improve understanding, lower tensions and contribute to the creation of an atmosphere that allows all Nigerian to live in peace with each other.”
“The Meeting recognizes our ethnoreligious diversity in the North which is a source of strength that should be celebrated. The Meeting further observed that all faiths teach us to imbibe the spirit of tolerance and not hate or attack those who worship in a different way.
Our religious differences should be an invaluable asset, not a liability or a potent weapon in the hands of our desperate and failed leaders.”
Earlier in a keynote address, Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed of the Northern Elders Forum said “millions of Northerners are justifiably angry and frustrated that they are worse off today than they were before 2015 when they voted for an administration that promised to improve and secure lives.”
While urging Northerners not to make the ” mistake of 2015″, he said “many think voting another set of leaders will add no value to their lives. We say turn your anger into an asset by voting in better people into office this time. There are politicians that will continue where the present administration stopped, and, while angry citizens refuse to vote, they will buy votes and get power.”
” So, the most important thing a Northerner will do for himself and the community is to register and vote in 2023. Do not exchange your votes for another four or eight years in a country where your dignity and your life have little value.”
“Distinguished participants, please look around these premises, and you will draw inspiration from strong, purposeful leadership, not just of the Sardauna, but the team he was a part of. From Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, Aliyu Makaman Nupe, Turaki Ali, Sunday Awoniyi, Ali Akilu and dozens of Northerners who reflected the true diversity of the North and shared a common vision and purpose, there was a North which knew its place in Nigeria and gave all it took to defend it.
That North is still available to be recreated, but it needs to recognize the place of good leaders, hardworking and honest citizenry, a diversity that demands the highest standards of justice to manage, and a strong sense of destiny as a strong community for all who are part of it. In this hallowed hall, there is powerful history and a great potential to re-invent a region that will be great again. Please make that potential reality, and God in His infinite mercy will help us all,” he said.
“The Meeting advises Northern Groups to visit and engage President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss with him on ways in which the security and economic condition of Northerners can be improved.”
“The Meeting recognized that education in the region has never been more imperiled than now. Insecurity has exponentially increased the number of out of school children. School abductions closures and excruciating poverty have set back education in the region for many generations. The Meeting calls on the state and Federal Governments to protect all our schools and rescue all our children in the hand of Bandits, and insurgents.”
“The Meeting notes the disconnect between citizens Vs Leaders: The Meeting observed the widening gap and disconnect between the citizens and their elected representatives as an existential threat to the security of this nation. The meeting, therefore, calls on all strata of our leadership to reconnect with the citizens.”
“The Meeting notes the widespread insecurity, poverty and discontent with the leadership has resulted in serious voter apathy that is unhelpful to our fragile democracy. It calls on all Nigerians particularly the youth not to despair but to register to vote for a leadership that can change the fortunes of Nigeria.”
“The meeting recommends the need to have a working partnership with government agencies and other non-government organs to restore and re-instate the traumatized and displaced communities (IDP) to their villages as we initiate trauma healing sessions for them as well as de-radicalization programmes targeting the youths in the affected areas.”