Barely three months to next year’s elections, some northern leaders say they will not support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election.
They, however, shied away from announcing their preferred presidential candidate in the elections, insisting that the candidate to support remained one of their own from the list of the 71 presidential hopeful cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest the 2019 elections.
The only other high profile candidate in the 2019 presidential election is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Convener of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Professor Ango Abdullahi, spoke the mind of the northern leaders in Kaduna.
However, three key officials of NEF immediately distanced themselves from Abdullahi’s position, saying they were solidly behind Buhari and will do everything possible to get him re-elected next year.
The trio – Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura – said in a statement that Buhari deserved re-election because of his excellent performance and the fact that replacing him would turn the hand of development backward.
According to Abdullahi, a former Ahmadu Bello University Vice Chancellor, the Northern Elders arrived at the decision to dump Buhari for another northern presidential candidate because of his failure to fulfil the basic conditions they handed to him in 2015 when they rejected then – President Goodluck Jonathan and elected him.
“Two of the conditions we gave Buhari upon his assumption of office were that he should take concrete steps to address the abject poverty and underdevelopment in the North and he has woefully failed to marginally address any of them,” he said.
The NEF leader also accused the President of bringing strange elements into government, thereby adding no value to governance and “we are vindicated on this score because his wife, Aisha, has confirmed that this week”.
He went on: “Assuming that things are working in the North or in Nigeria as a whole, we would have taken a different position but everyone can see that things are not working under this government. Perhaps, as a prelude to where this government has taken this country, Buhari wasted six months before being able to set up his cabinet.
“And when he eventually formed the cabinet, he brought in persons who had not added any value to governance and his wife has vindicated us on this.
“As things stand today, we in the NEF do not believe that Nigeria’s cause will be helped by Buhari’s re-election in 2019. That is why we have decided to pick one of the other presidential candidates from the North for next year’s contest.
“It would be futile for anyone to blame anybody for the decision of the NEF against Buhari because his own wife has openly alluded to our position that some persons, who do not have the interest of Nigeria at heart, are running the Buhari administration without adding real value to the governance of Nigeria”.
Abdullahi, who served as former President Obasanjo’s Special Adviser on Food Security, pointed out that Buhari was the architect of his own misfortune, having repeatedly rebuffed all entreaties by northern leaders to meet with him and address the issues raised against him.
The professor of agronomy explained that the position of his group was informed by the outcome of an enlarged meeting of 18 northern groups in March which reviewed his performance and its impact on the region’s economy and security.
“Apart from his poor performance to the dissatisfaction of those who made him President, Buhari has deliberately rebuffed all attempts by the Northern Elders Forum to meet with him and discuss issues pertaining to the region and Nigeria”, he said.
“This is the reason we meticulous screened over 13 persons from the Nnorth and finally picked four out of the large number and our choice has also been endorsed by leaders of Southern Nigeria including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and Middle Belt leaders.
“We believe that there is no need for us to be talking to Buhari again about what he needs since that will not change anything. We have moved and our votes will not be based on sentiment of tribe or religion but strictly on performance”.
The NEF leader said he was pained by the behaviour of the President, having taken the risk to be at the forefront of his election in 2015 on account of which he was called unprintable names by those in the Jonathan administration.
According to him, the North rejected former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 not because he was a southerner and a Christian but because he blatantly reneged on the agreement to complete former President Yar’Adua’s tenure by doing one term and handing over power to the North to do eight years as former President Olusegun Obasanjo did.
However, the decision by the NEF to dump Buhari in 2019 has not gone down well with some members of the NEF who openly disagreed with the leadership.
‘There was no time NEF decided to reject Buhari’
Three men, who are foundation members of NEF- Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura – said there was no justification for the North to reject Buhari in 2019, given the fact that he had taken the country to the next level, having taken over the reins of power at a time there was widespread insecurity, corruption and economic decay.
The trio said in a statement: “No one can deny the reality that the country was reaching a breaking point. With a committed leadership and sincerity, President Buhari has achieved immeasurable success in all fronts during the last three years.
“We sincerely believe that the Buhari administration is doing well and should be re-elected to consolidate on the foundation of progress which has been laid by it. President Buhari is on record as the leader who has taken the fight to the criminals. For the fight to continue to victory, President Buhari should be encouraged by all well-meaning Nigerians to stamp out the monster of corruption.
“In view of the foregoing, the members of the NEF reiterate our solid support for the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari in the interest of peaceful co-existence, honest leadership, progress and continuity, come 2019 and beyond”.