There were strong indications at the weekend that the political elite in the North may have dumped President Muhammadu Buhari and commenced shopping for his replacement ahead of the 2019 polls.
Some prominent politicians from the region met on Saturday in Abuja, where they launched a new process aimed at uniting the various groups across the 19 northern states towards backing a consensus presidential candidate other than President Muhammadu Buhari during the forthcoming elections.
Sunday Telegraph gathered that the crucial decision may not be unconnected with the growing unpopularity of Buhari across the country and the general perception that he had become somewhat an electoral liability to the region.
It was also learnt that the political elite in the North were apparently taking the step to checkmate the recent moves by a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo to use his Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM ) as the vehicle for delivering the next President of Nigeria.
The group said that incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, and late President Umar Yar’Adua, were both imposed on the North by certain forces which were already at play again in the current dispensation. They vowed to close ranks to avoid falling into the same trap in 2019.
The politicians, who converged on the Shehu Musa Yar Adua Centre under the auspices of the Northern Elders and Stakeholders, included included a former Political Adviser to the President during the Second Republic, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai; a former Deputy President of the Senate, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu; a former Governor of Bauchi State and former Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babanjida Aliyu; Senator Bala Mande, and Senator Solomon Ewuga.
Others are Alhaji Ango Abdullahi, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, Alhaji Bala Mohammed and prominent lawyer, Prof. Awwal Yadudu, among others.
In a keynote address at the meeting, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed said the forum was convened after due consideration of the current political situation in the country. The general state of insecurity and political uncertainty, he said, made it highly expedient to convene a conversation of critical Northern Elders and stakeholders to deliberate on the best way forward for the region.
According to him, there was need for the region to deliberate and reach an acceptable choice for representation, given that the 2019 presidency had been zoned to the North.
“From what is apparent in the political arena today, it is clear that the major political operators have agreed that in the forthcoming 2019 general elections, it is the turn of the North to produce the president.
“What we can see in the political arena, is that most political operators have agreed that the political leadership of our country should be zoned to the North, according to our Constitution with regards to zoning and rotation. But from what we have seen earlier, it has always been zoned to the North but the decision on what to do and who to be has never been a Northern decision.
“What we observed is that the same trend is starting now. We have seen all kinds of movements coming up. If you look at what is happening now and remember what happened when it was the time of the North to produce president, President Umaru Yar’Adua of blessed memory was produced but was he really a Northern choice? At the end of the day, Yar’Adua had mishap and lost his life in the process and somebody else was also chosen, his Vice President.
We knew the struggle that went on when it was decided that the presidency should leave the North. It wasn’t the northerners who decided that the Presidency should leave the North. We had to follow the bandwagon.
“The same thing happened in 2015, the North voted for the northern candidate but the decision on who should be the candidate wasn’t a northern decision. What we want is that this time around, let us have the opportunity to come together so that whatever is decided for the North, it is the Northern leaders who decide it and then we get support from other regions.
“If we are able to do that, then we should be able to produce a leadership for this country that would be just, equitable and lead us to nation’s development which is eluding us. That is the reason why we are here.
“There is therefore an urgent need for consultations across all shades of political opinions within the North with the principal aim of forging a common front to partner with our brothers and sisters in other regions to ensure that, this time around, the leadership that shall emerge is one that can unite and develop our country with equity, justice and peace for all. This is the main objective of this meeting,” Mohammed explained.
In his own remarks, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, said the meeting was informed by the need for the elders to hold intensive consultations and build bridges among the political elite preparatory to a functional political alliance with other geo-political zones of the country.
Yakassai attributed to current challenges in the country, particularly insecurity in the North, to leadership failure and challenged the political elite to save the country from collapse.
“Our country is once again in a big problem in which Northern Nigeria seems to be passing through its most trying times since 1914. There are issues of insecurity, civil strife, internecine ethnic killings, killer herdsmen, indigene/settler conflict, kidnappings and collapse of civil authority.
“In addition, comparatively among the current six geo-political zones of the country, the three Northern zones are worse off in terms of human and physical infrastructure, economy and education.
For the people of the North to come out of these challenges, undoubtedly triggered by poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment, lack of honest and sincere leadership and the huge lifestyle disparity in the society, they must resolve the current leadership failure in the region, and return the region back to its rightful position in Nigeria’s national balance of political power.
“Attaining this within the complexity of the extant national politics requires the political elites of the North to create a deliberate functional regional unity, both at the cultural and political levels. To secure our future within the Nigerian nation, we need to establish our unity and guard our identify as a region, and evolve a strategy to achieve development, harmony and peaceful coexistence,” Yakassai said.
A communique issued at the end of the meeting stated that it was meant to review the general security situation in the North and proffer viable solution; appraise the current state of politics in the North in relation to the unfolding national political dynamics with a view to creating a common Northern position for alliance with our fellow citizen in the southern zones; examine the causes of conflict among Northerners and suggest practical ways and means of attaining functional unity; discuss and suggest the best mode of maximising Northern advantages in the 2019 general elections; impress upon our people to register and have their PVCs; and discuss and formulate the stand of the North on the various issues raised.
The meeting resolved that a Northern Political Summit will hold on 15th March 2018 to discuss further on the main aim of the conversation.
The meeting indicted state governors for their inability to maintain fairness, equity and social cohesion in business of governance especially on government appointments and empowerment.
They observed that most appointees were products of nepotism, a situation, they said was a new phenomenon in the region.
“The Governors were challenged to change their disposition and borrow a lead from Sardauna and his key officers for change for the better in larger interest of the North.
“The Governors were also reminded of their detrimental approach to issues of Northern unity; employing series examples like giving support to third term or tenure elongation of Obasanjo and their open disregards to unity of purposes.
“There should be effort to dilute the powers of monopoly of the Governors who do what they wish outside the tenant of democracy. This is a forum to correct wrongs committed with a view to ensuring entrenchment of democracy at all levels.
“Stakeholders were enjoined to change their profile and desist from paying lip services and double standard to ensure a functional Northern Region.
Pay attention to good leadership and discontinue with recruitment of half baked or non educated people in leadership spectrum. People should be trained to take up leadership and put a stop to capacity solution. Let us be strategic in thinking effectively.
“It has been established that North has lost her leadership for a long time and there was no mechanism put in place to rectify this damaging situation. It has also identified security architecture being drastically collapsing and there is no attempt to arrest the problem. Other problems like poverty, education and empowerment are also lingering,” the communique read in parts.