Sabiu Mohammed writes about ongoing consultations within the northern establishment over the 2023 presidency.
Less than a year before the country’s general election in 2023, presidential candidates have begun to show interest in contesting the president’s exalted seat. Even though there are permutations that there could be up to 40-50 presidential candidates who will steal their parties’ tickets, so far only a few have come out to declare their interest or their foot soldiers are already on the ground to market their intentions. Within the All Progressives Congress (APC), early contenders include its national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who informed President Muhammadu Buhari of his intention and Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi, who also requested the President’s consent.
In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a former president of the Senate, Dr BukolaSaraki; The Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and another former Senate Speaker, Anyim Pius Anyim, have expressed interest in being the country’s next president. The same goes for a former vice president, AtikuAbubakar, who has yet to make his intention known, but he said in the coming weeks that he would speak to Nigerians about it.
However, as the aspirants are busy crossing the country, various northern interest groups are also holding meetings and consultations on the 2023 presidency. The main concern of the northern elites is a president who will tackle the ills of the country, especially in the northern region. According to the National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Emmanuel Yawe, the forum is not happy with the turn of events in the region. “We need someone who will take care of these issues. A person who will unite the divisions in the region, bring peace and end the kidnappings, banditry and thefts that have become a daily occurrence. Above all, a president who will bring together the different sections of the country, ”he told our correspondent.
The findings show that although President Muhammadu Buhari hails from the region and has enjoyed the support of the northern establishment, the feeling among many is that they are worried and bewildered by the appalling state of affairs in the north under his administration. The issue of security, which the Northern establishment used to oust former President Goodluck Jonathan from office in 2015, according to the findings, continues to preoccupy many. Followers from the ACF and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) say they are sick of the turnout at events in the country, particularly in the North. For example, at its last executive meeting in Kaduna in early February, the ACF deplored the killings in the region. ACF President Audu Ogbeh noted that the killing of innocent souls is unacceptable and must be addressed. He said the insecurity has caused colossal damage as terrorists have taken control of thousands of farmlands and forests, forcing farmers to flee and are now refugees in displacement camps. Ogbeh further expressed his displeasure with the plight of education in the region which was also due to the insecurity plaguing the region, thousands of students are no longer attending schools jeopardizing the future of our youth. He capped off his view by informing that his forum had not endorsed any presidential candidate among the rainbow of contenders. He made it clear that forum members should refrain from supporting any of the presidential candidates.
He said the region would not be in a rush to support “a candidate like they did in 2015 because it won’t be business as usual”, adding “anyone who has our support must be able to tell the North what that he or she intends to do to the people.A Forum source who pleaded for anonymity noted that security, health, economics of education, industrialization and youth unrest will be the key issues to present to any presidential candidate According to the source, the worsening security in the region will take center stage as the region is bleeding now because there can never be development without a secure region.
The issue of kidnappings, banditry, theft in the North West, the farmers/herders crisis in the Center North and Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism in the North East has reduced the region to a theater of war and to refugee camps. A source denounces that not a day goes by without innocent souls being killed and that whoever wishes to be the next president must “tell us how he intends to end all the carnage and restore peace in the region”.
It seems that other pressure groups in the region like the NEF share the same sentiments as the ACF. Recently, during a public outing at Arewa House, its organizer Prof. AngoAbdullahi took a trip down memory lane and said that the region has seen development in infrastructure, education and of health in the days of its founding fathers led by the revered Sir Ahmadu. Bello but regretted that the area was now a ghost of itself. “Insecurity has gripped our region. People are refugees in their own region. Brothers kill brothers. Our arable lands have become bandit camps. Women, girls were forced to marry against their will. So many unchecked atrocities,” he said. According to former Ahmadu Bello University Vice-Chancellor Zaria, it is time to save the region. He maintained that the NEF and ACF are on the same page to save the region: “We met last year and agreed on so many things. First, whoever wants to be president must tell us how he intends to secure the North. Second, how he intends to unite the country as well as the region. Third, the North must accept the type of restructuring that will be in harmony with our realities among others.
However, despite being on the same page, there are contentious issues that could polarize the two main Northern groups. The results revealed that the Northern establishment is split on the age issue. There are different permutations based on the possible president’s age in 2023.
Speaking, Yawe thinks the issue would play a key role in who becomes the next president. He said Nigerians are disenchanted with the way governance is handled in the country, attributing the trend to the old age of Nigerian leaders.
One of the young president’s ardent supporters is a former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida. In different forums, the ex-leader does not hide his preference for a younger politician to succeed Buhari. He saw the young politician as someone who will have the energy to deal with the avalanche of problems besetting the country.
A point of view hardly acceptable to the oldest statesman, Tanko Yakasai, former special adviser to former President Shehu Shagari, who was of a contrary opinion. He believes that the question of age should not be a criterion for judging someone who wants to be president.
In a recent interview, he said that what is most important is the person who is in control of the country’s problems and he thinks people like Tinubu are competent to steer the ship of state given their wealth. experience and their political will. Also speaking, Senator Ibrahim Ida, who is a member of the NEF, thinks the older the better; he thinks someone like Atiku is way ahead of the other wannabes who have shown interest in the number position in the country so far.
The governors of the region do not seem to agree on the presidency of 2023 and the change of power. For example, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State came out to put his weight behind that of the South West presidential aspirant (Tinubu). Although Nasir El-rufai has not publicly come forward as Ganduje, his body language seems to favor a young presidential candidate in 2023. Thus, the northern elites have decided to reach out to stakeholders inside and outside outside the region. Although there is agreement that the groups cater to stakeholders inside and outside the region, it is unclear whether, ultimately, northern elites agree on a consensual candidate.
As faith-based groups like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the northern states seem to support a younger president and a Christian as a candidate. Whereas, the JaamatulRasullu Islam (JNI) seems to be going to play along the line of a younger person but has not decided where the next president will come from. Speaking on the matter, ACF leader, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had said soon that they should meet with the leaders of Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and other stakeholders on the issue of the 2023 presidency.
The question of zoning is also crucial for the survival of the region. While some of the northern elites want the presidency to stay in the region, others believe the presidency should go south for the stability and peace of the country. Atiku was very clear about this. He believes that the North has been wronged since the advent of democracy in 1999. For him, the North should have another chance to complete its mandate.
However, El-Rufai had in another forum said that power should shift to the South. According to him, the reason why most governors are against the transfer of power to the south is the insistence of their southern counterparts that power “must”. He argued that there is nowhere in the constitution where the issue of rotation is spelled out, saying what we are doing is mutual understanding between the regions for the stability of the region. Political parties will also play a key role in determining who becomes the next president. Even if both parties are still playing cat and mouse. But with APC releasing the schedule to have its convention on March 26, the political drum is now set in the country. ACF leader Ogbeh said parties should be given the opportunity to elect their presidential flag bearers after groups select and support only the candidate who will save the North.