The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) has said in 2023, the region will vote for presidential candidates based on competence, not the zone they come from.
The forum said the race should be left open to all the regions and not restricted to the south as canvassed by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) recently in Abuja.
The NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, stated this in an interview with journalists on the sideline of the meeting of northern leaders at the Arewa House, Kaduna, on Saturday.
“The democratic process will not be restricted to satisfy them especially because the constitution says every Nigerian should be free to vote if they are qualified to vote, every Nigerian should contest if his party fields him or her and that Nigerians should decide who they want.
“A northerner and a Southerner have equal rights to contest but Northerners should be very careful of who they vote for in 2023.
“No northerner should take us for granted. That’s how we ended up with President Buhari. We don’t want to repeat the same mistake. If you must be a northerner who’s better than all the candidates; for us, that’s the bottom line. It’s not enough to be a northerner, you have to be the best. You have to be the best for the North and you have to be the best for the rest of Nigeria.
“We are looking for a Nigerian President. If it comes from the North, fine but he must be voted for by Nigerians and he must be good and he must be better than all the others. That’s what we are looking for.”
He urged Northerners to turn their anger into an asset by voting for credible candidates irrespective of their tribe, religion, or gender in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
Presenting a keynote address at the meeting tagged, ‘Rebuilding the North’, Baba-Ahmed said, “We have wasted enough lives, blood, energy, and resources drifting and blaming leaders who have reaped hugely from our misfortunes and self-inflicted injuries. It is enough. We have no one else to cry to; no one to look up to, to lead us out of terror and poverty, and no one willing to use their positions to turn the fortunes of the North around.
“Our fate will only be designed and determined by us. We may be facing unprecedented challenges, but these are times to prepare to find extraordinary strengths and assets so that our children will be rid of the current nightmares which are our lives today.
“For the North, we cannot say it louder. A Northerner should be voted President only if he is the best as being a Northerner is not enough, all Nigerians need is good leaders, but for us in the North, we will demand to see evidence that a candidate does not just want the power to fulfill a personal ambition. We want to see evidence that those who want to lead us in future understand the roots of and solutions to our insecurity and poverty and distances from each other.”