BY Olisemeka Obeche
Northern Elders Forum (NEF), the highest political pressure group are currently divided over whether to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid and Atiku Abubakar’s latest presidential bid, Orient Daily has learnt.
While a faction led by Professor Ango Abdullahi, the convener of the Northern Elders’ Forum says the group has decided to dump Buhari for another northern presidential candidate, Abubakar, another camp made up of Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura insists they were in support the APC presidential candidate’s re-election bid.
Abdullahi, a former Ahmadu Bello University vice chancellor who spoke the mind of the northern leaders in Kaduna said the decision to withdraw support for Buhari’s re-election was because of his failure to fulfill the basic conditions they handed to him in 2015 when they rejected then President Goodluck Jonathan and elected him.
Hear 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.
“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. 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. According to him, “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 meticulously screened over 13 persons from the North 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”.
However, three key officials of NEF had since distanced themselves from Abdullahi’s position, saying they were solidly behind Buhari and would do everything possible to get him re-elected next year. The trio of Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura who are foundation members of NEF 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.
Hear them: “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”.