The Northern Elders Forum has said that it regretted that it got rid of then President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 elections to vote in the incumbent, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The group expressed disappointment that Buhari has let down millions of Nigerians including members of the All Progressives Congress who trusted in his leadership prior to the poll six years ago.
NEF, therefore, said that the next President of Nigeria should be one who would act in the “opposite direction” of Buhari, who hails from Katsina, North-West Nigeria.
NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spoke on Tuesday when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme monitored by PUNCH.
He said, “Is there any Nigerian who is not disappointed in President Buhari including diehard APC people? Is there anybody who would not tell you he wished President Buhari had done much better?
“We raised huge expectations, we told people, ‘Get rid of Jonathan, put Buhari there, he would fix corruption, he would fix insecurity, he would fix the economy’ (but) look at where we are now.
“How can anybody say they are happy with the record of President Buhari, even the people very close to him would tell you that they wished he could have done much better and he could have done much better and he hasn’t.”
‘Next president should act in opposite direction of Buhari’
The group’s spokesman said Nigeria needs a President who would act in the “opposite direction” of Buhari in terms of economic policies, security, amongst others.
“So, what we need to do now is to get ready to elect another President who would go in the opposite direction, a President who has a vision and a clear idea of what governance involves rather than just being a President. So, I am disappointed and that is why today, I am actively involved in trying to see that a new leader emerges in getting Nigerians a new lease of life,” Baba-Ahmed noted.
PUNCH had reported that the group which was actively involved in the emergence of Buhari said that the President has failed in the two critical areas of security and economy and as such has “nothing new to offer” Nigerians. NEF had called for the resignation of Buhari in December 2020.
Goodluck Jonathan: Ex-Gov, ex-VP, ex-President
Jonathan, 63, –of the Peoples Democratic Party, was Nigeria’s Vice-President between 2007 and 2010. The former Bayelsa State governor assumed position as the President in 2010 after the death of then President Umaru Yar’adua, a two-term governor of Katsina State.
Jonathan subsequently contested the 2011 presidential election and won but lost his reelection in 2015 to Buhari, a former military head of state between 1983 and 1985.
Though out of Aso Rock, Jonathan has been seen working closely with the incumbent in his role as Special Envoy of the Economic Community of West African States.
With the 2023 elections fast approaching and the clamour for power shift to the South, Jonathan, who has the legal right to one more term as Nigeria’s President as the constitution permits all eligible Nigerians to be in office for two terms of eight years, has been receiving entreaties from the APC.
Many APC chieftains have visited him in recent time, raising the stakes in permutations for the 2023 general elections.
Of late, with the wave of defections swinging in the direction of the ruling party, the National Secretary, APC Caretaker, and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee, John Akpanudoedehe, said Jonathan would be given an opportunity to contest the 2023 presidency on APC platform if he chose to join the ruling party.
However, the former President has not declared any intention to contest in the forthcoming election.
Negotiate, don’t demand, NEF tells Southern Govs
Speaking further, Baba-Ahmed said the north had lived under Southern Presidents — Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan — since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.
He, however, said Southern Governors should not make the 2023 Presidency a matter of disagreement amongst Nigerians, noting that they should negotiate rather than demand the number one seat. The 17 Southern Governors at their meetings in Lagos and Enugu lately had insisted that power must return to the South in 2023.
“We have lived under Southern Presidents because we recognise that Nigeria is made up of sections, ethnic groups and interests. We recognise that, we are northerners, pluralism is in our DNA, we accept that, we live with it.
“Don’t make the issue of Presidency a matter over which Nigerians would fight and threaten the country and the democratic process, that is very dangerous for this country,” the NEF spokesman stated.
Baba-Ahmed also insisted that the north has the numerical strength in any election, adding that those doubting the north’s voting power should check the last elections, claiming that millions of southerners voted for northern candidates during the elections.
He, however, said though the north has the numerical strength, neither the north nor the south can solely produce a President without the help of other parts of the country.
‘APC, PDP not answer for 2023’
Also, the NEF spokesman said that Nigeria needs a President who realises the need to rebuild the country, secure Nigerians and boost the economy from the downward slope.
“The nation needs a leader that would do the things that President (Muhammadu) Buhari hasn’t done, create inclusiveness, address resentment and frustration in other parts of the country and in the north and speak and act for everybody,” he added.
The elder statesman, however, regretted that both the ruling APC and the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, have no answers to what Nigerians want in a candidate in 2023.
He noted that the “smaller parties” should be given the opportunity to field candidates with the character and capacity to lead Nigeria from all her current woes.