There were indications yesterday that the second term bid of President Muhammadu Buhari may have torn the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) apart ahead of the 2019 presidential poll.
While a faction of the forum led by its deputy convener for Northwest, Sani Zangon Daura (Danmasanin Daura); deputy convener for Northeast, Major General Paul Tarfa and director of Logistics, Captain Bashir Sodangi endorsed the president for 2019, the forum’s convener, Prof Ango Abdullahi, said the Northern elders were still assessing the presidential candidates and are yet to decide on who to support.
Abdullahi told LEADERSHIP in telephone chat last night that Daura, Tarfa and Sodangi cannot speak for the forum, noting that there was never a time the forum endorsed Buhari for 2019.
In a statement they jointly signed, Daura, Tarfa and Sodangi dismissed a statement earlier issued by Ango Abdullahi suggesting that the forum was searching for Buhari’s replacement in the North.
According to them, it is unrealistic to expect total recovery from the problems that the current administration inherited from the past administration within a period of three years.
Endorsing Buhari for 2019, they stated that their support for the president is in the interest of peaceful co-existence, honest leadership and progress beyond 2019.
They reminded Nigerians that Buhari assumed office at a time the country was on the brink of collapse due to widespread insecurity, corruption and economic decay.
In the statement titled, ‘Why President Muhammadu Buhari Should Be Re-Elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, the trio said, “We remain solidly in support of President Muhammadu Buhari. Our attention has been brought to statements being attributed to Northern Elders Forum (that it is) searching for a replacement for President Muhammadu Buhari.
“At no time did the Forum deliberate on this subject. We wish to use this medium to dissociate ourselves from the said position. The Buhari Administration is indeed making remarkable achievements in the course of repositioning our nation back on the path of sustainable growth and development.”
Noting that what Nigeria needs now is continuity and not turning the hands of the clock backwards, the trio observed that nation building is not a one-year affair.
They stated: “No one can deny the reality that the country was reaching a breaking point. With committed leadership and sincerity, the President Buhari Administration has achieved immeasurable success at all fronts during the last three years.
“Indeed, there is still a lot to be done but nation building is not a one-year affair. It would therefore be unrealistic to expect total recovery from the problems that the Administration inherited from the past Administration within a period of three years.
“We sincerely believe the Buhari administration is doing well and should be re-elected to consolidate on the foundation of progress which has been laid by it. Infrastructure development is ongoing in earnest. These include roads railway projects and power supply. Nigerians are aware of what the situation was before the coming of this Administration.
“In the area of insecurity, there has been a great improvement at all levels. On the fight against corruption, President Buhari is on record as the leader who has boldly 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”.
Daura, Tarfa and Sodangi also blamed ignorance and intolerance for hate speeches and mistrust among Nigerians, lamenting that Nigerians have still not learnt much from their past experience.
Calling for peace and unity among Nigerians, they said, “We should, as a result, begin to cultivate the spirit of oneness and belief in one another. In a corruption-free country and well-developed infrastructure there will be security, employment and unity. This is what the Buhari Administration is all about for the people of Nigeria.
“In view of the foregoing, the members of the Northern Elders Forum 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”.
But in a swift reaction, Ango Abdullahi insisted that the trio of Daura, Tarfa and Sodangi cannot speak for the forum.
He said although they have the right to vote for candidates of their choice, the NEF under his leadership has never endorsed Buhari.
Dissociating himself and the forum from the statement issued by the trio, Abdullahi simply said, “As the convener, I have not instructed anybody to issue a statement endorsing a candidate”.
He however assured that the forum will endorse a candidate any moment from now. “We will endorse a candidate and as soon as we are ready for that the country will know”, he added.
Pressmen that the forum was currently assessing each of the presidential candidates, even as he hinted that “the forum is working closely with stakeholders from other sections of the country to see to the emergence of a president come 2019”.