The leadership of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has debunked its involvement the endorsement of the former senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki and the governor of Bauchi State, Mr. Bala Mohammed as presidential consensus flag bearers for the northern zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary.
Recall that northern leaders of the PDP had, at a meeting held in Minna, Niger State on Friday, April 22, announced Saraki and Mohammed as the consensus aspirants ahead of the party’s May 28 presidential primaries.
In a communiqué signed by former vice chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, the leaders said Saraki and Mohammed were selected based on certain criteria in the assessment of the four aspirants who submitted themselves for the exercise.
“For the purpose of this exercise, it is hereby resolved that Gov. Bala Mohammad from the northeast and former Senate President Bukola Saraki from the north-central be presented as the Northern consensus candidates for the moment.
“It was resolved that a leading aspirant from the north central and one from the northeast are to be presented as northern presidential candidates
Abdullahi explained that the north central geo-political zone in particular, was yet to contest for the party’s presidential primary since 1999.
“The resort was made to the historical antecedents of the PDP with regards to previous northern aspiration and the following conclusion was reached:
“That the northwest has had the opportunity of contesting and even forming government in 2007.
“In 2011, a consensus was made among the four northern candidates, which northeast got but lost at the primaries.
“In 2019, it got the slot again though the party could not form the government.
“The north central has not had a single opportunity to get the PDP ticket since the inception of the current Fourth Republic,” he added.
However, the NEF in a statement by its spokesman, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the forum was not involved in the consensus arrangement as speculated “in part by mischief, and in part by genuine confusion over the role of the convener of NEF, in the efforts to create consensus among four aspirants for the presidential ticket of the PDP.”
He said the idea to attempt to engineer a consensus among the aspirants was that of the aspirants themselves including Tambuwal, Mohammed, Saraki and Hayatudeen.
According to Baba-Ahmed, the quartet had informed the former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida of their intention, and requested elderly intervention and advice in the event that their efforts failed to produce consensus.
“President Babangida in turn requested Professor Ango Abdullahi in his individual capacity to design and manage a process that could improve a consensus agreement among the four aspirants.
“It is important to make clear that the entire process did not involve the Northern Elders Forum as a group, and is not a product of the group. Professor Ango Abdullahi is free to undertake any lawful activity as a citizen, and genuine misinterpretations of his role are understandable.
“Northern Elders Forum is not affiliated to any political party or aspirant, and is strongly committed to the creation of a level playing field which will allow the emergence of the best leaders in the 2023 elections.
“It has also remained consistent in its conviction that all parts of the country should play their parts freely, unhindered by restrictions which offend principles of inclusion and fairness.
“The Forum believes the North has excellent candidates whose fate should be left to party delegates and voters to decide.
“The Forum remains united behind the protection and projection of interests of the North and Nigeria, and will play its role as it had done whenever circumstances demand,” he said in the statement.