The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Sunday said its preferred candidate in the 2023 presidential election will emerge after a rigorous but productive interrogation exercise.
According to the forum, such candidate must have the mental and physical capacity to govern Nigeria and solve the pertinent security and economic challenges bedevilling the country.
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, NEF spokesman who made the disclosure while speaking on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, also said the forum won’t make the mistake they made in 2015 when they endorsed All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Muhammadu Buhari and encouraged the people of the region to cede their bloc votes to him.
“We have an idea what the next President should look like,” NEF Spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said on Sunday.
According to him, Nigeria’s next president must have the ability to secure the country, improve the economy, and have plans for 34 million out-of-school children in the region, noting that the thoughts of the candidate on restructuring and other national issues will be evaluated.
“It will be a basis with which the north will support a candidate,” he stated.
On the region or zone the next President should emerge from, the NEF spokesman said, “What he intends to do in terms of satisfying us that he has the mental capacity, the physical capacity, the intellect, the willingness to tap into the best that is available, sensitivity to a number of key issues that are central to our survival as a country. Those things are going to represent for us the basis for which we will support a candidate.”
The leading presidential candidates for the 2023 general elections include APC’s Bola Tinubu; Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Peter Obi of the Labour Party; and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP)’s Rabiu Kwankwaso. Whilst Atiku and Kwankwaso are from northern Nigeria, Tinubu and Obi are from the southern part of the country, casting doubts on whether NEF will back them.
However, Baba-Ahmed said, “At this stage, our options are open. We will not vote on narrow prisms like where you (candidates) come from…
“I can speak for the northern elders’ forum. We’ve not said we will only support a northern candidate; what we said is we will defend the rights of northerners to compete freely and equally with others, we will support a northerner if we think he is the best, and we will not go to apologise for that at all.
“We will support a southerner if we believe that he will do justice to the interest of the north and the interest of other parts of the country. What is important for us is that we are looking for the best that is available.”
The NEF spokesman insisted that the group wields sufficient influence over the people of northern Nigeria and it will exercise its responsibility of endorsing the best candidate very seriously.
“We are not supporting anybody, we are going to support the best candidate that represents the best.
“We will put all those candidates through a rigorous process if they are willing and they had better be willing because, believe me, we carry the responsibility on our shoulders to advise a lot of people in the north where to go and we will exercise that responsibility very seriously,” he said.