The Northern Elders Forum says its option of a consensus presidential candidate is still open and it will announce its preferred man for Aso Rock’s top job for the forthcoming February presidential election after a rigorous but productive interrogation exercise.
The forum also said its preferred presidential candidate from the 18 officially recognized political parties must have the mental and physical capacity to govern Nigeria and solve the pertinent security and economic challenges bedevilling the country.
“We have an idea what the next President should look like,” NEF Spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics programme last night.
He also said the northern elders won’t make the mistake they made in 2015 when they endorsed All Progressives Congress’ Muhammadu Buhari and encouraged the people of the region to cede their bloc votes to him.
According to Baba-Ahmed, 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.”
“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.