The Northern Elders Forum has said that it regrets throwing its weight behind then candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election, instead of Goodluck Jonathan, adding that Buhari has let down a majority of Nigerians who trusted in his leadership prior to 2015 polls.
According to the NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the forum wants the next president of Nigeria to be one who would act in the “opposite direction” of the incumbent Nigerian leader.
Speaking on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme monitored by The Guardian, Baba-Ahmed 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.
“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,” added Baba-Ahmed whose group, it’d be recalled, called for the resignation of Buhari in December 2020.
Jonathan, a former governor of Bayelsa State, was Nigeria’s Vice-President between 2007 and 2010, and assumed the role of president following the demise of then President Umaru Yar’adua in 2010.
Jonathan, afterwards, contested the 2011 presidential election and won but failed in his bid to get re-elected four years later, losing to Buhari, a former military head of state who ruled between 1983 and 1985. Buhari came into power in December 1983 via a military coup that brought to an end four years of civilian rule.
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 a power shift to the South, Jonathan, who is currently Buhari’s Special Envoy to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), could have another shot at the presidency as the constitution permits all eligible Nigerians to be in office for two terms.
He has been receiving entreaties and visitations from many APC chieftains in recent time, with some, such as the National Secretary of the party’s Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee, John Akpanudoedehe, saying Jonathan would be given an opportunity to contest the 2023 presidency on the party’s platform if he decides to join the APC.
However, Jonathan has not declared any intention to contest in the forthcoming election.
If he decides to join the race though, it would be in line with the wishes of the governors of Nigeria’s southern states who at their recent meetings in Lagos and Enugu insisted that power must return to the South in 2023.
However, Baba-Ahmed is of the opinion that the Southern governors should not make the 2023 presidency a matter of disagreement amongst Nigerians, noting that they should instead negotiate as the North had lived under Southern Presidents — Olusegun Obasanjo and Jonathan — since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.
“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,” he said.
“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 nevertheless insisted that what Nigeria needs is a President who realises the need to rebuild the country, secure Nigerians and check the downward trajectory of the country’s economy.
“The nation needs a leader that would do the things that President 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 said, before adding that both the ruling APC and the leading opposition party, the PDP, 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 its current travails.