Jan. 15 (THEWILL) – The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said on Saturday that the zoning of the presidency as advocated by some political parties is undemocratic.
The Elders therefore advised that the 2023 presidential contest be left open to all parts of the country for the best candidate to emerge.
The remarks were part of a statement released on Saturday after they met with other “opinion leaders from the North”.
The communiqué was signed by the Chairman of the Communiqué Editorial Board and former Vice Chancellor of Plateau State University, Prof. Doknan Danjuma Shenni.
The statement said in part: “The fundamental rights of all political parties to nominate candidates of their choice, and the right of voters to exercise free choice over who leads them cannot be compromised.
“Northerners have the equal right to aspire to all office, but must prioritize competence, demonstration of personal integrity and commitment to the rule of law above all other considerations. Northerners should ignore provocative statements by groups in southern Nigeria who seem to believe that ordered democracy, in which threats and hate campaigns are their hallmark or defining elements, will work in Nigeria. The North should vote for the best leader.
“The meeting notes the desperate condition of the economic existence of most northerners, which poses additional threats to security and the democratic process. He advises leaders to avoid plunging people into deeper poverty and despair with tough economic policies and a lack of empathy.
“Governments at all levels should consider some form of structured social protection system to reduce people’s poverty.
“The meeting advises the Federal Government to postpone the planned national census of 2022 given the large number of displaced Nigerians and the proximity of the census to the 2023 elections.
“The meeting urges National and State Assemblies to prioritize the constitutional amendments being processed. He further urges President Muhammadu Buhari to emphasize the proposed amendments to the electoral law as this will improve the quality of elections from 2023.
“The meeting urges major groups in the North to engage groups in the South to improve understanding, reduce tensions and help create an atmosphere that enables all Nigerians to live in peace with one another;
“The Gathering recognizes our ethno-religious diversity in the North which is a source of strength that should be celebrated. The meeting further observed that all religions teach us to imbibe the spirit of tolerance and not to hate or attack those who worship in a different way. Our religious differences should be an invaluable asset, not a liability or a powerful weapon in the hands of our desperate and failing leaders.
“The meeting advises northern groups to visit and engage President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss with him ways to improve the security and economic situation of northerners.
“The current state of insecurity in the North is unprecedented and unacceptable. While commending the efforts of the country’s defense and security forces to roll back various threats that have weakened the Nigerian state and made life almost worthless, the meeting advises the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, governors and legislators to review and reprioritize security spending. and fight against the scourge of poverty. We recommend increasing the recruitment of security personnel.
“The meeting recognized that education in the region has never been so threatened as it is today. Insecurity has exponentially increased the number of out-of-school children. School kidnappings, closures and excruciating poverty have set back education in the region for many generations. The meeting calls on state and federal governments to protect all of our schools and save all of our children from the hands of bandits and insurgents.
“The meeting notes the disconnect between citizens and leaders: The meeting observed the growing rift and disconnect between citizens and their elected representatives as an existential threat to the security of this nation. The meeting therefore calls on all strata of our leadership to reconnect with citizens.
“The meeting notes that widespread insecurity, poverty and dissatisfaction with leadership have resulted in severe voter apathy which is not helping our fragile democracy. He calls on all Nigerians, especially the youth, not to despair but to register to vote for leadership that can change the fortunes of Nigeria.
“The meeting recommends the need to have a working partnership with government agencies and other non-governmental bodies to restore and reintegrate traumatized and displaced communities (IDPs) into their villages as we initiate trauma healing sessions to them as well as de-radicalization programs targeting young people in the affected areas.