The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) has reiterated that the North should be allowed to field a presidential candidate on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019, if President Muhammadu Buhari is unable to continue in office.
Spokesman for the forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who made this known to New Telegraph in Zaria, said that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo should, however, be allowed to complete the term of office till 2019 as stipulated by the constitution.
Buhari is currently in London for a medical follow-up. Abdullahi, who is a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, said that the forum is strategising in order to avert what he referred to as the ‘Yar’adua scenario’, where the North was short changed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011.
The NEF spokesman recalled that PDP reneged on its power sharing constitutional provision, following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010, by allowing President Goodluck Jonathan to run for the presidency in 2011, instead of fielding a northerner.
According to him, “The constitutional provision says that in the event that the president dies in office or becomes incapacitated for one reason or the other and cannot perform the duties of his office, he will be succeeded by the Vice president.”
Abdullahi said that although President Buhari is sick and he is seeking medical attention, “but no one is in a position to know at what point he is going to recover fully and come back to office, or whether the unexpected could happen.”
“If the worst case scenario happens, and Buhari is not back on seat, the constitution is very clear that the vice president takes over. And what we then expect is that he will take that tenure to its logical end and from there, the politics of power sharing will take precedence over anything else,” he added.
The NEF chieftain said that “when the unexpected happens, in 2019 we will be back to our position that the North should be treated equitably and fairly.
And we expect that another northern candidate will emerge as presidential candidate on the platform of APC.”
The former Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Food Security said that NEF is not one of the groups or individuals that are wishing Buhari dead, adding that “we are waiting for God’s wish to take its course, but our preference is that Buhari should get well and resume work.”
According to him, “If on the other hand our first wish is not granted by the Almighty God, then we will rely on the rule of law as provided in the constitution up to 2019. Then politics resumes afresh.”
Abdullahi lamented that the north is still marginalized in spite of the fact that Buhari is president. “To be fair and truly honest, I will say that yes, our expectations have been far above what we saw on ground. Meaning that what we were expecting from this government in terms of equity and justice to the north has not materialized up till now,” he said.
According to him, the North is still being cheated in spite of the fact that one of its own is president.
“For example, if you look at both the 2016 and 2017 budgets, if you combine capital and recurrent expenditures for both years, the North took roughly 30 per cent in spite of the fact that everybody knows that even if it’s by one per cent, the north is more populated than the South. Even in terms of landmass, the North constitutes 75 per cent of the landmass of this country,” he pointed out.
The NEF spokesman blamed Buhari for giving key ministries in his administration to southerners “who don’t feel shy of looking after themselves first before the North, even if it’s on second thoughts.” Abdullahi said that some of the projects that should improve the living standard in the North have been abandoned even by this administration.
“Take, for example, the Mambila Power Project, the dredging of River Niger, the Ajaokuta Steel and so on. Of course, you can also blame past northern leaders who were in power when these projects were just brushed aside,” he added.