The Northern Elders under the aegis of the Arewa Joint Committee (AJC) organisers of the recently concluded Presidential dialogue with Presidential candidates had said there was no plan to endorse any of the candidates but the exercise was intended to probe over candidates ahead of the 2023 general elections.
In a press conference at the headquarters of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on Tuesday, the chairman of the organising committee who is also the secretary General of ACF, Murtala Aliyu however noted that anybody who has a contrary view should come forward and prove it.
According to him, “We have maintained that the six groups behind the interactions (Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) Northern Elders Forum (NEF, Jamiyar Matan Arewa(JMA) Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation(ABMF), Arewa Research and Documentation Project (ARDP) and Arewa House Centre for Historical Research and Documentation all played one role or the other towards the success of the event.
“While, for instance, the Arewa centre for Historical Research provided the venue, the Arewa Research, provided us with the papers and other relevant documents, ACF, NEF, and Ahmadu Bello foundation took care of other finances while Jamiyar Matan Arewa provided us with the entertainment and reception.
According to him, nobody approaches him as a person or collectively as a group.
Nonetheless, the committee expressed its happiness over the success of the interactions saying, “Between Saturday 15th and yesterday Monday 17th, we hosted five of the six candidates who had accepted to participate in the historic interactions. One candidate chose not to participate.
” We are grateful to the candidates who honoured our invitation and who showed respect to public opinion and the Nigerian voter by submitting themselves to the most intimate scrutiny by Northern elders and other groups, the media and the public.
The AJC noted that “these interactions, the first of their type in the history of our country, have been a tremendous success.
“First, they demonstrated the strong bonds of unity of the people of the North, represented by the collaborating groups, and our unquestioning commitment to the search for the best quality of leadership out of the many candidates who want our support.
“Second, they showed a commendable level of respect for the democratic process by the candidates who submitted to the process.
“Third, they afforded Nigerians a rare opportunity to see and hear candidates speak about their plans and vision.
“Four, they helped to focus attention on the peculiar and shared problems and challenges of the North and scrutinize the levels of understanding and sympathy for them among the candidates.
“Finally, they raised the bar in our search for leadership that respects accountability and competence.
For the avoidance of doubt, he pointed out that “These interactions, in themselves, were not planned with the goal of endorsing a candidate.”
Instead, “he stressed they are part of a longer process that plans to generate commitments to address the challenges of the North by candidates, and which covers a substantial part of the campaigning period.
“We plan to extract and publish these commitments, so that Nigerians may measure and evaluate candidates against them. Our goal is to afford citizens an opportunity to match candidates against their commitments to matters that are central to the interests of the North.
He said until the elections in February 2023, the North will be challenged to raise its vigilance over all electoral activities, saying, “It is vital that we
prioritize evidence of competence, integrity, quality of preparation and commitment to address the challenges of the North among candidates.
“We will continue to invite the attention of the government to the security of the electoral process, and in particular, the vulnerability of many parts of the North to organised crime which may pose a serious threat to their rights to participate in electing the next set of leaders in 2023.
“The need to show restraint and discipline as politicians canvass for our elections has never been more pressing. The entire nation must be open to all contestants and free from violence.
“The exploitation of ethnic and religious fault lines is extremely dangerous, and the nation is already showing signs of stress owing to this exploitation.”
The Northern elders thanked the Nigerian media for its role in taking these interactions to the homes of Nigerians. We hope we can rely on the Nigerian media to help us reach Nigerians as we continue with activities related to these interactions.
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