Northern leaders on Wednesday said they would assess candidates of all political parties before supporting any contestant for the 2019 presidential election.
The statesmen, under the aegis of the Northern Leaders and Stakeholders’ Assembly, said they would wait for various political parties to present their candidates.
The NLSA stated this in Abuja at the inauguration of its standing committees, which it said, would, among others objectives, build a strong political force for the North.
Elder statesman and Chairman of the group, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said northern leaders would only support a presidential candidate after considering all the candidates put forward by the various political parties.
He said, “There’s a provision for adopting candidates for elections either for presidential, governorship or local government chairmanship poll. So far, we have not seen that happened to President Muhammadu Buhari following his rumoured second term bid. Until that is done, any adoption by state chapters of his party is not legal.
“The constitutions of the APC and other political parties have not provided for the executives of the parties to nominate candidates. It’s only the convention.
“Our organisation’s doors are open to all. We are not here for a particular political party. When political parties adopt their candidates and we have assessed them, we will know who to support.”
On whether the NLSA would work for the President in 2019, Yakasai asked, “Who told you that the party has adopted him as the candidate?”
When told that the APC was working towards that, he said, “If the party is working towards that, it has not decided.
“Without knowing who is the candidate how will you know whether to support A, B or C? We will wait until we know all the candidates before we decide.
“The main objective of the organisation is to promote the unity and well being of our people and together with other patriotic Nigerians to evolve a national blueprint that will address various problems confronting our nation,” he said.
Yakassai also identified free and fair elections as a major challenge facing Nigeria as it approached 2019 elections.
He also cited security problems and herdsmen and farmers clashes as other challenges facing the country,
He stated that the problems would be resolved if the President convened a summit comprising farmers, herdsmen, traditional rulers, religious leaders and political leaders.
Yakasai said, “If the election is peaceful, free and fair, people will accept whoever emerges and look for solutions to these crises.
“If the President had summoned a stakeholders’ meeting and laid the issue before participants, some ideas would have be developed to provide direction for the government to follow.”
He added the adoption of ranches instead of grazing reserves could permanently solve the clashes between the herdsmen and farmers.
“I think ranching is a good idea if the whole country can adopt it,” he added.
The group had earlier inaugurated five committees for the 2019 presidential elections – restructuring, security and other strategic areas.
Yakasai said there was the need for the north to ensure unity among its people ahead of the 2019 general election.
He said, “Let me appeal to all committees to create the narratives that would make the people in our region shun poisonous propaganda and divisive tendencies.
“We need to sensitise our people to this. It is our obligation to history. Your work is to assist in providing guidance in areas that would assist the assembly in discharging its onerous duty.
“I believe that in addition to other areas of focus, the committees will give recommendations on the present day political reality of our country.
“Such recommendations will catalyse our dialogue on how we proceed towards achieving efficient and rancour -free electioneering in 2019 presidential poll and other elections.
“Given the irrefutable fact that in the history of Nigeria’s development, the north has always been a key strategic partner, it is important that the north maintain its strategic position in the national equation.
“The objective of this assembly, therefore, is to principally focus on a strategy towards evolving a brighter future, as well as economically viable, politically stable and united northern Nigeria that we can all be proud of.”
Secretary of the group, Dr Umar Ardo, said the aim of the body included bringing “together northerners of good standing to arrest the drift in the region and rebuild confidence among our people.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the terms of reference of the committees are to identify the primordial causes and factors that fuel conflict in northern Nigeria, proffer solutions to the herder-farmer and Boko Haram problems in Nigeria.
Others are to advise on how the region could build a strong political force, chart a united direction for the North towards the 2019 election and identify possible alliance blocs in the southern part of the country for 2019 elections.
Another task is to take a position on the question of restructuring and articulate modalities for the implementation of the suggested areas of restructuring.
Those who attended the ceremony included former Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu; a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba; a former Peoples Democratic Chairman, Dr Bello Haliru; a former Governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna; and Senator Paul Wampana.