By Ehichioya Ezomon
As noted under this heading of December 12, 2022, the religion-inspired Northern Leaders Consultative Forum had set up a Technical Criteria Committee to achieve three main goals:
To rubber-stamp a “rejection” of the All Progressives Congress Muslim-Muslim ticket by Christians; search for excuses to deny support for the New Nigeria Peoples Party and Labour Party tickets; and return the Peoples Democratic Party and its ticket as the favourites for the February 2023 presidential poll.
The leaders from the North’s 19 States and the FCT stated that the committee “was necessitated by the rejection of the same faith Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC,” and thus dismissed the ticket as “excluding a large demography of Christians, who do not feel represented by the ticket.”
The leaders’ words: “The APC presidential ticket does not promote inclusiveness, unity, religious harmony and cohesion. A large population of Muslims have also expressed reservations to this ticket and have called for fairness and inclusivity.
“Consequently, this (APC) ticket is outrightly rejected by the Forum and the Forum calls on all lovers of democracy, peaceful coexistence, unity and religious harmony to reject the ticket in its entirety,” the leaders said.
Having dispensed with the APC and its ticket holders: Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, it’s the turn of the NNPP and LP to be placed on the leaders’ crucible.
While affirming the two tickets as “inclusive, representing our religious diversity as a country populated by a dominant population of Muslims and Christians,” the leaders expressed inability to assess both parties without a “Strategic Policy Plan for Nigerians to interrogate.”
“It is safe to say that no one except the two parties know the direction in which they intend to take the country,” the leaders said. “Nigerians cannot go into an election blind-folded, especially in view of the myriad of problems bedevilling the nation.”
The leaders noted that based on INEC’s final list of candidates for the 2023 polls, “the NNPP could not field in all the seats for the office of Governor and House of Representatives.”
Similarly, “the LP could not field in all the candidates at the levels of Governor, National Assembly, and State Houses of Assembly.”
The leaders claimed the NNPP and LP “lack all-round grassroots structures required of a political party seeking the highest office in the country, (and) a reasonable presence of its members in positions of governance at national, state and local government levels.”
They said the few NNPP and LP’s members in government “have only recently decamped to the parties,” adding, “There seems to be a dearth of experienced hands within their parties to pilot the affairs of state.”
As the leaders surmised, if the NNPP or LP wins the poll, “they cannot smoothly run the government as they will not have the required parliamentary majority to successfully pilot the affairs of government.”
Surely, the leaders’ takedown of the NNPP and LP was primed to deny their tickets: the NNPP’s Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Bishop Isaac Idahosa; and LP’s Peter Obi and Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.
Very instructive is the leaders’ snubbing of the Obi-Datti ticket which’s backed by former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babacir Lawal.
It’s Lawal and former Reps Speaker Yakubu Dogara who instigated a backlash against the APC same-faith ticket among Christians in Northern Nigeria.
Lawal’s later to declare adoption of the LP and Obi-Datti ticket, a claim Dogara and some of the leaders denied, promting the December 2 gathering in Kaduna.
The leaders, who met in the Atiku Abubakar Hall of the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre in Kaduna, adopted the technical criteria committee’s report, and issued a communiqué therefrom.
Recall that an item in the terms of reference asked the committee “to pick a candidate with presidential experience,” and only Atiku, as a former Vice President (1999 -2007), has that “experience” among the candidates.
So, the leaders proclaimed Atiku as “having the knowledge and experience of managing the country at the presidential level… This gives him the advantage to set the ball rolling from day one.”
The leaders held that Atiku “has a track record of working harmoniously with all classes of people across religious and ethnic divides,” and… the “capacity to hunt highly-experienced talents across different sectors and bring them into government.”
They said “Nigeria needs highly-talented people at this critical time to pull it out of the doldrums and bring it back to the path of stability, security and prosperity.”
Hence the leaders adopted the PDP and Atiku-Okowa ticket as “the right ticket to support in the 2023 presidential election, as it addresses all the concerns of inclusiveness, fairness and national cohesion.”
“The Forum recommends for support the Atiku Abubakar-Ifeanyi Okowa presidential ticket to all well-meaning Nigerians across the ethnic, sectional and religious diversities, in order to foster unity, peace, development and progress,” the Northern leaders said.
You wonder why these sectional leaders took Nigerians through a vetting “smokescreen” rather than endorse – without much ado – the PDP and the Atiku-Okowa ticket from the get go!
Next week: Atiku, Lawal, the APC, LP and Wike react to the Northern Leaders Consultative Forum’s adoption of the PDP and Atiku-Okowa ticket for 2023.
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria