The spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Hakeem Baba-Ahmed has cautioned elder statesman and Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and foremost Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, over their comments that political parties must field their candidates for the 2023 presidential election from the southern part of the country or there would be no election.
The NEF spokesperson, who spoke during an interview on an Arise TV programme on Tuesday morning, cautioned the elder statesmen to stop making such comments, saying they “are the kind of things that tense up the country.”
Baba-Ahmed maintained that the leaders have no control of what happens in the 2023 election, noting that as far as the northerners are concerned, the president must emerge from an electoral process that allows expression of interest, and full participation of politicians and voters.
He said, “As far as we are concerned, a president is produced through the electoral process and that electoral process must allow expression of interest, must allow full-blooded participation of politicians and voters and that is what we are looking for in 2023.
“That all parties must field only a southerner? You are dictating this to political parties that have the right to choose who their candidates are? And you are saying no party should field a candidate not from the south? Please tell me if that doesn’t sound like a threat.
“If this doesn’t happen, what happens? If people like Chief Adebanjo and sometimes Chief Clark say things like ‘if you don’t do this there will be no election in 2023’, they have no control of what happens in 2023. And these kinds of things are the kind of things that tenses up the country.
“Threatening and asking for impossible things to happen is not responsible and if they continue doing this we will respond in a manner that reminds them we are not intimidated and we are not scared. We will do what is in the interest of the North and what is in the interest of Nigeria. So if that is what offends people then we have no apologies to offer.”
Meanwhile, when asked what he would rather have as an approach to the consistent demand that political parties field their candidates from the southern region, Baba-Ahmed said, “One of the key parts of the wrong approach is speaking from both sides of the mouth, which southern governors are doing and some organised groups in the Southern region.
“Even as we speak, there are many southern governors that are saying you must do this you must do that. These guys are busy negotiating for positions for 2023. They know all the options that are available and they are actively involved in it.
“They discuss with fellow politicians including politicians from the Northern part of the country, including their colleagues and come out here creating a by-partisan polity, and start making demands that they know are inconsistent with a democratic process. That should stop because it’s not helping them and it’s not helping the country.”