Over 150 prominent leaders from the North have assembled and are currently holding strategic meetings on how to make more credible and acceptable presidential candidates available to the electorate in the region and other parts of the country ahead of the 2019 general elections. They are mainly retired military chiefs, former governors, ex-ministers, senators and other top public office holders.
Saturday Sun gathered that the leaders who are worried that the region has not benefitted much in concrete terms under the current dispensation have begun to reach out to former Heads of state and Presidents with a view to seeking their help on how to mobilise electoral support for the best candidate.
They are doing this under the name, Northern Leaders and Stakeholders Assembly. Notable retired military Generals, ex-Governors, ex-Ministers and other top political leaders from the North, who dominate the body have split into committees and sub-committees for the purpose of handling different segments of their mission. Even though he was invited to join by the initiators, elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai has been appointed as the leader of the group and their first assignment is to get former Heads of state to buy into their agenda before they begin to shop for a presidential candidate to support for the next election. He is being assisted by Dr. Umar Ardo who heads the secretariat.
Some of the prominent retired Generals on this mission include; Gen. J.T Useni, Gen. John Temlong, Gen. India Garba, Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, Gen. E.T Nienge, Gen. Laurence Onoja, Gen. M.D Chong, Col. Habibu Shuaibu, Navy Commodore Isaac M. Mankilik, Commodore D.T Hinga, Commodore Mainasara B. Kaoje and Maj. Hassan Zara. Former governors also drafted for the assignment include Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, Ibrahim Idris Wada, Barr. Ibrahim Shema, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, and Mr Boni Haruna. Ex-Ministers also involved include Dr. Bello Mohammed Haliru, Amb. Bagudu Hirse, Alhaji Muktari Shagari, Dr. Mohammed Shata, Sen. Bala Mohammed, Dr. Ibrahim Lame, and Engr. Mohammed Abba Gana.
Others are Senator Ibrahim Nasiru Mantu, Senator Paul Wampana, Sen. JKN Waku, Rt. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’abba, Alhaji Dauda Birma, Hon. Margret Ichen, Senator Simeon Ajibola, Arch. Ibrahim Bunu, Hajiya Inna Ciroma, Hajia Zainab Maina, Princess Rabi Ibrahim, Amb. Esther Audu, Sen. Joseph Akaagerger, Sen. Ndayako Dangana, DIG Philemon Leha, Barr. Umaru Shentien, Dr. Luka Bahago, Mohammed Abdullahi Keffi, , Alh. Nasir Zahradeen and Hajiya Mairo Habib.
Also involved are, Bishop Pinot Ogbaje, Alhaji Ikra Bilbis, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, Amb. Ladan Shuni, Engr. Buba Galadima, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim Imam, Kabiru Turaki, SAN, Naja’atu Mohammed, Hon. Murtala Shehu Yar’adua, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, Sen. Solomon Ewuga, Prof. Dakum Shown, Sen. Isa Yahaya Zarewa, Alh. Kabir Tafida, Sen. Ibrahim Ida, Prof. Tahir Mamman, SAN, Alhaji Yakubu Bamali, Hon. Emmanuel Jankanwa and Engr. Muhammed Baba Kachalla among several others.
As part of its agenda to get the support of former Heads of state, the group recently had audience with former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. A similar meeting scheduled with former Heads of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar could not hold because both have been out of the country for weeks now. It was gathered they are also planning to meet former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the same subject.
The need for the group
Defending the rationale behind the emergence of the body, elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai told Saturday Sun that the masses in the North had for years been shortchanged by their leaders who were only committed to their godfathers and backers rather than the electorate who voted them into office.
While dismissing the notion that the entire North is for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, he said “I don’t know how you came to that conclusion, because other aspirants are expressing their wish to contest, people are still aspiring. The question of someone becoming a consensus candidate for a whole area of the north does not make sense. In addition, the rule of multi party democracy, there will never be a consensus candidate anywhere in Nigeria or anywhere multi party is practiced. Otherwise the merit of multi party democracy is defeated. And that does not go with democracy if you come up with a consensus candidate. Consensus candidate means killing competition. Competition is the livewire of democracy.”
According to him, “those who are elected particularly at the presidential level owe their allegiance to the people who got them into office and not the voters. We want to change that narrative. We want the election in the future to be based on programme and manifesto, we want the election to be credible and through a verifiable process that would change the life of the people for the better. To do that, you have to come with your own programme and your own manifesto, not a manifesto written by hired Professors or Doctors because of their command of English that can impress people. Our focus is election related matters. We want our votes to have values. After an aspirant is selected, the person can now face us.
“We decided to visit all our former Heads of state who are of northern extraction. We wanted to visit first, former Head of state, General Gowon, unfortunately he was not in the country and we wrote a letter to his office to tell him about the emergence of the organization and he has not been back yet. As we were waiting for him, we had to go to Minna to see former Heads of state, Babangida and Abdulsalami. We found out that Abdulsalami traveled since January and would not come back soon but Babangida said he was around, we decided not to kill time but to go and speak to him.”
While assuring that the group will also be meeting Obasanjo soon, Yakasai said
“We will do it. The programme is still on and you will hear from us. We decided to go to whoever is available. It was by sheer interest that we found Babangida available. Our plan was to start with General Gowon but he was not available, even Abdulsalami that we wanted to do with Babangida was not around.”
Saturday Sun further gathered that at its meeting held on Thursday February 23 at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, the group shared its over 150 leaders into different committees and sub-committees with assigned roles and assignments. Apart from its Steering Committee and Secretariat, its Special Committees include; Security, Political, Northern Unity, Election and Restructuring sub-committees.