By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has faulted the clamour for the major political parties in the country to zone their 2023 presidential tickets to the South, saying that it would result to damage the North will not accept.
NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said this in a press release entitled, ‘Statement of Northern Elders Forum on Threats from Southern Socio-Cultural Groups’ which was issued to journalists on Friday.
Recall that the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, had cautioned political parties and stakeholders, not to tinker with the issue of zoning and rotation of political offices, especially the presidency, on the grounds that doing so would further threaten the fragile threads of the nation’s unity.
However, NEF described the warning as a failed attempt to heighten the tensions in the land: stressing that the zoning of political offices is retrogressive, unworkable and anti-democratic.
Baba-Ahmed said, “Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has observed attempts to heighten tension by some Southern socio-cultural groups determined to stampede Nigerians into subverting the foundational principles of the democratic process. These include the rights and freedoms of political parties to choose their candidates, and for voters to choose their leaders in free and fair elections.
“While the real politicians are busy campaigning all over the country out of the knowledge that all Nigerians must participate equally in the selection of candidates and voting for leaders in 2023, leaders of groups from the South are busy rehashing old threats and intimidating tactics in a bid to deny the northerner his right to vie for his party’s ticket and vote for the next President without limitations to his right to choose.
“These tired tactics will not scare the North, and will not win the Southern politician the type of support he needs to compete to become Federal Republic of Nigeria’s next President.
“NEF does not believe that these elders speak for serious aspirants and prospective southern candidates when they threaten even the survival of the country they aspire to lead unless they have their way.
“The very vigorous campaigns by aspirants from every part of the South against each other ought to remind these elderly Nigerians that zoning is retrogressive, unworkable and anti-democratic.
“NEF’s position has remained consistent. Our democracy will only grow if it respects its own basic rules, and excluding a part of the country from enjoying full participation in all aspects of the electoral process amounts to damage which the North will not accept.
“Our Forum encourages all aspirants and candidates to fully participate in all their parties’ activities. It advises elders of groups from the South to behave in a manner befitting their status and avoid pitching parts of the country against each other.
“We appeal to Southern politicians seeking the support of Northern voters to assure them that they do not share the doomsday scenario being peddled by some leaders of Southern socio-cultural groups.
“Political parties that find Northerners deserving to fly their flags should not be intimidated by scare tactics that they will lose Southern votes.
“The Forum has faith that Federal Republic of Nigeria can produce good leaders who will lead it out of its current challenges if the entire nation opens up to the emergence of the best candidates who do not bear ethnic or regional labels.”
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