From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The North East Unity Forum (NEUF) has frowned at what it called “unnecessary controversy deliberately stirred by utterances of the likes of Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed over the move by northern elders to prune the number of aspirants to the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP.
The group in a statement by its Chairman, Comrade Mohammed Abbah Hammajo, said the claim by Dr Hakeem that the Northern Elders Forum is not affiliated to any political party or aspirant, is deliberate disinformation calculated to hoodwink the gullible.
“We are particularly concerned by the apparent contradictions in the major dissenting voices principally represented by Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed and Elder Yahaya Kwande with a few insignificant ones in tow,” the Group said.
Consequently, the Group demanded an explanation of why Dr Hakeem or his principal, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal kept silent throughout the period of the consensus exercise carried out by Professor Ango Abdullahi”s team, only to find their voices when the outcome did not favour them.
Hammajo noted that Hakeem and all those denouncing the process have failed to dispute the fact that Governors Aminu W Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed, former Senate President A.B.Saraki and Malam Mohammed Hayatudeen actually initiated the process, or that they informed President Badamasi Babangida of their intention, and requested elderly intervention and advise in the event that their efforts failed to produce consensus.
“They could as well not deny General Babangida’s initial response advising them to amicably settle for one candidate among themselves which they all turned down and insisted on entrusting him with the sole responsibility of picking one by his discretion.
“Nor can any of them deny that, based on their insistence, President Babangida in turn requested Professor Ango Abdullahi to design and manage a process that could improve a consensus agreement among the four aspirants.
“Yet these people only found their voices after Professor Ango Abdullahi concluded that assignment and released a detailed report and recommendation which apparently did not favour their agenda,” Comrade Hammajo said.
The Group chided Baba-Ahmed’s claim that Professor Ango Abdullahi, the convener of the Northern Elders Forum acted in the consensus exercise in his personal capacity and not by virtue of his position as leader of the NEF, saying it contradicts credible confirmations by eminent founding fathers of NEF like Wantaregh Paul Unongo.
“This much was clarified by Chief Paul Unongo’s statement of the same date, in which the former Chairman of NEF explained that a list of carefully selected leaders were involved in the exercise with a majority of them drawn from the leadership of the Northern Elders Forum,” the Group recalled.
Turning on Hakeem’s claim that the Northern Elders Forum is not affiliated to any political party or aspirant, the Group said it was misinformed as well as an untruth designed to mislead the public.
“It is on record that right from inception, when the first convener, Danmasanin Kano, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule was alive and Professor Ango Abdullahi was the first Spokesperson, it was clearly stated that it was a political formation which distinguished it from the Arewa Consultative Forum which says it is socio-cultural.
“The same Hakeem is on record for variously boasting of the pivotal role played by the Northern Elders Forum in ensuring victory for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
“He had, in a keynote address delivered before a Summit of Northern Groups at the Arewa House, Kaduna on 10th October, 2016, claimed that prior to the 2015 elections, Northern Elders Forum in particular, travelled the world and alerted the global community to the imperative for a change of government, making it suspicious for the same man to now attempt to attribute non-partisanship to NEF,” they said.
The Group said it is another contradiction for Hakeem to claim non-partisanship for NEF given its overt and covert roles that led to the endorsement of Atiku Abubakar as consensus candidate for the North in 2019 and the prominent role it played throughout his electioneering.
“It is disheartening for Hakeem to lack the courtesy to admit that it was the same Chairman of NEF who made the endorsement in his very presence after which he summoned leaders of other regional groups and acquainted them with the decision of the North,” they said.
NEUF said it is ironic that prominent and reputable leaders like the former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau would have the humble patriotism to accept the outcome of a highly manipulated consensus exercise in 2011 in favour of Atiku, while an ordinary start off in politics that has only attained the Governorship height would today challenge the wisdom of an exercise monitored by credible elders.
“Unless the questions we raised above are satisfactorily answered, therefore, we shall certainly be left with no option than to treat the bulk of the opposition to the exercise as a conflict of interest and hold Hakeem responsible for collaborating in an evil plot to place the North at a disadvantage by going into the primaries with too many aspirants,” the Group said.
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