Ahead of 2023, Northerners have been urged to reject corupt politicians currently seeking to buy power at all levels and vote for competent, honest and visionary candidates, who will not buy or steal power.
Former Secretary of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and spokesman of Northern Elders Forum, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, who made the call on Saturday, said the North, just like Nigeria, has suffered from poverty, insecurity and economy decline that has forced many elders and leaders with integrity into silence, while the youth have been left frustrated and hopeless with no direction forcing some of them into thuggery, banditry and other vices.
Addressing the Meeting of Northern Leaders of Though on Saturday at Arewa House, Dr. Hakeem said the next Nigerian president must be the best candidate with integrity, honesty, ability to take the country out of the woods in the shortest possible time, and with a team from across the country ready to deliver irrespective of his tribe, religion and party affiliation.
“The North needs a major shift in its elite selection processes, which will allow it to put into power, competent, honest and visionary leaders at all levels. What this means is that the overwhelming majority of politicians warming up in our major parties to take over and continue business as usual should be roundly rejected, and others who will not have to buy or steal power because they have credibility and evidence of some integrity will be voted in by voters who will resist the temptation to sell votes for less than a meal.
“The imperative of affecting major changes in the quality of leadership starting from the 2023 elections is beyond question. This is why the North should support major amendments of the electoral process, and improvements in the capacities of INEC to reduce rigging and vote-buying and violence.
“A Northerner should be voted President only if he is the best. Being Northerner is not enough. All Nigerians need good leaders, but for us in the North, we will demand to see evidence that a candidate does not just want power to fulfill a personal ambition. We want to see evidence that those who want to lead us in future understand the roots of, and solutions to our insecurity and poverty and distances from each other.
“Groups and associations have raised voices on insecurity, poverty and the damaging decline of the economy of the North and the setbacks in relations between communities that make up Nigeria, many Northern elders and leaders with personal integrity and other qualities who should stand up to be counted have largely retreated into the discomfort of silence.
“Younger Northerners are angry, frustrated and alienated, with virtually no linkages with elders and leaders, unless they are hired thugs in the service of politicians. Many others are criminals, bandits, informers or kidnappers exploiting the weaknesses of the state, or at margins of hopelessness in a country that they believe promises a lot and delivers nothing.
“Sir Ahmadu Bello, fell to bullets from cowardly murderers in these very premises. The people who killed him simultaneously launched Nigeria into a different and negative trajectory from which it has not recovered. Today, we can speak as three or four generations of Northerners who have seen the best and now live in the worst of the North. We can lament the loss of great opportunities, but we will also support each other to find the strengths and the courage to ask the right questions and find the right answers.
“We have wasted enough lives, blood, energy and resources blaming leaders who have reaped hugely from our misfortunes and injuries. It is enough. We have no one else to cry to; no one to look up to, to lead us out of terror and poverty and no one willing to use their positions to turn the fortunes of the North around. We may be facing unprecedented challenges, but these are times to prepare to find extraordinary strengths and assets so that our children will be rid of the current nightmares which are our lives today.
“We have voted people into power who have either turned their backs at us, or have usurped the sources of their power and turned them into personal assets. We have a democratic system that progressively benefits only a handful of leaders and politicians, and leaves millions of our people to wonder how it could be the best option available to terrorized, poor people. We have decaying value systems that breed evils such as corrupt leaders, armed criminals, drug pandemics, and encourage cheating and corruption.
“The North faces two distinct choices: atrophy and destruction, or recovery and growth. The first is already visible and in process; the second a difficult, yet achievable goal. The most vital requirement that will make the difference between the two is a critical and honest self-evaluation. The North has to understand how a cultured, hardworking and intelligent people cannot produce good leaders who can build a strong economy from its huge potential.
“How did corruption assume such magnitude among our communities that even the democratic system and our home-grown social and political structures and strong social values are now securely its hostage, consigning every segment of social life to insignificance unless it is linked to plundered wealth and stolen power? Why is its massive population a liability and not an asset, coming to life only during elections when it is needed to reinforce a shrinking democratic system, and relapsing into drudgery and scrapping an existence thereafter?
“Who and what was responsible for the virtual de-industrialization of the entire Northern region, creating patches of possibly the poorest of humanity within it, and destroying an economy that had shown an impressive potential to grow into the economic powerhouse of the nation and West Africa’s breadbasket?” Hakeem said.