A Nigerian politician and spokesperson of Northern Elders Forum, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed wants Nigeria’s next president to convene a National Conference within his first year in office to address fundamental issues affecting the country.
Mr Baba-Ahmed stated this on Thursday while featuring on a live television programme, Focus Nigeria, aired on the African Independent Television and monitored by PREMIUM TIMES.
The administrations of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan had convened National Conferences between 2005 and 2014 respectively. The recommendations of both conferences were not implemented.
Mr Baba-Ahmed, a former Secretary to Kaduna State Government said previous conferences did not solve Nigeria’s problems and warned against becoming “hostages to past failures.”
“The world is not going to solve this problem for us. Fighting, arguing, cynicism about the fact that we did it before and it failed is not going to solve the problem for us.
“What is going to solve the problem is to have an administration that is open and that is willing to allow Nigerians to discuss their country and enough Nigerians who will step forward to say we have some ideas on how to move the country forward,” he said.
Mr Baba-Ahmed said the issues in Nigeria were beyond state police and security reconfiguration.
Nigeria, he said, has to discuss and take a decision of inclusiveness, and integration, allocation of resources, creation and distribution of wealth.
He noted that some of the issues have to pass through the national and state assemblies.
“Those things whether we want it or not we have to sit down ideally in the first one year of the next administration, call it whatever you want, call it national conference, consultative body, but Nigerians must sit down and put Nigeria on the table and say what is wrong in this country,” he said.
President Nigeria needs
Mr Baba-Ahmed said Nigerians do not want an ethnic president or a president voted on the basis of faith.
“We don’t need a president who is voted for because Nigerians are scared that if they don’t vote for him the country will finish, we don’t want that kind of president,” he said.
He said the country needs a courageous president that will take decisions which may not be popular among the people.
“Do you negotiate with Boko Haram, do you negotiate with bandits, should you just continue to fight them and they will fight you, what do you do with people like Namdi Kanu, should you speak with him, should you negotiate, is there basis for negotiating, if there isn’t one, those decisions regarding this about yes or no is fine.
“We must have a president who will weather the storm, face problems and deal with them. We need the president who will insist that questions must be raised and answers must be found for them. We need a president who understands where resources should go and shouldn’t go,” he said.
He also said Nigerians have to pay attention to the legislature since the needed changes that the country is yearning for cannot be achieved by the president alone without going to the national and state assemblies.
“Whoever becomes the president will go to the National Assembly with a majority and then at the State level governors who have become monsters will understand the need for change and will move and do that because they have their State Assemblies in their pocket,” he said.
Mr Baba-Ahmed said the Northern Elders Forum, unlike other groups, was yet to endorse any candidate, an action he said was deliberate.
He, however, said the group would endorse a candidate before the election as they cannot afford to leave the north “hanging”.
He said the forum was looking beyond just a presidential candidate to governorship and National Assembly candidates since, according to him, one person cannot change the country.
The Northern Elders Forum supported President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and he won but it worked with other groups against Mr Buhari’s reelection in 2019, Mr Baba-Ahmed said, adding that the forum was not able to convince other Nigerians to believe them not to support Mr Buhari.
“This time we are taking precautions – we are saying be careful, don’t rush into judgment. We still have about six weeks to take a decision. We are doing a lot of good things in terms of following them around and accessing what they (candidates) are doing, what they are saying, not just at the presidential level but governors and National Assembly.
“We believe governance is not just about one person and that is why we have not rushed to say this is our candidate because one person cannot change this country,” he said.
On the concerns raised by some Nigerians about the electronic transmission of results, Mr Baba-Ahmed said the Northern Elders Forum was happy with the progress made by the Independent National Electoral Commission to improve the integrity of the electoral process.
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