Following his endorsement by Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Middle-Belt Forum (MBF), a teary presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has said the vote of confidence is a loud statement that there is hope for Nigera as the polls come up in less than two weeks.
The Buhari Campaign group has however rubbished the endorsement claiming it was done by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) apologists and parasites on the system.
It invited the socio-cultural groups to test their popularity against that of President Muhammadu Buhari by organising parallel rallies anytime the Buhari campaign scheduled its rally in their zones.
But Atiku said: “I am moved to tears that in the midst of deep divisions and deliberate use of instrumentalities of state to set our people against themselves in the last three and a half years, responsible and respected leaders across Nigeria have agreed to come together for the purpose of endorsing my candidature for the February 16th, 2019 Presidential elections…
“Today we put aside all our prejudices to elect a President with religion and ethnicity playing no role in our elections .
I profusely thank our Leaders across the country who have created this wonderful moment for us to come to the table of brotherhood. Once again, and in the words of our old National Anthem, we can proudly sing: “Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand”
“This has buoyed me to lead a Pan-Nigerian team that will give practical interpretation to what has been done by the time I take leadership of our country, by the grace of Allah, on May 29, 2019.
“Many countries of the world have been led into disintegration by strongmen (one in each country) and we have seen how individuals who understand the management of diversities have rallied their people for unity.
“I have been chosen to unite our people and exactly that I will.
“I will run a properly federated Nigeria through constitutional reforms to bring out the best from all sections of Nigeria to make Nigeria work again like in the past when the Saudi Royal family came to Nigeria to access Medicare.
“We will promote an inclusive Nigeria based on productivity that every section of Nigeria will bring out the best under their soil, and in their brain to make Nigeria assume its position in Africa and the global community .
“It would be 100% for every section of Nigeria as I would not understand any arithmetic outside that.
“I enjoin our people across Nigeria to come out en-mass to vote on February 16 to pull our country from the brink and propel it to greater heights so we can live a better life.
“Take my words as a covenant with Nigeria.”.
After their meeting in Abuja, the leaders including Chief Ayo Adebanjo, (Afenifere), Prof. Ango Abdullahi (NEF), Chief Edwin Clark, (PANDEF); Chief Nnia Nwodo (Ohaneze), and Dr. Bitrus Pogu (MBF). Also present were Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Alhaji Buba Galadima, Amb. Yahaya Kwande, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Dr. Junaid Muhammed issued a communique.
It reads in full:
That the Summit of the Forum of Nigerian Elders and Leaders held at Sheraton Hotel Abuja on Sunday, 3rd February, 2019
The Summit had in attendance foremost Elders and Leaders of Thought from all the six-geopolitical zones and the respective socio-cultural groups, (Afenifere for the South west, Middle Belt Forum for the North Central, Ohaneaze Ndigbo for the South East, Northern Elders Forum for the Northern Nigeria and Pan Niger Delta Forum for the South South).
3) The Forum expressed its goodwill toward the Vice President, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, GCON, who survived a helicopter crash on 2ndFebruary, 2019
4) Recognizing that the Forum of Nigerian Elders and Leaders represents the most genuine commitment of leading socio-cultural groups in Nigeria to work together and find solutions to national challenges, support the cause for good governance and contribute towards improving national unity, security and economic development of all Nigerians.
5) Having maintained informed vigilance over all developments towards the forthcoming 2019 General Elections, Leaders of the Forum had outlined their views on the qualities of leaders that should aspire and seek our supports and votes. These include a demonstrated commitment to the democratic process, “a transparent willingness to address the structural foundations of our nation in a manner that should ensure greater political unity and economic development for all Nigerians, and the courage and competence to secure the nation from multiple and varied threats among others.
6) Having noted the continued drift of the country in the direction of insecurity, deep divisions, tyranny as shown in the recent unilateral sacking of the Chief Justice of Nigeria against all globally known democratic ethos, etc
7) Having closely followed the competition for mandates within the various political parties as well the campaigns for the votes of Nigerians so far, including four weeks of close interactions and interviews with nearly all the aspirants for the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the various parties. We make the following observations:
(a) The forthcoming elections are vital to our desire to live together in a democratic nation that reflects our aspirations, of peaceful co-exlstence, mutual respect, practice of true federalism.
(b) There is solid national and international consensus that the 2019 elections must be credible, and improve on the quality of the 2019 elections;
(c) There is assurance from lNEC of its willingness and ability to conduct free and fair elections, but it must be watched very closely and supported to set new, higher standards in election management and that undue pressure from any quarters does not truncate its efforts;
(d) The political and security environments are central to the conduct of credible and peaceful elections. So far, the pronouncements of major contenders regarding the use of violence and willingness to accept outcomes of credible elections is being severely tested in practice. The disposition of state agents that have responsibility for securing our votes has also been a major source of concern;
(e) Civil society in Nigeria and the international community have made commendable contributions towards improving the integrity and security of the ballot. It is vital that they continue to play the roles of informed vigilantes and partners in our nation’s search for deeper roots for our democratic traditions;
(f) The media needs to do more to meet the expectations of Nigerians in terms of objectivity and capacities to set agendas and exercise effective oversight over all matters related to the forthcoming elections. The Nigerian media has a rich history of rising to the occasion when the country faces the kind of situation we are in today;
(g) These last few days before the first set of elections will test the Federal Government’s undertaking and assurances to protect Nigerians as they prepare to participate in the elections, as well as create a level playing field for all parties and candidates. The Federal Government must therefore ensure that no one, no matter their roles or status should be allowed to behave as if there are no consequences for subverting the electoral process or threatening the rights of all Nigerians to participate in free and fair elections.
5). Conscious of its mandate and after exhaustive deliberation the Forum:
(a) Reminds all Nigerians that the forthcoming elections are about the type of nation we need as adults and those for whom we have responsibilities. Not since 1999 have we been challenged with the power to shape our future as these elections do;
(b) Reminds the nation of its earlier position that the best candidates who should lead us are those who have the following qualities:
(i) A clear understanding of the nation’s security challenges and a strong will and commitment to tackle them decisively and comprehensively;
(ii) Capable, intelligent, physically and mentally alert persons that understand the issues and will once more restore Nigerian international standing and respect
(lii) A strong will to improve the quality 0f Governance, including the rebuilding of key and strategic national institutions; to ensure inclusiveness is reflected in all political and Governance matters; to fight corruption as a national scourge with transparent commitment; and to pursue policies that address the needs of a nation with a huge population of young people who need quality education and opportunities to participate as productive adults in a thriving economy;
(7) The Forum, having concluded a thorough evaluation of all candidates aspiring to lead our nation thorough its current challenges and engineer genuine national rebirth, has decided to note:
a) That several of the younger candidates who presented themselves for the Presidential election, demonstrated great capacity and promise to lead this country creditably and ensure that it engenders proper social and economic development to its people.
However most of these qualified younger candidates do not, at present, have the machinery and structures to win a Presidential election in Nigeria at present.
c) Therefore, the Forum adopts the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the Consensus Candidate for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as he has demonstrated the deep understanding of the critical need of the country at this time and possesses the capacity to proffer clear solutions in that respect.
d) Calls on all Nigerians, irrespective of religious or ethnic background to stand in unison and vote for Atiku Abubakar on the 16th February 2019 and ensure that they defend their votes.
Done in Abuja, 3rd February 2019