The former Chairman of Northern Elders’ Forum, Paul Unongo has said that former Senate President, Bukola Saraki emerged as the most preferred Northern consensus candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
He noted that the Governor of Bauchi State, Alh. Bala Mohammad followed him in terms of experienced, competency and capacity to attract followers across other zones in the country based on the assessment of the Northern Elders’ Forum.
Onongo, who was the Minister of Steal Development disclosed this on Sunday during a press interaction with Journalists in Jos and said he is a proponent of zoning but should be based on the six geo-political zones that exist in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He explained that he was part of the consensus arrengement and that the elders received the credentials of those who are aspiring for the presidency from the North and arrived at a conclusion that Bukola Saraki and Bala Mohammad be presented as the Northern consensus candidates based on their experienced and competency.
“I was actually the person who proposed the consensus arrengement. I cannot go to a meeting where people have respect for me, and in Nigeria people know that I speak my mind, that I am fair. I cannot denied what I have done and if I do, it will be unfortunate for Nigeria. I cannot deny, I was present, I was consulted and all kinds of proposal were brought to me.
“I was summon to appear in Abuja and I went because I believe in this country, after deliberation for two days, we reached a consensus that if the Northern region of old want to fill a candidate for the presidency and not the Southern Nigeria alone, we the Northerners should fill a candidate from what used to be the Middle Belt or the North Central.
“They brought four candidates and we look at their credentials, we were predisposed to bring stability to the North so that they can be united on critical important things peculiar to the former region of Northern Nigeria, we took that in to consideration.
“We settled for harmony and total unity of the North and that even if we present a person and he doesn’t win, he should be presented from part of the North that used to be called the Middle Belt or as it is call today the North Central.
“We look at the candidates purely from their merit and capacity to attract other governors or people to work with him and in my case, I even consulted my Governor and he told me his own disposition and what they wanted.
“From our thinking, we thought we should give the Governor of Bauchi State which was also part of the Middle Belt in our own movement and the former Governor of Kwara State and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki because of the contribution of Ishola Saraki to the North politically.
“In our opinion, we believed that the two of them stood out, the Governor of Bauchi and the former Senate President. We look at their experience in the politics of Nigeria and we felt that the person who can be Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can pilot the affairs of Nigeria successfully, so we felt that Saraki should be presented as our own preferred choice.
“The person who came second in our own assessment was the Governor of Bauchi because of the geographical coverage and we decided to present the two names for the people to choose among the two”.
Onongo said the Elders gave preferences to former Senate President, Bukola Saraki because of his experienced, having been two term Governor and Senate President during one of the trial moments in the country.
He explained that Saraki was qualified enough to represent the interest of the North.
Onongo said he was going to reach out to former Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland, Amb. Yahaya Kwande who was not part of the meeting on the decision of the elders forum.