From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The dust is yet to settle over the recent interactive session organised by the Arewa Joint Committee with the leading presidential candidates in the 2023 presidential election. Since the session, some persons who participated in the event at the Arewa House gave their verdicts on how far the presidential candidates fared. The development came even as tongues have been wagging that the committee may have endorsed a particular candidate to the detriment of others who honoured the invitation of the Northern Elders.
Though the Committee had said that the interaction was not meant to endorse any candidate for the election, a competent source said Northern leaders may have already endorsed “one of their own” who has both financial and moral influence on all the blocs that constituted the Arewa Joint Committee.
The Arewa Joint Committee is made up of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation (SABMF), Jamiyyar Matan Arewa (JMA) Arewa House (Center for Historical Development and Research) and Arewa Research Development Project (ARDP).
The Arewa leaders had penultimate week invited the presidential candidates of Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, People’s Redemption Party (PRP), Kola Abiola, Social Democratic Party (SDP), Adewole Adebayo, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
However, Kwankwaso did not participate in the interaction, alleging that a particular candidate had already been endorsed, and therefore it would be a waste of time to honour such invitation.
Meanwhile, participants and key observers of the interactive session gave their verdicts, for and against the presidential candidates that attended the event.
For the former Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani, “My expectations have been for the presidential candidates to dwell on how best they would be able to overcome the myriad of challenges to the nation’s socio-economic challenges with the resources at their disposal, considering that the challenges are common place and well known by the public.
“What are not well known and understood are the approaches for solution by different candidates. More so, that power of government to solve problems is not of limitless fungibility.
“The candidates truly tried their best to dwell on real issues of real concerns to real ordinary Nigerians as against politics of identity.
“The only areas which did not receive the needed attention were sources of funds needed for execution of their campaign promises, considering Nigeria is a third world country in dire need for funds amid very high expectations from government.
“Because some campaign promises could be too good to be true, most of the candidates understood and were realistic enough not to promise air conditioned roads.
“Those who listened would use the explanations by the candidates to inform and enlighten the electorate so their judgement during voting would be well informed.
“I had hoped the candidates would give us their positions on how our herders would be assisted to establish ranches, given the fact that most of our herders lack the wherewithal to establish and manage ranches amid the resistance by some governors that governments should not support the development of ranches.
“I also wanted the presidential candidates to let the nation know how to fast track the inequality between the North and South as a result of when western education reached the South and when it arrived in the North.
“I am concerned because despite the fact that the South produces 70% of our annual graduates who go for NYSC,we hear some voice that the affirmative quota system be disbanded as if they do not know that narrowing of inequality through balanced development is not attributes of good governance.
“On the whole,the interactions were fruitful by way of our knowing what the candidates have for the nation and for the North in particular”.
Chairman, Arewa Joint Committee, Murtala Aliyu, who is also the Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) spoke on the plans of the committee before and after the interaction with the presidential candidates.
Aliyu said, “We are grateful to the candidates who honoured our invitation and who showed respect to public
opinion and the Nigerian voter by submitting themselves to the most intimate scrutiny by Northern elders and other groups, the media and the public.
“These interactions, the first of their type in the history of our country, have been a tremendous success. First, they demonstrated the strong bonds of unity of the people of the North, represented by the collaborating groups, and our unquestioning commitment to the search for the best quality of leadership out of the many candidates who want our support.
“Second, they showed a commendable level of respect for the democratic process by the candidates who submitted to the process.
“Third, they afforded Nigerians a rare opportunity to see and hear candidates speak about their plans and vision.
“Four, they helped to focus attention on the peculiar and shared problems and challenges of the North
and scrutinize the levels of understanding and sympathy for them among the candidates.
“They raised the bar in our search for leadership that respects accountability and competence.
“These interactions, in themselves, were not planned with the goal of endorsing a candidate. They are part of a longer process that plans to generate commitments to address the challenges of the North by candidates, and which covers a substantial part of the campaigning period.
“We plan to extract and publish these commitments, so that Nigerians may measure and evaluate candidates against them. Our goal is to afford citizens an opportunity to match candidates against their commitments to matters that are central to the interests of the North.
“Until the elections in February, 2023, the North will be challenged to raise its vigilance over all electoral activities. It is vital that we prioritize evidence of competence, integrity, quality of preparation and commitment to address the challenges of the North among candidates.
“We will continue to invite attention of the government to the security of the electoral process, and in particular, the vulnerability of many parts of the North to organized crime which may pose a serious threat to their rights to participate in electing the next set of leaders in 2023.
“The need to show restraint and discipline as politicians canvass for our elections has never been
more pressing. The entire nation must be open to all contestants and free from violence”.
Perhaps, short of saying that same faith ticket for the presidential election is dangerous, the Committee Chairman said, “The exploitation of ethnic and religious fault lines is extremely dangerous, and the nation is already showing signs of stress owing to this exploitation.
“Let me conclude by thanking the Nigerian media for its role in taking these interactions to the homes of Nigerians. We hope we can rely on the Nigerian media to help us reach Nigerians as we continue with activities related to these interactions”.
Interestingly, the presidential candidates bared their minds before northern elders at Arewa house, even as a stakeholder said, “we are happy they did not promise us air-conditioned roads”.
In his speech, the presidential candidate of the major opposition party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar said, “I have traversed the whole of this country. I know the whole of this country. I have built bridges across this country. I think what the average northerner needs is somebody who is from the north, who also understands the other parts of Nigeria, and who has been able to build bridges across the rest of the country.“This is what the northerner needs. He doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate or an Igbo candidate. This is what the northerner needs. I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of northern origin.”
Unfortunately, some Nigerians have extracted part of Atiku’s speech to condemn him for asking northerners to “reject Igbo and Yoruba candidates”
This had already generated several reactions across the country with majority of the people saying that the Waziri Adamawa was mischievously misinterpreted by not analysing the entire speech, but part of it, which is unprofessional way of rating a comment.
Three days after Atiku’s turn, it was the turn of the Presidential Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who told northern Elders that if elected will move Nigeria from economic stability to prosperity through laying of gas pipeline to export gas to the United Kingdom and EU, to rival Russia among other economic plans.
Tinubu who was accompanied to the event by nine Northern state Governors, said his vision of Northern Nigeria, is to make a hub of agricultural investment in sub-Sahara Africa, with particular focus on dairy industry as a potential Job creator and earner of foreign exchange.
He stated: “Our economic plan would utilize the vast natural resources we have, through strategic investment in infrastructure which will lead to the diversification of the economy and wealth creation across the entire country. We will pay attention to modern economic drivers such as the digital economy, creative industries, sports and entertainment sectors for the benefit of our young people.
“Why are we not investing in long term plan to lead our gas, LNG to United Kingdom, to Europe and compete with the Russians. And we say we don’t have enough resources. You invest money to make money. We will change the plan, we know how to do it. Don’t listen to the group of ‘Cannot’.
APC presidential hopeful who stood for 57 minutes to deliver his address to the gathering also said his administration will prioritize power, saying that, alongside the completion of Mambilla hydro power project, his government will explore and construct other sources of power in line with global best practices. “We will support any willing state to develop and generate its own power as I have demonstrated in pioneering development of independent power projects in Lagos State.
“I will prioritize the strengthening of our existing power reforms as a catalyst to sustainable industrialization. Aside the ongoing power intervention from the federal government, I know that the 19 Northern states and the FCT have incorporated a special purpose vehicle to build 100MW of Solar project per state to complement other power generation systems across the country. These are the kind of initiatives I will encourage and support to revamp industrialization,” he said.
“My administration will continue to explore and invest in the oil and gas opportunities that exist in the Benue Trough, Chad Basin, and other prospective locations. We will also ensure the completion of the ongoing AKK project and the trans-Saharan gas pipeline. These gas projects will fast-track the industrialization of the areas and increase revenue generation significantly for the entire country. We must see them to fruition”.
Few hours after Tinubu’s turn, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) and former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi took his turn.
He noted that Nigeria has qualified to be referred to as a failed state.
According to the presidential hopeful, when a country is no longer in control of the economy and security, such country is nothing but a failed state, stressing that if elected president in 2023, he will positively change the narrative.
Obi said Nigeria is not beret of ideas but institutional weakness and lack of political will to effect genuine change that will better the lives of average Nigerians, adding that he is committed to unlocking the greatness of the country and lift her from a consuming to a producing country.
He reiterated that insecurity will be a thing of the past when he gets elected as president through the creation of employment opportunities for youths who are tools used to perpetrate social vices.
On insecurity ravaging the country such as Banditry, Boko Haram among others, he said once jobs are created and the youths are gainfully engaged and made productive, insecurity would have been reduced to the barest minimum and will no longer be a lucrative business, adding that the security agencies will be adequately equipped to handle all forms of insecurity in the country.
“We want to bring a transformative government. The greatest assets of Nigeria is in North, the greatest assets of Nigeria is vast uncultivated land in the North but this land has been taken by bandits. We are going to unlock Nigeria.
“We will bring Nigeria back to life. All banks will be shareholders in Bank Of Agriculture where our farmers can directly assess loans”.
He also promised to eradicate poverty in Nigeria, saying that when you pull people out of poverty, the rate of crime in the country will reduce, stressing that his candidature is for a new Nigeria, noting that he wanted Nigerians to be proud of their country.
Mr Obi said he would fight corruption to a stand still, maintaining that fighting corruption is easy when one is not stealing. “Our past is gone, we are going to face the future. Fighting corruption is easy when one is not stealing; our money is being stolen, subsidy is organized crime.
“I want to give Nigerians hope. I and my running mate will be in charge, they will not find us wanting, we have the physical strength, I will dialogue with every agitator because it will make us a better and united Nigeria”.
He promised to invest more in women, maintaining that women are very industrious and dedicated and committed when given responsibility, urging Nigerians to vote a character and capacity they can trust, and that he is that candidate that can be trusted.
On his part, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) Presidential candidate, Kola Abiola, the son of a great philanthropist, MKO Abiola disclosed his plans for Nigeria if elected as the next President in 2023.
He said he was going to change the leadership philosophy in the country, making everyone accountable.
He said, “it is all about leadership because leadership must be accountable. Most importantly, people have to have faith in whom they will elect as their president in 2023.
“I represent a true united Nigeria because I have worked in every state in this country and as a private individual; I was at one point as a group, the largest private employer in this country.
“When we come into office in 2023 by the grace of God, the leadership philosophy will change because we are going to create a system that holds everyone accountable.
“For example, police is germane in national security which is a booster of the national economy. Our police are grossly inadequate in number and not well funded. There was a time I was leaving within barracks and I saw what the Police were doing to themselves.
“So, I know what they go through. I know their welfare is wrong and something has to be done urgently so we can have good security for all.”
Speaking during his own turn, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate, Prince Adewole Adebayo promised to address all the problems facing the North if elected into power.
He said the North has a lot of potentials which is yet to be tapped into, in terms of agriculture, human resources and economic viability.
The SDP Presidential hopeful noted that Nigeria needs to tap into the North’s closeness to the Mediterranean for economic purposes.
“As I’m talking to you now, you know, I was the one who broke the news that 80% of the crude oil in Nigeria is being stolen, and as at that time, I believe President Buhari didn’t know as he didn’t know some things.
“Why would you not do agriculture in a sustainable way; for example, in southern Kaduna alone, the ginger that is grown there, if we just create a plant to process the ginger and get ginger oil in Southern Kaduna, plus two or three local governments, you can get $1.4 billion a year.
“The summary of it is that it is a failure of leadership. Our leaders create artificial scarcity, and they use identity to manage that scarcity. Another instance is this, we can build a Federal Government college in every local government, so that the children don’t have to compete, but they won’t do it. So the resources is frittered away, so now when you want to admit a student, you say you are from Katsina State, you are from Jigawa State, you are from Ondo, so we create tension for ourselves.
“What should happen in Nigeria and what will happen in the beginning of our administration is that we will develop every resource available in every part of the country.
“We will give capacity, capacity for every state to manage resources in such a way that, for example, the Mambilla Power Project, if Nigeria money is not being stolen, Adamawa and Taraba State can build it. It is possible for Adamawa and Taraba State to handle it. It has failed the entire country, but it is something that Adamawa and Taraba State can handle.
“We need to do big projects and their major investments. For example, I will just give you a personal example, I brought a company from Virginia when I was a lawyer in New York, because they were looking to build an airport somewhere in Central Africa, and they considered some part of Nigeria to be close to Central Africa.
“We met with the government, and all this company wanted was land and signature. They will build the airport, they did not let them build the airport rather the same government awarded airport construction based on that idea, wasted public money, they couldn’t do it up to that standard. There are so many investments that we can make in Nigeria, all across this state that doesn’t depend on the paucity of our budgeting.
I can tell Nigerians this, by the time we implement one third of our projects, we would have created 30 million jobs; you will have to start looking for workers from Ghana. Everyone in Nigeria will have a job and all these tensions will die down.
“Any person who can do justice and truth is a friend of the North because without truth and justice, there can’t be peace, and the North needs peace.
I am not a friend of the North by lip service. I’m a friend of the North because I see myself as a dan Arewa. I live here and I built my fortune here”.