Prominent socio-cultural organisations including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Northern Elders Forum, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Middle Belt Forum on Sunday endorsed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku will slug it out with President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other candidates in the February 16 presidential election.
The groups met at Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, on Sunday.
At the meeting themed ‘Summit of Nigerian Leaders and Elders’, the groups said they were endorsing Atiku because of his intelligence, capability and knowledge to lead Nigeria.
Participants in the meeting included: Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere), Chief John Nnia Nwodo (Ohanaeze Ndigbo), Dr Pogu Bitrus (Middle Belt Forum), Malam Ango Abdullahi (Northern Elders Forum), Chief Edwin Clark (Pan Niger Delta Forum), and Buba Galadima.
Full text of communiqué issued below:
1) That the Summit of the Forum of Nigerian Elders and Leaders held at Sheraton Hotel Abuja on Sunday, 3rd January, 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).
2) The Forum expressed it goodwill toward the Vice President, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, GCON who survived a helicopter crash on 2nd January, 2019
3) Recognizing that the Forum of Nigerian Elders and Leaders represents the most genuine commitment of leading socio-cultural groups in Nigeria to work together to find solutions to national challenges, support the cause for good governance and contribute towards improving national unity, security and economic development of all Nigerians.
4) 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.
5) 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 the country against all globally known democratic ethos, etc
6) 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-existence, 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 INEC 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.
6) 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 fit and mentally alert persons that understand the issues and will once more restore Nigerian international standing and respect.
(iii) A strong will to improve the quality of 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.
b) 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, adopts the candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 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 posseses 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.