After several months of political deliberations, the Northern Elders’ Consultative Forum, including Christian leaders of the Congress of All Northern Progressives, formally endorsed People’s Democratic Party presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar for the 2023 election on Friday.
It explained that Atiku was accepted as a candidate after northern Christian leaders decided to collaborate with their Muslim counterparts to adopt a presidential candidate to defeat the APC like-minded presidential candidate.
Former Secretary to the Federal Government, Babashir Rawal, who was a member of the group, supported Labor presidential candidate Peter Obi and his running mate, Dati Baba-Ahmad.
Lawal had said Obi was endorsed after painstakingly reviewing and analysing the alternative candidates.
But former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara and other members of the group distanced themselves from the support, saying they are yet to complete consultations and their position will be made public.
However, making their position known at an event in Abuja on Friday, a former Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Simon Achuba, while reading the report of the technical criteria committee set up by the leaders, said Atiku was adopted after due consideration of the report of the technical criteria committee set up by the leaders.
The report was unanimously adopted.
Apart from Dogala and Achuba, the other northern leader present at the meeting was former Kogi State Governor Idris Wada. Mukhtar Chagari, former Minister of Water Resources.
The report was signed by its chairman, former House Minority Leader Mohammed Kumaira, and attorney Nanji Mele (SUN).
Achuba said the candidates evaluated were Atiku, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu; and the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
He said the leaders considered the existing structure of the PDP, the capacity of the candidates, evidence of national penetration, and religious and ethnic balance, among others to arrive at a decision.
Achuba said while Obi and Kwankwaso might emerge as strong contenders in the political arena in the future, from all indications, the PDP appeared to be the best option to adopt and support.
He said, “The seven and a half years of the APC government has engendered widespread national perception of its inability to tackle security challenges and turn around the national economy.
“A further compounding albatross on its neck is the unfortunate self-inflicted divisive same-faith ticket which cannot guarantee the desired peace, unity and cohesion in Nigeria, a decision that has been kicked against by a huge population of Nigerians.
“The perception that the APC presidential candidate has some health challenges makes people very uncomfortable. There is the fear that it may precipitate a situation where unelected surrogates will be running the government while the president is left attending to his health
Earlier, Dogara said he would not have backed a Christian-Christian ticket if it was the case, adding that all Nigerians must be given a sense of belonging.
He added, “This is a difficult moment for Nigeria. I know that some of us may not even find it easy by the time we have taken this decision. But if you are a student of history, you will know what division has done.