The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has restated its commitment to patriotism and mobilisation of the region to effectively participate in national and economic development of the country.
The forum made the declaration during the General Assembly and Commemoration of its 10th years anniversary on Wednesday in Abuja.
The Convener of the forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said in spite some minor differences which have unavoidably existed between Northern Groups, their common commitment to the core interests of the North had never been in doubt.
Abdullahi appreciated late Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Wantaregh Paul Unongo and many other prominent Northerners that have worked for the unity and progress of the region.
“We, the General Assembly of the NEF are Patriotic citizens of Nigeria bounded by history, geography, shared experience and common circumstances of existence in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We are aware of our common values, diversity in faith, demography, cultures, political interests and conscious of the roles our region plays in the history of Nigeria;
“We are committed to reversing the decline in the fortunes of our region and improving its standing in relationships with the rest of the country,” he said.
Abdullahi further declared that: “We therefore pledge to organise fellow Northerners to work in search of committed leadership with integrity, competence and compassion to find solutions to our multiple problems.
“We shall collaborate with other Nigerians to create a united country of people characterised by diversity and sensitivity to values of justice and respect for the rights of all citizens.
“We shall also encourage Northerners to participate fully in the 2023 elections, and elect people who are sensitive to our needs.”
He stated that the NEF has resolved to support the conduct of credible elections and a peaceful transition to the next elected administration.
Abdullahi stressed that the forum would resist any attempt to subvert the country’s democratic system by any unconstitutional means.
He added that the forum would also respect the popular will expressed by credible elections, irrespective of the origin and identity of the winner.
“We shall also support the next administration to address major challenges that inhibit the growth, development, peace and security of the North and Nigeria in general.
“We shall engage the rest of Nigeria as respected equals, and continue to demand that the rights of Northerners will not be abused, sacrificed or neglected by any government or group,” he said.
According to him, in less than two weeks, the largest number of Nigerians ever registered would go to the polls to choose the next set of leaders.
Abdullahi expressed NEF’s high regards for leaders of other groups from the North, Christian and Muslim clergy, and elite who have also been tireless in ensuring that the Northerner is not shortchanged in Nigeria.
“Our response to threats that certain parts of the country will be locked down and out of the elections is that this is a threat to all Nigerians.
“We demand that the government of President Buhari and all other leaders and elders must call out this dangerous bluff.
“Those who say they will not accept credible results from the elections unless their candidates win represent threats to national security, and should be treated as such.
“We appeal to all persons with responsibility and influence to lend their weight behind the conduct of credible elections and a peaceful transition.
“We should also assure all communities that they will be safe before, during and after the elections,” Abdullahi stressed.
Earlier, the Director-General of NEF, Prof. Donan Sheni, said the forum usually organised the General Assembly every two years to brief the North about the happenings in the country and to chart a way forward.
Sheni underscored issues like politics, religion, institution, multidimensional poverty, population growth, budget, education, Internally Displaced Persons, among others, affecting the region.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event attracted traditional, religious and other opinion leaders from the northern region. (NAN)