Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: 2015 - Jonathan's Ambition Splits Northern Elders

A pro-Jonathan northern elder's group known as the Northern Elders Council (NEC) under the chairmanship of an elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai was yesterday inaugurated in Kaduna, with the group pledging its total support for the Jonathan/Sambo ticket in 2015.

But the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said it remains firm in its commitment to produce a northern President come 2015, adding that President Goodluck Jonathan has performed unsatisfactorily and must give way for a president from the northern region, irrespective of political party affiliation.

In his address, the NEC chairman, Alhaji Yakassai said the council was established to protect the socio-economic and political interests of the North, as well as the corporate existence and stability of Nigeria.

A communiqué issued at the end of the inauguration of the NEC as read by Ambassador Yusuf Mamman partly reads: "The Northern Elders Council pledges its full support and commitment to work for the success of President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo.

"NEC applauds the excellent working relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and Arc Mohammed Namadi Sambo, the Vice President and political leader of the north and urges them to continue to work together in harmony."

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of NEF, Dr Paul Unongo in a telephone interview on the emergence of NEC said, "As far as I am concerned, if I have the right to form the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and if another old man from the north and his group feel we are not pursuing their interest properly, they are free to form their own. We will x-ray what they are doing; if they are fronting for somebody it will be easy to know; we know what the north wants and if they are doing the same thing because they want to have a name and be recognised as a group, it does not make any difference to us."

Speaking on 2015, Dr Unongo said, "It is their right; they should canvass it if they can sell Jonathan. As far as we are concerned, come next year, the president must come from the 19 states of northern Nigeria."

Commenting, the President of the Arewa Defence League (ADL), Murtala Abubakar expressed disappointment with the emergence of the new elders group, describing it as unhealthy.

According to the Arewa group, "Yakassai and his group declaring support for Jonathan/Sambo for 2015 at this time is unwise. We want to put them on notice that the northern youths are tired of this nonsense; we are noting all their antecedents and we will soon hold them accountable for all the problems of the northern region; the least we expect from them is unity of the region", he stressed.

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