The Arewa Joint Committee, which interacted with some presidential candidates on Monday, said that the exercise was not meant to endorse any particular candidate for the forthcoming election.
The Arewa Joint Committee comprises the Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Jamiyyar Matan Arewa, Arewa House Center for Historical Development and Research, and Arewa Research Development Project.
Present at the meeting on Monday were the presidential candidates of Labour Party, Peter Obi; People’s Redemption Party, Kola Abiola; Social Democratic Party, Adewole Adebayo; People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar; the All Progressive Congress, Bola Tinubu; and the New Nigeria People’s Party, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
However, Kwankwaso failed to turn up for the event, saying he chose not to participate while alleging that the Arewa Joint Committee had endorsed their preferred candidate.
But the leadership of the Arewa Joint Committee, dismissed the claim, declaring that the exercise was never intended to endorse any presidential candidate.
The Chairman of the Joint Committee, Mallam Murtala Aliyu, also the Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, insisted at a media briefing in Kaduna on Tuesday that the interaction with the various presidential candidates was not for endorsement.
Aliyu explained that the exercise was part of the plan to generate a commitment to address the challenges of the region by candidates.
He said, “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.”
On the Atiku’s ethical comment, the Arewa Joint Committee chairman argued that the PDP presidential candidate was in the best position to clear the air on the matter.
“Only Atiku could clear himself about a comment on Igbo, Yoruba presidential candidacy. We asked questions to which he responded, so we are not in a position to react to his comments in Arewa House,” he said.
The Committee Chairman 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.”