As the race for the 2023 presidential election gradually creeps into the country’s political space, northern youths under the aegis of Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLF) Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, as their presidential candidate.
They threatened to work against his future political interest if he refuses to offer himself to run for the presidency, even as they said he has proved himself as a national leader.
National chairman of the NYLF, Comrade Elliot Afiyo, made the declaration during the presentation of the group’s endorsement letter to the governor at the banquet hall of Government House, Bauchi State.
NYEF, an interest group formed in the wake of the NUPENG Strike in 1994 as a response to the problems inflicted on the North by the strike, is made up of northern political, religious, traditional, military, bureaucratic elite.
The forum which was created to protect the interest of the North, particularly in a democratic dispensation, is saddled with the task of partaking in leadership recruitment, especially at the national level.
All presidential candidates endorsed by the group in the current democratic dispensation had scaled through, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the 1999 and 2003 presidential elections, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua in 2007, former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Declaring their full support for the Bauchi State governor ahead of the 2023 presidential poll, Afiyo said the forum with over four million members will mobilise Nigerians for his victory in 2023 just like it did for previous presidents since 1999.
Afiyo added that the forum has already embarked on advocacy visits to interact with stakeholders on the candidacy of Governor Mohammed in the 2023 presidential election.
Justifying their endorsement of Mohammed for the top job, Afiyo said the governor emerged victorious from a crowded field of 27 prominent candidates who were nominated and considered at the 27th delegates’ conference of the NYLF in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.
He added that all the 48 executive members of the youth group attended the event, voted without any dissension on the choice of the Bauchi governor, stressing that it was evident of the hand of God in Mohammed’s emergence.
Afiyo noted that the forum took interest in Bala Mohammed when he defeated a sitting governor in 2007 to become a Senator.
The NYLF chairman said, “The boldness and overwhelming passion displayed by Mohammed in the Senate when he promoted the doctrine of necessity motion that steadied the ship of state in the wake of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s death and brought peace to the country, announced his trajectory as a future national leader who would be needed someday which he added has come.
“Bala Mohmmed’s illustrious record of service as FCT minister; his performance showed him as the Moses who, someday, would take the country to the Promised Land. That day has come. That is not all. In 2019, Bala Mohammed defeated an incumbent Governor to become Governor of Bauchi State. Besides, his performance as Governor of Bauchi State has also been unprecedented.”
Afiyo declared that the NYLF was, therefore, announcing its endorsement of Governor Mohammed to run for the 2023 presidential election on the platform of any party of his choice.
“Your Excellency should consider this as a call to duty; you cannot decline”, he stated, noting however that should the governor decline the endorsement, the NYEF would be compelled to mobilise its 4000-strong membership to work against him.
The forum vowed that it would go as far as Governor Bala’s local government to sound the ominous prediction that that would mean the end of his political career.
Afiyo also announced the bestowal of the title of Tambarin Matasan Arewa on the governor by the NYLF.
He said the honour was first bestowed on Maitama Sule and had remained vacant because no one else could match the requirements until the forum settled for the choice of Governor Mohammed.
Pledging the total commitment of the NYLF to Mohammed’s emergence as president in 2023, Afiyo vowed that no amount of intimidation, threats, blackmail or frustration would make the youths change their resolve.
“Your Excellency, we are here in Bauchi to present you our endorsement letter for you to contest the presidential position come 2032, we have already agreed to work for your victory in this movement. Our forum took interest when you defeated the former Governor of Bauchi state during the 2019 general election,” he added.
Conferring the title of Tambarin Matasan Arewa on the governor, the national chairman of the forum said it was in recognition of his contribution to youth development.
“We want to assure your Excellency that no amount of intimidation, frustrations, threats or inducements will make us rescind our resolve and decision,” he stated.
Responding, Governor Mohammed expressed gratitude to the forum with 42 affiliated groups for finding him worthy of the endorsement for the presidential race.
He noted that the forum’s decision to endorse him for the presidential race was an honour to him and the people of Bauchi State.
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“I am highly delighted to be with you today, and I appreciate you for finding me worthy of your endorsement. I will reach out to you in the next three weeks after I have consulted relevant stakeholders,” he told the youths.
The governor said he had a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment to note that the NYLF, after traversing the north canvassing their points and consulting widely, came to the conclusion that he earned their confidence to run for president.
He said though he had known Afiyo, he had no idea about the structure and modus operandi of the group, as well as many of the members.
He said even if he didn’t run, he considered his nomination and endorsement a great honour not just to him but to Bauchi and a commendable approach to leadership recruitment.
Noting that he rose from a humble beginning, Mohammed expressed gratitude to God for the opportunity to rise to the directorate cadre in the Federal Civil Service, get elected as a Senator, serve as a minister and later get elected as governor.
Noting that that was enough for him, he said through all these with his family, he had been subjected to humiliation, abuse, persecution, lies, assassination of his character and more, all because some people suspected that he had a bright future.
Governor Mohammed wondered why he was being drawn into greater exposure before his traducers.
He told the large audience that he had devoted himself to the task of promoting good governance in Bauchi State, noting that he was grateful to God for all that had been accomplished, he also expressed gratitude to all those, with the media in particular, who had supported his ambitious vision.
On the invitation to run for president, he said he would not decline because no politician would decline such an offer off hand.
He however asked for time to consult the various stakeholder groups and constituencies that make up his political family, including the party, Bauchi people, the Governors, NASS members, former ministers with whom he served, even the APC and more importantly, his primary constituency, the PDP in Bauchi.
To show the importance he attached to stakeholder-building and consultation, Bala Mohammed disclosed that Muhammadu Buhari was among those he consulted when he was tapped for ministerial appointment by former President Jonathan.
On the project, the governor noted the challenges facing the country were enormous and expressed the need for the NYLF to build bridges that would rescue the country from the precipice.
“We need to build a bridge; the country is on a precipice. We need to have a vision, a road map that shows us where we are and where we need to go; the resources we need, not passing the buck or denigrating anybody. Then we can be sure that we are going to do it for everybody,” he stated.
Among those who attended the event were members of the 42 organisations that make up the NYLF; his wife, Aisha; the deputy governor and his wife; wife of the deputy Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, the chief of staff to the governor, the secretary to the state government, among others.