The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has said the 2019 presidential election will be won and lost based on the capacity, performance and incompetence of the candidates rather than sentiments as was the case in 2015. According to the forum, the ideal Nigerian president should be a patriot, committed nationalist, bridge-builder and unifier of all Nigerians, irrespective of tongue, tribe and religion. Speaking with journalists in his Arewa Farms in Zaria yesterday, convener of the forum, Prof Ango Abdullahi, also revealed that power brokers in the North will not support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election in the 2019 polls because he has woefully failed to address abject poverty and underdevelopment in the region. He said, “No one should take the North for granted, and it is not for sale. The North will no longer vote based on sentiments. It will resist shedding its blood for any candidate, and will critically scrutinise all politicians who have betrayed the hopes and mandates of our people. “They should be prepared to suffer rejection, in the same manner the votes of the North rejected the attempt to continue with impunity, corruption and indifference of the Jonathan administration,” Prof Ango warned”. On the kind of presidential candidate Nigerians should vote for in 2019, Abdullahi who will clock 80 years on December 13, 2018 said, “The ideal presidential candidate for 2019 should be a patriot, a committed nationalist, a bridge-builder and unifier of all Nigerians. “He must believe in, and must have demonstrated in practical terms, a strong commitment to the principles of our common humanity and the transformation of our diversity into sources of strength. “He must inspire, by personal disposition, the confidence and trust of all Nigerians that they can expect fair and just treatment and leadership that is inclusive of all sections and interest”. On why the forum are against Buhari’s re-election, Abdullahi stated categorically that President Buhari has fallen short of the expectations of Nigerians, especially the Northern elite on whose back he rode to power in 2015 after 12 years of failed attempts. He said, “It is unfortunate that most supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, including the president himself, think that he won the 2015 presidency because of what they described as ‘Buhari Magic.’ If Buhari had any magic at all, how come he could not win the presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011? For 12 years, he failed to make it to Aso Rock, until we rallied round him and helped him to power in 2015. “I, Prof Ango Abdullahi, stuck out my neck for Buhari’s cause. I was nearly killed for my support for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. I was attacked in Bauchi and nearly got killed. There were 11 bullet holes in my Jeep. The Late Maitama Sule, I and other Northern elders of like minds tried to advise him, but he arrogantly ignored us. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed was the one who took our advisory letter to him. And even after he followed up with another copy of the letter after the President claimed to have forgotten receiving any such letter, we never got any response from till date”. Abdullahi said that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the 2015 general elections basically because its leadership reneged on the agreement of eight-year tenure for the South and eight years for the North. He continued: “Former President Olusegun Obasanjo served eight years; and then it was the turn of the North. He made an attempt at a third term, but we fought him vehemently and he failed. He then brought Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He spent three years in office and died. Initially, we didn’t want his choice, but the late Sunday Awoniyi pleaded with us to give Yar’Adua a chance and we rallied round him. “The Constitution says the vice president should step and complete the tenure in the event that the president dies. Ideally, the PDP leadership need not argue that it was indeed the turn of the North. “And then Goodluck Jonathan was allowed to contest the 2011 presidential election. The argument was that it was about Nigerian president and not a Northern president. There was no quarrel. But when towards the end of Jonathan’s first tenure he said he was not aware of any power shift in the PDP, it became a serious problem. And this was what eventually led to the defeat of the party in 2015”. Abdullahi further maintained that the Northern elite believe that only the candidate that can measure up and is clearly capable of meeting the very high demands of leadership with personal integrity, unblemished record of selfless service, sound health and commitment to Nigeria’s unity and survival should be trusted with the leadership of the country in 2015. He lamented that under President Buhari, Nigeria’s economy is characterised by significant loss of output, massive youth unemployment, a rising level of poverty, instability and irregular migration of skilled and unskilled labour, a situation he described as a national embarrassment and a disgrace to a country that is endowed with abundant resources. He said another four years of Buhari administration would be catastrophic with the current government’s unprecedented incompetence and enthronement of mediocrity in dealing with the horrendous spate of killings and general insecurity across the country. He warned that no Northern politician, including the president who is seeking re-election, should expect to be voted in the 2019 general election unless they demonstrate a willingness to champion a massive assault on poverty and underdevelopment in the North. “All political office holders from the North are, hereby, served notice that they have failed the test to lead the region towards economic recovery and growth”, he added. Our sister publication, LEADERSHIP, had reported last Wednesday that members of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Tuesday sang discordant tunes on the re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari. While some members, led by zonal conveners, Sani Zangon Daura (Danmasanin Daura) and Maj-Gen Paul Tarfa; and director of Logistics, Capt Bashir Sodangi, had dismissed claims of a search for President Buhari’s replacement in the North and threw their weight behind his second term bid, others on the side of the convener of the forum, Prof Abdullahi, vehemently opposed the president’s re-election.