An elder statesman and strongman of the Middle Belt, Paul Unongo has justified the endorsement of Senator Bukola Saraki and Governor Bala Mohammed as the consensus aspirants for the 2023 Presidential seat saying such is in the interest of the Northern region.
Unongo, alongside Professor Ango Abdullahi and others under the platform of the Northern Elders’ Forum, NEF insists Saraki and Mohammed have the needed experiences and qualifications to deliver on the job and urged Nigerians to continue in the zoning of political offices to develop the nation’s polity.
The former Minister of Steel Development who spoke with journalists at his residence in Jos on Sunday noted that if the Presidency is to be zoned between the North and the South, he would support the South but, in the case, that the North wants to field a candidate for the seat, such a candidate should come from the North Central zone of the country.
He lamented the inability of President Muhammadu Buhari to give good governance saying he is disappointed with his performance so far but asked Nigerians to trust Saraki and Mohammed with their support.
He said among other things that though the country’s democracy is evolving, there is a need to still consider zoning as it is a developmental process in governance and faulted Ambassador Yahaya Kwande for kicking against the support of the NEF to Saraki and Mohammed.
His words, “… Theoretically, I believe that a time is going to come when Nigeria does not need to zone if we have a father who is good to be a President and later on, if a child of that father, bearing the same name, also is competent and good for Nigerians to be elected President, he is elected.
“But in our country, Nigerians feel they belong if once in a while they have somebody from their place in the leadership position. In the wisdom of the political parties and growth in Nigeria, it made them zone political offices to the zones that the military created. By observation, people feel happy and have a sense of belonging having somebody from their zone occupy certain positions but we find out that those people that come from your zone, don’t necessarily help you.
“In practice, I support zoning because it is a developmental process, our democracy is not stabilized, if we keep on giving to one particular place, even though the people are the most competent, Nigerians will start making noise about it. We have South Eastern Nigeria making some noise that Nigerians should not ignore. That is the stage that our democracy is, we must share the offices to all parts of Nigeria but I believe that later, competence would determine that like was seen in the United States…”
On the consensus aspirants, he added, “… I cannot deny, I was present, I was consulted and all kinds of proposals were brought to me, I went to Abuja and after deliberation for two days, we reached a consensus that if the northern region of old wants to field a candidate for the Presidency and not leave the Southern Nigeria alone to do that, we northerners should field a candidate from what used to be called the Middle Belt or the North central…
“I am old enough to know that Bauchi State and Kwara, Ilorin, particularly as part of our movement. For many considerations including the many contributions of Sola Saraki to the development of the north in terms of politics, we believe that two of them stood out. We looked at the experience and said that in the politics of Nigeria, a person who can be a Senate President and pilots the affairs successfully, Sola’s son, Bukola came and we see him as our own preferred choice.
“The person who came second in our assessment is the Governor of Bauchi so we said we should present the two of them to the people and let them choose. If you say somebody from the proper middle belt with experience, we felt Bukola is qualified to represent us. That is the position…”