In an interview with The Sun, the NEF chairman said the north has decided to stick with President Buhari because he was a tried and tested leader unlike Atiku who he described as being desperate to be president.
He said: “What has Atiku got to offer Nigeria? Atiku would be in one party for two hours and he would abandon it and join another one for three hours and when he does not get what he wants, he jumps into another party. And now he is like saying Atiku must be president, Atiku must be president of Nigeria. There is no single person in Nigeria that must be president. I think money tries to make some people mad; they think they can buy anything they want and everybody.
“The North has no problem whatsoever and it is not only the North that elected President Buhari in the last presidential election. Buhari got average of the votes in virtually all parts of the country. Remember that Buhari contested for the primaries with Atiku and he beat him in that election thoroughly. Atiku did not even come second. Kwankwaso, the former governor of Kano State got more votes than him. People who are thinking that Atiku can do something when he joins the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) are making a mistake. Nigeria has passed that way and left it behind for a long time ago. We are not impressed by Atiku who jumps from one party to the other and say oh! I have a lot of money and I must be president. Nigerians are not going to put such people in power.
“We love Buhari, a man of integrity and principle; you can predict him and when he says a thing, you can be sure that what he is saying is true. Buhari would win Atiku any day, anywhere and any time.
On the assumption that the progressive north would support Atiku and that the conservative would be behind President Buhari, Unongo said: “I do not know who are the progressive North and the conservative North. My name is Paul Unongo and I am a Northerner. I have gone to the prison 24 times. I think I am a progressive. I just finished a lecture praising late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe on his memorial lecture in Lagos. I am also the convener, leader and chairman of the Northern Elders Forum. So, where do I belong? Between me and Atiku, who is a progressive and who is not? I can tell you that Nigeria’s democracy is waxing stronger.
“If the PDP likes, let them field Atiku. If he contests with Buhari, he would win Atiku by 9 o’clock in the morning. Buhari is a tested and trusted principled leader. We are not for sale and the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not for sale. The presidency is not for the highest bidder.
“We in the North have no problem on who to choose between Buhari and Atiku. We are not divided. I used to say to everybody in Nigeria that we in the North are more radical than the South. We can accommodate both Buhari and Atiku but the North is mature politically and they know where to go and we are going to go where we should go. But we are not going to vote to bring the PDP back to power.
“The economy was knocked down by the previous administration and Buhari promised that he would bring it up and he did. The security situation in the country was terrible so much that the Boko Haram sect was taking over some parts of the North and Buhari promised that he would address the situation and he did. Nobody would contest that he has addressed substantially the issue of security in the country. He said he would fight corruption and today, they are recovering piles and piles of money including dollars even buried underground. Nobody had done that before. He promised these three and has delivered on all of them. Everybody is seeing what he is doing. There is no doubt that he is better than Atiku and I can assure you that we would stay with President Buhari.”
When asked whether the north might miss out on the presidency if a strong candidate from the south emerges, he said: “I can predict exactly what the South would do. In the last presidential election, if you count the votes in the three geo-political zones of Southwest, Southeast and South south, Buhari still had the majority of the votes. We are going to repeat that in the 2019 general elections because the candidate that the PDP is trying to bring is not the type that you can compare with Buhari.”
He said since President Buhari came into power, he failed to take charge of the growth of the party.
The former vice president expressed optimism of defeating President Buhari in 2019 saying he has lost a lot of goodwill.