Saturday, May 17, 2014 7:18 pm
By Maduabuchi Nmeribeh/Kano
A two-day conference of northern leaders and elders, held in Kano, examines the woes besetting the region and proffers ways to overcome them.
Though he has not formally come out to declare his intention to remain in Aso Rock after 2015, recent moves by President Goodluck Jonathan strongly indicate that he has resolved to take another shot at the presidency after the expiration of the this current tenure. To his opponents, Jonathan’s cross-country visits to traditional rulers and religious leaders speak volumes of his determination to renew his mandate, despite severe criticisms of his style of governance. Apart from party politics, a major campaign against President Jonathan’s 2015 re-election project is coming from the North.
Just recently, notable elders and leaders from the North converged at Tahir Guest Palace in Kano, pouring an avalanche of criticisms on the Jonathan government, even though elder statesman Dr. Maitama Sule, the convener of the two-day conference declared that the intention of the meeting was to chart a new course for the unity of the North. And for socio-economic and political emancipation, the North needed to speak with one voice. Maitama Sule said the purpose of the conference was to remove religious and tribal differences to enable the North speak with one voice.
The country’s former Permanent Representative in the United Nations lamented the continued killings and bombings in the North by insurgents and urged the Federal Government to put in more effort to curtailing Boko Haram’s deadly offensive which has claimed thousands of lives, including those of women and children, with destruction of public and private property running into hundreds of billions of naira. He called on the Federal Government to deploy its might to halt the wanton killings in the North-East, emphasising that both Christianity and Islam preach love, peace and not violence.
However, a number of northern leaders used to occasion to vent their anger on the Jonathan government, insisting that, come what may, President Jonathan must be sacked from Aso Rock by 2015, giving way for a northerner to occupy his position. The angry northern leaders and elders said tthe Jonathan government has not been fair to the region.
Wantaregh Paul Unongo pointedly accused the presidency of deliberate attempt to disintegrate the North so as to pave way for Jonathan’s 2015 second-bid, adding that, “Whether Christians or Muslims, the North remain one and what we want is a president from the North in 2015.”
Unongo also took a swipe at the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, which earlier disowned the conference, and wondered why the North cannot come out clear to speak with one voice. According to Unongo, whether Hausa, Fulani, Jukun, Baburu, Christian or Muslim, a northerner remains a northerner and must see a fellow northerner as same.
Many who spoke at the event condemned what they described as inability of the Federal Government to tackle security challenges in the entire North, particularly, the North-East, despite huge military presence in the area, wondering whether it was a calculated attempt to undermine the North’s unity and economic growth.
In his keynote address, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed lamented lack of organised leadership structure that can hold the North as one, strong hegemony. To him, the North of today has lost its salt as the major determinant of the political direction of Nigeria, while wondering why the contemporary northern leaders have easily sold out the birthright of the once-powerful region with unshakable political cum population might.
“In 1953, the North had a strong and visionary leadership and a hefty hand of support by the colonial administration. That leadership had the confidence to stand up to being bullied, and was comfortable with the certainty that its decisions were consisted with the interests of the people of the region.
“Today, the people of the old Northern Nigeria are without leaders who will take a stand on the National Conference and get the nation to respect that position. It has no leaders who will move against the crippling assaults on lives and property of its poor and defenseless citizens because power is in the hands of people who appear too far removed from northern interests…” Baba-Ahmed lamented.
Baba-Ahmed blamed the continuous activities of insurgents on the inability of northern leaders to come out in unison to tackle the dangerous Boko Haram trend, pointing out that, “A dangerous insurgency has developed from within it (North), and it has been powerless to fight it, or to get the president to fight it with better results. Its politicians are generally hostile to it, but their hold on their people is very weak. The region has been badly damaged by ethno-religious divisions, suspicions and conflicts. Its economy is crumbling by the day. Its attempt to cobble together with the Southwest a broader political opposition holds some promise, but this promise can be subverted by deepening the fault lines around the region’s pluralism. In short, the North is powerless to resist.”
Faulting President Jonathan’s National Conference, he insisted that it has a secret agenda of setting the North against the South, Christians against Muslims. According to him, the release of the delegates’ list has crippled the conference even more seriously.
“Nothing is more pressing for the North than to put an end to the horrendous assaults on the lives of our people. We will not find answers at this Conference. And we will not find answers to the decaying infrastructure in the North; or solutions to millions of young citizens uneducated, unskilled and unemployed; or solutions to the dangerous trend which sheds so much northern blood every time elections come. We will not find answers at this Conference to the questions over how Nigerians can ensure that the elections of 2015 do reflect the will of the people; that the North does not become another battleground for an election that could make it an even weaker component on the Nigerian federation,” Baba-Ahmed insisted.
Presenting a paper during the northern Conference, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, noted that failure of leaders of thought from the North to unite remains the major cause of socio-political, economic cum security woes facing the region. Ribadu, in a paper entitled The Imperative of Change in the North and Nigeria, noted that for the North and Nigeria to rise above board, there must be strong leadership, unity and strategic planning.
“The story of the North’s deterioration is a replica of Nigeria’s story. Searching solutions to these challenges also means groping for the ropes to a better future for our dear country. I am a believer in the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria, under which we are a federating unit with 72 per cent of the total landmass and more than half of the population, according to the 2006 headcount. As such, we have to first situate ourselves within the larger prism of the country. As part of a federal system, the North can legitimately articulate its own philosophy and tools for development as some people within the nation have done,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of Borno Elders, Alhaji Zanna Hassan Boguma expressed surprise over the continued silence of the Federal Government, as well as non-implementation of the reports on the insurgency ravaging some parts of the North, particularly Borno State. “The current security challenges that we are battling in the North-East of Nigeria and particularly, Borno State calls for a serious concern, not just from the citizens of the affected states but of Nigeria in general. A situation where an entire community is wiped out, places of worship destroyed without recourse to even women, children and the elderly, is not just condemnable but barbaric and cannot in any way be linked to a particular religion.
“Sometimes, one will ask, ‘Are these people really human?’ As for those of us that are from Borno, we have been seeing hell; our people are constantly decimated, especially in the last few weeks. Our towns and villages razed, properties destroyed, schools and places of worship burnt, even innocent travelers were not spared. This is the catastrophe that should be condemned by all. In fact, a declaration of a mourning period throughout the North is even necessary,” Zanna stated.
Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Barr. Solomon Dalung, Malam Garba Deen Mohammed, Alhaji Buba Galadima, AIG Abubakar Tsav (rtd), Mohammed Goni, Barr. Rhoda Ako, General A.M. Jibril (ret), Dr. Usman Bugage, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, General Paul Tarfa (ret), Dr. Yima Sen and all those who spoke at the two-day conference reflected on what they described as total abandonment of the North by the current administration at the centre and yearned for a change of government which a northerner should head by 2015.