A pro-democracy and good governance group, Concerned Nigerians, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate arrest of Professor Ango Abdullahi, a former vice-chancellor, over his recent comment on herdsmen that sparked outrage and drew condemnation, especially from the Southern leaders.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Vanguard last week, Prof. Abdullahi had said that the kidnap of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, was nothing extraordinary, even as he accused Southern leaders of a covert plot to split the unity of the north.
Adeyanju However, in a statement issued by its Convener, Deji Adeyanju on Tuesday, the group said it was surprised and disappointed in what it described as Professor Abdullahi’s brazen justification of the wanton killings of innocent Nigerians by herdsmen.
It said the Department of states Services, DSS, should invite the professor for questioning, maintaining that Abdullahi’s statement was hate speech capable of shattering the unity of the country.
According to the statement, “We have read Prof Ango Abdullahi’s alarming interview with the Vanguard Newspaper and are appalled that someone of his age, stature, education and professional qualification would provide brazen justification for the wanton and senseless murders of thousands of Nigerians by herdsmen.
“In his interview, Prof Abdullahi likened the killings of Nigerians by Fulani Herdsmen to a politically motivated ruse by “… the South…” to destroy the political unity of the North. He also made several other comments that are too incendiary to repeat here. “It is distressing that there are people who continue to politicise these senseless killings and who continually provide justification, and nuance, for them.
“It is also distressing that the political elite in the parts of the country continue to refer to colonial era grazing routes that involved the forceful acquisition and ceding of the ancestral homes and lands of the Nigerians in parts of the country, to cattle herders for use as grazing routes and continue to use such colonial-era machinations as justification for the disregard and disrespect for the constitution and laws of an independent Federal Republic of Nigeria and the human rights of her citizens.
“Shielding this brazen disregard for the property rights of whole peoples in intellectual garb is dangerous and provides a distressing setting for continued killings.
“In fact, Prof Abdullahi’s condemnable comments indicate more than just a passing knowledge of the killings, its organizers and what their objectives are. They indeed indicate a deep-rooted knowledge of these unfortunate events.
“We call on the Directorate of State Security (DSS) to invite Prof Abdullahi to reveal the extent of his knowledge behind the rationale for the killings. This is in keeping with similar invitations extended to others by the DSS to explain comments perceived by the DSS to be hate speech. “You will recall that the DSS even invited the spokesperson to a former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, for issuing a statement on behalf of his boss. “
Anything less will prove the fear expressed by many people across the country that there is institutional support for herdsmen to be true,” the statement concluded. (New Telegraph)
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr Paul Unongo, and the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum are not on the same page with Northern Elders Forum (NEF) chieftain, Professor Ango Abdullahi, on his position that Nigerians should “go our separate ways.”
The former vice chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has also come under attack from the youth wing of Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which called his view “very, very unfortunate and unexpected from a man of his calibre.”
Abdullahi, speaking on Wednesday at a public debate in Kaduna had said the best option for the country was a return to 1914 or 1960 or what he called “let us go our separate ways.”
“If on the other hand we give credit to the British and our founding fathers (and they deserve credit), and we cannot contain restructuring based on what existed in 1914, we should go back to 1960 when the country operated regions. The north is not afraid of getting our north back,” he said at the forum “The North and the Future of Nigerian Federation”, organized by the Arewa Research and Development Project, in collaboration with Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation; the Northern Elders Forum; Arewa Consultative Forum; Code Group; Northern Delegates Forum; Arewa Reawakening; Jamiyar Matan Arewa and Forum for Northern Youths Organizations.
Asked yesterday to respond to Abdullahi’s view, the ACF Secretary-General Mr Anthony Sani said Abdullahi was on his own on.
He said: “Prof Ango Abdullahi has the right to air his view, but he is on his own on this matter of public importance.
“As far as we are concerned, the certain benefits of a big and united one Nigeria are more than the uncertain gains of a split.
“It is, therefore, defeatist to allow our temporary challenges to redefine our cherished common destiny and set our collective agenda.
“Nigerians must know that in the mechanism of community living, victory and defeat are never final. Our current challenges are not beyond redemption.”
Dr Unongo who heads the NEF of which Abdullahi is a prominent member said that the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Frederick Lugard was not a mistake.
The Second Republic Minister of Steel Development said by phone that though he supports devolution of power to the states, he is totally against any move to break up Nigeria.
His words: “Professor Ango Abdullahi has spoken for himself and he has a right to do so. But, going our separate ways is not the best for this country.
“That we have challenges does not mean that we have not done well in so many other areas.
“Nigeria has done very well as a nation-state. The amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Lugard is not a mistake because we have come this far as a united country. But, the agitation by the youths and other groups is that we ought to have done better, which the truth.
“Mind you, this situation is like the car we use.There are times we need to change worn-out nuts and others like that. So, the most sensible way of addressing this situation is to address our challenges as a nation.
“So, we should not split this country. Yes, I support devolution of certain power to the states. Let them be given power and resources to develop the states and same to the local governments.
“What I will not support is allowing state police. States should not be allowed to form their own army because states will go to war against each other.”
The national president of the AYCF, Comrade Shettimma Yerima, said the disintegration of the country would do no good to Nigerians and would amount to suicide.
He said: “We respect Professor Ango Abdullahi and he might have his reasons for saying this.
“That is his own opinion and that how he sees it.
“ He saw yesterday but for us who are for today, we really don’t want to reflect on the past because it’s nothing to write home about. We are looking for how we can build a nation, how we can work together to make Nigeria stronger.
“I don’t agree with him that Nigeria should disintegrate. We have more to lose now if the country disintegrates.
“I am of the view that whatever the grudges are, we must know that all hope is not lost. The present generation (of Northerners) strongly believe that we can work together with our brothers from other parts of the country to build a nation where there will be no suspicion, where there will be equity and fairness to all.
“That is what we are looking up to. We are working towards building a nation where all of us will begin to see ourselves as Nigerians.
“This is why the Arewa youths, the Ohanaeze youths and others across the country and working together to make sure peace reigns and that we have a virile nation. Disintegration will amount to total suicide.”
The youth wing of Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, also does not share Abdullahi’s view.
In a chat with our correspondent, the President of the OYC, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said the statement by Abdullahi was unfortunate.
He said:”As a youth group, we have been working with the Arewa youths and other youth groups in the country to promote peace and cordial relationship among our people.
“Why should Professor Abdullahi now be making such statement that is capable of heating up the polity again and causing needless confusion. We stand for a united Nigeria where equity, fairness and justice shall reign.”
Niger Delta leaders who were also contacted insisted on a fair, just and equitable country as opposed to the break-up canvassed by Prof Abdullahi.
The National Coordinator, Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress (PNDPC), Chief Mike Loyibo, said though the Southsouth was not afraid of a breakup, the people had unanimously agreed that Nigeria would be better as one entity.
He said the zone would continue to advocate a restructured Nigeria where states would be allowed to control their resources and pay a certain amount of taxes to the Federal Government.
He said they were tired of the current lopsided arrangement where the region which feeds the country, remained marginalized in key security and oil and gas positions.
He said: “Our problem is that of injustice. The constitution itself is defective and we have been long marginalized.
“What we are simply saying is give us true federalism where all the regions are allowed to develop at their own pace. Allow us to control and manage our resources and we pay certain taxes to the government.
“Nobody is afraid of a breakup, after all, Nigeria is a forced marriage.
“ Our position as Niger Delta leaders is that there should be restructuring. We want a structure that will address the injustice we have.
“ I don’t support breakup but I support one Nigeria where there will be justice, equity and every side will be allowed to develop at their own pace.
“ Ango Abdullahi is entitled to his opinion. The other day he said it was not resource control but resource management”
Also speaking, a former President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide, Mr Udens Eradiri, said Nigeria would be stronger as a united country.
He said the country urgently needed restructuring to ensure equity and justice adding that devolution of power will enable states to develop at their pace.
He said: “I think Nigeria is stronger as one nation where equity and justice will prevail. It is not difficult to get justice and equity. It is just that leadership is not serious.
“Somebody said something that the mineral resources offshore should belong to the Federal Government while the ones onshore should belong to the state. That could also be the starting point. But the important point is that equity and justice demand that the state must get what belongs to it.
“In any case, Nigeria is failing. States can no longer pay salaries. The federal government is taking 87 percent of the resources after giving 13 percent to states, but cannot sustain infrastructures. Roads are nothing to write home about even in APC states.
“It is not about supporting an administration, it is a system that has failed and that cannot be sustained. It is only common sense that when you are doing something for many years and it is not working, you ought to do it differently.
“ The most important part is that there is a failure of leadership. If we have had clear-headed leadership, we won’t be where we are today.
“Even when we will be restructuring and devolving power, the people must take control of the electoral process. That is the only way you can guarantee responsible leadership. As we are today, it is not working.” (The Nation)
•Says North ready to support Atiku, Kwankwaso, others
Professor Ango Abdullahi is the spokesman of Northern Elders Forum, and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.He expressed support for the position of the Yoruba nation that Nigeria be restructured. Although there is a caveat that each existing region be allowed to decide the modalities for internal restructuring in view of new realities before fusing with others under a federal constitution similar to the First Republic. The NEF boss spoke with ABDULLAHIHASSAN in Zaria on other national issues including the current rift between former Vice President,Atiku Abubakar and President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC; the speculated cabinet reshuffle; Buhari’s performance and health; who the North will support for President in 2019; and ongoing militarization of the South East.
Sir, few days to Nigeria’s 57 years of nationhood, are we where we ought to be, given our potentials and the level of development of other countries with which we were at par at take -off?
Well, the starting point is to thank Allah for enabling us to observe yet another independence anniversary which we got in 1960. Obviously, the citizens must expect a lot of good things to have happened in terms of development over these years. When we look back, we can see that Nigeria is endowed with a lot of potential areas for development. This is what has been the expectation of Nigerians, particularly my generation because when the country attained independence, I was at the University College, Ibadan. Our fathers or leaders of the country at the time used to talk to us in the university and asked us to work hard, saying that very soon Nigeria would attain independence and that we were the ones to take over from the British. There were high hopes and expectations from within and outside the country that the new nation would make rapid progress in all aspects that touched the lives of her citizens. As you said, we will be 57 years and the question is, have all those aspirations been achieved? The honest answer is no.If I was a teacher marking Nigeria from 1960, or a teacher marking Nigeria’s script as one of my studentsof over these 57 years, I will grade her a failure.When you look at it from the point of view of the opportunities available, the resources available, the chances available, both internal and external and you sum all these up, includingthe human capital, I will say that Nigeria failed to achievedthe goals and aspirations it set for itself and for its people. There are benchmarks with which one can base this conclusion. There are quite a number of countries we virtually achieved independence either together or almost at the same time. Some of the references used in gauging our development indices areIndia, in 1948and Malaysia. Malaysia has really moved faster in their development endeavours. Unfortunately, despite all the endowments, Nigeria has failed to achieve the goals expected of it since independence.
So, who or what do we blame for the failure?
Well, if you go back to 1960, I will say that our founding fathers did extremely well. They did very well indeed. I will scorethem high, goingby my marking scheme. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, with all his colleagues in his cabinet did well for the independence government; Chief Obafemi Awolowo for theSouth Western Nigeria, along with his friends, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe; Michael Okpara for Eastern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello for Northern Nigeria. All the leaders did well in terms of providing honest and committed leadership to their people. If youdid an honest assessment of each of these leaders on what they achieved even before or after independence, you will appreciate and commend them, especially for managingtheir resources well. They had nothing to depend on except revenue generation mostly from tax and agriculture, being the main export product thatearned the country a lot of foreign exchange. In fact, 75 per cent of total revenue came from agriculture. For those of us now whowitnessed and were beneficiaries of that government, the current state of things is regrettable. For example, I went toelementary school free, Middle School free and university free.. those were thingsenjoyed within the limited resources. In Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced Universal Free Education Programme for his people and ultimately placed Western Region at an advantage over the North and East. In 1953, there were only two secondary schools in Northern Nigeria-Barewa College and Government Secondary School, Keffi. By 1966, the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello had providedsecondary schools in each of theprovinces in the North,as well as Teachers Colleges and vocational training centres. Heestablished Ahmadu Bello University, Zariain 1962. One should ask why those leaders were different from those that followed them? Despite the interruption of democracy by the military in 1966 which culminated in civil war , their legacies and values have continuedto yield positive results… Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s regime invited most of the products of the First Republic toserve as federal commissioners. People like Chief Obafemi Awolowo was appointed Finance Commissioner, Malam Aminu Kano was appointed Health Commissioner. From 1960 until 1974, Nigeria was doing well in the area of development. I happened to have served as Commissioner of Economic Planningunder the military government from 1973 to 1975. As from that period, things began getting worse, particularly, during Gen. Murtala Mohammed. Although Murtala appeared to be a nationalist and Pan-Africanist, regrettably, he messed up the civil service, which has always been the stabilising factor in any country’s development programme. Politicians come and go, but civil servants remain until retirement. Murtala abused civil service rules, he arbitrarily sacked civil servants, permanent secretaries , directorswere sacked on radio without procedures, no query, warning or setting up of committees. The security of tenure that civil service guaranteed, Gen. Murtala destroyed it when he came to power. Now a civil servant has to be a liar, or sycophant to keep his job. This is where Nigeria began to run into serious difficulties in governance. Secondly, we rushed to change from parliamentary system in the Second Republic to presidential with a military fiat . Thisis the majormistakethat was made. Presidential system brought about nothing other than huge overhead costs in government; compared to parliamentary system.
In other words,the presidential system is more expensive to run anywhere around the world.It also brought in corruptionandlack of accountability. In the parliamentary system, ministers were appointed from elected members in the Parliament, which means that you have a constituency to account for, not only to your constituency, but also to the parliament and the prime minister. While under presidential system, you can lobby for positions by licking theboots of other political leaders, in a nutshell, you can be enlisted to be a minister even if your people don’t know you. In other words, you don’t feel accountable to anybody apart from the person who nominated you, or a godfather. In presidential system, a minister is free to do whatever he likes as long asthe President is comfortable with him. These are some of our major setbacks. So, to answer your question, this is to some extent, the factors responsible for the lack of development of our nation today.
You were an arrowhead of support for the election of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is nearly 15 months for this administration to exit, but people are still complaining about lack of development viz bad roads, ill-equipped hospitals, schools etc. Does that mean that Buharihas failed Nigerians?
You see, the problem is the system.Buhari may be a good person; he could be a gentleman whowants to work honestly but in a wrong system. It was a system of military fiat when he was a head of state, but the system he finds himself now does not allow him to manoeuvre. He has to cross manyhurdles and checkpoints at the National Assembly and his party before he can execute anything meaningful, and all these squabbles are not based on principle butpersonal interests, either at party level or at constituencyor at the level of the judiciary.All this really will make itimpossible for a good person or committedperson to operate effectively in this country in the manner which will accelerate development.Perhaps,you might ask the question ifwe can really change? Buhari might not have failed, but the system of government that he is operating in has substantially failed in the same manner as the ones before it.
Many Nigerians expected the President to re-shuffle his cabinet soon after his return from medical vacation as a step towards rectifying mistakes in the administration, but that is yet to happen.How do you view this?
I really don’t count that as a solution to government’s problems, weighed against the substantial damage he inherited. You see, once a system is not right everything inside it tends to fail. Of course,people blame President Buhari for not picking a good team to start with. I personally made that observationtwo years ago and I came under much fire from the corridors of power but I’m here again criticizing. I have so far been vindicatedin terms of the quality of people he picked as operators of the government, either at ministerial level, or institutional level. Their quality has failed to measure or meet the yearnings and expectations of Nigerians. When people think that cabinet reshuffle is the answer, it may bring out some good, but for me, it is too late in the day. Ministers are part of the instrument of decision-making, the only difference between them and their permanent secretaries is that only ministers are allowed in the Federal Executive Council. Bureaucrats in their ministries prepare the memos they read at FEC. What I am saying is that it is not enough to simply look at the ministers as the problem. I can argue that most of the people who brought the problem on this country, especially during Obasanjo and Jonathan’s administrations are still and very much in this administration. When you are talking of corruption and incompetence, in fact 70 per cent of the people who operated in the Jonathan government are still in this system. So why do people expect Buhari to perform miracle? It is possible, but very difficult in this kind of system or arrangement.I believe that the system in which Buhari is operating is not working, since it was changed in 1977/79. It does not fit the kind of federation of Nigeria’s structure, because when the British came, actually, they thought Nigeria could run in two parts, the Northern and Southern protectorates. But very soon, they realized that there was substantial difference between the eastern part of the country and the western part, which later made mid-west to be created, leaving the North as it was.
What do you make of the stiff war between Abubakar Atiku on one hand and the President and his party on the other over alleged spite of the former VP?
You see, I don’t regard Atiku as a major actor in the system; he only operated in the system, but largely failed us. He operated as a Vice President to Obasanjo in the latter’s government, which, as far as I am concerned failed.So they both have failed. I could not see Atiku being isolated as a major factor in subsequent years. He joined APC, but he was not part of the major groups, though he contested in the primary election when we were challenging the Jonathan administration. In 2015, I was one of those whofelt that PDP had failed to honour an agreement that everybody was aware of and which most of the leaders signed. I was one of those who drafted the constitution of PDP and signed for it to become a political party. So I was also a member of the first Board of Trustees of the party. But the party quickly collapsed and failed. People in executive authority replaced the PDP. The PDP paved way for Obasanjo to be reelected. In the case of states, the party paved way for governors to manoeuvre. So what we had was mini dictatorship within a short time.Obasanjo changedthe party chairmen about three or four times. If you want to maintain your position you have to go and vow beforeObasanjo or a governor. Atiku can go and make whatever complaints,he knows how he joined the party, he is just a party member like anybody else. The only thing he may argue is that when the party was formed , he played a role, whichhe thought should be appreciated, recognized and rewarded. He is only behaving like most ordinary Nigerian politician. He participated and contributed and he now waits for reward.In other words, he is like an investor expecting dividends and profit, therefore, he wants to get dividend on his investment. I think this is all Atiku’s complaints.
His challenge seems to foreshadow the direction of the politics/contest of the 2019 presidential election. Who will the north support between the two leaders in the event the dice is cast, and why?
I am not a witness to that, I don’t know, what I read in the newspaper is that, Atiku only complained that he was sidelined in the process of operating party and government. That was not enough for me to say that he has reached a pointofcontesting orquitting the party. I would want to say he, of course, in the primaries of the party together with others and they all lost to Buhari. It’s also wrong to assume that in every contest, you must win. You may contest severally without winning, so winning election is not always automatic. There are some party executive arrangements that sometime make you an enemy if youcontest elections and lose, and this is happening in many states now, those who contested for governor became enemiesof those who won. I think that is what will continue to divide APC, if care is not taken.
Is the Buhari-Atiku altercation in the interest of theNorth, and where do we place the aspirations of others likeKwankwaso , Lamido, Tambuwal, etc?
No, no, you see the fact that Buhari is incumbent does not automatically confer on himthe candidature of the party in the next election ifthere is internal democracy in the party. The fact that you are a sitting president does not mean other members of the party cannot contest against you. If I were Buhari, I willwelcome competition in my party. This is an opening for democracy in my party and I will askpeople to come and test their popularity. If he has done well, people will re-elect him. This is a confirmation he hasdone well and that both the party and voters trusted him. I criticize all political parties for the system they employ in conducting primary elections. The one I am most familiar as good was the one used by Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1992, that was a direct primary election, where every member of the party has a chance to come and vote for who will represent him as a councilor, chairman, governoror president. In direct primaries, all parties have chance to come, cue and vote or elect any person of their choice. But the currentdelegate system brings nothing except corruption. Once the parties are corrupt, certainly, government must be corrupt, this is what is happening now all over the country.
Where do you stand on the question of whether or not Buhari should run again, against the backdrop of non-delivery on electoral promises and his health issue? You may wish to answer that question with what you think is in the North’s strategic interest, vis-a-vis, experience over the issue of tenure and dispute with the South on zoning principle.
On the issue of who the North will support among Northerners who are likely to contest, I will say we will support internal democracy, that the person who wins the primary election in the party becomes the candidate. It is premature to say and there is nobasis for me to deny Atiku or Kwankwaso, or whoever is said to be contesting, the right to contest. Whoever emerges from the North, we will support him. You see personally I am not a member of any political party, I am only concerned that there should be an internal democracy in any party for development of our democracy, so that people will know that the candidate emergedand was chosen by their wishes and support. That is the most important thing. In the case of Buhari, hehad a bad start as far as I am concerned, somebody who is in office is supposed to show his credentials of being in that office and these credentials should sell him not only to his party, but to the generality of Nigerians. The decision will be made by party members and eventually when electioncomes, voters will ultimately decide party’s decision. My support or non support for Buhari does not matter, our concern is for the system to besanitized.
The Yoruba nation unanimously and unequivocally stated last weekits position onrestructuring, declaring it was mandatory as the basis for the continuation of the Nigerian union. The Yoruba also defined what this restructuring should be, so there won’t be any ambiguity that those opposed to it had often cited. Your take on this?
I believe Nigeria has been in existence for 100 years now, in this 100 years, there are people who believe that Lord Lugard or the British made mistakes in the way they crafted a territory and called pieces of this country called Nigeria in 1914. Up till now there are people of high intellect and in responsible positions whobelievethat Lugard made a mistake by merging the Northern protectorate and Southern protectorate and Lagos Colony. These agitations have manifested in various forms over the years and appear directed against the North.You see, there was no restructuring agitation during Jonathan or Obasanjo’s administration. It started few years ago. All these agitations started when there was notruegovernment. My first reference is to go to 1914,examine this question of whether Lugard or the British made a mistake by merging the territories that appearedincompatible, according to the agitators. So, if we want to give credit to the British in 1914, for crafting the constitution for these colonies and you also want to give credit to our founding fathers who really faced the British and argued for independence, you may say that, perhaps, this was the fundamental mistake ofour coexistence. There is also a merit in looking forward that even though diverse, we could eventually be molded into a nation. So they tried together with our founding leaders and agreed on the federal constitution. By 1960, if you remember very well,prior to independence, the regions asked for self-government on different dates. The Northern Nigeriasaid it was not readyin 1957, while other regions said they were ready, which later brought about some misunderstanding in the country, but eventually the regions resolved their differences in term of dates. The North later had its own in 1959, while other regions had theirsin 1957. Again within one year, Nigerian leaders sat together and discussed independence of the country. The final constitution we had was a federal constitution with regions as the federation units. Western Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria. Those were the federating units under the 1960 federal constitution. My excitement about the position taken by the Yorubais that we should go back to the 1960 constitution, go back to the regions. I agree with this position in all honesty and sincerity, but the only point I may have difference with is that, let it be Western, Eastern and Northern, as it was said, but the Yoruba should remember that each of these regionsin the past had a constitution. If we are going back to that, then we must takeeach regiontohave its constitution. It’s alsogood to remember that a lot of things had happened even before the British left, there was minority commission set-up by the British prior to 1960. The minority groups from different parts of the regions asked for status. The Western Region later agreed that Mid West should be created. So even now, if we are to go back to the regions, what should be done is for each region to go back and consult its people to decide whether these regions will be like what is used to be,orthere should be amendments in the 1960 constitution, orthere is need for new arrangement before making recommendations to the rest of the country. The Eastern Region will do the same. The Northern region will do the same. You see , I am not discounting that there will be a lot of requests,even before 1960 , there were lots of agitations in the North for Middle-belt. In short, I agree entirely that we should go back to regions as the Yoruba have suggested, the point of difference here is that the regions should go backdecide forthemselves and decide how they want to restructure themselves. Nobody should decide for any region how to be restructured. I am happy to hear that even South East governors have decided to remain together, to that extent, this might be attractive on the part of Northern Nigeria. I am among those who support this Yoruba recommendation.
Government has practically militarised the S’ East under the pretext of going in to tackle crimes and insecurity in the region. We have seen a crackdown on Biafra agitators, while Arewa youths known to have breached the constitution are treated as sacred cows. Tell me how can this brazen display of double standard promote a sense of equality and fair treatment and as such oneness among Nigerians from different divides? Again, as long as this continues, don’t you think it will only further fuel discontent and agitation? And do you believe this strong arm tactics and forceful approach by government is the best way to bring about peace?
Well,I considerall these Kanu’ssaga as general pretence of Nigerians’dishonesty.When the Northern youths reacted to the abuses that their parents and grandparents were being subjected by some interest groups,insult and provocation , nobodyuttered a word of guidance, counseling or caution among so-called elders in the East,even as I am speaking now. It is when our children reacted the way they did that they had, had enough of these abuses coming from that area, and also supported that those agitating for their own state should be given chance for self-determination in line with the international protocol for self-determination.With this, who now says that Nigeria’s unity is settled? It is not settled formore than hundred years? We can see from this saga that there is a lot of pending issues onNigeria’s unity. If this problem is still lingering, then you cannot say Nigeria’s unity is settled,this word is Utopian. Settlingthe issue of unity is a determinant factor for coexistence, as such you cannot say Nigeria is indivisible, while its component parts are not united. So you see, I disagreed with all this Utopian position that Nigeria’s unity is settled. The question of its unity now or in future will be the question to ask from time to time. I keep repeating that the problem of Nigeria is the elites, both political and other levels, Nigerian elites have been the cause of either disunity or lack of developments and if that is the case, then we are not prepared to read and visit our souls and attitude. It means that thecelebration ofindependence anniversary, to me, is an anniversary to mark the waste of two generations of Nigerians over the last 57 years. Let’s ask ourselves; if we the elites are the problem of Nigeria, why can’t wecome and sit down and tell ourselves the truth? Enough is enough, let’s save future generations, if we continue the way we are going, nothing positive will happen apart from wasting time.
At Yusuf Maitama Sule book presentation, Chief Edwin Clarkmade a similar observation and requested you all to come and resolveyour differences as elites in order to save Nigeria from ongoing crises. Are you ready?
I don’t want to reveal too much on what transpired between me and Chief Edwin Clark,it is an old issue,we engaged Edwin Clark and his people when we were fighting Obasanjo’s third term, we engaged him positively together with the current father to the Senate President. The Northern Union headed by its chairman, the late Dr Olusola Saraki, while I was his deputy, fought against Obasanjo’s third term agenda. Edwin Clark pledged that whenever the North takes over the presidency, his area (South South) will produce the Vice President.And this was how we sealed the deal, which produced Jonathan as Vice President to Umaru Yar’Adua. The arrangement was perfected and successfully executed. I don’t want to go into details of other negative side of the story, but I know we’ll get ourselves together for discussion on the solution to Nigeria’s problem.
So, if I may ask you as part of the Nigerian elite, what is the solution to the crises?
We have been failing Nigerians, the elites before us, like late Sardauna, Chief Awolowo,Dr. Azikiwe and others risked their lives, worked and died for Nigeria, under an arrangement that was not forced. Like what the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, said, let’s understand our differences, so that we work together for the development of Nigeria. This can still be applied today, that is why I feel excited with the position of Yoruba elders,that we should go back to our regions as federating units. The elites should stop pretending that tough time is overandNigeria’s unity is settled. We in the Northern Elders Forum have agreed that weare ready to engage in dialogue with anybody that will solve Nigeria’s problems. (The Sun)
Chairman Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi
… North loves Igbos more than no other tribe
ABUJA – Renowned statesman and Chairman, Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi says his organisation will work with the Oil and Solid Mineral Producing Communities Landlord Association of |Nigeria, OMPALAN to build bridges across the country and strengthen corporate governance. Prof. Abdullahi made the position known Tuesday during a meeting with OMPALAN leadership led by, Bishop Udo Azogu and other executive members of the group in Zaria.
The meeting which was convened by OMPALAN was aimed at dousing the rising tension in the country and to foster a cordial relationship among all ethnic nationalities and to pursue good corporate governance in the country. Prof. Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Amadu Bello University, Zaria, while welcoming the OMPALAN proposal on peace building, said his decision to back the Arewa Youths on the quick notice issued to Igbos was born out of accumulated feeling of betrayal of the South Easterners and particularly their political leaders, who failed to caution Nnamdi Kanu and other Biafra agitators but instead gave them full support in their struggle.
The Elder Statesman said he was particularly worried that notable political leaders in the South East like Dr Elex Ekwueme, Emeka Anyaoku, Jim Nwobodo and Mbazulike Amechi among others failed to speak out when the ovation was high but kept mute while the new Biafra agitation spread like wide fire and raged on. He said he was baffled when people started condemning him for making his own support to Arewa Youths open, unlike other Northern leaders who pretended about it.
According to him, the North and Eastern Nigeria had come a long way in terms of building political bridges starting from the first republic when Dr Nnamdi Zik conceded the position of Prime Minister to Tafawa Balewa and in second republic when Dr Alex Ekwueme was supported by the North to become Vice President to Shehu Shagari, a relationship, he said the North had always wanted to resuscitate despite the setbacks it suffered from the three years civil war.
He also revealed that part of their grouse against the Igbo was their failure to appreciate the love shown to them by the North after the Civil War by returning all their abandoned properties back to them in addition to rents collected on their behalf by various caretakers assigned to supervise the affected properties, a favour they (Igbo) could not get from their South-South neighbours who confiscated their properties in Port Harcourt and other South-South cities.
According to him, the Igbo should reciprocate the gesture of the North by supporting them politically rather than turning their back on them. He cited two instances where Igbo showed total rejection of the North when President Mohammadu Buhari chose late Dr Chuba Okadigbo and Edwin Umezeoke in 2007 and 2011 as running mates but was rejected by the Igbos, which led them to switch over to South West in 2015.
Earlier in his opening address, Bishop Azogu said the mission of OMPALAN was to unravel root causes of the rising cases of agitations and hate speeches which had raised tension in the polity and to seek possible means of addressing them. He said OMPALAN saw the various agitations across the country as a manifestation of the failure of leadership by the political class and had decided to work with all ethnic nationalities in the country, including the Northern Elders Forum to save the country from going into precipices.
He informed his host that the proponents of the present Biafra agitation do not enjoy the support of most Igbo and hence the need to refocus their anger on the political class rather than the innocent and poor Igbos. Azogu, who lampooned the South Eastern political class for not taking a common position to condemn the new Biafra struggle ab initio, blamed Prof. Abdullahi for supporting the action of the Arewa Youths Coalition. According to him, such support amount to making a blanket condemnation of the entire Igbo race and urged him to retract his earlier statement.
At the end of the meeting, both parties agreed that: the various crisis across Nigeria were as a result of leadership failure; that the bond of unity in Nigeria is stronger than divisive forces; that the North loves the Igbos which was exemplified by restitution of all properties belonging to Igbos in the North after the Civil War; that OMPALAN and Northern Elders Forum would set up a joint peace committee to douse tension generated by hate speeches and secessionist rhetorics; that there is not enough evidence on ground to justify trillions of naira disbursed through robust palliative programs to the Oil Producing States of Nigeria.
The meeting also agreed that: Oil is a national issue and that due recognition should be given to impacted areas; that Nigeria has been stagnated for over 60 years by corruption and bad governance; that the teeming helpless Igbo people cannot be made to pay for the ineptitude of the region’s political leadership and isolated secessionist rhetorics; that Nigeria to remains as one united and indivisible country where all law-abiding citizens can live and do business in any part of the country without fear of molestation or intimidation; that the quit notice to Igbo’s living in the north to serve as clarion call to the nation’s leaders; that there should be tolerance, accommodation and forgiveness amongst Nigerians.
The meeting further listed Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, MNDA; Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC; Oil Derivation Fund Commission and Federal Government Amnesty Program as some of the palliative programs established by government to cushion the harsh environmental impact on oil producing states: Speaking further to Vanguard Newspaper at the end of the meeting, Bishop Azogu said Nigerians are entitled to know the health status of their President. He said Buhari is not the President of APC or any special group but, the elected President of Nigeria with a mandate to steer the ship of State in consonance with the provisions of the nation’s constitution.
According to him, keeping Buhari’s health status secret for a long time is insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians. ‘‘It’s like saying it’s no body’s business. But, Nigerians will not be silent for a long time.
The Governors and other political leaders of the South East have failed the region. They’re unfit to represent the region. This is why some people cashed in on the vacuum created by the rudderless leadership of the region to demand secession. Nobody should be fooled anymore. He said the South East requires a new crop of leadership that can read political barometers accurately and work proactively to protect the interest of the region.
He described Prof Ango Abdullahi as an honest and sincere leader who simply raised alarm to save the country from blood bath and disintegration. ‘‘Other aggrieved leaders in the North saw the country on a dangerous collision course with anarchy and kept mute. Ango Abdullahi’s timely statement was not intended to incite lawlessness but, a clarion call to all Nigerians of all climes to work collaboratively and defend the unity of the Country,’’ he said.
The Deputy Leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Elder Paul Unongo has said that Professor Ango Abdullahi is on his own in backing ignorant youths.
*Prof Ango Abdullahi Unongo said Northern Elders Forum could not have adopted the position of ignorant youths, who were not there when Nigeria lost three million of its citizens to the civil war they fought for keeping the country as one united nation.
According to Unongo, “I am the Deputy Leader of the Northern Elders Forum and Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule is the leader.
So, only the two of us can speak for the forum on a sensitive matter like this. Therefore, if Professor Ango Abdullahi is backing those ignorant youths, then he is speaking for himself.
“We cannot support the nonsense those boys said. We fought the civil war with our blood to keep Nigeria one.
So, any Nigerian can live in any part of the country he feels like.
Igbos are welcome in the North, they are welcome in Yoruba land and my own village in Tiv land and they have right to pursue their daily bread and own property.
“We couldn’t have killed three million people to keep Nigeria one and come back and allow these kids (the Northern Youth Groups) to insult our intelligence.
We knew why we fought the war, we knew why we killed the people we loved. We knew why we made the sacrifice of three million men dead.
So, Northern Elders Forum cannot take the same position as those young men, if at all they took a position. “So, if the young men cannot build a nation, they should not destroy the one we put our lives on the line to build for them.
We cannot allow young men who did not fight the civil war with us to destroy our country because Nigeria cannot afford another civil war,” he said