The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has cautioned former President Olusegun Obasanjo against giving criminal activities ethnic and religious colouration.This point was made on Sunday by the Secretary General of ACF, Anthony Sani, during a chat with THISDAY in Kaduna, Kaduna Sani was reacting to assertion by Obasanjo, that herdsmen were plotting to ”Fulanise and Islamise” the country. Obasanjo had in a paper he presented on Saturday at the 2nd session of the 7th Synod of the Anglican Communion, Oleh Diocese, in the Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, was reported to have said the Boko Haram insurgents and herdsmen were plotting to ”Fulanise” and Islamise the country.
It maintained that giving ethnic and religious colouration to crime, will only embolden the criminals to continue with their evil deeds.
Sani said “former President Obasanjo may have his facts, for making such comments, saying that ”for me, I do not want us to give ethnic and religious coloration to the criminal activities of some people, lest we provide them with platforms upon which to stand and commit crimes, knowing it is almost impossible to prosecute religion and ethnicity“.
According to him, there are moderate Muslims who are the majority and are opposed to religious fanatics, stressing that “such moderate Muslims need to be enlisted such in the campaign against Islamic terrorists whose aims are not for piety but political, albeit attired in the garb of religious jihadists.”
Sani said ”if we offend the sensitivity of such moderate Muslims and push them to the side of the fanatics,we would be playing to the gallery by swallowing the bait put by the fanatics and that is what they want.
“That explains why President Obama won the Nobel Prize for a speech he made to Arabs in Egypt where he made clear distinction between Islam and terrorism cast in the mould of Islamisation.
“Also, it is that distinction that enabled a coalition of 66 countries of all faiths, led by America that has defeated IS in Syria and Iraq.
”I therefore submit that the nation should have common narrative that emphasizes the trite that Islamic terrorists are not furthering Islamic faith when they desecrate by way of continuous killings of innocent people.
“They merely use Islam as strategy to enable easy recruitment of gullible cannon fodders.
”West African countries should also regard all violent herdsmen who kill innocent people as criminals and treat them as such.No ethnic or religious coloration to purely criminal acts”. (Globalsentinel)
Subscribe to The Republican News. Advertise wih us. Call us for press release, enquiries. Email; RepublicanNewsNetwork1@gmail.com, phone: +32497220468, +2348189650279, +32466100102.
As the 2019 general elections approach, Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani, has said kidnappings, killings and economic hardship in the land are not enough reasons to vote out President Muhammadu Buhari at the coming polls.
Sani noted that even in advanced countries where democracy is being practised, bombings and killings cannot be ruled out, and citizens of such countries never called for dethronement of their Presidents. The ACF scribe therefore called on Nigerians to be patient with Buhari and give him a second chance to take the country to the promisedland. He spoke to NOAH EBIJEin Kaduna.
Sir, how has our country, Nigeria fared in the past year 2018, considering the fact that it witnessed a lot of challenges like kidnappings, bombings and killings by Boko Haram and herdsmen?
Nigeria has been going through challenges just like any other growing nation. And the government is trying its best to overcome the challenges. Such challenges should bring about purposeful leadership and the best in every one rather than frustrations. This is noteworthy considering that order, justice, liberty, peace, common decency and prosperity for all, are never natural order of things but attained through ceaseless hardwork by both leaders and the led.
This government inherited many of these challenges and there was even prediction by some group in America that the country would reach a tipping point by 2015, and the government promised to tame some of the challenges. The government is now three and half years old, it is therefore left for fair minded and public spirited Nigerians to do the fact-check and know whether the fight against Boko Haram has yielded positive results by way of reduction of spread and frequency of attacks or not, whether killing of high profile Nigerians has reduced or not compared to the past or not, as well as noting whether there are consciously directed efforts to tame kidnapping and killings by gunmen compared to the past or not. The records should inform judgement of Nigerian voters during elections.
I say so because challenges are natural concomitant of mechanism of community living. And that explains why there are still reports of killings by gunmen in developed democracies, including America that is 241 years old, and the fact that people rate their leaders on the basis of effectiveness of consciously directed efforts at overcoming the challenges. Nigerians should use the records for informed judgement during elections.
How worried are you that Nigeria is rated as the 3rd world most terrorised country?
Whatever level of worries does not result in wiping away terrorism in Nigeria but what is required has to do with consciously directed efforts to reduce the challenges substantially. I have stated that these challenges predate this regime, which promised to tame them. Whether Nigeria is number one, number two or number three among terrorist nations is beside the point. It is the efforts by the government at taming the menace that should concern most Nigerians as to whether there are notable improvements or not.
There is no doubt that there is economic hardship in the land, and people are blaming it on bad leadership. What do you think is the way out because some people have already concluded to vote out President Buhari in 2019 as the only way to solve the problem of hardship?
The complaints by Nigerians of failure of leadership is not new. Even developed countries complain of failure of leadership. This is precisely because however developed a country is, there would still be people who would suffer from poverty, since no nation can wipe out poverty completely. Recall the import of what Jesus Christ told Judas that “the poor would always be with you”. And that is why multi party democracies provide for people to retain performing leadership and vote out feckless leaders at specified periods.
This government inherited an economy that was in shambles that made the president to admit he almost considered abdication. The recession was foretold by the trio of Soludo, Sanusi and Ngozi Iweala which explained the setting in of the recession in the third quarter of 2015.
The government has exited the recession and trying to diversify the economy starting from agriculture and solid minerals. These cannot be a day’s job. But it is left to Nigerians to decide whether the efforts have yielded enough improvement over those of the past or not.
Leader of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Professor Ango Abdullahi and Chairman, Northern Elders Council (NEC), Ahaji Tanko Yakassai have reportedly and respectively kicked against the re-election of President Buhari. These are founding members of ACF and elder statesmen who are supposed to stand firmly with ACF. Do you think ACF membership will ever be the same again?
I hope you are aware of the fact that the two groups of Northern Elders Forum and Northern Elders Council were formed because they thought ACF was not politically partisan enough. ACF has been political on issues most northerners share but not partisan. This is because membership of ACF cuts across partisan lines, and any partisan disposition on the part of ACF would be counter productive. More so that the North is hardly one when it comes to partisan politics right from first republic through second republic to the current dispensation. And given the nature of partisan politics, you may wish to note that NEF is in factions where the one led by Alhaji Sani Zango Daura, Paul Talfa and co have endorsed President Buhari while Ango’s faction has passed vote of no confidence on the present regime.
What is more, most members of other fora and platforms in the North belong to ACF which serves as umbrella body. For example, Prof Ango has been a member of ACF and contested Chairman of NEC with Coomasie and was later made the chairman of the ACF’s political committee. It is not long ago that we started hearing him declaring ACF a rival of his Northern Elders Forum. Alhaji Tanko Yakassai has not resigned his membership of BoT of ACF. He has even resigned from partisan politics. I am therefore sanguine that after the topsy-turvy of the electioneering campaigns and temper comes down, most of them will be active members of ACF again. There is no cause for alarm. What has happened is a result of nature of partisan politics.
There are reports that a bill for change from presidential system of government is being considered in the National Assembly. What is your take on it?
I am not sure if the problems of this country have something to do with structure of the country or form of government. This is because we have tried the parliamentary system during the first republic and jettisoned it as feckless. We tried military dictatorship and said it was aberration, and now we are trying the presidential system, which we say is expensive. But when we consider the fact that all these models have worked in some other climes, then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that our problems are inability to manage our national resources prudently and not structure or form of government. See how Lagos state is performing creditably under the same structure and form of government, which some groups believe are not workable. I am therefore more in favour of effective and efficient management of our national resources which come with integrity and credibility devoid of corrupt practices that have collapsed our national ideals, moral values and of our sense of what is right and what is evil.
What is your view about the effect of the president’s refusal to sign the amended electoral bill on the coming elections?
The President has his own reasons for withholding his assent to the bill, one of which is the time factor that does not allow for proficiencies in exclusive use of electronic voting that include electronic transmission of results amid prevalent hacking. He would prefer there is enough time for INEC to master exclusive electronic voting before it is put to use, which cannot happen now. He seems to have a case there. The President also does not want fusion of votes of political parties that have not merged. He may want political parties to merge and promote true multiparty democracies based on distinct manifestos as against the current practice that are devoid of ideology that inspire defections.
Other areas of concern is ECOWAS protocol which does not make for any amendment less than 90 days to the day of the elections.
And so, given those observations and the fact that the current electoral act sired by opposition PDP which claims credible elections in 2015, I think there should be no qualm for its use in 2019. But if wishes were horses, I would have preferred a situation where the two arms of government should come together and single out the card reader for inclusion in the electoral act. This is because INEC has already mastered the use of card reader and the only draw back is its lack of legalization.
What was your reaction to Gov El-Rufai’s committee’s recommendations to the ruling party on restructuring?
Though Governor El-Rufai is a member of Northern States Governors Forum, a member of the ruling party and may have the ears of the President, I do not think the committee consulted the North on this serious issues of far reaching reforms of the polity that include recommendations for resource control, scrapping of local government, merger of some states and introduction of state police. That report cannot be outcome of consultations across the North. This is because the term restructuring means different things to different people, and those who want restructuring that will allow different sections to develop at different pace are those who want unbridled inequality to push the country to a tipping point. (The Sun)
A National Executive Committee member of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mohammed Abdulrahman, tells TOBI AWORINDE that President Muhammadu Buhari may not achieve balance in the appointments of his security chiefs before the 2019 elections
What do you think of the predominance of northerners among the security chiefs in the country as we approach the election year?
The 2019 elections will be inconclusive because the blood flowing in Nigeria is beyond what God permits. God does not even permit blood flow. Nobody has a power to destroy His creation. People are losing their lives every day in Nigeria to the extent that America, England, Europe and other countries are saying the bloodletting should stop. It is unfortunate that all these are happening in a country where we are supposed to be the strongest force among the African peacekeeping forces. Even on social media, they are wasting their time, watching and monitoring what people say. Is leadership about that? Has what you hear people discuss got anything to do with good eldership? It will never help them. They are spending billions on what will not help the common man. God gave Buhari the Presidency but removed his ability to watch whether he is going to serve the common man or not because that is what God brought him to do – to change the face of Nigeria, reposition Nigeria in Africa. But instead of repositioning Nigeria, they made the situation worse.
So, the appointment of security chiefs from one section of the country and the heavy spending on security payments can never save Nigeria form insecurity.
He is not God. He is a human being like all of us. He cannot use power and security to break people. He has left the issue of leadership, but God is going to intervene. We all have to be patient.
What do you think of the ethnic composition of the appointments of Buhari’s service chiefs in particular?
That is what I am telling you. It was done to create the conquering of other tribes in Nigeria. But Nigeria has about 370 tribes. They are the owners of Nigeria, not the northerners; every Nigerian — Yoruba, Igbo or Ijaw — owns Nigeria. Mark my words: no human being has the capacity to chain them. War does not knock on the door. It triggers intolerance and impunity, which are happening now. If they put the entire security outfits in (the hands of) one ethnic group, just watch what God is going to do about it.
Do you think Buhari can reshuffle the appointments before the elections?
Think about it. You know Buhari’s antecedent since his first coming as a military head of state. The National Security Organisation was very powerful because it was a military outfit. Nothing happened in government without the NSO. That’s where I was. Even if he (Buhari) makes the whole security outfit from his house, it cannot change anything. It’s now in God’s hands. The Igbo have known that there can never be Igbo presidency in Buhari’s time. All these things we are watching are part of God’s intervention. He (Buhari) can never change his cabinet. Even if he changes it, it is cosmetic with no desire to move Nigeria forward, but to deceive Nigerians. And if we’re talking about deceit, well, you know very well the credentials of this government as far as deceit is concerned. (Punch)
The apex northern socio-cultural organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, (ACF) yesterday disclosed that as the umbrella body of all nongovernmental groups in the region, only it can decide the fate of President Mohammadu Buhari in next year’s presidential elections. The group also said all those speaking on the performance of the president and his chances were on their own.
The ACF National Chairman, Ibrahim Coomasie, a retired Inspector General of Police, told New Telegraph in an exclusive interview from his base in Katsina that Nigerians should wait for the voice of the ACF, insisting that all those speaking “are on their own.” According to him: “In 2015, I was the champion of the whole process.
We said that leadership must come back to the north and we said that any party that nominated a northerner, we would support the person and the party. Then APC nominated President Buhari and then I came out to say that we would support him and we did support him”. The former Inspector General of Police noted that they are waiting for the political parties to nominate their candidates before ACF will speak and give direction to the north on which way to go. “So, it is now left to him and his political party. So, let us wait and see. Because until his political party decides to give him the ticket or not, it is too early to say what will happen or not. If his party decides to renominate him, then we can talk”.
On the vote of no confidence passed on the President by some northern groups, the ACF chairman said: “Those groups are on their own, and that is why ACF issued a rejoinder to that effect. So, ACF is standing by that rejoinder.” He also questioned why they should rate the president low and question his chances, saying “for what are they, the Alpha and Omega? ACF is the Umbrella organisation for all northern groups and organisations. So, you have to wait until ACF talks”. Coomassie added: “Even though it is too early for me to comment on President Buhari’s re-election bid, let me say that it is his constitutional right to contest for the presidency of this country just like he did in 2015.
“He has the right to contest and nobody can stop him. If you remember, former President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to stop him and we said it was wrong for Obasanjo to stop him and he should not. Let us leave the man to decide for himself and he has now decided that he wants to contest. “In 2015, it was after the APC gave him the ticket that we came out to talk. And we decided to support him. But for now, the time is too early”. On the president’s performance, he said: “President Buhari has done very well in office. He has fulfilled the promises he made to the people.
On the insurgency front, he has controlled it. He talked about corruption and he is fighting it. Nobody else has fought corruption the way he has done. On the economy, his performance is not bad. So, I can say he is a good president, just that he inherited a bad situation.” “Those that are saying that the president has not performed are on their own”, he said. (New Telegraph)
Indications emerged on Thursday that members of the Arewa Consultative Forum were divided over the candidature of President Muhammadu Buhari for the 2019 presidential election.
A key member of the forum and leader of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, and 17 other northern groups at a summit on Saturday had passed a vote of no confidence in Buhari, noting that the President and other politicians from the region had failed the North.
Abdullahi, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was the convener of the summit held at the Sir Ahmadu Bello, Arewa House, Kaduna.
Signatories to a communique at the meeting which lasted several hours included Abdullahi, who is the Chairman, ACF Political Committee and Convener, Northern Elders Forum; Dr. Yima Sen, (Northern Elders Forum); Ambassador Ibrahim Mai Sule, ACF; Mr. Bello Suleiman, (CODE Group); Mataimaki Tom Maiyashi, (Arewa Research Development Project); Zannah Hassan Boguma, (Borno Elders Forum); Nafiu Baba-Ahmed, (Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria); and Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame (Northern Union).
Others are Alhaji Yerima Shettima, (Arewa Youth Consultative Forum); Pastor Aminchi Habu,(United Christian Leaders Eagle Eye Forum); Balarabe Rufai, (Coalition of Northern Groups); Isa Tijjani Labour, (Veterans Association); Rev. Bitrus Dangiwa, (CAN Northern chapter); Umar Ahmed (Zaria Jama’atu Nasiril Islam); Alhaji Buba Adamah, (Arewa People Unity Association); Hassan El-Adamu, (Arewa Initiative For Good Governance); Abdulazeez Suleiman, (Northern Emancipation Network); and Bilkisu Oniyangi, (Arewa Initiative for Good Governance).
Abdullahi, who is also the Chairman, Political Committee of the ACF, and another staunch member of the forum, Ambassador Ibrahim Mai-Sule, signed for the pan-northern socio-political group.
Also, the groups added that they were searching for a credible candidate to replace Buhari in 2019.
But on Thursday, the ACF distanced itself from the members who signed the communique passing a vote of no confidence in President Buhari and other politicians from the region.
“They were rattled by the development, the ACF not wanting its image to be dented, hurriedly met on Tuesday to disown the purported vote of no confidence passed in the President. Many members don’t actually like the President but would not want to stampede him out of office because he is a northerner,” a source told our correspondent.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Alhaji Muhammad Biu, in a statement on Thursday in Kaduna, said the northern body had yet to decide on its candidate for the presidential poll in 2019, noting that at the appropriate time, the North would tell Nigerians who the forum’s candidate would be.
Biu said, “The attention of the Arewa Consultative Forum has been drawn to the communique of the Northern Groups Summit held at the Arewa House, Kaduna, on Saturday, March 24, 2018, where the ACF was said to be a signatory to the communique.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the ACF would want to state clearly that it was never involved in the preparation nor participated in the said summit of that group and did not mandate any of its members to represent the forum.
“The ACF acknowledges the right of the individuals or groups to freedom of association as enshrined in our constitution. Any member who claimed to have represented the ACF or signed on behalf of the forum did so on his own.” (Punch)
The Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum and member of the National Executive Committee, NEC, Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman has expressed anger that some people are clamouring for President Muhammadu Buhari’s return in 2019.
Abdulrahman told Sun that, “We must not lose sight of the fact that it was an alliance that brought him in.
He further said that Nigeria will crash because of North’s supremacy and any attempt by Buhari to hold on to power will be disastrous.
Noting that President Buhari came to power through an alliance with the South, he said the agreement must be respected, adding that Nigeria does not belong to the North alone.
He added, “The North and Buhari must get serious and behave themselves. Nigeria does not belong to the North because if you maintain the position, grandstanding that the North is powerful in Nigeria, you are wasting your time and Nigeria would collapse and crash.
“Why is the North asking for eight years? It is because of incapability to put in a leader. After Buhari, the best is Buhari. I am telling you now; go and write it down.
“The best the North can ever offer is Buhari. He failed three times woefully until the South West came and they had an alliance. Why are they trying to abuse that alliance?
“Four years is enough for the North. Let us respect each other.”
He said 2019 is not for Buhari and CPC but for the south-west and ACN.
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)
Former Special Adviser on Politics to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and convener of Arewa Research and Development Project, Dr Usman Bugaje, has said that the North would soon take a stand on restructuring based on research and consensus rather than on emotion and selfish interest.
Bugaje, in a statement issued, on Sunday, further noted that it was time for the North, as a bloc, to rise above the seeming confusion occasioned by the contentious nature the debate over restructuring had assumed in recent times, and present a “more rational position,” on the issue.
According to Bugaje, “In the last one year, or so, ‘Restructuring’ and ‘True Federalism’ have dominated political discourse in Nigeria. Unfortunately, when you listen to the speeches and read the articles on these issues, you will find out that there are as many comprehensions of these terms as there are people speaking or writing. Besides, most of the discussions seem to ignore the history of the evolution of our federalism and this failure has actually helped to rob the whole exercise of its propriety, accuracy and clarity.”
He further said though citizens were at liberty to canvass for restructuring, their use of vague terms and imprecise arguments had not only resulted in communication breakdown but have helped to spread confusion and generate unnecessary tension in the polity.
To this end, Bugaje said the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), would hold a two-day conference in Kaduna, this Wednesday, to help bring clarity, accuracy and coherence into the debate as well as provide a sound basis upon which the north would anchor its position on restructuring.
He said the planning committee of the conference drew heavily from Northern academic institutions and Northern organizations like the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation, Code Group, Northern Delegates Forum, Northern Re-awakening, JamiyyarMatanArewa and Arewa Initiative for Good Governance, among others.
“This conference seeks to blend academic presentations with realpolitik,” he said, adding that “while academics and experts will lead with papers, a panel of practitioners will discuss the issues extensively. The audience will also be given a chance to raise issues and make their inputs into the discussions.
“Some of the key papers will be on the historicity of the Nigerian federation; an examination of the constitutional developments in pre- and post-colonial Nigeria; and the dangers of war, the dynamics of peace. Others will look at the principles of fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; the land question and the development agenda of the North. In the afternoon of both two days a panel of experts will focus on these presentations and bring the practical dimensions to the fore while the audience gets a chance to make their inputs,” Bugaje said. (The Sun)
Arewa Consultative Forum Secretary -General, Anthony Sani
From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Anthony Sani is the Secretary-General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). In this interview on the country’s 57th independence anniversary celebration, Sani said there are strong negative issues that have set the country at war with itself.
But he added that as it was common with all journeys, adding that the country has experienced both negative and positive sides of life. “There have been successes here and there just as there has been a failure here and there,” Sani, declared.
He also spoke on the north and 2019 and other issues of national interest.
Nigeria is 57, how has the journey been so far?
As it is common with all journeys, our own has experienced ebb and flow of life. There have been successes here and there just as there has been a failure here and there. After all, all mechanism of community living is expected to make allowance for freak and vicissitudes of life.
What are the challenges facing us so far as a nation?
There have been many challenges in the process of nation-building. We have experienced a civil war and challenges associated with socioeconomic development in the areas of education that is characterized by poor standard and enrollment. As a result, there are still over one million applicants in need of admission to higher institutions per year. There are also reports that about 10m children are out of school. This is very upsetting if not revolting.
The agricultural system is still rudimentary and not developed, while the power sector is not at par with countries you can say are our peers. The nation is yet to add value to our primary commodities because our industries are inchoate. That may explain why we still have problems associated with grazing of life stock since ranches seem to be beyond the reach of livestock farmers.
When you go to the health sector, the story is the same. We still have high infant and maternal mortality rates, low lifespan due to the prevalence of communicable diseases that are treatable. That explains the topsy-turvy in the polity.
We also have challenges of the unity of the country largely due to our diversity in ethnicity and religion. And because of limited resources and capacity, those charged with distribution of the kola nut do not seem to have fingernails for the kola nut to go round. Hence, the high poverty rate that comes with unemployment that has made some people like to promote cleavage of the nation along ethnic and religious lines.
Today, we have elbow-throwing grievance groups who toil day and night for government preferment. Those who feel corruption has stolen their empowerment, their opportunity and their future have decided to fight the society. As a result, the nation is at war with itself as symbolised by terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, clashes between herdsmen and settled farming communities, cattle rustling, ritual killings and baby factory.
Yet it is not all gloom. If you take a look at the number of educational institutions, health institutions, infrastructural development and number of regions at independence and compare with number of states now that include movement of capital from Lagos to Abuja, then you would hardly avoid the conclusion that though the pace of our development has been slow compared to those of our peers, we should count our blessings one by one.
Have Nigerians learnt their lessons from these challenges, and how can we overcome them?
Nigerians have learnt from those challenges, however slow. But in some cases, we have not learnt our lessons. In a way, the activities of Boko Haram suggest Nigerians have not learnt from the past. But in some other way, one can say Nigerians have learnt some lessons, considering that most Nigerians are not supportive of the split of the country as symbolised by sturdy opposition to activities of IPOB under the watch of Kanu.
Are those factors that bind us together as a country still there?
The factors which bind us together are very much around amid centrifugal forces here and there. Consider the relative pluralism that comes with urbanization and interethnic marriages which clearly show that it is possible for us to make the most of our God-given diversity by working hard to overcome what divide the people.
We all know that the certain benefits of our togetherness in a large country with big population are by far more than the uncertain gains of the split of the country. Nigerians know that the good things of life are never the natural order of things, but are often attained through hard work by purposeful leadership and the better of everyone. All that is required is for us to come to terms with reality and resolve to overcome the challenges through consciously directed efforts to make desires possible and then actual. Our situation is not beyond redemption.
Why is the country not sufficient in food production as we have seen in recent past?
Nigeria has not been self-sufficient as was the case 57 years ago for two or three reasons. The population has grown without the commensurate improvement in the effort at modernisation of agriculture. The second reason is that Nigeria is a TRUST FUND STATE which has been made possible by oil wealth that does not result from hard work. What is more, unbridled corruption has stifled diversification of the economy away from oil precisely because money of low utility tends to drive away the money of high utility.
Considering the various shades of agitations in the country, do you think this independence anniversary is worth celebrating?
There is no country without challenges. Otherwise, there would be no need for government. So there is a need for celebration of the 57th Anniversary, indeed every anniversary. This is because we now have the freedom that goes with our democracy that would enable Nigerians to make judicious use of their democratic rights and make sure their votes count so that the ensuing leaders would be accountable to the people.
Some Nigerians are calling for sober celebration, do you agree with them?
All celebrations are expected to be sober and introspective. This is because one should use such celebration and assess progress against plans for the purpose of effecting corrections or improvements. Let Nigerians come together and unleash their synergistic potential against collective challenges for common good.
Recently, a fellow northerner, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to be precise, said northerners were opposed to restructuring because they are lazy. What is your take on that?
I would believe the former Vice President Atiku has his own reasons for saying that the North opposes restructuring because northerners are lazy. I do not share such views. You would recall we (ACF) have said that because restructuring means different things to different groups, we are unable to make an informed decision on the subject matter. This is because there are those clamouring for true federalism, some others for fiscal federalism and some groups hanker for resource control. Yet we have those who tout resource ownership.
It is against such backdrop that the Northern States Governors Forum has set up a committee to collate the opinions of stakeholders across the north with a view to informing their position on restructuring for the north. My dear, I do not see the wisdom in all the talks about restructuring by some elites, as if they do not know how democracy works.
I believe we should let those political parties which wish to restructure the country by way of far-reaching Reforms of the polity to reflect such reforms in their party manifestos and campaigns for the mandate needed for implementation. I think it is undemocratic and morally preposterous to demand a restructuring of the country based on recommendations by unelected platforms or individuals. Let political parties do their job democratically for larger interest.
It is about two years to another presidential election, but plans are already on to stop President Buhari from running. What is your take on that?
I see no problem posed to our democracy if some aspirants decide to contest the primaries within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), against President Buhari. Also, we see no threat to northern interest or to our democracy should other political parties decide to field northerners as candidates against President Buhari.
You would note the north has never been one when it comes to partisan politics. We are one in terms of only values all northerners share. That was why there were NPC, NEPU and UMBC in the north during the first republic. That was also why there were NPN, PRP and GNPP in the north in the second republic. So, if President Buhari decides to re-contest in 2019 and some aspirants decide to challenge him, I do not expect APC to mimic PDP by printing only one nomination form.
I expect the party to allow democracy to take its course. If President Buhari could defeat other aspirants in 2015 on the basis of hope, it should not be difficult for him now that he has something to show. (The Sun)
•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)