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2019 Election: Decision On Buhari Not Yet Made, Says Arewa Consultative Forum |RN

By Baba Negedu

 

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President Muhammadu Buhari

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)

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We’ve Nothing To Do With Buhari’s Rejection By Northern Groups, Says ACF |RN

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                                        President Muhammadu Buhari

Godwin Isenyo, Kaduna

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)

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2019: The North, Buhari Should Behave Themselves, Nigeria Does Not Belong To The North, Says ACF Scribe, Mohammed |RN

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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.

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Call For Break-Up: Northern Elders, Arewa Youths, ACF, Disown Ango Abdullahi

 

Prof.-Ango-Abdullahi

Prof/ Ango Abdullahi

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)

 

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Restructuring: North Will Take Rational Position Soon, Says Usman Bugaje |RN

Usman-Bugaje

Dr Usman Bugaje

…To hold conference in Kaduna Wednesday

From: Ismail Omipidan

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)

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Nigeria At War With Itself At 57 – ACF Scribe |The Republican News

 

Anthony-Sani

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)

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No Automatic Ticket For Buhari In 2019, Says Ango Abdullahi |The Republican News

Prof.-Ango-Abdullahi                       Ango Abdullahi, Northern Elders spokesman

•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 ABDULLAHI  HASSAN 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 students  of 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, including  the human capital, I will say that Nigeria failed to achieved  the 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 are  India, in 1948  and 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 score  them high, going  by my marking scheme. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, with all his colleagues in his cabinet did well for the independence government; Chief Obafemi Awolowo for the  South 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 you  did 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 managing  their resources well. They had nothing to depend on except revenue generation mostly from tax and agriculture, being the main export product that  earned the country a lot of foreign exchange. In fact, 75 per cent of total revenue came from agriculture. For those of us now who  witnessed and were beneficiaries of that government, the current state of things is regrettable. For example, I went to  elementary school free, Middle School free and university free.. those were things  enjoyed 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 provided  secondary schools in each of the  provinces in the North,  as well as Teachers Colleges and vocational training centres. He  established Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria  in 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 continued  to yield positive results… Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s regime invited most of the products of the First Republic to  serve 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 Planning  under 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 , directors  were 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 . This  is the major  mistake  that 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 corruption  and  lack 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 the  boots 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 as  the 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 Buhari  has failed Nigerians?

    You see, the problem is the system.  Buhari may be a good person; he could be a gentleman who  wants 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 many  hurdles and checkpoints at the National Assembly and his party before he can execute anything meaningful, and all these squabbles are not based on principle but  personal interests, either at party level or at constituency  or at the level of the judiciary.  All this really will make it  impossible for a good person or committed  person to operate effectively in this country in the manner which will accelerate development.  Perhaps,  you might ask the question if  we 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 observation  two years ago and I came under much fire from the corridors of power but I’m here again criticizing. I have so far been vindicated  in 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 who  felt 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 changed  the party chairmen about three or four times. If you want to maintain your position you have to go and vow before  Obasanjo 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, which  he 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 point  of  contesting or  quitting 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 you  contest elections and lose, and this is happening in many states now, those who contested for governor became enemies  of 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 the  North, and where do we place the aspirations of others like  Kwankwaso , Lamido, Tambuwal, etc?

No, no, you see the fact that Buhari is incumbent does not automatically confer on him  the candidature of the party in the next election if  there 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 will  welcome competition in my party. This is an opening for democracy in my party and I will ask  people to come and test their popularity. If he has done well, people will re-elect him. This is a confirmation he has  done 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, governor  or president. In direct primaries, all parties have chance to come, cue and vote or elect any person of their choice. But the current  delegate 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 no  basis 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 emerged  and was chosen by their wishes and support. That is the most important thing. In the case of Buhari, he  had 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 election  comes, voters will ultimately decide party’s decision. My support or non support for Buhari does not matter, our concern is for the system to be  sanitized.

The Yoruba nation unanimously and unequivocally stated last week  its position on  restructuring, 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 who  believe  that 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 no  true  government. 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 appeared  incompatible, 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 of  our 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 Nigeria  said it was not ready  in 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 theirs  in 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 Yoruba  is 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 regions  in the past had a constitution. If we are going back to that, then we must take  each region  to  have its constitution. It’s also  good 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,  or  there should be amendments in the 1960 constitution, or  there 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 back  decide for  themselves 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 consider  all these Kanu’s  saga 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 , nobody  uttered 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 for  more than hundred years? We can see from this saga that there is a lot of pending issues on  Nigeria’s unity. If this problem is still lingering, then you cannot say Nigeria’s unity is settled,  this word is Utopian. Settling  the 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 the  celebration of  independence 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 we  come 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 Clark  made a similar observation and requested you all to come and resolve  your 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 over  and  Nigeria’s unity is settled. We in the Northern Elders Forum have agreed that we  are ready to engage in dialogue with anybody that will solve Nigeria’s problems.  (The Sun)

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