Mouthpiece of Northern Nigeria, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has expressed support for the call of the Southern Governors to ban open grazing of cattle.
ACF Chairman and immediate past Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe in a statement on Monday said, “the ACF does not see any reason to object to a decision taken in the best interest of all.”
According to him, “the fact of the matter is that, the crisis emanates from the belief by most herdsmen that they are free to enter any farm, eat up the crops and rape or kill any one raising objections. Nobody or society can accept that.
“The current high price of garri is one obvious reason of this behavior. Few cassava farms cannot grow to maturity before it is harvested by the farmers. So, food security is already being threatened.”
Chief Ogbe however said there is the need to advise the governors in all states not to think that merely banning open grazing will end the crisis, stressing that “The bulk of the violent herders are the ones marching in from neighboring African countries in large numbers, thousands at a time and showing no regards to boundaries whether State or regional. They have to be stopped.
“Therefore the Umar Abdullahi Ganduje formula must be adopted to stop the entry into Nigeria of cattle from West Africa. The solution is for Nigeria to seek an amendment to Article 3 of the ECOWAS protocol especially as regards the free movement of cattle and other livestock without special permits.
“If this is done, we have over 5 million hectares of land in old grazing reserves left, enough to accommodate over 40 million cows if well grassed and watered.
“Northern governors should immediately look into this and see the viability. Within those spaces, ranches can be developed for lease to Nigerian herders so that this matter can be brought to an end. Thereafter any herders found roaming can be penalized.
“Our ECOWAS neighbours can find ways to deal with their own issues the way they deem fit. We can seek support from AFDB, the World Bank EU or the Kuwait Fund or any source willing to support us in resolving this problem. Hurling abuses, trading suspicion and threatening warfare as is currently the trend will only produce grief and disaster,” he stressed
That Nigeria is more divided today than ever before is no longer news. It is already manifesting with the North Central geopolitical zone that appear set to break away and seeking self-actualization from the core north. The North Central had been lackadaisical about its own identity while it tagged along the north as an appendage, as though there was an agreement to continue playing second fiddle.
The zone has always been useful in giving the north needed numerical, bargaining strength when it comes to dividing the spoils of national resource. Now, it seems the north is unraveling, with things falling apart for Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), as prominent leaders from Nigeria’s North Central zone recently decided to take their destiny in their own hands to opt out of the northern grouping.
They cited worsening insecurity in northern Nigeria as major reason. The leaders said the forum would also be deployed to tackle socio-economic marginalization the region suffers. The announcement of the birth of North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF) means that the zone is finally breaking away from the stranglehold of the core north.
In recent times, there have been unspoken feelings of disenchantment by the majority in the zone. Unlike the other five geopolitical zones in the country that enjoy consanguinity, the North Central has been tied to the apron strings of the north to the detriment of its development. While other zones have in place their common socio-political and economic platforms, where they meet to discuss their strength and weaknesses with a view to promoting development, the North Central, on the other hand, has been at the mercy of larger north.
Thus, with a feeling of being taken for a ride for too long, the leaders have finally realised the ACF cannot champion the region’s cause. Forming a platform for such purposes became a necessity for the six states that make up the North Central geopolitical zone.
For the new leaders of NCPF, the zone is like the weeping child of the north and the federation. It has faced the worst security challenges occasioned by unprovoked aggression from herdsmen within and outside the larger north. The devastating result has been the destruction of their farmlands, killings and maiming of their citizens, kidnappings and all forms of criminality. Also, there’s the sudden realisation that the zone is the most under-developed despite its contributions to the development of the country.
Weighed down by these challenges, the North Central would seem to have woken up from its long slumber. It is now searching for its soul and identity and the right leadership to champion its embattled people. Remaining with the core north, in their reckoning, would mean a gradual extermination before they realised it.
However, there seems to be some mix up between the new NCPF and another splinter group in the region, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) that has been in existence for decades. While the NCPF is made up of Kogi, Nassarawa, Niger, Kwara, Plateau, and Benue States, membership of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) seems geographically indeterminate. One of the questions agitating many is, which states qualify to be Middle Belt Forum?
From tabulated and web sources, locations and regions which have been categorised as constituting the Middle Belt include the conventional North Central states – Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This is in addition to a number of Christian-dominated sub-regions in some North Eastern and North Western states such as Southern parts of Kaduna Taraba, Kebbi (Zuru), Adamawa (Numan), Gombe, Bauchi, Yobe, and Bornu States.
Thus, contrary to popularly held notion and flowing from the above knowledge, the ‘middle-belt’ appears to lack designated physical ‘borders’, being more of a category that is characterised by heterogeneity and diversity of its ‘peoples’ in terms of ethnicity, religion and culture.
What the Middle Belt, however, has in common is the ‘minority’ factor of tribes and religion. And this is unaltered regardless of the significant presence of other majority tribes and religions within these regions such as the Kanuri or Hausa/Fulani and Islam.
However, this would seem a strange way of identifying a people. While the term ‘Middle Belt’ has been in existence and in use since the 1950s pre-independence Nigeria (the defunct United Middle Belt Congress – UMBC, led by Joseph Tarka), the term ‘North Central’ (states) as a region, however, came into existence in the 1990s under the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime.
The question then is: why wasn’t the region accurately named ‘Middle Belt’ region when the six geopolitical zones were delineated? Was it omitted to actualise a ‘one big north’ agenda?
While addressing journalists in Abuja on the matter, the group said in spite of the abundant mineral and human resources in the zone, the North Central was bedevilled by vices like herdsmen’s aggression, kidnapping, banditry and other forms of criminality.
The new North Central group is being led by a former Minister of State for Health, Gabriel Aduku as its interim chairman. A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Jerry Useni, former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, former Military Administrator of Kwara State, Col. David Bamigboye (rtd), and former Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Olusola Akanmode, are also listed as members.
Others are the Publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah, former Nigeria Ambassador to South Africa, Ahmed Ibeto, media consultant, Alhaji Tajudeen Kareem, former Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Stephen Lawani, and Alhaji Alfa Mohammed.
Useni told journalists that the existence of similar groups in other parts of the country had given rise to group affinity and solidarity among the states in a particular geopolitical zone to canvass things of common interest.
He expressed confidence that the forum would unite the people of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, and the Federal Capital Territory in their quest to ensure that peace and stability was established and sustained within the zone. He added that the forum would pursue rapid industrialisation across all nooks and crannies of the zone.
He also said the group would pursue policies and processes that would ensure that the zone’s massive solid mineral and agricultural endowments were adequately harnessed.
He said, “The forum is also aimed at ensuring cooperation and support for the good policies and administration of the six governors of the zone, irrespective of our political, religious and ethnic differences.
“We will support and cooperate fully with the Federal Government for full and complete implementation of infrastructure and development projects situated in the zone and the involvement of the people of the zone in the national affairs of the country.
“We will promote, defend and strengthen North Central unity and the interest of its people in the context of one indivisible Nigeria and to contribute to the safeguarding of her territorial integrity. Consequently, every zone now has a common socio-political platform where they meet to discuss their strength and weakness with the view to propounding and promoting progress and development of the zone.”
FOR the newly formed NCPF, however, many contradictions abound. The current ACF chairman and former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, hails from North Central zone.
When contacted on the new body, Ogbeh said his being the leader of ACF was not something he bargained for, stating, “When I was made chairman, I wasn’t even there. They met in Kaduna and decided it; I didn’t even know. On the other hand, there were people within ACF, who wanted to be chairman, but they were not picked. It took me about one month to even accept.
“After leaving office, I have been concentrating on my farm. I said, ‘fine, I accepted.’ Having said that, I had no issues with the emergence of the North Central Peoples Forum. It is not an issue with us in ACF. I mean, this is a democracy and people should be free to associate as convenient and expedient to their needs in a particular area.”
He said the idea of ACF, which is 20 years old, came when they saw decline happening in the North. Ogbeh said ACF came to bring the North together to speak with one voice, to pressurise government and get things done. According to him, the other reason was to keep the North unified so as to minimise the conflict of religion and ethnicity and manage the diversity, saying there are close 300 ethnic groups in the north.
According to him: “In the First Republic, the Sardauna was here; he was not a biased man in the line of religion or politics. I can tell you a story about Cardinal John Onayekan. We were schoolmates at St. Michael Aliade. When school certificate results came out in 1962, we were in form one, he was in form five. He had the best result in West Africa, with nine distinctions.
“Guess who wanted to see him quickly? The Sardauna sent for him and asked him whether he wanted to go to Oxford or Cambridge. John said he wanted to be a priest. The Sardauna said, ‘that was okay but if you change your mind you have the scholarship.’
“John said, ‘no he wanted to be a priest.’ Then Ahmadu Bello visited my school in 1963 on his way to the Sardauna’s province. He gave us a gift of two cows and praised our school for having put Northern Nigeria on the educational map of Nigeria.
Ogbeh said when those good men died and the region was split into states and military rule came in, religious sensitivity began to rise and the economy, particularly agriculture, began to decline. He indicated that the native authorities, which played a major role then in developing the region, started declining and dying when civilian rule came.
“The native authorities became totally irrelevant,” Ogbeh said. “As at today, hardship has set in. We were not growing, but we are not paying taxes anymore.
“In those days, once you are of a voting age you have to pay tax. If you don’t pay, they would make you miserable in front of your wife and children. Suddenly, the economy started dying, religious and ethnic sensitivity started growing and you kept hearing of marginalisation.”
He admitted that there were instances where a government comes into power and the major appointments come from one ethnic area, which irritates people, especially sensitive positions. He said if the Northeast elites gather tomorrow and say their region has been bastardised by Boko Haram, that they like as a group to do something about it, “how can we quarrel about that? That is our position; we are not quarrelling.”
He said the North is a very large area that is hopelessly under-developed and facing severe crises, which he had warned about in 2005 at a lecture he gave in Kaduna to the same ACF, when late Chief Awoniyi, Abubakar Rimi, Adamu Ciroma invited him to give a talk.
According to him, “The topic was ‘The North and the future of Nigeria.’ I warned that there was going to be violence and chaos on a scale that had never been seen from looking at the economic and social development of the North. There were those who did not agree with me and there were others who said, ‘well, the North is not like that, we don’t behave that way.’ “But I saw it, because my worry was that for a very long time now since the end of the 1970s, the only industry in the North is either politics, the arms services or the civil service. Gone are the days when we had the industries in Kano and even in places like Benue; the Tilly Gyados of this world; in Jos the Danboyi Zangiel; Bakko Kantagora in Niger State, to mention but a few.”
SENATOR Alex Kadiri, who represented Kogi East Senatorial District under the banner of the All Peoples Party (APP) between 1999 and 2003, expressed caution regarding the formation of any new socio-political grouping in the zone.
According to him, “All the agitators used to be part of ACF. At a point, somebody like Jeremiah Useni became chairman of ACF. What drove them from ACF? They haven’t told us yet. Secondly, at my age if I am joining a group, I look through them. Whether we like it or not, there are people who have current mandates, whether legitimate or illegitimate acquisition of power, but they have mandate. Those of them like that from the Middle Belt, have they taken them into consideration in what they are doing?
“Or would they just exclude them because they are in government? Is Paullen Tallen part of what they are doing? She is a minister from Plateau. Is George Akume part of what they are doing? He is from Benue. Is Lai Mohammed part of what they are doing? Lai Muhammed is from Kwara. Gbemisola Saraki, is she part of what they are doing? Ramatu Tijani, is she part of what they are doing?
“They are not carrying people along and I want them to expand and carry Middle Belters along.
“Thirdly, where is the boundary of Middle Belt, because I know somebody from Borno State, who is very active in this Middle Belt Forum and he is somebody I respect very well and he knows. Dr. Bitrus Pogu is from Borno State and he is an active member of Middle Belt Forum. So, where is the boundary of Middle Belt?
“Finally, the promoters of this enterprise currently seem to be all Christians. Are Middle Belt people all Christians? Or is it another branch of CAN? These are my misgivings about this outfit.”
Another commentator, Mr. Isaac Adaji, said, “Even though we are not political, I want to say that it has come at the right time. We have agitated for this type of self-actualisation as North Central. The formation of this does not mean that we are not relating with other groups.
“It is for us to actually bring ourselves together, have a common voice and because we have a common history, common interest, we have many things we share at the North Central level.
“Not just the resources, our cultural heritage is so much in common that we can flow together. Additionally, we have seen that the development of the North Central has been too slow. It has been at snail’s speed compared to other regions that came together the time North Central came together. Even though we have contributed immensely to the development of Nigeria, development has not really come to us.
“It is always promises upon promises. If North Central is fully developed and all the resources are fully tapped, the country would not go borrowing. There are so many things in North Central, and if Nigeria has harnessed them properly, we won’t go borrowing. Apart from Ajaokuta, there are other things.” (The Guardian)
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)
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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)