I have a story to tell the North. I hope it receives it in good faith. I love the North. So I have decided to tell the North how his brother the South truly feels. The South loves the north but the South is getting fed up.
The truth may taste bitter but it sets free. I will throw away political correctness and let the North know how the South feels because the North has to sit up and shape up.
The South is getting fed up.
Today, it’s Boko Haram. Tomorrow it’s banditry. Yesterday, it was confounding mass illiteracy. And no mention has been made yet about the abiding mass obesity of the North.
Family resources are being wasted fighting useless fires!
The truth is, the South increasingly sees the North like a slothful temperamental brother that has stubbornly refused to go to school and has begun to keep the company of bad gangs.
So the North isn’t just a laid back family black sheep, it’s now the sort of black sheep that is bringing in wolves and troubles to impoverish and imperil the family.
And nothing rankles the South more than the fact that the North seems utterly oblivious of its predicaments and their toll on fortunes and future of the family. If the North understood the magnitude of its problems, its leaders will weep every day.
The South wants his brother the North to take out time and do some sober reflection in a pan Arewa village meeting. Their emirs, their generals, their billionaires, their Islamic clerics. So that the North can ask himself soul-searching questions about how he came to such a sorry pass.
Because nothing irritates the South more than the fact that the South sees the North, every day, chasing political shadows instead of chasing its children to school, instead of taking care of its ever-increasing number of young pregnant women.
The South is amused when he watches the North occupy himself, chasing population numbers, disfiguring meritocracy with the quota system and resisting power devolution instead of taking practical steps to save his children from poverty and illiteracy.
Yes, this is how the South feels. I know the North has things to tell the South too. It’s normal. But this is how the South feels.
The South is not an angel and the South is not without its own conspicuous sins. But the South can’t understand why a brother beset with so many crippling self-inflicted wounds could yet be so aloof, so arrogant, so enamoured of frivolity.
This is the North in the eyes of the South today: The picture of a backward brother in a poor family. The picture of a fat family liability.
I promised to tell the whole truth.
There is a feeling of disgust that seizes a brother when his own brother’s prodigal shortcomings and recklessness threatens to plunge the entire family into turmoil and shame. It solidifies into repugnance when rather than face his problems, perhaps, that brother takes more interest in claiming ‘firstsonship’ and talking about how his brother has lost respect for him. And rebuking sympathizers harshly, with reminders about groundnut pyramids and how he was once the prosperous one.
The truth is, the South has logged in its own eyes. The South might even suffer from bigotry. But it is indisputable that his brother’s slothfulness poses a more immediate calamity to the family.
The South wants the North to sit up and zip up. Yes, zip-up and stop breeding the way our great grandfathers ignorantly did when there was little else to do than marry and have children. The extended family lacks the resources to feed one hundred million children. And neighbours mock when our scrawny children go plate in hand begging for food.
The South wants the North to note how Fareed Zakaria painted Nigeria in glorious lights a couple of days ago. Nigeria has more percentage of PhD holders in America than China and the UK. Nigeria has a higher percentage of Bachelor’s degree holders in America than every other country. The CNN presenter told the world that Nigeria was rich in quality human resources.
That data is Nigeria’s but it is plainly the South’s. Because last year Zamfara with all its puritanism couldn’t get more than 20 students to write the National Common entrance Exams. It is indeed, an abomination. But have you seen any northern leader weep over this? Or call for a Jihad to fight educational backwardness and social injustice in the north?
So the South wants the North to produce only the children the North can feed and send them to good schools. The South doesn’t and can’t feel safe when his brother’s children rather than become doctors and lawyers are ending up in droves as angry street urchins.
The South doesn’t know how to say it, but he is fed up with the North dragging the family numbers down.
The South wants the North to see Boko Haram and banditry as wolves that can devour the entire family. The South wants the North to hold a village meeting and find a spiritual solution to the wolves. The South knows that his brother has a temper. But he is yet to see that temper unleashed on Boko Haram and banditry. He would like to see one Yerima or one Shinkafi stand up and issue a fatwa against Shekau and the insurgents. And follow it up by mobilizing 2 million volunteers into Borno. Because in actual sense the insurgents have blasphemed God and done incalculable damage to Islam.
The South knows the North loves Sharia. It doesn’t mind. But it wants the north to open the windows of its mind and excommunicate religious intolerance.
I’ve come to tell the North how the South feels. I didn’t come to mince words. The North must discard his pride and face his perilous reality. His farmlands are lying waste because of banditry while his children roam the streets with chronic malnutrition and preventable diseases.
Northern leaders can’t be frolicking in Abuja and Kaduna plotting 2023!
The South knows that it also has some rogues as leaders but it wants the North to stop scratching and smiling, and start treating, in earnest, the craw-craw of having about the worst set of leaders in a badly governed Africa.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, has given 48 hours ultimatum to the troops of the Nigerian Army to clear Boko Haram from reported captured areas of Borno State.
Marte, a local government in the troubled state was recently reported to have been attacked and taken over by Boko Haram.
Some communities in the state including Kirenowa, Kirta. Wulgo, Chikingudo in Marte and Ngala local government areas were reported to have a strong presence of the terrorist group.
The COAS who on Sunday addressed the troops of the Nigerian Army Super Camp 9, Dikwa gave the order that the insurgents should be cleared from the reported areas in the next 48 hours.
He said “areas around Marte, Chikingudu, Wulgo Kirenowa and Kirta must be cleared in the next 48 hours.”
The COAS who said he had spoken to the Theater Commander, and the General Officer Commanding 7 Division, told the troops that ”you must not let this nation down. Go back and do the needful and I will be right behind you.”
He told them: “You should be rest assured of all support you required in this very onerous task.”
The Army Chief equally said: ”You are aware of the recent attack on Dikwa and Marte, you should not allow this to happen again, go after them and clear these bastards”.
The COAS, who commended the efforts of the troops in the fight against Boko Haram, said: ”I am here to deliver the greetings of Mr. President and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buahri. I have spoken with your Commanders, we are going to provide you the equipment and weapons you need to end this war.
“We are also going to address the issue of over stay in the theatre. No more issue of over stay”.
The COAS while addressing the residents of Dikwa and those who fled during the recent onslaught on Marte, but now taking refuge in Dikwa, he said: ”I want to assure you that we are going to protect you, not only that we are going to clear Marte, Kirenuwa, Wulgo, Kirta and their environs. What we need from you is your cooperation and prayers.”
An Elderstateman and Afenifere Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, has explained that his grouse about the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is his insistence on the secession of the South-East region in the country.
Adebanjo said that breaking away is never a challenge confronting the country but the constitution.
The Afenifere leader said this during the Never Again Conference 2021 themed: 51 Years After The Nigerian-Biafran Civil War organised by the Nzuko Umunna of the Igbo Think Thank, held via the zoom on Thursday afternoon.
He noted that the constitution currently in use is not a representative of everyone in the country, adding that it gives so much power to the North and this speaks to why they want to be in power for a very long time.
“I am in war with Nnamdi Kanu because I don’t want this country to break.
“Instead of thinking of break-up, we should tackle the root cause of the problem.
“The root cause of the problem is our constitution which is not a true reflection of the yearnings of all the people in the country.
“Now that the North is in control, they want to continue to be there because they are enjoying from the lopsided and fraudulent constitution.
“The Constitution has made our President the most powerful president in the world,” He said.
Meanwhile, the Elderstateman said that there would not have been agitation for secession if the constitution had reflected an aggregated opinion of all and sundry in the country.
“If there is a constitution that is a true reflection of everyone in the country, there will be no agitation.
“There will be no ground for Nnamdi Kanu to want to get away,” he said.
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi has alleged that the military is makingbillions from terrorism and do not want terrorism to end in Nigeria.
The popular Kaduna-based cleric, who has been visiting bandits in forests in an attempt to negotiate peace deals with them, disclosed this when he featured on a programme on Arise Television on Thursday.
According to Gumi, the bandits are ready to drop their arms and return to the fold if the Nigerian government will accede to their demands.
He said, “The military is not encouraging matters at all because they are the beneficiaries of this insecurity.
“Nobody can justify criminality. Criminality is criminality, there is no word that can justify it. But just look at it, IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra), they never had the Nigerian Airforce bombing them, Niger Delta militants never had the Nigerian Air Force bombing them.
“The bandits are complaining mostly against the military killing innocent people. They resorted to buying arms. How did they get the arms? They resorted to kidnapping people which is an end result of these military actions.
“Look, they are ready to drop these arms and return to the fold of the Nigerians just for simple things; schools, hospitals, water.
“And there is an allegation: the military doesn’t want this conflict to end because of the billions of naira they claim for fighting insurgency. So the military is not cooperating.
“I praise the police and the Inspector-General of Police. I give him credit for assisting us to go and meet these people, but the military is not forthcoming, they are not cooperating, I don’t know why.”
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has advised Fulani herdsmen to return to the northern region if their security could no more be guaranteed in their host communities.
The group also told northern governors to get themselves prepared to receive the Fulanis being ejected from southern states.
NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement yesterday, said the relocation advice became necessary following alleged attack on Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the south.
The statement reads in part: “NEF is deeply worried by reports of ejections, under threats and attacks, of Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the south.
The forum has been receiving these reports since the night of Sunday, January 31, and has taken the responsible step by drawing the attention of authorities to the dangers, which these attacks represent for all Nigerians.
“We have also advised law-abiding Fulani communities to seek protection where it is available, and have appealed to other Fulani to resist temptation to take the law into their own hands.
“It is necessary to warn people who threaten law-abiding Fulani communities in all parts of Nigeria, but particularly in some parts of the South, to desist.
Majority of Fulani are law-abiding and have rights to live lawfully wherever they can find means of subsistence.
“The Fulani will not be ejected from any Nigerian community only on the basis of being Fulani or herding cattle within the limits of laws and regulations.
States that seek to limit criminal activities are perfectly entitled to do so, but they must follow due process, and avoid exposing innocent citizens to danger at all cost.
The forum demands that the Nigeria Police must live up to its constitutional responsibility to detect crimes and arrest and prosecute criminals, whoever they are.”
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, has said that Nigeria is struggling to make progress because the North is backward as it struggles with many problems including, poverty, illiteracy, insecurity, and religious intolerance. The Islamic leader who said the north of today is a far departure from what the late Premier of the North and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello planned for the region, said until the North is able to overcome its many challenges, Nigeria will continue to suffer.
The Sultan stated this in his remarks at the first session of the 50th-anniversary celebration of the Arewa House in Kaduna.
He challenged northern leaders to work hard in creating a region that will project the vision of the late Premier.
“The north of today is not the same north Sardauna wanted to see or had dreamt about. It’s not the same north that our children now roam the streets, begging for food in the name of Almajiranci. It is not the same north in which Sardauna wanted all our girls to go to school and he was very passionate about girl child education. It is not the north that he has built and left a very solid foundation and it is now left for our politicians to build on that foundation.
“Bring everyone together irrespective of tribe and religion, that was what Sardauna did, that was the Sardauna we knew as children and we are still trying to copy him but we are not yet there”. Sultan said.
He added that the people must work together to develop the north, stressing that when the north develops, it is Nigeria that is developing.
He described the recent looting and destructions of government and private assets by hoodlums as wickedness while commending northern youths for exercising restrain.
The Sultan emphasised that poverty should not be used as an excuse to plunder the nation’s assets, adding, “we know there is poverty but poverty should not be used for wickedness because what happened in the last couple of days is wickedness by some disgruntled hoodlums and I think it is important to condemn it loud and clear.
The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson has a choice either to make history or follow the dehumanizing history of his forebears for lumping Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria Protectorate together, against the people’s volition in a forceful Amalgamation in 1914 by Lord Frederick Lugard.
Devoid of cathartic memories, the solemn event marked the divorce of the union from the very beginning.
Boris Johnson would be doing so either by reversing the travesty of history – should I say the tragedy of history – choreographed by his progeny who colonised and forcibly coerced the people into a nation without identities or solidarized with the people in their current quest to extricate themselves from the shackles and manacles of Northern domination.
By siding with the #EndNigeria protests tweaking globally, it’s important that the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, the Queen of England and the entire country leadership add their voices to that of a traumatized Nigerian generation of youths calling for an end to the marriage of convenient contracted by the British Colonial Masters.
Boris Johnson would be healing the wounds consciously and peniciously inflicted on the dehumanized people occupying a troubled space in order to avert the coming anarchy.
The Prime Minister mustn’t be ignorant of the fact that the country he’s presiding over now once played an ignoble role by viciously hobbling together diverse cultures; traditional ethos, religions and their ancillary totems, tongues without similitude in lifestyle and social heritage or orientation.
Aside, Mr. Boris Johnson owes it an obligation to stand up and be counted, not only as the Prime Minister of Great Britain alone but so much as a global leader who must not avert his gaze away from a formerly colonised nation by his country.
It’s evidence that General Muhammadu Buhari has literally empowered the Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani marauding herdsmen beasts and the bloodthirsty bandits in his own part of the country to overrun southern part of Nigeria who are predominantly Christians.
Androitly, General Muhammadu Buhari and his hallelujah boys have been seeking escape routes in clumping roads. They have been throwing spit into the air and collecting it with their faces. They have been down playing the slaughtering of innocent citizenry in their thousands on the basis of religious beliefs, ethnocentric differences and unremitting brutality against those calling for the dissolution of the Nigerian State.
But the Nigerian President and his minders have refused to ask themselves a subtler question: Is unbending confrontation, castigation of patriotic citizens or brutalizing the nation’s youths more effective in achieving the desired changes the people are clamouring for? Each time I point out the figures of Boko Haram insurgents’, Fulani herdsmen terrorists’ and the dreaded bandits’ victims operating in the Northern parts of the country’s, their first instinct is usually to question the anecdotal evidence and reject the credibility of the data.
The global community is aware that General Buhari’s Presidency, as a matter of official policy, has legitimized falsehood. As I write, one twelfth of Katsina State citizens, General Buhari’s home state are in IDPs camps, dislodged by Boko Haram terrorists.
Yet, Buhari is releasing the arrested Boko Haram terrorists back to the society in the name of ‘repentance’! He even released fund for their foreign education, a strategy that encouraged Northern youths to be enlisted into Boko Haram terrorist groups.
The Prime Minister should spare a thought about the Great Britain being forcefully yoked together in an unwholesome amalgamation between Great Britain, Germany, France and England of different nationalities being one country.
I know it would be in utter horror for the Prime Minister to subscribe to such banal rape of social existence and violation of the code of human cohabitation.
The Great Britain did just that by lumping together Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Edos, Efik and the over five hundred other ethnic nationalities in one country.
The British Government ignominiously ensured in the late 1960s that the attempt of the Igbos to break away and forge their own destiny was thwarted.
If homogeneity and self preservation isn’t important the British would not have voted in the Brexit standoff for its independence and economic separation from the rest of the European countries.
The Nigerian youths have come to the realization that Nigeria need to hold her own Vienna Conference to settle the matter of real nationalities and national boundaries. Nigerians are now awake to reset and reshape a dysfunctional political structure inherited from the British colonial masters and do away with the insane and midnight birth of Nigerian amalgamation in 1914.
Mr. Boris Johnson has been put on notice by this reminder that the amalgamation document Lord Frederick Lugard signed on January 1, 1914, as the governor of both the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria consolidating the two countries as one, followed by declaration of Nigeria as an independent state, forty-six years later in 1960, has expired since 2014.
The #EndSARS and #EndNigeria protests are spontaneous revolutionary movements presently convulsing General Buhari’s Presidency to its foundation. The British Government has a choice to either rewrite and reinvent her own chequered history of romanticizing with banality and the deliberate asphyxiation of the Nigerian people or remains stoically impervious to her perfidious preoccupations of letting humanity down.
Several hundreds of youths, on Thursday, stormed the streets of major cities in the North, including Kaduna, Gombe, Kano and Bauchi, in protest against the spate of kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry in the region.
With the hashtag, #EndInsecurrityNow, the protesters asked the Federal Government to redeployed personnel of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad to the North to combat insecurity in the region.
The protest was organised by the Coalition of Northern Groups, which said it was against the harassment, intimidation and killing of Nigerians by the disbanded SARS.
The coalition, however, argued that the region’s challenges were not that of SARS but insecurity in the form of banditry, insurgency and other related crimes.
The protesters hit the streets of Kaduna around 9.30am and marched through the Muhammadu Buhari Way, Ali Akilu Road and Luggard Hall to the state House of Assembly Complex.
They carried placards with inscriptions such as, ‘The North is Bleeding’, ‘Stop the Killings in the North’, ‘End Boko Haram Now’, ‘End Banditry Now’, ‘Empower SWAT to End Insecurity’, ‘All Lives Matter’, and ‘Stop Rape Now’, among others.
The Speaker, state House of Assembly, Yusuf Zailani, sent the House Committee Chairman on Information, Ahmed Tanimu, to address the protesters.
The leader of the protesters and Kaduna State Coordinator of the CNG, Sa’ad Bako, said the youth were merely protesting the unending killing, kidnapping, cattle rustling, banditry and terrorism in the region.
He said the group respect the rights of those protesting against SARS.
However, in Bauchi, the CNG accused the #EndSARS campaigners of having selfish motives in their continued protest against police brutality.
They wondered why the #EndSARS protesters were still on the streets when the government and the police authority had granted their request by disbanding the special police unit.
The protesters disrupted free flow of traffic in and out of the Government House.
Members of the group expressed displeasure that no government official was on ground to address them after standing at the gate for close to an hour.
The Secretary of the CNG, Abdulkadir Alkassim, described the #EndSARS protests going on in parts of the country as “regional protests.”
Another leader of the group, Bello Aminu, said that the CNG was different from the #EndSARS because they were demanding an end to insecurity rather than scraping of any police unit.
In Niger State, the group said the government should find ways curtailing insecurity in the northern part of the country.
Addressing journalists in Minna, the group said in spite of the abundant mineral resources in the North-Central region, vices like kidnapping, banditry and other forms of criminality were thriving there.
The Coordinator of the group, Abubakar Mohammed, urged the state government to wake up to its responsibility and put adequate security in place in the troubled areas to save the inhabitants.
Hoodlums attack #EndInSecurityNow protesters in Kano
Suspected hoodlums, on Thursday, in Kano attacked members of the CNG, who came out to protest against the prevailing insecurity in the northern part of the country.
The protesters were attacked along Bayero University Kano old campus road by Kofar Famfo in the Kano metropolis.
The campaigners, who planned to start the protest at Gidan Dan Asabe along the Zoo Road, later changed the venue to the BUK Road.
Speaking to journalists after the disruption of the protest, the Convener, Dr Muhammad Bello-Nawaila, alleged that no fewer than 40 of the members sustained injuries from the attack carried out some 500 metres from take off point of the protest in the Kabuga area.
He said what surprised them most was that the protesters got security backing with two police patrol vehicles in front and two at the back.
Bello-Nawaila added that the group would continue with the protest until the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) listens to their call.
Gombe youths want end to banditry
The Chairman of the CNG in Gombe State, Ibrahim Mohammed, urged the Federal Government and security agencies to tackle security challenges in the northern region.
He stated, “Banditry, kidnapping, Boko Haram terrorism, rape and major security threats should be ended in the region.
“People at the villages can’t go to the farm as a result of the activities of bandits. We know that the security personnel are doing their best, but we are not satisfied with the current security situation in the northern region.”
Mohammed stated these during a protest at the Pantami Stadium, Minna, where he stated that the group was not for or against the SARS disbandment currently trending in the southern region. (Punch)
The Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, has said it would begin non-stop protests against the wave of insecurity in the Northern region on Thursday.
The plan, according to the group, aimed at drawing the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari and the 19 northern states governors to the plight of the region.
CNG said the ineptitude and an apparent failure of elected and appointed leaders from the North to either protect the lives and property of northerners or address the myriad distresses the region faced had pushed them to the wall.
Explaining that the government has failed woefully in many fronts, the group argued that the authorities appear bent on sustaining the hikes in electricity tariffs.
According to the CNG, it also appears President Buhari and the governors are not keen on resolving the lingering dispute with the university lecturers.
The CNG noted that it was no longer an exaggeration that the security situation in the country and in particular in the North had deteriorated, while the authorities did not deem it fit to extend the swift spirit deployed against FSARS into security the North.
The group told the President point blank that he has abandoned hundreds of thousands of people in northern communities exposed to insurgents and bandits’ attack.
It, therefore, urged the citizens (northerners), who would participate in the peaceful protest to conduct themselves peacefully, while urging the government to respect their rights to protest.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, the spokesman of CNG, Abdulazeez Suleiman, said, “The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has followed developments around the bold and necessary steps taken by Nigerian citizens to call attention to Police brutality, the deteriorating national security and other pressing concerns.
“The CNG notes the appreciative progression of the citizens’ action that climaxed with government’s swift response to one of the concerns raised with the scrapping of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police, and its immediate replacement with Special Weapon And Tactics Team (SWAT)
“In the unfolding scenario, the CNG hereby inevitably arrives at the following observations and inferences:
“That while the southern elected and appointed leaders and representatives are quick to identify with their people at the time of need, their counterparts from the North, including the President, the Senate President, Senators, Rep members, governors, state legislators and other government appointees would rather abandon the hundreds of thousands of people in northern communities exposed to crime, lawlessness and insecurity in the hands of bandits, insurgents, kidnappers, rapists rustlers, and other violent criminals without any form of protection.
“That it is contradictory that despite several protests and pleas northerners have made, the authorities never deemed it fit to extend the swift spirit deployed against FSARS into securing the North, or addressing the myriad distresses faced by northerners.
“That the authorities appear bent on sustainig the harsh, unacceptable regime of exploitative hikes in electricity tariffs for which the North shall bear the brunt more than other parts of the country.
“That the federal government appears not keen on resolving the lingering dispute with the Academic Staff Union to enable the recommencement of university education.”
“In the light of the foregone observations, the CNG has no other option but to direct the extension of the protests to all northern states, commencing from Thursday, October 15, 2020.
“By this, all CNG state chapters and student wings are mandated to resume the mobilization of responsible sections of the civil society, NGOs, women groups, professional associations, artisans and concerned parents in their respective states for the continuation of our protests started in Katsina state in June.”
CNG will lead the protest to: “Demand the federal government to immediately declare a state of emergency on security and take practical steps to end all manifestations of insecurity in northern Nigeria and other parts of the country.
“Demand thorough reorientation of the entire police force and its empowerment by way of additional personnel, modern training and adequate equiptment to be able to reclaim its universal internal security function. .
“Mount pressure on leaders to show real commitment to protecting lives of citizens, ending the prolonged closure of our universities, reconsidering hiked commodity prices, reducing youth unemployment, and checking the rise in poverty level.
“Publicly condemn and pass a vote of no confidence on those office holders and elected leaders who have abandoned the bulk of northerners to the mercy of a vicious insurgency, destructive banditry, rape and sexual assaults, violent communal clashes amidst mounting poverty and entrenched fear of widespread kidnappings for ransom.
“To declare the agreement reached by labour with the government on new electricity tariff unacceptable and demand the immediate, unconditional reversal to the old rates.”
Suleiman noted that while CNG welcomed the creation of the SWAT to replace SARS, it urged the government to expedite action in improving the professionalism of the personnel drafted into SWAT
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)