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)
The Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode in this explosive interview with The Nigerian Express touched on very touchy past, present and future political issues in Nigeria.
He discussed about Buhari, Tinubu, Osinbajo, Awolowo, Obasanjo, Jonathan, IPOB, Biafra-Nigerian civil war, the North, The South and more.
Below is the interview.
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister is a lawyer, essayist, poet and a political activist. He spoke to AKANI ALAKA on the contemporary political developments in Nigeria, relations among the ethnic groups in the country, the civil war, agitations for self-determination, the need to restructure the country, as well as the jostling for the 2023 presidency among politicians from the South, among other issues.
QUESTION: Just recently, Nigeria celebrated its 59 Independence anniversary. You also celebrated your 59th birthday some days ago. As an historian and somebody whose father also played a significant role in ensuring that Nigeria became an independent nation, would you say the country’s founding fathers will be proud of the position the country is in now 59 years after?
ANSWER: I think we ought to have gone much farther than we have gone. And if I am to be frank, I will tell you that those that fought for Independence of Nigeria, including my father and many generations before them, will not be too pleased with the situation we are in today.
We were meant to have gone much further, become much stronger, much more united. We were meant to be the greatest asset of the Black man on planet Earth. But we have failed in all these respects. And consequently, I will have to say that I am rather disappointed.
We are like a giant that has shrunk into the position of a dwarf. We have been dwarfed in many ways – even by countries that are far smaller, with less potential than us, even in the African continent. And that’s not good enough. And I think it all boils down to one thing – the fact that we have had leadership that has not been the best for much of the past 59 years.
And of course, the other part of the problem is that we have not been able to answer the fundamental questions like, for example, the national question and the outstanding issues concerning the Nigerian civil war and so many other things.
And I think this is why our development has been stagnated and in many ways, has become retrogressive.
QUESTION: You talked about the national question – what is that national question and do you think there have been sincere efforts to address it?
ANSWER: I don’t even think most political leaders or politicians in Nigeria even know what the national question is. And that is really, really worrying because as long as you don’t answer that national question or address that issue, we will continue to go round in circles.
Of course, it starts with one fundamental question, which was asked in 1947 by the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his book, The Path To Nigerian Freedom. And the question was simply this – “Is Nigeria really a nation?” He (Awolowo) concluded by saying, No, that it’s a geographical expression.
He added that there is as much difference as between a German and a Turk as there is between a Fulani man and an Igbo man and everybody ought to be able to develop at his or her pace within his or her own region or zone. That was essentially Awolowo’s contention in 1947. And many decades later, I still think he was right.
We pretend to be one nation, we tell ourselves that we are one, but deep down, we know how much we resent one another for various reasons. We continue to act as if this is a marriage that is eternal, even though we don’t want it. That’s the reality of Nigeria’s situation today.
Most politicians will not say this to you because they are interested in getting votes from all over the country and so, they prostitute their principles and compromise on so many issues. But the new type of politicians that I think will deliver this country will not think like that. I don’t think like that.
I will rather tread the path of truth and justice than to say things that are politically correct in order to gain favour with Northerners or anybody from any other part of the country.
The path of truth is the path that will deliver this country into the light of God and the greatness that she deserves and we must not shy away from treading that path. We are not a nation; we are a union of ethnic nationalities that are yet to resolve our fundamental differences and fundamental issues.
The questions that were raised before the Nigerian civil war and in the course of that war are still being raised today. And my prayer is that it does not take another war or civil conflict in this country for us to resolve those issues.
We can resolve them in amicable and peaceful way, so that everybody will feel equal before God and everybody will feel they have equal opportunity to aspire and to excel in this country as citizens and not that we have some that are born to rule and some that are destined to serve.
QUESTION: How can we, as a country resolve this question – because some like the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, want every tribe in the country to go their separate ways as independent entities while others think restructuring of the polity will give every Nigerian a sense of belonging. On which side of the divide are you?
ANSWER: The battle for restructuring is dead and buried. Restructuring is not discussed in the National Assembly. It’s not discussed even in the main political parties. As long as they are concerned, restructuring is a dirty word.
To me, it is a way out of the mess that we have put ourselves in. But to most politically correct politicians, who are mostly insincere and cowardly, they won’t even talk about it. The leadership of the two main political parties – the PDP and APC – will not talk about it as a matter of policy and neither will most of the small political parties.
But this is something so obvious, that ought to have been done long ago, not now. And the problem now is that it may well be too late for that. The sentiment is so strong now for ethnic nationalism – it is happening all over the world. Look at what is happening in Germany, in the US with Trump, in the UK with Brexit, the right wing political parties in Europe like in Holland and Germany.
The rise of ethnic nationalism is going on all over the world and Nigeria cannot be isolated from that. In this country, we have major ethnic nationalities that see themselves as members of that nationality before seeing themselves as Nigerians.
There is nothing wrong with that. It’s the perfectly natural order of things and that is the conflict we have in Nigeria. This globalized hybrid state, that we must all become one, to my mind, is not natural. Yes, we can become one if we share common values, common vision, a common understanding about how life should be and common worldview.
But if we don’t have that, and if one believes that he is king and the others are slaves and must be slaves forever, then, on what basis can we continue to stay together? And why should we remain together, just because a rather misguided man in 1914 by the name of Lord Lugard, with his wife, decided that we should be together? I resent and reject that.
I am a proud Omo Kaaro o o jiire, I refused to use the word Yoruba. I am a proud son of Oduduwa and I believe proudly and passionately in the rights of the people of the South-west to self-determination, if that’s what they choose to do. I believe that the people of the East, the Igbo, have that right as well, if that’s what they choose to do.
And I believe in the power of referendum, self-determination and I think it is absolutely wrong for anybody to say I don’t have a right to exercise that right, provided I do it in a peaceful, logical and rational way.
QUESTION: Are you calling for the dissolution of Nigeria as a country then, because that is what this right to self-determination will amount to…
ANSWER: I’m calling for the self determination of any ethnic nationality that chooses to be self-determined based on referendum. This happens all over the world, international law backs it and it’s something that should be done, provided it’s what the people want and it is done peacefully. And that’s my view.
Even if I don’t believe in it, I don’t think it will be right for me to impose my will on others and deny them the right to believe in self-determination or the right to referendum to decide whether or not we should remain as one.
The UK that brought us together and declared our marriage one – between the poor husband of the North and the rich wife of the South – and said that we must remain one forever is doing that today.
They are brexit-ing, based on referendum, from Europe, and they are also doing it internally within the United Kingdom. Scotland had a referendum recently. They narrowly agreed to stay in the United Kingdom. If they hold another referendum in the next few years, definitely, Scotland is leaving United Kingdom.
All the polls suggest that, and they will be allowed to leave. It is on that basis of expression of freewill that you can say you will create and establish a nation. Now, if you don’t want that part to be taken by the people, the only way is to treat them with respect, love and apologise to them when you got it wrong. I will cite the case of the Igbo people and I have said it over and over again.
A situation where three million people -civilians- were killed during the civil war, the greatest act of genocide in the history of African continent -black on black, not white on black- because King Leopold ll killed 10 million Congolese.
But we killed three million Igbo -civilians, men, women and children- in a space of three years and we have not apologized for that. This is a crime against humanity. It is a war crime. And for that kind of thing, the Nigerian commanders in the field, the Nigerian Head of State at that time, all should be at ICC. But I haven’t called for that.
All I am saying is that, at least, we should have the decency to apologise and also apologise for the fact that between 30,000 and 100,000 of them were killed just before the civil war by mobs in the North. These are the fundamental issues.
Every country that has indulged in such barbarity in the past has apologised, including the Belgians. The only country that has refused to do so and has committed genocide is Turkey. And I don’t think we should be in the same bracket as Turkey.
They killed one million Christian Armenians and they haven’t acknowledged it. We don’t want to be in that category. Everybody else, including the Germans, what they did in the Second World War, 50 million people died, six million Jews gassed to death, they apologised.
Everybody at some time recognizes the power of apology, reconciliation and restitution but we haven’t done that. Instead, we are still killing Igbo people till today. Is that how a nation is built? And when they say they want to go because they are tired of being killed even now, we are still killing them.
It is unacceptable. Sadly, it is not just the Igbo now that are being killed; if you go to the Middle Belt, Niger Delta, the West, Mid-West you will find slaughter. All these slaughterings are being carried out by Fulani herdsmen and, of course, you have Boko Haram in the North-east. It is so bad that Fulani herdsmen are even killing the local Hausa in the North itself.
The ethnic group carrying out this havoc, seven per cent of the population, that’s what they are, and we will sit here and say we are one nation. We don’t have the right to retaliate, we don’t have the right to cry, we don’t have the right aspire to be leaders in this country because we are second class citizens, even, when we are the indigenous people of Nigeria.
And you are saying we must accept that? I will never do that. Unless they change and these things stop, Nigeria’s unity can never be something that will be accepted by all of us.
QUESTION: Some critics, especially from the North had always faulted the call for apology to the Igbo people over the civil war with the argument that the war was a reaction to the killings carried out in the first coup of 1966, led by officers who hailed mostly from the then Eastern region…
ANSWER: I am very conversant with the history; I am part of it. They came to my father’s house in January 1966; I was conversant with what they did. And my father was the only person that was taken away from home that night who was not killed. About 20 people -key leaders in the military and the government of that era- were killed.
My father only escaped by divine providence because the federal troops saved him at Dodan Barracks and I appreciate that. And I appreciate the pains that were caused that night because I felt the pains too. I will never forget it. I witnessed it. I saw it. And I suffered the consequences of that for many, many years because it traumatized me.
The killing of all those people was barbaric and unacceptable. I have said so. Definitely, the majority of the participants were Igbo, I am not disputing that. But the question that you have to first answer is did those Igbo officers conduct a referendum in the East before embarking on the coup? Did they do it on behalf of the Igbo people?
Because if you say you want to punish a whole ethnic nationality because of the action of a few people -barbaric action in terms of the slaughter. They killed 20 people. You now say you want to wipe out entire nationality, I think that’s an unacceptable behavior. The reaction is even more barbaric and quite unacceptable in my view.
QUESTION; The argument was that the killings took place during a war situation…
ANSWER: It was not a war, because there was a coup in January 1966, 20 leaders were killed from all over the country and only one leader was killed in the South-east. It was a tragedy. It was a wicked act. I accept that. But there was no war at the time, there was a coup, an attempted coup. The coup failed.
And what happened next? The Northerners now decided to do a counter coup. Again, there was no war. It was what they called a Northern revenge coup to avenge those that were killed in the first coup. And what did they do? Here is what they did.
They killed 300 Igbo officers in one night. They killed an Igbo Head of State – Ironsi. They killed a Yoruba Governor of the Western Region, Fajuyi and they killed a number of other people – all in one night. Now, look at it in numbers – 20 of yours were killed, you killed 300 of theirs, plus the Head of State and Yoruba Army officers six months later.
And there was no war declared. You didn’t stop there, but went a step further few months later and you slaughtered in the North -the official figure is 30,000, the real figure is close to 100,000- Igbo civilians who knew nothing about coup plotting, who did not participate in it, who are equally victims and were still mourning that their people were killed.
Those killings took place in few pogroms in a space of two months and again, no war had been declared at that time. But you didn’t stop there. When the Igbos said it’s enough, let’s go back to the East, as they were going back, you were killing them at train stations, firing bows and arrows at them.
And when they got to the East, they now said ‘look, if you want to wipe us all out, it is perfectly natural for us to say we want to leave’ and they now said they want to go. First, you agreed that they will go based on terms agreed to at Aburi, then, you now change your mind that even Aburi, which you have signed and agree on, you are not going to accept.
They must stay by force and the war started. And what did you do during the civil war? You killed three million Igbo civilians. The number of Biafran soldiers that were killed was not more than between 30,000 and 40,000. But you killed three million Biafran civilians. One million of them were starved to death with the policy of starvation that you put in place.
And you justified that policy before the world when you, Nigeria, said starvation is a legitimate weapon of war. Have you ever heard anything as inhuman as that? I know who said that. I don’t want to mention the man’s name.
Another government official, a minister in Gowon’s government, went to America and when Americans were crying that we were committing genocides against the Igbo people, he said ‘no, we are simply defending ourselves, we will starve them to death.’ The people that said these were politicians, civilian leaders, but military commanders executed that policy.
Then, at the end of the war, you said ‘no victor, no vanquished,’ but that was the biggest lie from the pit of hell. You gave them 20 pounds and then, you took all their properties.
It is only in the South-west that their properties were not taken and you turned them into not second, but third class citizens. And today, one of those who participated in that war and all those atrocities is now our President.
Now, we have killed many in the last four years. You killed many IPOB people. And now, they are saying they want to go and you are saying they have no right to go. Is that just or right?
QUESTION: The civil war was followed by a succession of military regimes and in 1999, Nigeria returned to democracy. How well would you say we have done as a democratic nation since 1999?
ANSWER: I don’t think we have a real democracy and I will tell you why. In a real democracy, political parties can be formed based on whatever criteria you choose. Anybody can literally get up and say, this is my party, register it, I’m going to run as an independent, as whatever in my local government area.
But here, INEC, which is essentially a tool for government of the day controls everything in terms of elections. And if you have a man who is the chairman of INEC working against you as the president, which is what happened in 2015. (Attahiru) Jega worked against Jonathan at that time.
I’m accusing him of that right in this interview. And I’m also saying that there was time he was asked to resign and the evidence was clear on why he has to …. but, in my view, very naively, (former President Goodluck) Jonathan decided to keep him there. If you can control the INEC and the chairman of INEC as an opposition party or if you can put your man there to run INEC as this government has done since 2015, then, you know you have no democracy.
Yes, they can let you win some states as they did in 2019, but they can rig you out wherever they like. If you control the courts and you can remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria just like that or you can raid the houses of judges at night with the DSS and you have, more or less, captured the judiciary and intimidated the judges, you don’t have a democracy and neither do you have rule of law.
If you can send DSS officers to the National Assembly to go and raid the place and lock out legislators because you cannot control the place as happened some months ago, then you don’t have a democracy. Today, the APC, by design, controls the National Assembly.
They control it because they control virtually all the elections and so, they returned as many people as possible through INEC – mostly unfairly. They control the elections tribunals, in my view.
They control the courts, in my view, and they control the media, in my view, because this kind of interview, I will be surprised if you publish what I am saying. You may publish it online, but if you publish it in your paper, you may get into trouble.
They control the television. If you go there and you say anything against them that is strong, factual, the NBC will come down on the television station. And you called that democracy? It is tyranny. It’s a dictatorship. And everything that I, FFK, said in 2015 during the course of the election that would happen if Buhari became the President has happened.
And everybody that insulted me then, laughed at me then, and said I was talking rubbish, even from within the PDP itself, are now being prosecuted. All of them are now calling to say I was right.
And everybody that stood with them (APC) then, including Atiku, Obasanjo, Kwankwaso, Tambuwal, Dino Melaye, Saraki has come back now. And now, they are all victims of this monster that they helped to create in 2015.
Now, we fought them in 2015 and we are still fighting them up till today. And until the end of time, we will continue to fight them, not as individuals, because I have nothing against anybody personally. If anything, I have more friends in APC than in PDP.
That’s the truth. But in terms of ideology, politics and what I think is best for my country, I see them as immortal enemies; I see them as nothing but darkness. And I see those that seek to liberate this country from their shackles as the light and the vessels and the tools of God to fight that darkness. That’s my position.
So, if you asked me that do I believe that we have a democracy? My answer is, no. They have corrupted it, they have abused it and I knew this was going to happen. And let me tell you that it is going to get worse.
QUESTION: What has APC done to our democracy since they took power in 2015 that made you to arrive at this conclusion?
Since 2015, what have they done? First, they introduced religion and ethnicity into government. Every security agency in this country – whether the military, the one that have to do with external or internal security – 17 agencies in all – they are all in the hands of Northern Muslims, except for one, which is the Navy.
And that’s unacceptable in a multi-religious, multi-cultural society. A situation where the whole of the judiciary from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court has just changed now – but the three tiers of the judiciary were being headed by Northern Muslims.
It is just now that we have only one being headed by Northern Christian, that’s the Federal High Court. A situation whereby in the National Assembly, the Senate is headed by a Northern Muslim, House of Representatives headed by a Southern Muslim – Femi Gbajabiamila, he is a good friend of mine, I have known him for over 40 years – but he is a Muslim as well. So, you have Muslims heading both wings of the National Assembly.
And you know what they have done with Femi Gbajabiamila? They have surrounded him with Muslims – his deputy is also a Muslim and the four principal officers around him are also Muslims. So, what is there for us in that place?
In the executive, apart from the security agencies, look at all the key appointments – nine times out of 10, they go Northern Muslims. Go to the Villa today – the official language is Hausa, 90 per cent of the people that are working in the Villa are Northern Muslims.
Look at the appointment of chief executives for the key agencies – they were Northern Muslims, look at the ministerial appointments in terms of substance – the North-west where the President comes from, the Hausa-Fulani catchment area, you have 10 substantive ministries, those are full ministries, not Ministers of state, 10 in the North-west.
Next is the South-west where I come from, we have five substantive Ministers and everywhere else – the South-east, the North-central and North-east have three substantive ministers each.
That means the North-west where Buhari comes from, which is the Fulani heartland has over three times the number of substantive ministers that all the other zones have, except for the South-west. And south-west has only half the number the North-west have. Is that fair? (Nigeria Express)
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The Northern Elders Forum has said that the North has never agitated for the breakup of the country, hence, it does not have any plan for it.
This is just as a member of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed expressed disappointment in the leadership style of Northern peoples who hold various political offices in the country.
Making the assertion on Monday, a former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) party Bashir Othman Tofa, during the inauguration of students’ wing of Northern Youth Groups, organised by Coalition of Northern Youth held at Bayero University, Kano.
According to him, “If you look at our population and what we have together is more than what anyone can hope for. So to try to destroy this is certainly a lose-lose situation. That is why we here in the North would never say we want to leave this country. “
His words “If you examine the situation, you would find out it is only in Northern Nigeria that there is no agitation for the breakup of this country”
He said that the unity of the country is sacrosanct, adding that the North has been playing the role of encouraging the unity of Nigeria “That is why we are the root of this country. If the root is uprooted, the tree will not be there.
He then added that so we like to be patient, we like to encourage Nigerians to love their country to be united and tolerate one another. So that we can build a kind of country we like to build.”
He then advised Northerners to exercise patience in building the unity of the country, as they are the root of Nigeria’s unity.
It is Northern Nigeria that doesn’t have any specific plan of its own, in case Nigeria is divided. This means we have absolute confidence that being together is the best thing for all of us.”
Our responsibility is to exercise patience to make sure we guide this country to the kind of unity and progress we need to develop into a better country and even become a nation-state,” Mr Tofa said.
A member of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed expressed disappointment in the leadership style of Northern peoples who hold various political offices in the country.
His words Northerners who hold different political positions had failed to address the region’s problems in areas considered to be of paramount importance for the region.
“We are disappointed with our northern leaders at all levels. We will be putting pressure on them to correct their mistakes of tackling the problem of insecurity, poor quality of education and health, the problem of economy among others.”
Alhaji Baba-Ahmed then charged northern governors to provide shelter for cattle headers in the zone to stop them from wondering about anyhow.
However, on the occasion, three regional coordinators for Northwest, Northeast and Northcentral geopolitical zones were inaugurated during the event.
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A prominent Islamic scholar, Dr Ahmad Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, has declared that Nigeria will disintegrate and that the North will suffer most compared to the other regions.
According to him, in the face of a possible break up, the Southwest will be relatively stable; Southeast will be stable, but the North will be volatile.
Narrating what Nigeria will be like if disintegrated, the cleric said, “I see chaos and probably Nigeria can even disintegrate. And disintegration will be bad for Nigeria,” he was quoted by Sun.
“Let me tell you about the North if there is disintegration. The worst thing any country will like is to have an unstable country as a neighbour.
“So, Southwest will be relatively stable; Southeast will be stable, but the North will be volatile. How can we contain Boko Haram in the Northeast? No way.
“How can we contain the problem of the herdsmen in the North? We cannot contain them.
“In fact, the little weight the Southwest and Southeast are adding to fight them is what is suppressing them, but if you go and leave us with them we will just eat ourselves and you have a very volatile North and I do not think we will have peace there because the borders are not barbed-wires and there are so many inter-marriages.
“In fact, Nigeria will just be like another Lebanon or Yemen. Nobody can control the North because nobody has monopoly of power in the North.
“The herdsmen, if they have any iota of political acumen, even if they are evil since your man is in power what do you do? You lie low to allow him to have the power.
“You don’t become so virulent that you end up destroying the northern power by attacking people everywhere not caring who is there. Let me tell you this.
“Nobody is in control of the North now. No northern politician has that clout to embrace everybody in the North.
“Everybody in the North is with his clique and that is a very dangerous situation for the country. The Southwest is divided into two equal house and nobody is in control there too, but generally, the people there are not violent.
“They can negotiate and stay in peace. The people of the Southeast seem to understand each other because their own is business. I see it to be more stable even though the Kanu IPOB people are there because generally the population there can understand and negotiate.
“They can only have population problem if people ask them to go back to their region. But the North? So, you can just imagine
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President Muhammadu Buhari, has enjoined all Fulani herdsmen to ignore the recent call by the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, asking them to leave the Southern part of Nigeria.
According to a statement by the President’s Spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Wednesday night, Buhari said that all citizens of Nigeria are free to move and live within any part of the country they please, whether or not they are originally from there.
“In line with our country’s Constitution, the government of Nigeria and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will protect citizens of Nigeria wherever they find themselves.
“No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether North, South, East, or West”, Shehu quoted the President as saying. The Presidential Aide questioned the intentions of the NEF and the other so-called Leaders, in delving into issues with unsolicited, ill-intentioned advice.
Shehu said: “They have no one’s authority to make such pronouncements.
“The polarising role of the Northern Elders Forum and all those other groups dabbling into issues of security to score cheap political points, has for long been a sore point in Nigeria’s body polity.
“They should not be allowed to mislead anyone, least of all the Fulani herders.
“The Buhari administration is fully devoted to finding a lasting solution to the herder-farmer clashes in different parts of Nigeria; one that would be acceptable to all the parties involved.’’
Shehu quoted the President as calling on all Nigerians to help keep the peace in the country. (Post Nigeria)
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Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai has said that, Nigeria consists of two countries: a developing South, and a backward, less educated and unhealthy North, with the highest number of poor people in the world. El-Rufai equally lamented that the northern region has development indicators similar to that of Afganistan, a country at war.
Speaking in Kaduna on Saturday at the Northern Youth Summit organised by Northern Hibiscus, an NGO, El-Rufai however said that the problems of the region must be addressed collectively as a group of 19 northern states governors, not as individual states. El-Rufai said the summit whose theme was “Awakening the Arewa Spirit,” was very timely, adding that “when we talk about awakening the spirit, it means the spirit is either sleeping or dead. Therefore, this summit is very important, just like our keynote address speaker has said.
“But, looking at the statistics, Nigeria appears to be a middle-income country. But, if we segregate those statistics across states and zones, you will see that in terms of human development indicators, Nigeria consists of two countries; there is a backward, less educated and unhealthy northern Nigeria and a developing, largely educated and healthy southern Nigeria.
“We have to speak the truth to ourselves and ask why is it that northern Nigeria has development indicators similar to Afganistan, a country still at war? “We have the largest number of poor people in the world, most of them in northern Nigeria. Nigeria also has the largest number of out-of-school children, virtually all of them in Northern Nigeria.
“Northern Nigeria has become the centre of drug abuse, gender violence, banditry, kidnapping and terrorism. We have also been associated with high divorce rate and breakdown of families. These are the challenges that confront us. This is the Unclad truth that we have to tell ourselves.
“We must, therefore, as leaders at all levels have a conversation about the way forward for our part of the country. Because increasingly, as many of you must have seen on social media, we are being considered as the parasite of the federal economy, even though, that is not entirely true. Because northern Nigeria still feeds the nation. The richest businessman in Nigeria is still Aliko Dangote, not someone from southern Nigeria, thank God for that.
“So, we still have a lot to be proud of. We should be proud of our culture and tradition, as well as unity. You hardly can find someone from northern Nigeria convicted of 419 or being aYahoo boy. That is something we should be proud of.
“We are generally considered to be more honest and less corrupt than other Nigerians. That is something we should be proud of. In addition, our demographic superiority gives us a very powerful tool to negotiate in politics. And that is something we should be proud of, and we should preserve. So, we have every reason to unite and not be divided.
“I, therefore, call on you the youth; you account for 80 per cent of the northern population and the future of this region lies in your hands, not in the hands of Dinosaurs like me. I’m 59 and among the oldest five per cent of the northern population. I shouldn’t even be governor; I should have been governor ten years ago. But ‘na condition make crayfish bend,’ so we are here. “But, why are we here? In my view, we are here to prepare the next generation of leaders. That is why the agenda for this summit is very important. So, you should take the panel discussions very seriously and come up with very clear and implementable decisions that you will circulate to all of us elected to lead in northern Nigeria.
“I urge Northern Hibiscus to send recommendations from this summit to the Chairman of northern state governors’ forum. We have to do something about the situation of northern Nigeria and we must do so as a group of 19 governors, not individual state governors.” El-Rufai said.
Also speaking, the sponsor of the event and immediate past Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin said, while the North was in dire situation, the region has not lost everything. “There is growth everywhere and so many leaders have emerged.”
Jibrin who analysed the need to reawaken the Arewa spirit on sociocultural, economic and political spheres, said family unit remains the bigger challenge faced in the region as it contributes to high rate of divorce, late marriages, drug abuse and destitution.
Looking at the economic aspect, he noted the need for job and wealth creation to build businesses, understanding competition, marketing and funding in entrepreneurship. He said there is little or no money available at commercial banks to loan small and medium enterprises because government borrows an average of N1 trillion annually with N600 billion to N700 billion interest from first line charge.
The lawmaker called for role models across board, adding that “we have to mould leaders, we have to create ourselves into leaders,” he said.
In her opening remarks, founder of Northern Hibiscus Initiative, Aisha Falke, said the summit was organised to examine the numerous challenges of the North, with a view to finding lasting solutions to them.
She also disclosed that, Northern Hibiscus had also taken the bull by the horn with a 16-year action to empower the youths with useful skills, especially those who are not privileged to have formal education. (The Sun)
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