As the race for 2019 gathers momentum, a new political force comprising northern elders and leaders has emerged with the aim of forging unity in the region and ensuring that the next president is the choice of the region, not one imposed from outside.
The group which is composed of elder statesmen, former governors, former federal lawmakers and other leaders from the region met yesterday in Abuja and resolved to form a group called Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF).
While the chairman of NPLF and elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassi, declared that the north seems to be passing through its most trying time since 1914, a co-convener of yesterday’s gathering, former minister of defence, Dr Halliru Bello Mohammed, declared that the North should unite to ensure that it produces a president of its choice unlike previous ones who were imposed on the region.
The event was jointly convened by Dr Mohammed, former deputy Senate president, Senator Ibrahim Mantu and Senator Paul Wanpana.
The northern leaders, who decried the state of insecurity in their region, lamented the collapsing security architecture and the feeble attempts to arrest the problem.
They further lambasted governors of the region for their inability to maintain fairness, equity and social cohesion in the business of governance, especially on government appointments and empowerment.
They also chided the governors for what they termed their detrimental approach to issues of northern unity.
The leaders, however, resolved to hold a Northern Political Summit on March 15, 2018 to commemorate the attainment of self-government of the Northern Region in 1959.
The group therefore formed five sub-committees, namely, Security, Political, Northern Unity, the 2019 Election and Restructuring of Nigeria.
While the details of the membership for the subcommittees will be announced later, former governorship aspirant in Adamawa State, Dr Umar Ardo and Commodore Isaac Mankilik (rtd) are to serve as secretary and deputy secretary of the central secretariat of NPLF.
The communiqué signed by Senator Mantu on behalf of the NPLF reads in part: “The meeting observed that governors were seriously indicted for inability to maintain fairness, equity and social cohesion in business of governance especially on government appointments and empowerment.
“Most appointees are married to nepotism as a new phenomenon rearing its ugly heads in the region.
“The governors were challenged to change their disposition and borrow a leaf from Sardauna and his key officers for change for the better in the larger interest of the North.”
The northern political elite were always enjoined to “pay attention to good leadership and discontinue the recruitment of half-baked or non-educated people in leadership spectrum. People should be trained to take up leadership
“It has been observed that the forum should continue as non-partisan but political, non-ethnic and non-religious for viable resolutions and reliable forum.”
The communiqué lamented that the North has allowed divisions along primordial lines and urged stakeholders to pay special attention to 2019 elections as united force, adding that there should be deliberate efforts to return power to the people.
“There should be effort to dilute the powers of monopoly of the governors who do what they wish outside the tenets of democracy. This is a forum to correct wrongs committed with a view to ensuring entrenchment of democracy at all levels,” it added.
The Northern elders also deliberated on the best mode of maximizing the region’s advantages in the coming 2019 general elections and impressed it upon the people to register and have their voter cards.
In his remark, chairman of the occasion and elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassi, lamented that the region was losing its rightful place in Nigeria, and said the future of the region within the nation is to establish its unity and guard its identity as a region.
While noting that the Northern region is passing through its most trying time since 1914, he said, “For the people of the North to come out of these challenges, undoubtedly triggered by poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment, lack of honest and sincere leadership and huge lifestyle disparity in society, they must resolve the current leadership failure in the region and return the region back to its rightful position in Nigeria’s national balance of political power.”
He added that while the NPLF is political, “it is non-partisan; nor is it also a prelude to the formation of a political party. But the conversation represents all shades of political opinions and ethnic and religious diversities of our people.”
In his welcome address, former minister of defence, Dr Halliru Mohammed noted that since 1999, presidents from the North have not been chosen by elders in the region but foisted on the region from outside.
The former PDP acting chairman, who decried the division in the North, noted that ahead of 2019, unless the elders in the region unite, the same scenario will repeat itself.
He also added that the meeting was convened because of a failure of leadership over the years, which has caused division between the masses and the leaders.
The former minister said: “What we can see in the political arena is that most political operators have agreed that the leadership of the country should be zoned to the North according to what is in our constitution about zoning and rotation. But from what we have seen earlier, it had always been zoned to the North but the decision of what to do and who to be has never been a northern issue.
“What we observe is same trend is starting now. We have seen all kinds of movements starting now. If you look at what is happening now and look at what happened when it was the turn of the North to produce president, President Umaru Yar’Adua of blessed memory was produced, but was he really a Northern choice? At the end of the day, Yar’Adua lost his life in the process and somebody else was also chosen, his vice president.
“We knew the struggle that went on when it was decided that the presidency will remain in the North. It is not the Northerners who decided that the presidency should leave the North. We had to follow the bandwagon. The same thing happened in 2015. It was actually not the North. The North voted but the decision of who is to be the candidate was not a northern decision. What we want is that this time around, let us have an opportunity to come together so that whatever is decided for the North, it is the Northern leaders that will decide it and then we get support from other regions as brothers.
“If we are able to do that, then we should be able to produce a leadership for this country that will be just, equitable, and will lead us into national development which has been eluding us.”
He further expressed regret at the growing failure of leadership, noting that there is clear loss of confidence between the people and the leaders in the region.
“It is a matter of urgency, therefore, that we come together and arrest the drift if we are going to save this country and take care of the interest of the Northern region.”
Mohammed noted the growing division among people in the region and said effort must be made to close ranks so that the interest of the region is protected.
“We are aware that Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) have all tried but the politicians and the people generally in the North are still very much divided. We know that even in our politics nationally, the South West and South East have a common political understanding. But in the North it is always a case of this one will pick his part and the other will pick his part. And we are always divided. This time around the dynamics have changed in the country. If we don’t have a united mission, the interest of our people will be neglected. And we have seen that in the last several years that we have been having administration in this country.
“It is, therefore, a need for us to establish this united front for the North that we thought, as conveners, somebody has to offer a platform, a forum that Northern leaders and intellectuals can come together and speak among themselves and come out with what next should be done and how best to do it.”
Some of the dignitaries at the event are former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; former governors of Kogi State, Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada; former FCT ministers, Senators Jeremiah Useni and Bala Mohammed; Prof Auwal Yadudu; Shehu Gabam, Attahiru Bafarawa; Prof Ango Abdullahi; former governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna; Sen Solomon Ewuga; former speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’aba; Dr Umar Ardo; Engr Buba Galadima among others.
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