Northern elders and leaders yesterday declared that they were searching for good candidates who, when elected, would utilise their offices to uplift the living standard of the people of the regions.

Arising from a summit of northern groups yesterday, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) and 16 other leading groups in the region expressed dissatisfaction with the present administration and politicians from the northern region.

The Summit of Northern Groups was held at Arewa House, Kaduna, the residence of the late Premier of the defunct Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello.

LEADERSHP Sunday learnt that after extensive deliberations, the summit resolved that the president and other politicians from the region had failed the north in the area of security and economy.

The position of the summit was contained in a four-page communiqué which was read by the chief of staff to the Senate president, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.

The communiqué reads in part: “No northern politicians should expect to be voted for in the next general election unless they demonstrate a willingness to champion a massive assault on poverty and underdevelopment in the North. In this regard, most political office holders from the North are hereby served notice that they have failed the test to lead the region towards economic recovery and growth.

“The summit noted that in spite of notable successes by the administration against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, many Northern communities still live under its threat. In many other parts of the North, communities are routinely exposed to attacks from shadowy killers, and suspicion and anger at known and suspected killers are pitching Northerners against each other. Armed bandits terrorise rural communities almost at will, while kidnappings and abductions have assumed alarming notoriety as crimes.”

The groups that signed the communiqué are Prof. Ango Abdullahi, chairman ACF Political Committee and convener, Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF); Dr. Yima Sen, NEF; Amb. Ibrahim Mai Sule, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF); Engr. Bello Suleiman, CODE Group; Mataimaki Tom Maiyashi, Arewa Research Development Project (ARDP); Zannah Hassan Boguma, Borno Elders’ Forum; Nafiu Baba-Ahmed, Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria and Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, Northern Union.

Others are Alhaji Yerima Shettima, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF); Pastor Aminchi Habu,United Christian Leaders Eagle Eye Forum (UCLEEF); Balarabe Rufai, Coalition of Northern Groups; Isa Tijjani, Labour Veterans Association; Rev. Bitrus Dangiwa, CAN Northern Chapter ; Umar Ahmed Zaria, Jama’atu Nasiril Islam (JNI); Alhaji Buba Adamah, Arewa Peoples Unity Association; Hassan El-Adamu, Arewa Initiative For Good Governance (AIGG); Abdulazeez Suleiman, Northern Emancipation Network and Bilkisu Oniyangi, AIGG.

They equally advised all Northerns to remain at alert to the alleged plan to weaken the region through the manipulation of the fears and vulnerability of the people’s ethno-religious differences.

“There must be vigilant scrutiny of opportunities for manipulation by outsiders of our present challenges. We must stand up and unite against those who kill villagers in Kogi, in Zamfara, in Benue, in Adamawa, in Borno, in Kaduna and in every village or town. No Northern blood is more precious than others, and we can only heal if we adopt common positions to finding solutions to our problems,” they said.

Adducing reasons for passing a vote of no confidence on its political leaders, the groups noted that since 2015, Northerners have occupied positions with the potential to make decisive differences in the economy, security and political fortunes in the region, but they had failed on all fronts.

“The hopes that leaders who have exercised power since 2015 will reverse the abuse and neglect of the region in the previous decade have been betrayed,” they stated.

“Weak governance, gross insensitivity and unacceptable levels of incompetence have been compounded by battles of attrition in which northerners have sapped each others’ strength.

“Weak and incoherent responses to provocations from other parts of the country around the imperatives of re-visiting the foundations and structures of the Nigerian state have created the false image of a North without its own positions beyond survival as the parasite of Nigeria.”

The group further lamented that the votes secured by Northern political unity in the 2015 elections had been wasted by the poor management of conflicts between and among the region’s communities.

“Today Northern communities are erecting barricades against members of other communities, and politicians who have failed to lead and make impacts in lives of the poor and the vulnerable are daily feeding the people with hate and resentment instead of searching for genuine and lasting solutions.

“In a region with enough resources for every community or trade, our people are now fighting for morsels, while leaders think of new ways to turn our misery into electoral capital,” they added.

They remarked that it was the right of all Northerners to examine all political options and select the best candidates for the 2019 elections.

“The leadership selection process must be critically interrogated to present the best leader to Nigeria as a whole. No one should take the North for granted, and it is not for sale. It will resist shedding its blood for any candidate, and will critically scrutinise all politicians who will seek our mandate. At this stage, all options are on the table, and politicians who have betrayed the hopes and mandates of our people should be prepared to suffer rejection, in the same manner the votes of the North rejected the attempt to continue with impunity, corruption and indifference of the previous regime,” they stated.

The convener of the summit, Prof Ango Abdullahi, in his opening remarks, said the North was in search of credible leaders ahead of the 2019 elections.

Abdullahi noted that election was less than one year away and it was imperative that the north search for credible candidates.

Apart from that, the former vice-chancellor said the elders were also searching for credible potential governors and legislators that would have the interest of the region at heart and reposition the north.

Abdullahi, who was also presidential adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Food and Agriculture, told the gathering that in searching for a northern torchbearer in the 2019 presidency, they would need to critically assess the current socioeconomic and security challenges in the country.

He said: “In less than one year, Northerners will troop out in millions to decide who becomes president. Our votes will be decisive in contests over different versions of our future.

“We will choose governors and legislators who will decide our fates in a country fast leaving us behind. We will be failing in our privileged roles as leaders and elders if we do not actively engage in search for credible options for the North.

“The signs are already clear that there will be no easy options. Our security, economic well-being and the political muscle to affect our circumstances will be central to the decisions we will make.”

Middle Belt, Afenifere, PANDEF, Ohanaeze Form New Front

Menawhile, a new group known as the Mass Alliance for Inclusive Nigeria Front (MAIN Front) yesterday emerged in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, after a meeting among leaders of the Pan-Yoruba movement -Afenifere, the Pan-Igbo group – Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Middle Belt Forum and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).

The meeting, convened by the PANDEF and hosted by the Bayelsa State governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, was attended by the leadership of the groups involved in the formation of MAIN Front, including president of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clarke; the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, the president of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bala Takaya,, and the leader of the Afenifere, Dr. Ayo Adebanjo.

Also present at the meeting were the former minister of information and culture, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro; former governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Mimiko, the first governor of the Old Rivers State, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, Senator Jonah Jang, Prof. G. G. Sarah and the former deputy governor of Delta State, Prof. Amos Otuama .

According to those involved in the formation, the new group will organise solidarity rallies in Benue, Enugu and Lagos as a follow-up on the rally held in Yenagoa at the Oxbow Lake.

Reading the position paper of the group, the president of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bala Takaya said the formation of the group was borne out the need to effect the restructuring of the Nigerian state into a federal system of government where each federating unit shall holds equal and coordinate powers with the central authority and where no state is subjected to an inferior position in the country.

He said, “The group hereby invites fellow Nigerians desirous of equity, fairness, and justice in the affairs of our dear country to join us in the task of saving the sinking ship of state. Our desire and commitment is that our dear country, which it has pleased God to bless with abundant natural and human resources as to guarantee her citizens good life for all, and life more abundant, may resume her delayed journey towards the fulfilment of its manifest destiny.”

On the recent release of the Dapchi school girls, the group declared that the accolades received by the President Muhammad Buhari administration could not be complete without the release of Miss Leah Shabiru, the lone Christian girl among the students who was held back by Boko Haram for refusing to convert to Islam.

“The Nigerian state cannot claim to have closed this sordid saga for as long as Leah and the outstanding Chibok girls remain in captivity,” he said.

In his contribution, the PANDEF leader and one-time federal information minister, Chief E. K. Clarke, declared that the Nigerian state without a restructured pattern was a failed one.

He described the recent order by the Inspector General of Police, Kpotun Idris, that arms should be mopped up as a staged-managed order if the killer-herdsmen are not disarmed.

Clarke said, “The present situation has turned us to second class citizens. We are asking the Inspector General of Police that his order that everybody should drop arms is confusing. We are asking that until when they ask the Fulani herdsmen to drop their arms, many will not obey his order. “

Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who led the Afenifere, stated that “the Afenifere and the progressive members of the South West are committed to the restructuring of the country. Any different opinion is unacceptable. “

At the solidarity rally organised after the launch of the group, the leaders of PANDEF and other socio-political and ethnic leaders of the Niger Delta region articulated and renewed their call for the restructuring of the country.

The rally which has the theme “Restructuring the Nigerian Federation,” was also graced by leaders of other ethnic nationalities in the country- The Afenifere led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Chief John Nwodo, and the leader of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bala Takaya.

The chairman of the occasion, Chief Albert Horsfall, the pioneer chairman of Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, who set the tone for the rally, called for a return to the Independence Constitution which gave the component units the right to rule themselves, and urged the Niger Delta people to unite in the call for restructuring.

He said: “The oil and gas belong to us, our freedom is a constitutional right, above all it is God given right and nobody can give it to us or take it from us, therefore we should we should stop complaining.”

In his speech, the leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, said: “The purpose of this rally is for us to manage our own resources. What are we fighting for is restructuring. We want equality in this country; we want to feel that we are all members of this society.”

The host governor, Mr. Seriak Dickson, said: “We are the real lovers and believers of the Nigerian project and no intimidation or blackmail should sway us to abandon this cause. Our nation is crying for justice, freedom, prosperity and unity – unity that is sustainable and founded on justice.”

“People who are far away may just talk of restructuring as a slogan or as an ideal, here in this state and in this region, we feel the pains of it, we live with it and we have lived with it for decades and so when there is a call to reorganise our country and make it more stable, equitable, just and more prosperous, we in Bayelsa State are totally in support of that.”

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by Senator Nimi Barigha Amange, urged the present leadership of the country to revisit the 2014 confab report, stressing that it contains salient recommendations and answers to issues that have been agitating the minds of Nigerians.