Leaders and elites representing all the six states of the North Central territorial geopolitical zone, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) yesterday met in Abuja to form a new organisation, the North Central Peoples’ Forum (NCPF).
The launch of the NCPF is part of efforts targeted at addressing the political challenges confronting the region.
The leaders who expressed deep concern about happenings in the country declared that the organiza-tion shall be a non-partisan and non-religious body whose primary objective is to promote peace and unity among its people, as well as security and politics that will cater to their enlightened self-interest.
The programme held at Chelsea Hotel, which was well attended by leaders and politicians of various stripes and endorsed by governors of the North Central states, had former FCT minister, General Jer-ry Useni (rtd) as chairman, Board of Trustees; former minister of Health, Arc Gabriel Aduku, as protem chairman and Khaleel Bolaji as secretary-general .
Also present were former deputy Senate president, Ibrahim Mantu who made a passionate plea for unity; former minister of Sports, Sani Ndanusa; former deputy governor of Niger State, Ahmed Ibeto; former deputy governor of Benue State, Stephen Lawani; former deputy governor of Kogi State, Philip Salawu; chairman of LEADERSHIP Group, Sam Nda-Isaiah, former deputy chief of staff to former Presi-dent Olusegun Obasanjo, Prince Olusola Akomode, Bilikisu Oniyangi among several others.
Speaking at the official launch of the group, the forum’s BoT chairman, General Useni, expressed con-fidence that the forum will unite the peoples of Benue,
Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau States as well as the FCT in its quest to ensure that peace and stability is established and sustained within the zone to enable the zone pursue rapid industriali-sation across all its nooks and crannies as well as pursue policies and processes that would ensure that the massive solid minerals and agricultural resources are adequately harnessed.
Useni said, “The Forum is also aimed at ensuring cooperation and support the good policies and ad-ministration of the six governors of the zone irrespective of our political, religious and ethnic differ-ences; support and cooperate fully with the Federal Government for full and complete implementa-tion of infrastructures, development projects situated in the zone and involvement of the people of the zone in the National affairs of the country and promote, defend and strengthen North Central uni-ty and interest of its people in the context of one indivisible Nigeria and to contribute in safeguarding her territorial integrity.
“Consequently, every zone now has a common socio-political platform where they meet to discuss their strength and weakness with a view to propounding and promoting progress and development of the zone. It is therefore in this context that the South-South People’s Assembly and the South-South Elder’s Forum were formed to champion the common cause of the South-South people and draw Fed-eral Government attention to the perceived problems facing the people of their zone.
“It is in similar vein that the South-West Zone of Nigeria established the Afenifere Group, a Yoruba so-cio-political organization that is constantly being used to draw Federal Government attention to their common challenges. The South-East people of Nigeria have the Ohaneze Indigbo as their own socio0-political platform for mobilizing their people to actualize political and economic objectives that may attract positive development to their zone.
“Recently, the people of North-East floated a body called the North East Elders’ Forum for the attain-ment of similar objectives who succeeded in getting the North-East Commission approved by the fed-eral government. It is in the light of the foregoing that it becomes imperative and pertinent for us as a zone to rise to the challenges and launch our own geo-political platform from where we can draw the attention of relevant authorities on the need to address various socio-economic, political and securi-ties challenges ravaging our zone”.
The BoT chairman commended all the governors of the geopolitical zone for rising to their responsibil-ities in defending the people of their respective states against insurgency, kidnapping and other crimes in the zone, even as he pledged the forum’s support towards achieving the desirable peace in their various states.
He urged all parties to bury their individual, political, religious and ethnic differences and unite and cooperate with each other for the development and progress of the people in the zone.
Useni continued: “Those of you who are present here today should consider yourself as the voice and true representative of your people whom they have known to have at one time or the other repre-sented them fully at various level.
“Therefore, no sacrifice will be too much on our side to give the people of the zone the peace and de-velopment they desire from us as their leaders”.
In his remarks, Arc Yakubu Aduku, NCPF pro tem chairman, who observed that NCPF was an “age-long dream” explained that the zone was made up of a population of over 25 million people, spread across 71 tribes, with numerous varied spoken languages.
He said, “The socio-cultural, political and economic diversities of the zone simulate it as macrocosm known as Nigeria. It’s extremely rich human and mineral resources make this zone a unique divine arrangement for immense prosperity, development and leadership within the Nigeria Federation.
“Its immense human resource capital has undoubtedly announced the citizens of the zone for excel-lence and impact. Sadly, however, in-spite of its enormous solid, liquid minerals and natural endow-ments, commercial fishing, farming and agro-allied activities, as well as the massive intellectual human resources, the zone has become a sleeping giant, good enough only for political exploitation and ex-ploration by its “patrons” and vote seekers
“Within this giant, painfully lie its great potentials, including several dormant projects, factories, indus-tries and untapped natural and human resources; within this, also lie sleeping great voices and docile interests and aspirations. This irony of the absurd should not be allowed to thrive any longer. The North Central Peoples’ Forum has chosen to rise to the occasion and the challenges.
“It has come to ensure the effective aggregation, promotion and actualization of dormant and latent interests and potentials of the zone. It has come to give momentum and expression to voices of giants of the zone that have become silent, weak and inaudible.
“The zone hosts strategic industries, such as the Ajaokuta steel plant, the Iron Ore Processing Plant at Itakpe, the Obajana and Benue Cement facilities, the Bacita Sugar Processing Plant and Jebba Paper Mill and several others, all of which have become challenged.
“Apart from being a solid mineral belt, with a network or inland ports at Baro, Lokoja, Ajaokuta and Idah, the Rivers Niger and Benue have also put the Zone at a strategic These rivers have been neglect-ed, abused, ignored and serving independent Nigeria as it did for the Royal Niger Company (RNC) of Pre-independent Nigeria. Unfortunately and painfully, budgetary arrangements for dredging these riv-ers in order to make them fulfill their expected, commercial and developmental strategic roles have met frustrations and failures.
“In the face of all the above great endowments and potentials, which should have made the zone both political, economic and socio-cultural hub of Nigeria, it is unfortunately bedeviled by security and de-velopmental challenges of unprecedented dimensions. In terms of insecurity, it is an incontrovertible fact that almost in all states of the zone are people being killed and kidnapped regularly. Lives within the zone have ceased to be scared.
“The leaders of the Forum are no longer interested in the unending theories about the killings, but that they must stop. These have thus made our dear giant an endangered species amongst the comity of the six geopolitical zones of the federation”.
The forum at the launch observed one- minute silence for some of its fallen heroes in the region in-cluding the late Sunday Awoniyi, Olusola Saraki, Solomon Lar and Joseph Waku.
They also paid glowing tributes to Lt. General Inuwa Wushishi (rtd) who was Chief of Army Staff from October 1981 to October 1983 in the Second Republic.
On his part, chairman of LEADERSHIP Group, Nda-Isaiah, wondered why it took so long to form the forum, saying it was time the people of the North Central changed the narrative that the zone is a shopping ground for votes.
The media chief said, “When you look at the current sharing formula, it is simple to see and there is no point to overlook. The President is from North West, the vice president is from South West, the Senate president is from North East, the Speaker is from South West and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is from North East. It is easy to see. There is no single principal officer of the Nigerian State from the North Central. The South West has two. When someone from the North Central at-tempted to contest for the office of speaker, there was a gang up against him in favour of the South West even though they already have VP.
“We are not complaining but I think that it is about time we stopped being the region that people come to get their votes when it is time to elect leaders. The stakes are very high and we should all un-derstand it.
“We have to be more strategic; we have to be very serious and we should just win”.