BY Golu Timothy
Of recent, concerted political efforts are being built around the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and the North Central People’s Forum (NCPF), all in a bid to up the antennae of political equilibrium and power distribution among the minority tribes of the north. While the MBF consists of strong minority voices across 13 of the 19 northern states plus the FCT, the NCPF is designed to accommodate political interests across 6 states plus the FCT. Both groups are fervently desirous of advancing, defending and protecting the political interests of their people and their communities. While the MBF has been on ground for years and has penetrated the cranies of most of the 13 states , the NCPF is a new creation that has taken the polity by surprise.
It is a new platform that seeks to coordinate development, stability, security and welfare of the north central geopolitical zone of the country. It is very clear that things are changing across human society and because of the dynamic nature of society and humanity, they will continue to change to meet contemporary necessities and fill in the gap thereby creating natural movements. This fits into the adage that says,” the only permanent thing in life is change itself”.
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A new socio-political structure has come up in the North Central zone of the nation known as the North Central Peoples Forum, NCPF. The purpose, according to its proponents, is to have a structure to negotiate the distribution of political power for the zone and possibly have in place the North Central Develpoment Commission to coordinate the physical and infrastructural development of the zone. It will be like the Niger Delta Development Commission and the newly created North East Development Commission.
The existing Middle Belt Forum, MBF is an organization formed by like-mind minority political personalities within majority of the northern states to advance the cause of their people in running the political affairs of their areas.
Concerned statesmen all came together to bring the minority tribes from the north west, north east and north central together to pursue political power and its even distribution. It became a very strong tool for mass mobilization, aggregation, articulation, advocacy, education, sensitization and coordination during the first republic in which many sons and daughters of the minority tribes were elected into federal and regional parliaments. The minority tribes from states such as Plateau, Benue, Adamawa, Gombe, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Niger, Borno, Yobe, Kebbi, Bauchi, Taraba, and the Federal Capital Territory regardless of religion and ethnic backgrounds were all together in the fight for socio-political emancipation represented by the middle belt struggle.
Now with the growing democratic norm of constitutionalism and due process, the efficacy of the middle belt forum is dissolving into a new political platform and structure for the justification of action and process. Interestingly most of those who believed in the middle belt struggle are now the new proponents of the new idea whose time they say, has come to fill in the gap to move the zone forward.
The MBF was heavily built on good sentiments of minority marginalization and negligence and therefore its fame went even beyond its immediate environment to have attracted the solidarity of other similar activist bodies like the Afenifere, South-South Peoples Assembly, Ohaneze Ndigbo ,etc. However, this piece is not to, in anyway, undermine the Middle Belt Forum which has done quite excellently in projecting and defending the interest of the disadvantaged northern minority tribes.
Advocates of this new platform argue that their aim is to advance the cause of the zone by using the platform to unite and offer all the six states and the FCT the opportunity to present a united front for every political and economic endeavor using the legal instrument.
This is to achieve the goals of peace, stability, rapid industrialization and the exposition of the abundant potentials of the zone in areas of mining, agriculture, infrastructure, power sharing, youth and gender empowerment and safeguarding the territorial integrity of the zone.
Just the way the NDDC and the NEDC were pursued and subsequently put in place as instruments for the development of the South South and North East geopolitical zones, the NCPF aimed at creating the North Central Development Commission, NCDC, but basically to have an umbrella recognized by law. Even though the NDDC and NEDC were created without any geopolitical struggles , the NCPF has taken this approach because of its socio-political disadvantage of not enjoying the support of those at the helm of affairs of the nation, which has principally been players from the core North and Southern parts of the country.
Because the North Central geopolitical zone has never produced any democratic leadership in the country, it has not been given its rightful place in the political space of Nigeria. For instance, the zone has never produced an elected President, Vice President, CBN Governor, SGF, Petroleum or some strategic Ministerial positions, etc which other zones have produced to their advantage
As it is, the constitutional provision that sub- divided the country into six geopolitical zones and recognized the North Central for administrative convenience is the perfect pillar on which the Peoples Forums stands. Its proponents believed that the middle belt forum lacks constitutional recognition and legal backing, hence its limitation in leading discussions at critical levels of governance to bring desired results. This has also widened the gap of the cold war between the north central minorities, most of whom are Christians and the core north population, majority of whom are Muslims.
It has been very difficult to reach a melting point because of the existing political suspicion. While the Muslim brethren see the middle belt forum as Christian dominated structure, the Christians view it as the only umbrella point of convergence of the northern minority tribes to pursue political power and get its share from the dominance of the core north. There s therefore the urgent need to balance the two for the progress of the zone.
The political reality in Nigeria today, calls for strong regional unity. Those from the North Central geopolitical zone of Nigeria are all minorities irrespective of religious, ethnic or political affiliations who have been suffering deliberate marginalization from the core north and the Southern parts of the country. And the only way out is to come together under a legal umbrella to fight for their rights. This must be done under a non partisan framework and whichever party that is dominant in power at any time within the zone must embrace this for the sake of its people and the development of the area. We are the least in population and therefore our voices must be one.