The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has said that 2023 would not be business as usual because Northerners have learnt their lessons at great cost and would only vote for people that cared for them.
Chairman of NEF and former Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi who spoke during the opening of the Northern People’s Summit at the Arewa House Kaduna on Wednesday, said Northerners will not vote along with ethnicity and faith in electing political leaders in 2023, while those that would be voted for must have the socio-economic development plans for the northerners irrespective of tribe and religion.
Professor Ango who was the convener of the Northern People’s Summit on barriers between the people and their leaders said It is not acceptable that serious issues which represent genuine improvements in our governance structures should wait for the pleasure of our legislators or the Presidency.
“We can vastly improve our mobilization of economic resources, reduce inefficiencies and waste and improve effective governance if we take the issues of restructuring more seriously. In the event that those we elected to represent us believe that this is not what we need, Nigerians should encourage a citizen-driven review of our foundations and systems, and democratically put in place leaders who will address them as matters of national survival or collapse.”
“In this respect, we should advise those who conflate the vital national imperative to restructure with issues of rotation or zoning the presidency to avoid doing major injury to our future as a nation. No one will quarrel with the decision of any political party to zone political offices and canvass for votes around them. Those parties who do this also have the responsibility to convince Nigerians over the utility and other values behind them. The basic rights of Nigerians to vote for candidates of their choices cannot be taken away by threats or blackmail.”
“Northern voters have supported three southerners, Abiola, Obasanjo and Jonathan to victory in the past, two of them against Northerners. Northern voters are enlightened and conscious of their responsibilities. They have learnt, perhaps at a greater cost than most Nigerians, that ethnicity and faith alone do not make good leaders. They will not accept to be further weakened so that they abandon the same rights all Nigerians enjoy. Those politicians who want Northerners to vote in a particular manner should soil their boots and convince Northerners how their candidates will improve security, economy and society in the North and the country. Using restructuring as a threat or bargaining tool for accepting zoning will destroy the imperatives of restructuring and imperil the country.”
“Politicians and leaders who desire to lead need to understand that Nigerians are watching what they do in the immediate constituencies that will entitle them to ask for our support. We should speak frankly and directly to the rest of Nigeria on this issue. Politicians who cannot impose their influence on irredentists that threaten our corporate existence and the lives and livelihoods of our fellow Northerners stand on the very thin ground in our estimation. Politicians who cannot or will not influence public sentiment which demonises our fellow Northerners and leaves them open to attack will not weigh much in our consideration as leaders under whom we will feel safe and secure,” he said.
Ango explained that “Politicians who want the support and the vote of the Northerner, but will not raise their voices and act to protect him against underserved treatment in areas where they have power and influence, should not expect to find our people with open arms when they ask for support.”
“By the same token, no Northerner should assume that he is guaranteed the support and votes of Northerners simply because he is one of us. Our experiences have taught us the values of critical scrutiny of records, dispositions and empathy. Our advice to all Nigerian politicians at this stage is to look around and see how much the ground has shifted from under their feet.”
According to him, “there will be no longer business as usual. Nigerians running away from bullets, stressing to make ends meet, or being made to fight each other instead of the real enemy will not forgive those who built the foundations of our circumstances today and seek to sustain their privileges over our fears and pains. Leadership has to emerge on the basis of different criteria. Only the best leadership can pull Nigeria from the brink.
We recognize that this leadership has to have identities, but its quality must be pre-eminently the most significant criteria for its evaluation. Every zone or region has major problems. Leaders from these zones who will not address these problems, alone or in collaboration with others, should know that they will be judged by their records in dealing with threats and how they turn them into opportunities for rebuilding a nation that shows all the traces of major distress.”
He said the Summit will attempt to be constructive and responsible in assuming appropriate responsibility for contributing to finding solutions. “It is not enough to upbraid our leadership for the woes of the North. If some of them have failed us, our response should be to work to reduce the damage of that failure, and to put in place better quality of leaders in their places in future.”
“We have been fortunate in having the best quality of intellect, experience and commitment at this Summit to do justice to the search for solutions to our problems. This Summit is non-partisan and has been designed to specifically address our inherent plurality in the North. We should commit to being dispassionate and brave enough to acknowledge where the North bleeds, and why. We must be mature enough to accept our limitations as a people, and identify what our sources of strength are. We must give hope to Northerners that our current challenges will pass, In Sha Allah.”
“This Summit should signal a new era in collaboration between those who hold power, and those who have a duty to support them to succeed. We must send a message to people who are bent on assaulting and killing our people that they are treading a very dangerous path, and they must stop. It is not acceptable that innocent Northerners should be made pawns in political games because the political elite cannot win the support of their people without yielding grounds to thugs and political minions to intimidate Northerners. It is not acceptable that any Northerner should protect criminal Fulani, whether he operates in the North or South, and it is equally unacceptable that Fulanis who are not involved in criminal activities should be profiled, demonized murdered or expelled from communities.”
Commenting on the state of insecurity, he said it is not acceptable that the state should tolerate growing irredentism which holds communities’ hostage and threaten national security.
“The North wants peace, security and economic progress. We believe that it is possible to achieve these in a strong, united Nigeria. We do not need to apologise to any group for this, and we will express another opinion if that is what is best for the North. The North has paid a huge price for the survival and unity of Nigeria and will continue to support this survival and unity to the degree that it serves everyone’s interests. We are naturally worried over alarming rhetorics suggesting serious elite polarization and failure of the state to address basic elements that guarantee our co-existence.”
“The North has its issues with Nigeria, but we believe they will be best addressed by Nigerians agreeing to collaborate and find solutions to them, as well as those of other regions. Groups that threaten to walk out of this union should read our history again. We have all contributed to the development of every inch of Nigeria, and no group should contemplate ceding with our commonwealth. We do not see secession as a solution for any grievance, and we strongly advise our national leadership to take these threats with all the seriousness they deserve.”
“This Summit will be most useful if it elevates the concept and practice of justice as the foundational principles that should lead to the resolution of the most difficult challenges that confront our nation today. Virtually all communities and aggrieved parties in Nigeria point to the absence of justice in the manner they relate with each other or the Nigerian state.
No country can survive with injustice. If ours will overcome its challenges and grow to meet the yearnings of future generations, it has to rediscover the place of justice as the foundation of all our systems and relations. I earnestly hope that this Summit will contribute to the search for major entry points for this endeavour.”
He said these are indeed very trying times for our country. “But we have had trying times in the past, and we overcome them. I do not want to encourage complacency, so I must advise that the challenges we face today are unprecedented.
They call for leaders and citizens to rise and collaborate to rid us of fear and the pains of daily existence. Northerners should lead the way to find solutions to Northern problems, and work with other Nigerians to find solutions to national problems. The world watches and worries over our mounting problems.
The world, however, will not stop our decline into irretrievable disaster unless we do the most basic pushing ourselves. Our leaders must improve their responses to our problems. If they will not, citizens should improve collaboration to limit the damage of their limitations. We must think out of the box and elect new sets of leaders who will do a lot better than the current ones.”
“I pray that this Summit will expose the wisdom of adopting new or better approaches to dealing with problems of the North. I hope one of these will be to advise Northerners to protect each other, and not to waste energy and focus on responding to provocations whose only purpose is keeping some people in the public realm.
I am grateful for this opportunity to offer my views at this Summit, and I look forward to participating fully in all its deliberations. May Allah blesses our efforts, and bless our country, Nigeria, Amin,” he said.
A communique is expected at the end of the Summit which had in attendance chieftains of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, other northern groups and associations from across the region.