Northern Elders Forum, whose elders?

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By Hamisu Abubakar
Again the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) headed by Alhaji Maitama Sule is in the news, and like always, is allowing certain elements with political ambitions within it to dictate the nuances of its message.  In an attempt to appear to speak for all of us in the north, though we are not unaware of NEF's insidious agenda, a co-signatory of northern Christian extraction has been introduced by the name Solomon Dalung to join Hakeem Baba-Ahmed in churning out statements so that the northern Christians can feel safe under the group.

While I expect that the Christians will not be fooled by this resort to divide and rule by their neighbours, who do not think that they should have political power within the region, it is surprising that the same people who acted as the technocrats to former political leaders are now tongue-lashing past leaders for their negligence when they were actually the advisers to them.

In an apparent attempt to draw some leaders out to join in their political agenda, they said, “The Forum notes that the state of security and economic challenges of the North are deteriorating, in spite of its wealth of leaders and elders who should use their God-given privileges, power and influence to affect a reversal of these dangerous trends.  It is no secret that the vast majority of Northerners lament their marginalization, insecurity and poverty, and blames it in large part on the inability or unwillingness of its past and present leaders to utilize all access to power which they enjoy, to bring us redress and relief.”

Suddenly this ill-advised group thinks that General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Architect Namadi Sambo, General T.Y Danjuma and all retired Chief Justices of Nigeria from the North represent grossly under-utilized assets of the North that should join in the fight against Jonathan and say that the group joins millions of Northerners (which millions and where are they based?) in appealing to these leaders to raise their levels of involvement in the fortunes of the region in every endeavour or forum they are involved.

In a base recourse to cheap blackmail, this irrelevant minority seeking popularity through the back door tell these former leaders, some of whom they are working with, but prefer to include in the list in order to garner credibility, laughably state: “In these difficult days when every hand must be on deck, if these leaders cannot visibly help to transform the fortunes of the North in the next few months, they will leave northerners with the damaging impression that they have abandoned the region and the people to its seemingly irreversible decline and ultimate destruction.”

Curiously, while the National Council of States that includes these past leaders that NEF is appealing to for support has set a December date for the return of the Chibok girls, these rabble rousers that include former security chiefs have advised Jonathan to bring back the Chibok girls by October. What impudence!  And in a voice that makes other mischief makers point in the direction of groups, like NEF, as being involved in the abduction of the girls, it issues a weird ultimatum to Jonathan to deliver the girls by October or know that he has forfeited his right to ask for the northern mandate beyond 2015.

In rhetoric similar to that of the opposing All Progressives Congress (APC), knowing that Baba-Ahmed is of that party, the NEF wrote: “At all cost, the 2015 elections must be free and fair.  This means that any threat which may provide a cover for militarising the electoral process must be eliminated before the elections.  Every part of Nigeria must participate in these elections, and no citizen should be deprived of his right to vote under any excuse.” One wonders if Lai Mohammed did not pen these and other parts of the NEF position.

Where the Forum called on the President to immediately set up a Judicial Panel to investigate the recent killing of over 30 members of the Islamic Movement in Zaria gets the nod of this writer but to go further to say the internal investigations by the military in an event in which soldiers were involved would not meet the minimum standards of fairness and acceptability amounts to busy body tendencies, because the military is best equipped for the initial investigations, but where a slanted report is presented, then the presidency is free to initiate a more acceptable investigation.

The Forum reminded the nation that it was the murder of Muhammad Yusuf by the Nigeria Police in 2009 that formed the major point of escalation in the activities of the group(s) known today under the generic term of Boko Haram, as if inviting the Shiites to do the same. Well, if the Shiites do as being prodded subtly, the NEF should know that the north it seeks to protect will suffer more than any other region; so the group should be wary of its goading.

Apparently pointing accusing fingers in the direction of Abuja, the so-called elders, forgetting that the Nigerian military has more northerners than the south, and even more of them posted to the troubled region, were ignorantly unequivocal that they did not believe that the Nigerian military could defeat the terrorists.  They rejected the notion that multiple internal security challenges such as attacks on villages, ethno-religious conflicts and banditry springing up by the day in many parts of the north were all a coincidence, adding that they were convinced that most of the conflicts were being engineered to weaken the North politically and economically by interests which intend to exploit such weaknesses for electoral benefits.

What they failed to mention was that the Minister of Defence, General Mohammed Gusau; the Chief of Defence Staff; Alex Badeh's and the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki were all from the north and were the managers of the containment strategies for the activities of Boko Haram.  In effect, these three top guns of the security and military apparatchik were presiding over the decimation of the north for the benefit of an Ijaw man from Bayelsa State.  What an empty-headed and thoughtless postulation!

Hamisu Abubakar sent this piece from Kaduna.

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