Presidency, Northern Elders Forum Trade Barbs Over Insecurity

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Femi Adesina, Ango Abdullahi
Femi Adesina, Ango Abdullahi

The Presidency and Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Sunday, exchanged bitter words over the scale of insecurity to lives and property in the country.

The Presidency in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina described NEF as a one-man show that is like a general without troops which revolves on Prof. Ango Abdullahi, saying that it does not have any credible membership.

Northern Elders Forum (NEF) under the leadership of Professor Ango Abdullahi had said that President Muhammadu Buhari has failed as far as tackling insecurity in Nigeria is concerned.

This was as Boko Haram insurgents killed at the military checkpoint not less than 30 persons, abducted several including women and children, burnt several houses, razed seven trucks and 18 vehicles on Sunday night in Auno, a village 20 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital.

Adesina, in reaction, noted that the group had before the 2019 presidential elections expressed its hatred for President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the candidate NEF supported in the election suffered defeat.

The statement reads, “Professor Ango Abdullahi on Sunday signed a long-winding statement on many issues relating to the North, and purportedly to the country.”

“The former vice-chancellor signed the statement under the banner of Northern Elders Forum (NEF). Hearing that title, you would think the body was a conglomeration of true elders.

“But the truth is that NEF is just Ango Abdullahi, and Ango Abdullahi is NEF. It is a quasi-organization that boasts of no credible membership, and its leader is akin to a General without troops. ”

“Before the 2019 presidential election, the one-man army called NEF had shown its antipathy against President Muhammadu Buhari, and its preference for another candidate. They all got beaten together.”

Continuing, Adesina said, “NEF is merely waving a flag that is at half-mast. President Buhari steadily and steadfastly focuses on the task of retooling Nigeria, and discerning Nigerians know the true state of the nation. They don’t need a paper tiger to tell them anything.

Addressing journalists shortly after their meeting on national issues in Zaria, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmad, the NEF Director, Advocacy and Engagements, noted that the administration of President Buhari appeared helpless in finding solutions to insecurity as well as poverty in the country.

According to NEF, “With this type of mindset, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation”.

“Northern Elders Forum has refrained from comments on major developments relating to the management of national security and governance because it is convinced that these are times which require the highest levels of responsibility and circumspection in the manner elders and leaders in the nation contribute to the search for solutions to the multiple problems which face the nation.

It has become necessary and appropriate, however, to make public, the position of the Forum on important matters that affect the manner Nigerians live, and the future we must address.

“The Forum regrets that by any standard of judgement, the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation in the vital area of improving its security. Poverty, particularly in the North, and massive social security have worsened under this administration.

“The relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, but the administration does not appear to have any idea on what will provide relief or solution. It gives the Forum no pleasure to say that it had warned Nigerians that President Buhari lacked the will, the competence and commitment to lead it into a secure and prosperous future before the 2019 elections.

“It is shocking that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the nation’s multiple security challenges, President Buhari appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians.”

NEF also included that “With this type of mindset, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation. Nonetheless, we believe that Nigerians must continue to raise our voices and organize through all legitimate means to demand that the administration addresses major failings in his perception of our situation and his response to our demands for our rights to security.

“The Forum demands a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies, and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity and accountability in the manner our troops and the police and security agencies deal with security challenges. We appeal to our religious leaders and fellow citizens not to fall into the trap of insurgents to set us up against each other.

“We condemn the tactic of targeting Christians and publicising their executions by an insurgency seeking to exploit our different faiths. We also condemn the murder of thousands of Muslims and Christians in communities which the insurgency has made permanent targets in the last decade. These are times when we must unite and resist a common enemy as well us demand that our leaders protect us all as Nigerians.

“In principle, the Forum supports the idea of improving the policing capacities of the nation. It is important to emphasise, however, that all initiatives to improve public safety must find accommodation within our laws, and must not be designed to threaten or harass particular groups or interests,” NEF said.

Speaking further, the northern elders’ body also stated that “We recommend the adoption of a more vigorous and inclusive process which will result in the creation of acceptable frameworks and higher levels of confidence among all communities with respect to policing strategies. This Forum extends its hand at any group or interest willing to discuss this important matter and will utilize its entire assets to collaborate with other groups to achieve an understanding on the way forward. We advise all governments to exercise higher levels of restraint and responsibility in the manner they respond to the challenges of improving our security and safety.

“In this regard, the Forum notes that the comments of the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), in response to the opinions of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar do not conform with the culture of respect and reverence for leaders which Northerners are noted for.

“The Forum demands that the Chairman of BOT of Coalition of Northern Groups should apologise to His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto without reservations. The Forum notes that His Eminence has many avenues for relating with the Coalition, and urges him to continue with his close relations with the Coalition and utilize his position to extract the maximum benefits which could accrue to the Northern community in his relations with the Coalition.

“In moments of tension and stress, Nigerians tend to find easy solutions or scapegoats. This Forum is concerned that the apparent resurgence of certain types of conflicts such as ethnic and farmers/herders clashes will have multiplier effects and cause damaging setbacks to the successes made in improving community relations. We appeal to governments and communities to commit further to living together in peace and earning a living within the ample resources we are blessed with.

“With due respect to the rights of the Lagos State Government to make decisions that improve the environment and public safety, we are constrained to draw attention to the impact of its policy on banning Okada and Keke in parts of the State on the poor and operators, many of them from the North, who earn honest living through this trade. We urge restraint in the responses of those who are immediately affected by this policy, while we urge Northern State Governments to mobilize and support the people who will be compelled to relocate back to the North with other sources of legitimate living.

“The Forum had engaged a broad spectrum of opinion on the stress in relations between the palace of Sarkin Kano and the Government of Kano State. The Forum is looking forward to engaging with His Excellency, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on this matter. We commend the maturity and restraint of all parties on this matter, and we join others in prayers that Allah will help us all to find a way out of this issue. We are aware of the outpouring of advice and contributions towards resolving these stresses, and we urge the Governor and Sarkin Kano, the two people Allah Has entrusted with huge leadership responsibilities today, to find a fair and lasting solution to this seeming problem.

“The Forum has observed that political manoeuvres around the 2023 elections are targeting the North as a region available for exploitation. We want to make it clear that people of the North will be very careful in committing to persons seeking their support on the basis of their region or wealth.

“The North knows its interests and will stand together to elect only persons who meet the standards and interests of the people of the North. No politician should assume that they are entitled to our support unless they show a clear understanding and a commitment to deal with our problems and meet our aspirations,” they stated.