Transparency International, the global civil society organization leading the fight against corruption was quoted as saying few years ago that Nigeria may not remain as a country beyond 2015.
Nigeria is hundred years old but ethnic regional sentiment which has eaten deep into the nation’s fabric has not only allowed the country to grow but is plunging the nation into disintegration. The unity of Nigeria to many is now negotiable.
Ahead of 2015 general elections some unguarded utterances that are capable of plunging the country into anarchy or disintegration are gradually coming from some highly placed individuals in the country.
Recently the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) after conducting a comprehensive review of the state of the nation issued President Goodluck Jonathan a two month ultimatum within which to end the Boko Haram insurgency, as well as rescue the kidnapped Chibok girls.
According to the forum, Jonathan had until end of October this year to produce the chibok girls, or face opposition to his re-election ambition for 2015.
Two members of the forum, Barr. Solomon Dalung and Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed which addressed journalists in Kaduna after its meeting warned that, “In the event that President Jonathan fails to do this; Nigerians will be left with the only conclusion that he has forfeited his right to ask for our mandate beyond 2015.”
According to them, the forum’s decision became necessary in view of the security situation in the country, saying, “The security situation in our nation today represents the most serious threat to our individual and collective lives in our entire history.
“Lack of strong will at the level of the presidency to fight insurgency, as well as deep seated corruption and incompetence in government and in the management of our security challenges have allowed a band of terrorists to take and hold vast parts of our land and population hostage while every citizen lives in fear that they will be its next victim.”
They stated that the forum did not believe that the Nigerian military could not defeat the insurgents.
“We also reject the motion that multiple internal security challenges such as attacks on villages, ethno-religious conflicts and banditry springing up every day in many parts of the North are all a coincidence.
“Indeed, we are convinced that most of these conflicts are being engineered to weaken the North politically and economically, by interests which intend to exploit such weaknesses for electoral benefits,” they said.
The forum noted that the state of security and the economic challenges of the North were deteriorating in spite of its wealth of leaders and elders, who should use their God-given privileges, power and influence to effect a reversal of the 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, bring us redress and relief.
General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, General T. Danjuma and all retired Chief Justices of Nigeria from the North represent grossly under-utilized assets of the North.
The NEF joins millions of northerners in appealing to these leaders to raise their level of involvement in the fortunes of our region in every endeavour or for they are involved in.
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,” the forum noted.
It urged all leaders and political parties to demonstrate the highest level of commitment to the rule of law and the demands of the electoral process.
At all cost, they said 2015 elections must be free and fair; “This means that any threat, which may provide a cover for militarizing 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.”
However, it is no longer news that out of the 54th years Nigeria has lived as an independent nation, the northern Nigeria has ruled for over 35 years. Within these years they had always done whatever they wanted with power.
Meanwhile, the northern elite see the office of the President of Nigeria as their birthright and each time a northerner is not in power they try as much as possible to frustrate whoever is in power out of office when the plan to assassinate him becomes impossible.
It could be recalled that Major General J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi, the first Southerner and of Igbo extraction to be the Head of state lasted in office for barely six months and was assassinated by the northern soldiers led by General Theophilus Danjuma in 29 July 1966. During the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the north introduced Sharia crisis to frustrate his government in 2001. But as one who had passed the road before as a military President, he resisted every attempt to frustrate him out of power.
Observers are of the view that since President Jonathan assumed office as President of Nigeria after the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010; some northern leaders had threatened to make the country ungovernable for him if he doesn’t relinquish power to them. They made real their promise immediately after 2011 elections and since then the insecurity situation in the country worsened.
There is no doubt that the insecurity problem being experienced in the North east following the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect is purely engineered by those who parade themselves as leaders of the northern Nigeria.
In his response to the demand from the Northern Elders Forum, President Jonathan forcefully denied that he would comply with any “threat” or “ultimatum” dictating how he should execute his presidential duties.
Senior Special Assistant to the President, Dr. Doyin Okupe, made the Presidents’ position known calling the demands “preposterous,” “contrary to common sense,” and divisive.”
The statement reads; “We read with deep concern the statement published in the media today by the Northern Elders Forum giving President Goodluck Jonathan a two ultimatum on the Boko Haram Insurgency and the Chibok Girls abduction saga.
“We wish to state categorically that President Jonathan does not require any threat or ultimatum from any group of persons to be alive to his responsibilities to the Nigerian people.
“The issue of insurgency especially those ideologically based on Islamic extremism is a global phenomenon and requires tact, military capability, serious de-radicalization techniques and community based counter insurgency programmes to ensure success. In this area, the Federal Government is making progress; we are improving on our operational capabilities and efficiencies by acquiring more advanced weapons and technologies for our military and security agencies.
“We have drafted more military personnel to the region to strengthen the fighting power of our armed forces. We are taking advantage of the offers from our international military and intelligence allies to assist in identifying key locations. We are working with our neighbours to secure the borders and limit the movements of the Boko Haram fighters, building on the agreements reached at the recent summits in Paris and London.
“We are deploying more resources to maximize operational efficiency, acquire more advanced and relevant weaponry and boost the general morale of our combatants. This is why the Government recently requested for an additional funding of $1bn. And the last piece in the puzzle is targeting the domestic and international funding and stopping the money flows into the coffers of the terrorists.
“With all these efforts and the support of our allies, these steps will help fight the threat of the Boko Haram and move us closer to bringing the girls back safely. Lastly, the suggestion, that the government is carrying out any scheme to annihilate any section of the country for political gain is preposterous, contrary to common sense, divisive and essentially a deliberate and attempt to disseminate “hate mentality” and cause mischief.
“President Goodluck Jonathan was voted for by an overwhelming majority of Nigerians across the board and he will never promote any policy that is either divisive or inimical to the wellbeing of any section of the polity. What the country needs today is total co-operation of all its citizens and stakeholders with the government and our military and the security agencies.
We wish to assure Nigerians that in spite of this and many more distractions, the President is focused on continued successful executions of his transformation Agenda; and the guarantee of the security of lives and properties of the Nigerian people.
Consequently, simply because of the fact that President Jonathan is easily, the most unassuming individual to have risen to political prominence in Nigeria some people have taken it as a license to abuse and threaten him at will.
Masquerading under the auspices of the Northern Elders Forum, the duo of Solomon Dalong and Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed asked President Jonathan to produce the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram before October as if the president has been hiding the girls at the presidential villa in Abuja.
Afenifere, a socio-cultural organization for the Yoruba people in Nigeria, has accused Northern Elders Forum of backing the Boko Haram terrorist sect, saying its recent utterances are a tacit support of the sect’s activities.
Afenifere in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, comrade Yinka Odumakin, expressed dismay over a statement credited to the Forum asking President Goodluck Jonathan to bring back the abducted Chibok girls and end insurgency in Nigeria by October or forget about 2015 elections.
The group said, “The statement signed on behalf of the forum by Solomon Dalong and Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed also alleged that “we are convinced that most of these conflicts are being engineered to weaken the North Politically and economically by interests which intend to exploit such weaknesses for electoral benefits.”
Afenifere urged the Northern Elders Forum to name the interests engineering the conflicts in the region, saying the wicked and insensitive ploy to turn the misfortune of the Chibok girls and their parents to an electoral weapon has become apparent in the forum’s stand.
It said, “By linking the electoral fortune of President Jonathan in 2015 to “Bring Back Our Girls”, latest by October as well as ending Boko Haram at the time, the “elders” have just confirmed the suspicions in the land that the activities of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, is either enjoying the sponsorship of some elite of the North or at the least having their sympathy.”
“In all the sound and fury of the Forum, we searched in vain any outright condemnation of Boko Haram. And this has been the pattern of most reactions from the majority of the elite of the region who always appear politically correct to the insurgents while using their activities to rattle the government.”
Afenifere reasoned, “That traumatized country that has been held in anxiety over the fate of the abducted girls cannot but challenge these elders at this stage to appeal to their wards in Boko Haram to release the innocent young girls who now appear cannon fodders in the struggles for “we want our power back”.
The group pointed out that a similar pattern played out at the ongoing National conference where some of these elite pushed for Boko Haram to become a derivate item, insisting of a first line charge five percent National Intervention Fund for insurgency and terrorism to be shared among North East at the rate of three percent, North, West one percent and North Central one percent.
Shortly after the conference adjourned, there was an insurgency in the North West which would appear as an attempt to alter the “sharing formula” of this “terrorism fund.”
“We however, frown at the disingenuous attempt by unconscionable elite who are now dishing out two month ultimatum to end an insurgency that they prepared the atmosphere for in decades of exploitation and iniquitous dealings with their own people. Can they name one country that has defeated terror in 60 days?
“How many rulers have we had in Nigeria since 1960 and how many came from the North? Why did it not occur to any of them that the Almajiris should go to school?”
Afenifere noted that the country has suffered enough of the errors of such leaders who they accused of producing terror in the country.
In their separate reactions, two foremost groups in the South-South, the Bayelsa Development Forum, BDF, and the Niger Delta Enlightenment Network, NDEN, have flayed the Northern Elders Forum for giving President Goodluck Jonathan October deadline to produce the abducted Chibok girls.
The President of Niger Delta Enlightenment Network, Chief Salvation Angele Oba, has said that the northern elders were misguided in their position.
Agele Oba stated that instead of vilifying Jonathan, the elders should direct their frustration at the governor of Borno State, over the abduction of the Chibok girls.
The activist said, “The matter does not directly affect President Jonathan. The Northern elders should hold Borno State Governor responsible for the girls’ abduction. He is the Chief security officer of the state and he has been collecting security money. It is one of the reasons they collect security funds for.
In the Niger Delta, many people have been kidnapped; do the people hold anybody responsible?”
He urged the Northern elders to be guided in their utterances and not to create tension that would throw the country into a state of anarchy.
Chairman, BDF, Chief Thompson Okotie, had on Monday accused members of the Northern Elders Forum (NDF) of complicity in the girls’ abduction.
Okotie had said at a press conference in Yenagoa that the northern elders’ call was an “invidious attack” on Jonathan, noting that their statement contained weighty allegations which smacked hatred on the person of the President and the Federal Government.
The elder statesman said, “The BDF views these statements as most unfortunate. In NEF desperation, its members have finally exposed their complicity in the kidnap of the Chibok girls which they had long planned to use as a political ploy against President Jonathan.
“This is most callous. They who have connived to kidnap the Chibok girls and put this burden on Nigeria should now take definite steps towards assisting the Federal Government to secure the release of the girls.”
He said the ultimatum would not deter Jonathan from seeking reelection in 2015, saying it was only logical for the president to be allowed to consolidate on his achievements so far.
Okotie noted that the President had not only attracted the sympathy of the international community but had also mobilized the West African sub region to achieve a multinational effort at ending the unfortunate security challenge.
He noted, “It is the position of BDF that this is a most baseless allegation which was earlier canvassed by the impeached Governor of Adamawa state who had no iota of evidence or proof when he was so confronted at a council of state meeting. It is therefore surprising that the Northern Elders Forum who is expected to know better is still canvassing the same allegation without any proof.”