Written by AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna
Northern elders on Wednesday spoke of the 2023 election, arguing that the South is using restructuring agitation to hit for zoning the presidency.
Northern Forum of Elders (NEF), led by prof. Ango Abdullahi, said South leaders are threatening the north with a crusade for restructuring to achieve the goal.
Abdullahi, a former presidential adviser on agriculture, said the South’s approach could destroy restructuring credit and put the country in danger.
He said: “Using restructuring as a threat or a negotiating tool to accept zoning will destroy the restructuring imperative and threaten the country.”
Also, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) complained that the South was provoking the North with what it described as attacks on northerners in the three southern regions.
Describing the North as the tissue that holds the nation together, ACF Deputy Chairman, Senator Ibrahim Ida, said the North should not be taken for granted.
Emerging in 2023, the NEF said northerners would not vote on the ethnic-religious line.
According to the group, the federal government should seriously address secession threats in some parts of the country to keep Nigeria a single entity.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, claimed that the former president from the south had a plan to destroy the north in 1999.
Professors Abdullahi, Senator Ida and Na’abba spoke about the challenges facing the north at the northern summit held at Arewa House Kaduna.
The topic of the summit was: “Barriers between people and their leader.”
Ida called for unity, cohesion and consensus building in the north to survive the challenges. He said: “We are the fabric that holds Nigeria together. We are provoked by the constant attacks on northerners in the south. So in the end we have to make sure no one takes us for granted or underestimates us. Let’s change the template, show our interest the way we want.”
Ida added: “The north is at a crossroads. We really need internal cohesion through an elite consensus on what the North stands for, the resources available and what we want to achieve.
“We have enemies in us and we have to turn them around and make things look our way. There is no involvement in the way we run our business. “
Na’abba said the system has worked for northerners for the past 60 years, adding: “Many people have the right to compete, but it is not conducive to leadership. Leadership is not for everyone, it is not a matter for all people, leaders must have so many virtues.”
He emphasized: “1999. year, when I realized that there was an agenda against the North, I did everything to make it fail, but among our governors I came across one of the fiercest opposition. Some of them because they want to return, some because they want to become president, have worked with a president who wants to destroy the North. “
According to the NEF, northerners opted for a different voting pattern because they learned the hard way.
Abdullahi, who also spoke at the summit, said northern candidates should not expect automatic voting because they are from the region.
He said: “No northerner should assume that he is guaranteed the support of our people just because he is one of us. “Only politicians who have plans for socio-economic development for the Northerners, regardless of tribe and religion,” would have the voice of the North.
Abdullahi said the North has decided to “think outside the box and choose a new group of leaders who will fare much better than the current ones.”
His words: “Northern voters supported three Southerners – (MKO) Abiola, (Oluseguna) Obasanja and (Goodluck) Jonathan to victory in the past, two of whom against the Northerners. Northern voters are enlightened and aware of their responsibilities. They have learned, perhaps more expensively than most Nigerians, that ethnicity and religion alone are not good leaders. They will not accept being further weakened to leave the same rights that all Nigerians enjoy.
“Those politicians who want northerners to vote in a certain way should get their boots dirty and convince northerners that their candidates will improve security, the economy and society in the north and in the country.
“Politicians who cannot impose their influence on irredentists who threaten our corporate existence and the lives and existence of our northerners stand on very thin ground in our assessment.
“Politicians who want the support and voice of northerners, but will not raise their voices and act to protect them from under-treatment in areas where they have power and influence, should not expect our people to find outstretched hands when they ask for support.
“For the same reason, no northerner should assume that he is guaranteed the support and votes of northerners just because he is one of us. Our experiences have taught us the values of critical oversight of records, dispositions, and empathy.
“It is not acceptable for innocent northerners to become pawns in political games, because the political elite cannot get the support of their people without giving reasons to thugs and political minions to intimidate northerners.
“It is not acceptable for any northerner to protect the criminal Fulani, whether he operates in the north or the south, and it is equally unacceptable for a Fulanis who is not involved in criminal activities to be profiled, demonized, killed or expelled from communities.
“It is not acceptable for the state to tolerate the growing irredentism that holds communities hostage and endangers national security.
“The north wants peace, security and economic progress. We believe this can be achieved in a strong, united Nigeria. We should not apologize to any group for this, and we will give a different opinion if it is best for the North.
“The North has paid a huge price for Nigeria’s survival and unity and will continue to support this survival and unity to the extent that it serves everyone. We are naturally concerned about the alarming rhetoric that suggests a serious polarization of the elite and the failure of the state to address the basic elements that guarantee our coexistence.
“The North has problems with Nigeria, but we believe they will be best addressed by Nigerians who agree to work together and find solutions for them, as well as for problems in other regions.”
“We have to think outside the box and choose new leaders who will fare much better than the current ones.”
Abdullahi also advised those agitating for secession to reconsider, saying secession is not the solution to any complaints.
He said: “Groups threatening to leave this alliance should read our history again. “We have all contributed to the development of every inch of Nigeria and no group should think of giving in to our community. We do not see secession as a solution to any complaints and we warmly advise our national leadership to accept these threats with all the seriousness they deserve.
“Virtually all communities and aggrieved parties in Nigeria point to a lack of justice in the way they treat each other or the Nigerian state.
“No country can survive injustice. If ours is to overcome challenges and grow to meet the desires of future generations, it must rediscover the place of justice as the foundation of all our systems and relationships. “