By Emeka Mamah
KADUNAâ€”AGAINST the backdrop of perceived lost of power by the North occasioned by the ill-heath of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and the possibility of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan contesting the 2011 polls, the Chairman of the Northern Governorsâ€™ Forum, NGF and Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Aliyu Babangida, has urged northernersÂ to wake up to the stark realities of the situation on the ground and stop taking things for granted.
This came as Dr. Jonathan blamed the problems of the country on the peopleâ€™s attitude to corruption cases.
The Acting President, obviously referring to the shielding of the former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, by his kinsmen from arrest by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, decried a situation whereby Nigeria hailed the rich among us irrespective of how their wealth was acquired.
He was represented on the occasion by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed.
Also, the Senate President, Senator David Mark, said although Nigeria has its problems, it cannot yet be said to be a failed state.
â€œNigeria has a lot of deficits, but I do not think we are a failed state and I do not think we should condemn ourselves.
â€œI think we are doing well and even those countries that are successful, they still have problems and those close to us are not ashamed to come and borrow money from us in spite of everything. Nigeria is a great country,â€ Mark, who was represented by Senator Jibril Aminu said.
However, Muazu said the area should negotiate with other ethnic groups as the era when the geographical North lorded it over to other ethnic groups and regions in the country was over.
He spoke at the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Arewa Consultative Forum,Â ACF, at the Arewa Hall, Kaduna, yesterday.
The chairman spoke as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, who was the lead lecturer on the occasion, warned ethnic groups or sections against thinking that they had the â€œmonopoly on exclusivist and fissiparous tendencies or totally imbued with inclusivity and centrifugal tendenciesâ€ in the country.
Akinyemi, whose topic was on â€œfighting corruption and social conflict to achieve development,â€ noted that $480 billion had been lost to corruption in the last 39 years in Nigeria.
EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, noted that, â€œinevitably, the failure of the country to manage its social conflicts and development issues has meant that it cannot effectively tackle corruptionâ€ just as the former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said he encouraged the formation of ACF while in office because of the sharia crises then.
Waziri said:Â â€œNigeria lacks the political will to fight corruption outside the Federal Executive Council (FEC) level,” adding that EFCC has over 300 cases pending in various courts with some of the cases having lasted over five years.
She likened the several sectarian conflicts in the country to corruption.
â€œThe kind of sectarian conflicts and violence within Nigeria today would have been unimaginable in the 60â€™s and 70â€™s.
â€œDoes anyone need proof that it is because of the high level of corruption that violence breaks out at the slightest of opportunities?
â€œPeople are so highly strung and deprived of the basics of life that they become willing tools in the hands of puppeteers.
â€œIt is not surprising that the army of young people who are used for violence are unemployedâ€, she added.
But, Gov. Babangida said, â€œas Nigerians of northern extraction, should we be more concerned with the euphoria, sensationalism and sentiment of having a President from the North or a President that can deliver the goods and services for the improved well-being of Nigerians?
â€œShouldnâ€™t we, therefore, begin to articulate our concerns and needs and judge candidates by what they can deliver to us rather than where they may come from?
â€œWe must begin to be rational and negotiateÂ wisely with a view to tackling the development challenges facing us, once and for all- excruciating poverty, decay in the educational system, infrastructural gaps, almajiri (begging) syndrome and youth restiveness among others.
â€œThe era of lording it over others or simply thinking â€˜we have itâ€™ has passed.
â€œWe should not continue to take things for granted in the political equation of this country. I believe we should focus attention squarely on how the average Nigerian can experience a decent life like his counterparts in other parts of the world in the 21st century.
â€œMany of the sensational issues that we preoccupy ourselves with are not necessary and should not take so much of our time, energy and resources, when others are moving on positivelyâ€.
According to him, the greatest problem facing the country today was fighting corruption, and urged Nigerian leaders to curtail their greed and insatiable thirst for material acquisition and concentrate on serving the people and delivering to them, the basic necessities of quality life.
Among eminent Nigerians who attended the anniversary celebration include; former vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Senator Roland Owie, Senator J. K. N. Waku, Prof. Joe Irukwu, former national President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Col. Issa Kachako (rtd), the National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani and Senator Jibril Aminu.