The two-month ultimatum from the Northern Elders Forum to President Jonathan to rescue the abducted Chibok girls rekindles fault lines in the Nigerian nation
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
It was a battle they inherited from their ancestors. The faceoff that emerged yesterday between Afenifere, the Yoruba Socio Cultural group and the Northern Elders Forum, NEF over the feasibility and competence of President Goodluck Jonathan’s reelection was a recall of the mutual suspicion that existed between Nigeria’s first indigenous regional leaders.
While the conflict of the forefathers was essentially centered around regional domination, the conflict that burst yesterday is on the surface focused on the fate of the more than 200 Chibok secondary schools abducted last April.
At the peak of the distrust between Nigeria’s founding fathers, the late Northern leader, Sir Ahmadu Bello was quoted as saying that his priority in filling job vacancies in the north would be “first a northerner, then an expatriate and then a southerner and that on contract.”
Bello’s assertion was to be the basis of the chasm and subsequent hostility that shadowed relations between the two sides of the country since independence.
The hostility which was fueled by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election Chief Moshood Abiola was only partially soothed by the election of General Olusegun Obasanjo as president in 1999. However, since the Obasanjo phenomenon and the relegation of the north from its position of political dominance, the seeming discomfort of the north in playing second fiddle in the polity has taken a central role in the polity.
It has been especially so under President Jonathan who has generally been affirmed to be Nigeria’s most “troubled” leader. Jonathan has been troubled by the insurgency fanned by what was once thought to be a mainly Islamic agenda. The Islamic Boko Haram group which started by killing Christians, burning and bombing churches has lately expanded its agenda to killing non conforming Islamic leaders bringing to question the real motif of the group.
While some allege that it still has an Islamic agenda, the gruesome and unrestrained brutality of the group has given vent to a political agenda.
So when the NEF last Monday urged President Jonathan to forget re-election if the Chibok girls are not returned, the group whether advertently or inadvertently rekindled the regional distrust that existed between the north and the south.
In a statement issued by Barrister Solomon Dalung and Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the group alleged that the ongoing insurgency in the north was aimed at politically and economically weakening the north to allow the easy reelection of President Jonathan.
“We also reject the notion that multiple internal security challenges such as attacks on villages, ethno-religions conflicts and banditry springing up by the day in many parts of the north are all a coincidence,” the statement said. “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.”
Alleging that the administration was deliberately allowing the crisis to fester, the NEF said:
“The lack of a strong will at the level of the presidency to fight it, as well as deep-seated corruption and incompetence in governments and in the management of our security challenges has allowed a band of terrorists to take and hold vast parts of our land and populations hostage, while every citizen lives in fear that they will be its next victim.”
The NEF which has such prominent Jonathan bashers as Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Prof. Ango Abdullahi in its fold and had never hidden its revulsion of a second term for Jonathan or the aspiration of any other southerner, was quick to push forward its most notable agenda, to wit, that Jonathan should not re-contest.
“In the light of our firm conviction that the insurgency and related security challenges pose threats to the 2015 elections and the survival of our nation, we strongly advise President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to bring an end to the insurgency in all its manifestations and produce the Chibok girls before the end of October, 2014. The circumstances under which our fellow citizens in and around Gwoza in Borno State in particular live and die will not be tolerated by any people who have a government and a leader sworn to defend them, and they must be reversed immediately. 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.”
Afenifere in a sharp rebuttal was quick to enter the fray yesterday. The group in a statement issued by its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said the statement by the NEF was an exposure of the linkage between the Islamic Boko Haram sect and some northern elites.
“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 elites of the North or at the least having their sympathy.”
Afenifere was quick to spot out what it referred to as the unwillingness of the northern elders to condemn the activities of Boko Haram while focusing on the alleged failures of the president.
“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 elites of the region who always appear politically correct to the insurgents while using their activities to rattle the government. The most audacious of this perfidy is this direct put by the Northern Elders Forum.”
“A 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 struggle for “we want our power back”.
“A time has come to let these elites know they can no longer play the ostrich by burying their heads in the sand and think no one sees them because they are seeing no one.”
“We, however, frown at the disingenuous attempt by unconscionable elites who are now dishing out two months 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 come from the North? Why did it not occur to any of them that the Almajiris should go to school?” “The country has suffered enough of the errors of these leaders which has now produced terror in the land, they should stopping pouring salt on the injury,” Afenifere said.
Northern Elders on Jonathan
•Administration is insensitive to the plight of
•Toying with corruption
•Has put politics ahead of governance
•Has closed its eyes to the Boko Haram scourge in the North
Afenifere on Northern Elders
•They are cuddling Boko Haram
•Refusing to condemn Boko Haram
•Prefer to cite alleged incompetence of Jonathan
•Not sincere about Chibok girls