By Ochereome Nnanna
THE Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has spoken – again. The NEF has become the most garrulous elders forum in the country.
In a statement issued on its behalf by Barrister Solomon Dalung and Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, but which had the overtones of the usual venom of Prof. Ango Abdullahi and Alhaji Lawal Kaita (Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s political loudmouths) the NEF told President Goodluck Jonathan that if by the end of October 2014 the Chibok college girls abducted by Boko Haram had not been rescued he should forget the 2015 presidential race.
NEF, more or less, rehashed the poisonous letter that impeached former governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Murtala Nyako, wrote to Northern Governors in April accusing Jonathan of perpetrating genocide in the North through the war on terror. They continued to cast doubt over the insurgency in the North.
Hear them: “the reality is that the threats posed by what appears to be an insurgency that has many manifestations and defies a clear and consistent identity is growing due to the absence of a clear national consensus over its nature and its solutions…
“We also reject the notion that multiple internal security challenges such as attacks on villages, ethno-religious conflicts and banditry springing up by the day in all 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”.
There is a clear national consensus that the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents and “Fulani herdsmen” are the people destroying the North, but I was unable to spot where NEF mentioned Boko Haram by name. In fact, NEF, just like Nyako, denies there is a Northern homegrown Boko Haram involved in the economic, social and political emasculation of the North, including the abduction of the Chibok girls they are shedding crocodile tears over.
The NEF wants to hoodwink those who care to listen to it that the insurgency is being “engineered” by President Jonathan to weaken the North in order for him to exploit it and win the 2015 elections. It is based on this self-deceitful postulation that it is giving the President up to October end to stop the “atrocities” and release the Chibok girls or the North will not vote for him. Talk of playing the ostrich, these crafty elders have perfected the act, but no one is fooled. Nigerians are far smarter than that.
From the same North have come several rebuttals. Alhaji Gidado Ibrahim, Chairman of the Northern Alternative Group (NAG) lampooned the self-appointed elders, saying that North will not vote based on sentiment but the performance of the Jonathan administration. The Northern Elders Council (NEC) with Ambassador Yusuf Mamman as its spokesman, condemned NEF’s unpatriotic attempt to politicise the insurgency, adding that every Nigerian patriot ought to cooperate with the Federal Government and appreciate the gallant sacrifices of our troops and security agencies.
Most poignantly, a prominent member of the NEF, retired Lt General Jerry Useni, debunked the notion that North is against Jonathan’s legitimate second term ambition, adding that it was not true that Jonathan convened the National Conference to further a non-existent third term ambition.
For your reminder, NEF calls Jonathan’s second term bid “third term” because they regard his completion of the late President Yar’ Adua’s term as his first term. Can you be more mischievous than that! The truth is that the NEF is not only a rabble rouser as the Presidency had called it. They are what the French call agents provocateurs. They are sworn political enemies of President Jonathan. They never wanted him, as a southerner, to be sworn-in to replace Yar’ Adua when the president died. Left to them, the constitution should have been sidestepped, and another northerner (perhaps, Turai?) should have replaced Yar’ Adua with Jonathan maintaining his position of Vice President. After all, the principle of zoning in the PDP said it was the North’s turn.
They fought him to the bitter end in 2010/2011 by ganging up under the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) which brought out Atiku to stand for the North against Jonathan. The gamble failed. They used every trick in the book to ensure the North did not vote for Jonathan. The president still ended up winning in seven states and the FCT (Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa and Benue) while scoring 25% in eleven states (Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Sokoto, Niger, Zamfara, Yobe and Gombe). It was only in Borno that he narrowly missed the 25% mark in the entire federation.
The result of the 2011 election corroborates what Ambassador Yusuf said about the Northern electorate. They are not as clannish as the NEF would want us to believe. They have a voting behaviour similar to those of other Nigerian groups and they vote partly out of sentiment (he is our son/daughter) and partly due to performance. There is no evidence that they take their electoral marching orders from the NEF or any other self-appointed and self-motivated agitator. They listen to their political leaders, such as Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Sule Lamido in the PDP, based on proven track records of performance and leadership.
Most of the names populating the NEF are former public officers who only made good for themselves, their families and friends when they were in office. They forgot the masses, the people who actually vote. They impoverished and rendered them destitute, even with the enormous powers of state and our oil money at their disposal for nearly forty years of exclusive northern dominance. Now they are out of power, they want it back tonight, or else…
The people of the North, being Nigerians, will not listen to the NEF’s blackmail ultimatums when choosing their president in 2015. They will judge President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan or Governor Sule Lamido based on their characters and performance in office and national electability. They will also judge General Buhari, Atiku and possibly Aminu Waziri Tambuwal on their characters, performance and national appeal, whoever among them emerges from the APC. The NEF will, as usual, stand by idly and helplessly as Nigerians choose their president next year.
They can only sound off like empty barrels. It is their democratic right.
Immortalising our Ebola martyrs
IT will be a good idea if we immortalise the late medical personnel who attended to the dead Liberian villain, Patrick Sawyer, when he wickedly brought the Ebola plague to Nigeria. They paid the supreme price trying to save a man whose last act did not deserve such sacrifice.
The President should either present them with posthumous national service awards or name prominent national health facilities after them. Their families should also be adequately compensated financially, at least to cushion the effect of losing these great Nigerians in their line of duty to save a wretched life.
I so move. Those in support say: AYE? Against say: NAYE? GBAM, the ayes have it!