•CPC leads run-off move
•ACF’s proposed security meeting and the panic denial
By Jide Ajani, Editor, Northern Operations
Purely a northern agenda, the move is to ensure that the major opposition political parties go into next month’s presidential election on a solo run – without an alliance. This move is hinged on the expectation that the Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC); Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), would secure massive victories in their respective spheres of influence, leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), possibly without a simple majority or even the constitutionally required 25 per cent votes in at least two-thirds of the states of the federation.
Then there was the sudden invitation letter sent out by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), to 34 retired military officers, the least being of the rank of Brigadier-General, on the claim that it was with a view to finding solution to the presumed state of insecurity in the country.
Under pressure! ACF, the elite northern socio-political group, may have never had it so troubling. But, it is now.
Last week, ACF was forced to issue a denial in newspapers that it was planning to mobilise support for former military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, who is the CPC’s presidential candidate.
The Secretary General of the forum, Col. Musa Shehu (rtd), addressed a press conference in Kaduna, last Wednesday, putting a lie to the allegation. ACF had issued an invitation letter to retired military officers and personnel who had headed each of their services – the Army, Navy, Air Force, Directorate of Military Intelligence, DMI, Police, State Security Service, SSS, and the Defence Headquarters.
However, the allegation (and other sundry insinuation) is not without substance – in a manner of speaking.
Sunday Vanguard, which was also in possession of the letter of invitation to the retired officers – discovered that the proposed meeting with the security chiefs, which, according to ACF, is with a view to finding solution to Nigeria’s security challenges, has a co-terminus with the perceived anger of the North over the seemingly failed zoning arrangement of PDP.
Before the Tuesday, March 1, invitation letter sent out by ACF, there was a meeting somewhere in the Maitama District of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, on Friday, February 25. The meeting was attended by chieftains of CPC and the Unity Forum, UF.
At the meeting, a very prominent figure in the Buhari Presidential Campaign Council explained to those in attendance some of the strategies being worked out with a view to securing electoral victory “of the opposition in the forthcoming general elections.”
The campaign chieftain stated that “arising from the meeting held by CPC, they agreed to go into the forthcoming general elections without engaging in any electoral alliance with any political party.”
He added that “CPC has consequently passed the same message to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to the effect that the party should also go to the next polls alone without electoral alliance for now.”
Continuing, the chieftain revealed that “the strategy behind this decision of not going into electoral alliance amongst opposition political parties is to make it impossible for PDP to win two-thirds of states of the federation or 51 per cent of the total votes cast at the presidential election,” believing that “if this happens, it will ultimately necessitate a re-run presidential election in the country.”
He further explained to those in attendance at the meeting, numbering 10, “that it would be at that point in time that they would then require everybody on board against PDP,” pointing out that “if they should go into any electoral alliance for now, it would give PDP the opportunity to rig the presidential election straight ahead.”
As the Buhari Campaign strongman made his presentation at the meeting, held at his residence, those in attendance listened with rapt attention.
He added that “Buhari has already intimated (former military president) Ibrahim Babangida on this issue, adding that there is the likelihood that Babangida and his group would continue to drag the on-going reconciliatory talks with Mr. President and his strategists till the election period,” just as he argued that “this will enable the realisation and attainment of the planned electoral alliance of opposition political parties after the first round of presidential election.”
A leader of CPC in attendance at the meeting assured that he would meet with the ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, to further press home the need for the workability of the arrangement.
According to the permutations at the meeting, it was believed that CPC would win massively in the North-West and North-East, as well as votes from Nasarawa and Niger states in the North-Central.
That South-South and South- East alone, in the estimation of the conferees, would never make Jonathan president and that ACN would garner all the votes in the South-West.
Sunday Vanguard learnt from that meeting, too, that UF members had already met with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. There was also expected to be a further consummation between Buhari and Atiku, as well as another prominent Army General.
Therefore, when, on Tuesday, March 1, the ACF invitations were being dispatched, not a few discerning individuals took special notice. One of the observations made was the persons invited for the parley.
First is Lt-Gen. Victor Malu (rtd), listed as number 17 (q) on the invitation letter. A former Chief of the Army Staff, his appointment was not particularly seen as an appointment in favour of the North at the time of appointment – that was during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term of four years. The North grumbled at the time. Gen. Malu is a Christian from Benue State.
The same applies to then Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, listed as number 19 (s) on the invitation letter. That, also, was during President Obasanjo’s first term. The North, again, grumbled at the time. Admiral Ogohi is a Muslim from Kogi State.
But ACF’s proposed security meeting for Wednesday next week enjoins both men, among others like General Domkat Bali, former Minister of Defence, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martins L Agwai, Air Marshal Isaac Alfa, and Air Marshal Jonah Wuyep, (see copy of letter below) that, because “it was agreed that the North has a large resources of credible experts, experienced and respectful professionals whose input would enhance the integrity of any submission by the ACF” therefore, “it was agreed to request you to personally participate at a roundtable set up for this purpose by the ACF.”
Conveniently, it is one North now.
In fairness, the invitation letter expressly made it clear that, at the end of the deliberations, “submissions would be made to the Federal Government as our contribution to finding solution to the incessant communal and ethno-religious conflicts ravaging our region in particular and Nigeria as a whole.”
But, there were strong indications that ACF was not about to let up on its relevance within the Nigerian polity, using the security meeting as a cover.
The letter of invitation was signed by Colonel Musa Shehu (rtd), in his capacity as the Secretary General of the elite northern body.
The invitation letter reads:
“Proposed meeting of former security chiefs of northern extraction.
“As you are now aware, the security situation in the country has taken a turn for the worst. For quite some time now, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has engaged its members in different standing committees in order to come up with suggestions that could be made to assist those in authority to effectively address the worsening situation.
It is at one of these sessions that it was agreed that the North has a large resources of credible experts, experienced and respectful professionals whose input would enhance the integrity of any submission by the ACF. Consequently, it was agreed to request you to personally participate at a roundtable set up for this purpose by the ACF. Your discussions would be free and frank and would be made to the Federal Government as our contribution to finding solution to the incessant communal and ethno-religious conflicts ravaging our region in particular and Nigeria as a whole.
“As an accomplished professional and very highly esteemed member of our community who has served and headed your service meritoriously at one time or the other, your personal attendance and participation will be greatly appreciated.
“The roundtable is planned to hold on Wednesday March 23, 2011 at the ACF Conference Room, No. 11A, Sokoto Road, Kaduna, from 1100hrs.
“The Roundtable, which is proposed to be chaired by Alhaji M.D. Yusuf, GCON, has the following distinguished personalities as invited participants:
“a. Lt.-Gen M. I. Wushishi, GCON
b. Gen. Domkat Bali, GCON
c. Alhaji Umaru Aliyu Shinkafi, GCON
d. Alhaji Mohammed Gambo Jimeta, CFR
e. Air Marshal A.D. Bello, GCON
f. Lt-Gen. Salihu Ibrahim, CFR
g. Alhaji Aliyu Attah, CFR
h. Lt-Gen. Aliyu Gusau, GCON
i. Alhaji Ibrahim Coommasie, CFR
j. Brig-Gen. Haliru Akilu, CON
k.Admiral Saidu Suleiman, CFR
l. Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo
m. Major-Gen. A. Kazir, CFR
n. Air Vice-Marshal Idi Musa, CFR
o. Major-Gen M.C. Ali, CFR
p. Air Marshal Al-Amin Dagash
q. Lt-Gen. Victor Malu, CFR
r. Lt.-Gen. I.I. Bamaiyi, CFR
s. Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, GCON
t. Major-Gen. Sarki Mukhtar
u. Amb. Adamu Mohammed
v. Amb. Babagana Kingibe, CFR
w. Alhaji Bukar Usman, MFR
x. Amb. Ibrahim Zakari, CON
y. Gen. Martins L. Agwai, GCON
z. Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo
ab. Major-Gen. A.M. Halidu Giwa
ac. Air Marshal Isaac Alfa, CFR
ad. Air Marshal Jonah Wuyep, CFR
ae. Major-Gen. Mohammed Said
af. Lt-Gen. A.D. Danbazau, CFR
ag. Mr. Afakriya Gadzama, MFR
ah. Vice-Admiral I I Ibrahim, CFR
ai. Brig-Gen. M.A. Umar, Secretary”
The document then pleads that the invited personalities should “kindly indicate your availability to attend by contacting the following coordinators of the roundtable meeting:
“Gen. Haliru Akilu (rtd)
“Brig-Gen. M.N. Umar (rtd)
“Colonel Musa Shehu (rtd)
“While we look forward to seeing you at the Roundtable, be assured of our usual respect and sincere regards.”
And, whereas Colonel Musa (rtd), last Wednesday, debunked allegations that the meeting was being called to mobilise for Buhari, what Sunday Vanguard discovered went a bit further.
A security expert raised some questions regarding “the propriety of such a meeting at a time like this.”
Asked to explain further, the expert asked rhetorically: “Since when did the security situation in the country take a turn for the worst as they said in the invitation letter? Were they waiting for the crisis in that part of the country, apart from the Niger Delta problem which is being tackled, to reach the carnage level it has reached before thinking of such a meeting? True, this would not be the first time that ACF would try to do something of national importance as they put it, but would it not have been better to call on everybody who is anybody and who has experience and had served at the level they are referring to, to come for the meeting, especially since the security problem they referred to concerns all persons of all religions in the country?”
The security expert, a Muslim from the North, softened his tone when he added that “it is good ACF has come out to clarify what was already becoming a suspicious affair and what that means now is that all eyes and ears would be focused on the outcome of that meeting. When you look at the calibre of names on the list of those invited, discerning members of the public ought to be worried, especially since there is only one military politician contesting for the presidency and he is from my part of the country.”
Meanwhile, ACF is not without its own internal contradictions.
Just a day before the CPC meeting in Abuja, the ACF went through a re-organisation of sorts. On February 24, a Thursday, ACF announced the election of a new Chairman, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, a businessman and politician from Bauchi State. He replaced General Ibrahim Haruna (rtd) who has served out his term under section 11 (i) of the Forum’s constitution.
In a statement issued by ACF, it said the changes took place after an extra-ordinary meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC), of the Forum in Kaduna.
“The former Chairman did not indicate intention to re-contest,” said the ACF, dispelling rumours that the man was sacked from the seat.
“He presided over the dissolution of the NEC officers and the National Working Committee (NWC). He thanked members for the cooperation extended him during his tenure.”
Meanwhile, the political chess game being played out does not seem to bother the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation. A chieftain at the campaign headquarters of the PDP presidential candidate told Sunday Vanguard: “President Goodluck Jonathan, his running-mate, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, as well as the campaign organisation, the party and our supporters across the length and breadth of this country are keeping faith with the promise of God for Nigeria and Nigerians. We are mobilising massively and we are winning over more supporters. We are the only party campaigning seriously and mobilising seriously now and the result would be electoral victory for our party.”.
As at press time, Sunday Vanguard was attempting to draw a nexus between the arrests of two prominent leaders of the Northern Political Leaders’ Forum (NPLF), by officers of the State Security Service (SSS), through its sources but could not.
NPLF Secretary, Malam Bello Abdulkadir and Farouk Bibi Farouk were arrested, last Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. SSS has already made it clear that their arrests had nothing to do with their membership of NPLF but on other facts before it. But we could not ascertain what those facts are at press time.