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Northern Elders Forum and Boko Haram

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IN the African socio-cultural milieu, elders occupy positions of honour nurtured by wisdom and experience. As repositories of the culture and tradition of the people, they are often revered, especially by the youth who yearn to drink from their fountain of eternal wisdom in their search for direction in an otherwise treacherous world. In the days of yore, elders are economical with words to the point of taciturnity.

When the elder speaks, his words are weighty and command enormous power, respect and influence. These are unusual times in our clime. Elders are now living in denial of their highly respected positions and like the brash youth are ready to fight bare knuckles. What we are witnessing today is not only the bastardization of this concept but also the desecration of this rarified cadre by pretenders who perceive themselves as the new agents of history.

In times of grave national crisis, it is the vicarious responsibility of all true patriots and statesmen to rise up in unison, above all primordial sentiments to nip the problem(s) in matter in the bud before it gets out of control to inflict anarchy on the land.

This is why we view with increasing trepidation, the inflammatory statements, and reactions reactionary positions of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, on issues of national importance. As elders with membership made up of accomplished Nigerians, the position of respect they command comes with corresponding responsibility. Nigerians expect them to react with restraint to sensitive national issues. Unfortunately, members of the NEF are only elders in name and nothing more.

Rather than voices of restraint and moderation these   strange crop of elders have thrown caution to the wind in reaction to the threat to the unity of the nation by a deadly insurgency.

Goaded by their hallucinatory obsession for power, the forum recently, castigated President Goodluck Jonathan for the declaration of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. The spokesman of the forum and former Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi, during a courtesy call on the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, said the North had the population to reclaim power in 2015.

It is sad but instructive that at a critical point in our national life when fear stalks the land  with the blood of innocents being spilt on the streets across the nation, the NEF is desperate to reclaim power at all costs. It is tragic that at a time when the pre-occupation of patriots is how to reverse the ugly trend of fear, unbridled violence and bloodshed, the forum is trading bellicose comments.

Rather than push forward and canvass alternative viewpoint and road map on how to curb the insurgency, the forum is gloating and celebrating the violence that has taken over the Northeast and fast threatening to spread across Northern Nigeria. In their own estimation, President Jonathan remains the greatest stumbling block to the realisation of the Northern agenda of reclaiming the presidency and must be vilified.

Given this mindset, the forum rail against the Jonathan administration as  a monumental failure and every step should be taken to deny him a second term.

The contradictions that threw up Boko Haram insurgency cannot by any stretch of imagination be blamed on the Jonathan presidency. Grinding poverty, shrinking opportunities and mass unemployment are the direct consequences of failure of leadership, especially in  the North,  dating back to our flag independence in 1960. It is these  formidable  and   intractable  problems that the Jonathan presidency inherited and has been grappling with since its emergence in 2011.

It would be premature to prejudge the performance of the present administration since it is yet to run its full course. The judgement of history is inevitable and will be defined by the impact of the policies, actions and decisions taken by our leaders to confront the formidable challenges of our nationhood. Nigeria in the 21st century is not immune from the economic challenges buffeting the global economy. Clear, pragmatic, visionary palliatives, even if  they are bitter are needed to put the economy on track for economic prosperity  of the citizenry.

The NEF has displayed and demonstrated heightened ethnic saliency and lack of patriotism in pursuit of its  selfish agenda.  While we concede that it is the unalienable right of the North and other ethnic nationalities to pursue the highest office in the land,  to foist violence and bloodshed on the nation in pursuit of this ambition is unacceptable and should prick the conscience of all citizens. Instead of dissipating energy  attacking President Jonathan for the declaration of the state of emergency, the NEF should mobilize all their resources to bring an end to this affront against our collective interest.

A vote for the state of emergency represents the boldest attempt yet by the present administration to confront this deadly insurgency. No principled government worth its salt will fold its arms and allow the dismemberment of the nation.

President Jonathan has demonstrated unbridled dynamism in his handling of the Boko Haram challenge. Despite the criminality of the maiming and killing of defenseless and peace-loving citizens, the Jonathan presidency demonstrated uncommon restraint in its hitherto measured response to this potent threat to the state.

It is strange  and unpatriotic  for the forum to rise up in routine defence of the Boko Haram each time government wants to deal with them.It is not unusual that it   did not see anything wrong in the arrogant repudiation of the dialogue and amnesty extended to them by the Federal Government.

Mr. KEVIN OJI, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.

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