* Call for fresh one to address northern challenges
* We wish them the best—Afenifere
* They ‘re not speaking for the North –Uwazurike
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Clifford Ndujihe & Dapo Akinrefon
PROMINENT Northern leaders, yesterday, rejected the implementation of the 2014 report of the National Conference convoked by former President Goodluck Jonathan, saying that it did not address the key issues affecting them.
In its place, the northern leaders are asking President Muhammadu Buhari to convene a fresh conference that would take into cognisance the challenges facing them and proffer solutions to them.
The northern leaders who are mostly former political office holders under the aegis of Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF) and headed by a former member of the House of Representatives, Mohammed Kumalia, said it would be wrong for Buhari to implement the report of the conference called by the former leader.
The group, which met in Abuja, Tuesday, issued a strong view on the last conference, and asked for the dumping of the report in the interest of Nigeria. Kumalia, who read the communiqué on behalf of the NRF, said: “The last conference was convened by the PDP government. You do not expect this government to take hook, line and sinker what was put in place by the last government. It was convoked by the PDP government and unfortunately, the PDP lost election. You do not expect the opposition to accept the resolution of the previous government which has its own objectives which this government is not aware of.”
Paradoxically, the chairman of the NRF, Kumalia and other members of the forum, participated actively the 2014 National Conference, whose outcome they are now distancing themselves from.
Specifically, they are calling for a new conference that would focus on how to rebuild the North and cater for those who have been displaced by terrorists, who have been attacking the North East for years. “What are the problems in the North East? Has anybody tried to ascertain the problems in the North East? The essence of the national conference is to analyse the extent of damage done to the North East. The working document would be used to rebuild the region. There is no resemblance between the conference we are proposing and the 2014 National Conference. Many things have been destroyed and we need people with experience to discuss how the area will be settled,” he said.
“The North has the highest number of people below $2.00 a day. 71.5% of the population in the North East live in poverty and more than half are malnourished. A 2013 World Bank Report showed that poverty in 16 out of the 19 Northern states have doubled since 1980. The north has the lowest literacy rate in the country. Lagos is at 92% , Kano 49% and Borno less than 15%. 65% of Northern girls and 53% of boys are not in school compared to only 20% for the Southeast,” Kumalia pointed out in the communiqué.
Meanwhile, Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said it was not disturbed by the rejection saying it wishes the Northern leaders the best.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “Those of us who are pushing for the restructuring of Nigeria were trying to save Nigeria from the terminal crisis. If they think they can sustain Nigeria as it is, on what basis is that? Nobody is begging that Nigeria should be restructured any more, what will restructure Nigeria is already here. We wish them the best and see how all this goes. It does not come as a surprise to us, we are not worried at all.”
However, Chief Godwin Uwazuruike, President of Aka-Ikenga, the Igbo intellectual group, who was a delegate at the national conference poohed poohed the Kumalia group saying they are not speaking for the North but themselves.
His words: ‘’They are not speaking for the North or northern leaders. They are speaking for themselves. At the national conference we had a similar incident where some people came and addressed a press conference.
However, 24 hours later, a lot of delegates from the North-Central and North-West came out to reject the view and restated their agreement with the confab. How can you reject an amicable solution worked out by the confab to address the problems of the country? It is superfluous for anybody to claim to be speaking for the whole North. The majority of the North want the report of the confab implemented.’’
On his part, National President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima described the action as deceitful.
Shettima said: “They (northern leaders) must take responsibility because in the first place, some of us were against the conference. Why did they participate in the conference when they know they will reject the recommendations of the report? They cannot attend the conference at the expense of taxpayers and thereafter distance themselves from the conference? I see that as deceit, they must take responsibility.”