…Says govs anti-North
By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
Motivated by the momentum and success of the #EndSARS campaign, Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, last Thursday, convened protests across northern states to demand drastic actions on the insecurity in the North.
The action was on the heels of a similar one held in June. Discussing the issues around the latest development, in this interview, spokesman for CNG, Abdulazeez Suleiman, tells Sunday Vanguard that the protests would continue until President Muhammadu Buhari and northern governors take decisive steps at ending insecurity in the region.
You are protesting again after the last protests which seem not to have been fruitful. CNG’s consistency on this path gives the impression that it feels more concerned about the insecurity in the North than even northern leaders…
We have always said that we have insensitive northern elites. The elites always take a different path from the one taken by the majority of the populace. That is why the North has remained relatively backward. We don’t want that any more.
That is what the CNG is all about. We want to change that perspective. We want the ordinary northerner to know that his main problem is not the southerner but his leader. We want to emancipate the ordinary northerner from the insensitivity of his leaders. Everybody can see the contradiction. While representatives of the southerners at the National Assembly and southern governors are all with the #EndSars protesters, northern governors are anti-North.
Could you explain?
When they met, we thought they would take a position that would be favourable to the North but instead they took a position that is neither here nor there. They are always compromising, which is what brought us to where we are today.
To a large extent, the banditry and terrorism in the North were brought about by frustration. Northerners are frustrated by their political leaders, religious leaders and cultural leaders. That is one of the main problems. Part of the resolutions is that we are going to really stand up and call out these leaders because they don’t own the people. The people own the power they are wielding. The people have to start talking now.
The northerner is not used to protest, particularly when it is an organized protest. They are more used to disorganized protest that has to do with religion. This one is quite different. We are really satisfied with the turnout going by what happened in Zamfara, Kaduna and other states. It shows that our people have started talking. In Kano, thugs suspected to be agents of the state government, disrupted the protest but we are mobilizing massively for another protest in Kano.
Having cited the success recorded by #EndSARS protests, do you plan mobilising to ensure that #EndInsecurityNow protests garner the kind of momentum being witnessed in #EndSARS?
The momentum is building gradually. During the protest in Kaduna, people started coming out in droves in the afternoon. However, due to the largely unenlightened nature of the area, it wouldn’t be possible to get a huge crowd. If we do it that way, people would come out without knowing the essence of the protest and end up causing trouble.
That is why we are using the few we can mobilise and those who understand our cause. In the North, if you can pull a crowd of 10 people for a protest, you can consider that a success. With the level of poverty in the area where people are looking for what to eat, they can’t afford to protest for too long. But you can see how the southern elites supported the #EndSARS protests.
They feed them, shelter them and even protect them. The comments from their elites even show that they are supporting the protesters. I am quite sure that if we were to talk to the so-called northern elites, they would even challenge us. People are being killed daily and they are unconcerned. We always ask them if we are telling lies that people are being killed. Are people not being killed daily in large numbers in the North? If people are being killed, then these are our suggestions. We are definitely out to stop the killings.
If after the protests the situation remains, what should Nigerians expect?
If actions are not taken and the killings persist, we would continue protesting. The protests would continue until we see that satisfactory steps have been taken. If our demands are not met and the killings continue, we are going to shut down the entire 19 northern states.
Many Nigerians think President Buhari hasn’t done more than praising the Service Chiefs, warning them and occasionally condemning killings whenever they happen. To them, it is surprising that the President’s region is now under the siege of bandits, kidnappers and insurgents…
Many northern leaders have taken the laxity and docile nature of the ordinary northerner for granted. It is now that we are waking them up. For instance, if one man is killed in the South, the President would either send condolences or words of condemnations. He would even promise fire and brimstone. But when hundreds get killed in the North daily, he would not say anything. He would even pretend as if nothing happened.
For instance, when a delegation visited him from Niger, he said he was not aware people were being killed. He said he was not aware it was that bad. When he went to Katsina, his home state, he pretended that it was the first time he was hearing about that scale of insecurity. I think what is happening is that the ordinary northerner is paying for his ignorant choice of leaders.
Some voices from the North-East are demanding that the disbanded SARS personnel be sent to the region…
That does not make sense to us. What we are saying is that the entire police force should be repositioned for better policing. Our demands are clear. The type of quick response given to the #EndSARS protests should be extended to the #EndInsecurityNow protests. Our leaders should not pretend as if the North is safe. People have made suggestions on how to end insecurity, but the President is comfortable with the Service Chiefs. We need satisfactory steps on the insecurity in the North now.