From ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Kaduna
Since 2011 when the North lost the Presidential contest to President Goodluck Jonathan, it has been making moves, through series of meetings and gatherings, ahead of 2015, with a view to presenting a united and formidable front. One of such gatherings was held in Kaduna from December 5, to December 6, 2012, under the auspices of Arewa Research and Development Programme, ARDP, under the leadership of a former lawmaker and former Political Adviser to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Usman Bugaje.
But unlike other gatherings, journalists were denied access to the technical sessions; as such it was difficult getting first hand, what really transpired behind the closed doors. However, from some of the presentations made during the openings of each of the sessions, which journalists were allowed to cover, it was clear that the North knew what it goals and objectives are, as 2015 beckons, just as it is oblivious of the damage the Boko Haram menace could have on its aspiration. To underscore the importance of the 2-day conference, tagged “Strategies for Sustainable Development in the North,” former Heads of State from the North, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, serving and former lawmakers from the National Assembly, northern groups, including Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, were among the participants.
Prominent among the participants are: former Chief of Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdafa, former governor of Kebbi state, Senator. Adamu Aliero, former minister of police affairs, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, former minister of FCT, Alhaji Aliyu Modibbo Umar, and Senator Umaru Dahiru represented Senate President, Senator David Mark on the occasion.
Subtle Move for 2015
Although, it was not stated clearly as part of the objectives for the meeting, from the day one when the meeting opened, it was clear that the gathering which had former Kano State governor and 2011 Presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Ibrahim Shekarau, in attendance, was more of a brain storming session on how and who the region should support for the 2015 presidential race. In his opening remark, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), who was the chairman on the occasion, called for introduction of Electoral College for the purpose of 2015 presidential election. Gowon, who was represented on the occasion by the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum , ACF, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, stressed that the North must come together to forge a common front, if the region must enjoy political progress and development.
Hear him: “Unless we come together in the North, we would continue to have problems. I met with the Senate caucus in the North in Abuja last week and I asked them to reconsider the introduction of Electoral College in electing the president,” Gowon said, even as he insisted that there was no point creating additional States, as that would mean additional cost to the already high cost of governance in the country.”
Also speaking on the occasion, the host governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, stressed the need for the region, which it noted had been the catalyst for the unity and development of the country, to do everything possible to sustain the responsibility bestowed on it by divine providence. Yakowa said “the North has been a catalyst for the unity, stability and development of the country.
The country has been relying for direction from the North. This is contrary to what some out there would want the world to believe about the North. History has shown that the unity and strength of the North, with a collective sense of purpose and focus has been the bastion for the unity and strength of Nigeria. We must do everything to sustain this responsibility bestowed on us by providence. “My candid belief is that the outcome of this conference will rather reinforce this fact of history. As people with responsibilities to our electorate, we are working tirelessly to strengthen the country by building on the solid structures laid by the past Nigerian leaders, such as Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Michael Okpara and Chief Anthony Enahoro among others. “They have laid a foundation for us to transform ourselves into visionary leaders. Leaders with positive pictures in their minds; all the time, a leadership that is preoccupied with changing the economic, political and social landscape of the North and by extension, Nigeria in a proactive way. A leader that insists on the diversification of the economy of the North.
A leadership that looks beyond the present heavy reliance on petroleum. A leadership that re-invests the wheels to bring back the groundnut and cotton pyramids of yesteryears in a creative, imaginative and inventive ways. “A leadership that mobilizes resources to put pressure on the relevant stakeholders in the Nigerian project to put solid mineral resources under more imaginative scrutiny for the betterment of the north.
A leadership that explore and exploit the tourism potentials in many parts of Northern Nigeria. “The presence of these leadership traits is a step toward having a sustainable development that will create an enabling environment for better services, better infrastructure and education; build on sound moral values and respect to human dignity. We should stop encouraging religious and ethnic intolerance.
We should, on the contrary, work hard to transform the mindset of the average Nigerian and guide it into positive channels. Nigeria must be great again. She must start tapping its diverse human and natural resources to the fullest which God has endowed the country with and which we are not adequately taking full advantage of. “May I conclude by posing some pertinent questions, whose answers I expect the conferees to ponder on and provide answers to. How can we get the North more united? How can we manage our diversity better? How can we cultivate trust and confidence not only between our different ethnicities but also between the government and the governed? How do we create hope for the next generation? “We hereby call upon the conferees to look at these questions seriously but passionately and to come up with an articulated agenda to recreate a new North for a new Nigeria, to the satisfaction of the founding fathers, the present and future generations and to the greater glory of God. We strongly believe these are possibilities,” Yakowa had said.
The General Abubakar Abdulsalami’s Bomb shell
On the second day of the conference however, former Head of State, General Abubakar Abdulsalami (rtd), told gathering what they were probably not expecting to hear from him, as he declared that it would take the north 20 years more to recover from the havoc already caused by the Boko Haram menace in the region. This is even as he said pointedly that the north as a region was a house divided against itself, just as former Secretary of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said that the next two years would test the resilience and capacity of Northerners to bounce back. Abdulsalami, who chaired the session on, “Security, Politics and Economy of the North,” also urged the people to help government solve security challenges in the region, stressing that everybody must act as watch dogs of the country and his immediate environment. He lamented that a lot of socio-economic damages have been done to the North, occasioned by the incessant insecurity in the region, adding that it would take more than 20 years to clean up the mess and revive the region.
“Certainly if there is unity we wouldn’t be here at this conference, so since there is no unity, that is why the Arewa House is trying to galvanize it at this conference “It will take 20 years to revive the North. A lot of socio-economic damages have been done. If you go round the areas that is when you will appreciate the extent of damages done to the region. We have to work together to revive it “All of us should join hands, we cannot leave security to the government alone, every Nigeria is security officer, let’s try to join hands and report what we see, so that the government will be able to take action, we should be government’s watch dogs and also watch our communities,” he added.
Also speaking on the occasion, Senate Minority Leader and former Benue State governor, Senator George Akume noted that it was a sad development for the ongoing insecurity in the North. Akume who also chaired a session on, “Values and Leadership,” said it was sad that the North was no longer safe for both its people and visitors. To this end he charged the people to imbibe hard work, integrity, honesty, respect and determination in order to return the region back to its lost glory.
According to him: “If there is no peace, development hardly takes place, no matter the determinations of the actors. The theme of this conference bears direct relevance to what is happening in the North. The topic for today is value and leadership. I do not intend to go into conceptual definition of values and leadership. In every society, there are norms and values, these are highly respected, respect for sanctity of human life, and where this is not respected, there is no way you can have peace.
This is a very big challenge, particularly in the North. “I am very sad things are happening the way they are happening now. I was in Borno about six months ago to attend a marriage ceremony. We were about 30 persons that supposed to go to Borno, but only eight of us decided to go. The others gave different reasons for not making it. We must imbibe the values of honour, respect, integrity, hard work and determination because they have direct bearing on the development of the North.” Also, former INEC Secretary, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said: “the next two years will test the resilience of the Nigerians State; and the capacity of Northerners to bounce back. Right now, the Boko Haram insurgency is eating it up like a cancer, and it will require bold initiatives by Northerners to find a solution, by influencing both the insurgency and the Government. Not all Nigerians are comfortable with a united and strong North. Its current position therefore is welcome to its detractors and rivals. They will not lift a finger to heal its wound. This will have to be done by people in this hall, who feel the pain most.” Boko Haram, North’s 2015 Albatross At the end of the two-day conference, the Northern political leaders and traditional rulers, all of whom attended the conference resolved to work tirelessly to bring the activities of Boko Haram to an end in the North before the dawn of 2015 presidential elections. This, the region believes is the only way a Northern candidate could have a smooth ride to the presidency. This was contained in a communiqué it issued at the end of the conference “Strategies for Sustainable Development in the North, held at Arewa House, Kaduna.
The convener, Dr. Usman Bugaje, a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and two-time governorship candidate in Katsina, on the same platform, read out the communiqué to the hearing of the participants. He noted that the conference drew participants from concerned northerners, comprising of former Heads of State, Vice President, Governors, one time Chief Justice of the Federation, Speaker, House of Representatives, academics in their respective fields, erstwhile ministers, Federal and State Permanent Secretaries, Retired Generals and Police Chiefs, Serving heads of federal and state agencies, businessmen, women and youth groups. And the communiqué reads in part: “that the Northern Region will create a strong and united platform to address the current security situation and the politics of the North with particular reference to 2015 elections. “The effect of the current insurgency of Ahlas Sunna li dawa’ati wal Jihad and other forms of insecurity have impacted negatively on the socio-economic, political and the religious life of the people .
Economic growth and development, commerce and trade in both formal and informal sectors of the northern states are being stifled with multiplier on the larger national and African sub-regional economies. “That the federal government in liaison with state governors, the affected communities, religious leaders should get together to genuinely dialogue with the insurgents with the view to ending the insecurity in the north. “To build the requisite confidence and assurance amongst the diverse peoples of the north, that the present challenges can be surmounted but only if all the people do come together.
That leadership at all levels must be open, transparent and accountable. “That this current initiative be sustained through the development of a common vision which would be consciously agreed upon by all groups with clear implementation strategies and timelines for the actualization of this common vision. “That with over 72% of the national landmass and favorable climatic condition for both rain-fed and irrigation farming, millions of livestock and other sundry agricultural endowments, the north has to modernize its agriculture with all the priority attention required to return the region to its erstwhile leading position as the food basket of the nation.
“That human capital development being the key to enhanced living standard must be given special attention to address the northern peculiarities in the primary, secondary and vocational education as well as the provision of required trained manpower for primary health care to give special priority to the eradication of all preventable diseases in the region “That there is the urgent need to explore and exploit the abundant mineral resources existing all over north in order to generate more revenue in support of the developmental needs of the region.
“That there is need to harness all sources of energy in the north to meet the domestic and industrial requirements of the region.”