Abuja, Feb. 9, 2020
The Presidency has dismissed the assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), describing the forum as a quasi-organisation that boasts of no credible membership, and saying its leader is akin to a General without troops.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the forum had on Sunday scored the All Progressives Congress led Federal Government low, saying the Buhari -led government appeared helpless in finding solutions to the nation’s security challenges as well as poverty in the country.
The forum addressed Journalists at the end of the meeting convened by its chairman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, where it alleged that ”poverty, particularly in the North and massive social security have worsened under Buhari’s administration.”
Presidential spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, however, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, expressed reservations over the NEF verdict on the Buhari administration, saying Abdullahi had again shown his antipathy towards the president.
”Prof. Ango Abdullahi on Sunday signed a long-winding statement on many issues relating to the North, and purportedly to the country.
”The former vice chancellor signed the statement under the banner of Northern Elders Forum (NEF). Hearing that title, you would think the body was a conglomeration of true elders.
”But the truth is that NEF is just Ango Abdullahi, and Ango Abdullahi is NEF. It is a quasi-organisation that boasts of no credible membership, and its leader is akin to a General without troops.
”Before the 2019 presidential election, the one-man army called NEF had shown its antipathy against President Muhammadu Buhari, and its preference for another candidate. They all got beaten together.
”NEF is merely waving a flag that is at half-mast. Buhari steadily and steadfastly focuses on the task of retooling Nigeria, and discerning Nigerians know the true state of the nation.
”They don’t need a paper tiger to tell them anything,” he said.
Subject: Statement of Northern Elders Forum (NEF)
Northern Elders Forum has refrained from comments on major developments relating to management of national security and governance because it is convinced that these are times that require the highest levels of responsibility and circumspection in the manner elders in the nation contribute to the search for the many problems which face the nation. It has become necessary and appropriate, however, to make public the position of the Forum on important matters that affect the manner Nigerians live, and the future we must address.
1. National Security.
The Forum regrets that by any standard of judgement, the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation in the vital area of improving its security. It gives the Forum no pleasure to say that it had warned Nigerians that President Buhari lacked the will or the competence and commitment to lead it into a secure and prosperous future before the 2019 elections. It is shocking that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the nation’s multiple security challenges, President Buhari appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians.
With this type of mindset, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation. Yet, we believe that Nigerians must continue to raise our voices and organize through all legitimate means, to demand that the administration addresses major failings in his perception of our situation and his response to our demands to our rights to security. The Forum demands a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies, and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity and accountability in the manner our troops and the police and security agencies deal with security challenges. We appeal to our religious leaders and fellow citizens not to fall into the trap of insurgents to set us up against each other. We condemn the tactic of targeting Christians and publicising their executions by an insurgency seeking to exploit our different faiths. We also condemn the murder of thousands of Muslims and Christians in communities which the insurgency has made permanent targets in the last decade. These are times when we must unite and resist a common enemy as well us demand that our leaders protect us all as Nigerians.
2. Policing the nation.
In principle, the Forum supports the idea of improving the policing capacities of the nation. It is important to emphasise that all initiatives to improve public safety must find accommodation within our laws, and must not be designed to threaten or harass particular groups or interests. We recommend the adoption of a more vigorous and inclusive process which will result in the creation of acceptable frameworks and higher levels of confidence among all communities with respect to policing strategies. This Forum extends its hand at any group or interest willing to discuss this important matter, and will utilize its entire assets to collaborate with other groups to achieve an understanding on the way forward. We advise all governments to exercise high levels of restraint and responsibility in the manner they respond to the challenges of improving our security and safety. In this regard, the Forum notes that the comments of leaders of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) made in response to the opinions of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar do not conform with the culture of respect and reverence for leaders which Northerners are noted for. The Forum condemns these comments and demands that the Forum should apologise to His Eminence without reservations.
3. Dealing with our diversity.
In moments of tension and stress, Nigerians tend to find easy solutions or scapegoats. This Forum is concerned that the apparent resurgence of certain types of conflicts such as ethnic and farmers/herders clashes will have multiplier effects and cause damaging setbacks to the successes made in improving community relations. We appeal to governments and communities to commit further to living together in peace and earning a living within the ample resources we are blessed with. With due respect to the rights of the Lagos State Government to take decisions that improve the environment and public safety, we are constrained to draw attention to the impact of its policy on banning Okada and Keke in parts of the State on the poor and many people, many of them from the North, who earn honest living through this trade. We urge restraint in the responses of those who are immediately affected by this policy, while we urge Northern State Governments to mobilize and support the people who will be compelled to relocate back to the North with other sources of legitimate living.
4.The Forum had engaged a broad spectrum of opinion on the stress on relations between the palace of Sarkin Kano and the Government of Kano State, although we are yet to meet with the Governor. We are aware of the outpouring of advise and contributions towards resolving these stresses, and we urge the Governor and Sarkin Kano, the two people Allah Has entrusted with huge leadership responsibilities today, to find a fair and lasting solution to this seeming problem.
5.The North and 2023
The Forum has observed that political maneuvers around the 2023 elections are targeting the North as a region available for exploitation. We want to make it clear that people of the North will be very careful in committing to persons seeking their support on the basis of their region or wealth. The North knows its interests, and will stand together to elect only persons who meet the standards and interests of the people of the North. No politician should assume that they are entitled to our support unless they show a clear understanding and a commitment to deal with our problems and meet our aspirations.