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Statement by Northern Elders Forum on Escalating Threats to National Security, Unity and Integrity


Northern Elders Forum(NEF) is convinced that it is time to respond to issues that threaten our collective security and the unity and integrity of the country. The Forum has held back on joining issues with persons and groups intent on provoking the type of crises that will escalate beyond control or mitigation by leaders who are collectively showing definite signs that they unwilling to steer the country away from the dangerous threats which are crippling it.

It is now clear that elected people sworn to protect the constitution and protect the unity and integrity of Nigeria have decided to surrender to deeply divisive or outrightly irredentist and secessionist tendencies and movements. In the South East, governors are yielding their political turf and mandates to secessionists, criminals and subversives who think they can exterminate federal presence and northerners from the region, and achieve dubious political goals related to 2023, or break away from the country. In the South West, elected leaders and pampered ethnic bullies are closing ranks to provide a front that apes the do-what-we-want-or-we-leave-the-country strategy of the marginalized leaders of the South East. Governors are building ethnic monsters and hiding behind them to whip up sentiments in a crude attempt to extract concessions no one is in a position to give or guarantee. The South South is squeezed between fear and uncertainty, and its leaders are gambling that they can benefit from further weakening the federal administration and the North if it rides along with the rest of the South. A plastic unity is being contrived to create the impression that the entire South is united behind shared grievances against the Presidency and Fulani herders and all northerners who are cast as fair game in responding to all of President Buhari’s multiple failures. A desperate but futile attempt is being made to split the North along lines that suit people who ignore its complexities and plurality when it is convenient to lump all Northerners and submit them to humiliation or attacks.

The NEF recognizes that most of these provocations feed from the widespread perception of a weak national leadership and a broken political process that has become captive of narrow political interests. For the record, the forum restates its support for a programmed transition that will eliminate open grazing and the establishment of productive, safe and sustainable options in managing our huge national asset in animal husbandry. This cannot be achieved with threats and harassment, but with commitment and collaboration involving all governments and stakeholders. It is in everyone’s interests to support an urgent national initiative that will engineer a safe and productive transition to the end of open grazing. In the meantime, the forum must warn those attacking and killing Fulani headers to stop. There are limits to every community’s tolerance, and the forum strongly advises that lines are respected in the manner we treat Nigerians who are vulnerable wherever they live.

The forum has always supported initiatives that improve the quality of inputs into how Nigerians can address the limitations in the manner the country is operated. It is unfortunate that the current efforts of the National Assembly to amend the constitution enjoys little or no confidence among Nigerians that they will address the fundamental challenges which need to be comprehensively addressed, although this can be redressed if our elected representatives recognize the historic opportunities they have to move this country beyond its strangulating challenges. The negative attitude of the Presidency towards engaging Nigerians to tap into ideas, grievances and goodwill of many citizens who mean well is ill-informed and, under our current circumstances, dangerous. So are postures that issue opportunistic ultimatums over convening national dialogue by the President. The forum supports a citizen-driven national dialogue and a campaign to get the government to accord its outcome the respect it deserves. The  forum extends its hands to groups that genuinely believe that Nigerians should demand and design the type of country we want, and should not wait for people we elected to set the boundaries and conditions of our existence.

The forum restates that the North will not be cowed and stampeded into escorting political ambitions of politicians at the cost of its rights, security and dignity. It demands that President Buhari asserts the powers our constitution gives him to protect our territorial integrity and secure citizens, or accept that he is incapable of leading the nation through these unprecedented challenges. Attacks on lawful Fulani and other Northerners in the South must stop, and those who have killed them must be brought to book. The nation needs to know that Northerners in many parts of the South now live in heightened fear as they are profiled and harassed by elements in host communities who believe that there are no consequences for their actions. The forum demands an end to attacks on federal agents and facilities. Governors in the South must be unambiguous in their condemnation and resistance against these dangerous activities. They cannot continue to walk on both sides of the street. Northern governors should note that they are rapidly receding into irrelevance as desperate citizens chalk up their silence over multiple assaults in a country where they have equal rights to their security and dignity.

If our country is to survive its current difficulties and build a better nation, President Buhari must improve his levels of competence, awareness that the nation is sliding into disaster and sensitivity to the frustrations of Nigerians. Other political leaders who take advantage of the limitations of the President to light fires should know that they will get burnt in them. Overwhelming majority of Nigerians do not want war or an end to our union. We just want an end to insecurity, escalating cost of living and the hate and the fear which our leaders are triggering. The forum restates its readiness to engage any group of Nigerians in exploring productive paths to a better future. What it will not do is to watch as the North is damaged further by cynical southern politicians and adventurers who think the North is too weak to protect its own interests.

The forum once again condoles the nation and families of Lt-Gen I Attahiru and other military officers who died in active duty.May God bestow His Mercies on their souls.

Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed
Director, Publicity and Advocacy
Northern Elders Forum

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South is No Safer for the Herders – CNG