The Chairman of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Professor Ango Abdullahi has advised that those agitating for the dissolution of the country must have a rethink, saying that secession is not a solution to any grievance.
Prof. Abdullahi went further to called on the Federal Government to handle threat of separation with all the seriousness it deserves. He made it known at the First Northern People’s Summit held at Arewa House, in kaduna.
According to him, the North has paid a huge price for the survival of Nigeria, adding that in the next election, the region will think outside the box to elect better leaders and it won’t vote along ethno-religious line.
He added that the new leaders would do better than the current ones because the current ones have failed Nigerians.
Abdullahi noted that politicians that will be voted from the region in the next election must have socio-economic development plans for the northerners irrespective of tribe and religion.
Abdullahi noted that those who care for the people before, during and after election will have their votes.
According to him, Northern voters had previously supported presidential ambitions of three southerners – MKO Abiola, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan to victory, two of them against northerners.
“Those politicians who want northerners to vote in a particular manner should soil their boots and convince northerners how their candidates will improve security, economy and society in the North and the country.
“Using restructuring as a threat or bargaining tool for accepting zoning will destroy the imperatives of restructuring and imperil the country.
“Politicians and leaders who desire to lead need to understand that Nigerians are watching what they do in their immediate constituencies that will entitle them to ask for our support. We should speak frankly and directly to the rest of Nigeria on this issue.
“Politicians cannot impose their influence on irredentist that threatens our corporate existence and the lives and livelihoods of our fellow northerners stand on very thin ground in our estimation. Politicians cannot or will not influence public sentiment which demonises our fellow northerners and leaves them open to attack will not weigh much in our consideration as leaders under whom we will feel safe and secure.
“Politicians who want the support and the vote of the northerner, but will not raise their voices and act to protect him against underserved treatment in areas where they have power and influence should not expect to find our people with open arms when they ask for support.
“There will be no longer business as usual. Nigerians running away from bullets, stressing to make ends meet, or being made to fight each other instead of the real enemy will not forgive those who built the foundations of our circumstances today, and seek to sustain their privileges over our fears and pains. Leadership has to emerge on the basis of different criteria. Only the best leadership can pull Nigeria from the brink.
“We recognize that this leadership has to have identities, but its quality must be pre-eminently the most significant criteria for its evaluation. “Every zone or region has major problems. Leaders from these zones who will not address these problems, alone or in collaboration with others, should know that they will be judged by their records in dealing with threats and how they turn them into opportunities for rebuilding a nation that shows all the traces of major distress.
“It is not enough to upbraid our leadership for the woes of the North. If some of them have failed us, our response should be to work to reduce the damage of that failure, and to put in place better quality of leaders in their places in future
“We have been fortunate in having the best quality of intellect, experience an commitment at this summit to do justice to the search for solutions to our problems.
“This summit is non-partisan, and has been designed to specifically address our inherent plurality in the North. We should commit to be dispassionate and brave enough to acknowledge where the North bleeds, and why.
“We must be mature enough to accept our limitations as a people, and identify what our sources of strength are. We must give hope to northerners that our current challenges will pass.
“This summit should signal a new era in collaboration between those who hold power, and those who have a duty to support them to succeed.
“We must send a message to people who are bent on assaulting and killing our people that they are treading a very dangerous path, and they must stop.
“It is not acceptable that innocent northerners should be made pawns in political games because political elite cannot win support of their people without yielding grounds to thugs and political minions to intimidate northerners.
“The North has paid a huge price for the survival and unity of Nigeria, and will continue to support this survival and unity to the degree that it serves everyone’s interests.”
On the issue of agitation for secession by some groups of Nigerians, the NEF chairman said, “We do not see secession as a solution for any grievance, and we strongly advise our national leadership to take these threats with all the seriousness they deserve.
“No country can survive with injustice. If ours will overcome its challenges and grow to meet the yearnings of future generations, it has to rediscover the place of justice as the foundation of all our systems and relations. I earnestly hope that this summit will contribute to the search for major entry points for this endeavor.
“We call for leaders and citizens to rise and collaborate to rid us of fear and the pains of daily existence. northerners should lead the way to find solutions to Northern problems, and work with other Nigerians to find solutions to national problems.”