The Northern Elders Forum has named Paul Unongo as its new chairman.
Mr. Unongo succeeds Maitama Sule, the former minister who died in Cairo, Egypt two weeks ago.
The appointment was announced by the new chairman on Monday during a visit by members of the forum to the residence of the late Mr. Sule at Dawaki Road, GRA, Kano.
“One evidence of our commitment as one northern entity and to sustain the legacy left behind by Danmasanin is the decision of my colleagues in the Forum to trust me with its leadership,” Mr. Unongo said.
“This clearly shows that our commitment to reinforcing the idea of one north, one people as left behind by Danmasanin was not just a slogan but the expression of the reality that while we may speak different languages and worship God in different ways, history, destiny and the realities of our existence have combined to make us one entity as northerners who must swim or sink together.”
Mr. Unongo berated some elders in the region for making remarks the forum perceived to be detrimental to the unity of the people of the region.
“It is unfortunate that at this moment, such unguided remarks are coming out from supposedly elders of the region,” Mr. Unongo said.
“The events of the past few weeks, and even as we speak now, babel of divisive rhetoric, threats and insults are being thrown across the nation and are drowning sensible and responsible voices of caution.
“Today every element of our lives and existence as a nation appears vulnerable to assault or questioning. Tragically, even some senior citizens with distinguished records in key events at turning points in our history, people who know what it took to build this country and pull it away many times from edges of disaster, people who benefitted from peace and development, are today stoking the fire of crisis and unimaginable disaster.”
He said the forum drew its inspiration from the fact that while recent negative developments had saddened the late Mr. Sule, “he never lost hope and belief that both the symptoms and manifestation can be understood and resolved in favour of greater quality of coexistence and security for all Nigerians”.
He said the Forum beliefs that no national issue or problem is incapable of “being scrutinized and discussed in a context that allows for genuine mutual understanding”.
Mr. Unongo, a former minister of Steel Development in the Second Republic, is from Benue State and unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state in 1983.