Some northern groups and associations rose from a meeting on Sunday in Kaduna and declared that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has failed to protect the people of the region and other Nigerians.
The groups said the north would not accept the “status of a defeated region” just as they vowed to resist tenure extension under the cover of security.
They also rejected the recent allocation of additional polling units by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which it said deliberately conferred undeserved advantages on states in the south. It, therefore, demanded that the exercise should be revisited using standard criteria.
The groups that attended the meeting are Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Code Group, Northern Re-awakening Forum, Arewa Research and Development Project, Northern Union and Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation.
Others are the Arewa Media Forum, North East Unity and Development Forum, Northern Youth Coalition and Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria.
In a communiqué jointly signed by the Secretary General of the ACF, John Ubah, and that of the Code Group, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, and released on Monday, the groups said they would not accept the status of a defeated region.
The groups stated that the parley was the result of efforts by Northern associations genuinely committed to the interests of the region and the survival of Nigeria as a united indivisible, peaceful and prosperous nation.
They also said “the disastrous collapse of security around the population of the North East in particular and the inability of the nation’s armed forces to contain the spread of the insurgency represents a failure of President Goodluck Jonathan to protect Northerners and other Nigerians.”
The groups said they will establish joint committees on strategy and coordination, political matters and security, and support active mobilization of the population in support of all activities aimed at resisting the alarming levels of insecurity in the North, and also improve awareness of the people of the North over attempts to undermine the region and deprive its people of all faith and ethnicity of their rights to live in peace.
While noting the “failure of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to provide the necessary leadership and commitment in protecting people of the North, particularly those in the North East,” the groups resolved to invite former presidents and heads of state from the region “to recognize that they are severely under-utilised assets, and Northerners expect them to improve their inputs into influencing events around their security and economic well-being.”
They listed the former leaders as Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
The groups also requested the President of the Senate, David Mark and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, both of who are from the North and all the legislators from the region “to note that northerners expect them to exercise greater commitment towards ensuring that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government is made more accountable to Northerners and the citizens of Nigeria in the manner it handles national security and the management of resources of the nation.”
They also reminded the northern governors that “citizens are disappointed over their seeming neglect of the security and welfare of the people of the North. In the next few weeks, activities of joint committees will approach governors and involve them in mobilizing citizens towards supporting all measures to improve security in the North, and will inform Northerners of responses of all our elected leaders.”
On politics and security, the meeting noted the need for improved unity in the North to mitigate the potential damage of partisan politics and attempts to use religion and ethnicity to weaken the region.
According to the groups, the North has a majority in population, and should use this advantage to negotiate and support candidates and programmes that would address the current challenges of the region and its need for massive rehabilitation and economic reconstruction in the future.
Polling Units favours south
They rejected the recent allocation of additional polling units by INEC, saying it deliberately conferred undeserved advantages on states in the south.
“The creation of additional polling units should be re-visited, using standard criteria that INEC is aware of,” the group said.
“Attempts to blackmail and stampede INEC into abandoning its hallowed responsibilities to do justice to all Nigerians, or sacrifice the rights of Northern voters are hereby condemned. The North expects INEC to re-allocate the polling units in strict compliance with its standard guidelines without fear or favour,” the northern groups said in the communiqué.
In the exercise, the Commission allocated 21,000 PUs to the region and 8,000 to the southern states. Southern leaders had last week rejected the allocations, saying the Commission’s Chairman, Attahiru Jega, a northerner, was implementing a northern agenda.
They also reminded Northerners of the contents of the open letter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to Mr. Jonathan, and the allegations made by former Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State.
They added, “Many citizens in the region are alarmed at the appearance of attempts to subdue them by all means. The North will not accept the status of a defeated region, and will continue to work with other Nigerians to preserve our collective legacies and the foundations of a just and secure nation.”
The groups urged all political, traditional and religious leaders in the North to educate and mobilize their people on the need to get registered and be issued the National I.D cards and Permanent Voters Cards.
The said every effort must be made to ensure that during the 2015 elections all votes must count, and the will of the people must not be hijacked or subverted under any guise.
They also demanded the immediate dismantling and removal of all road blocks in the North, saying they serve no purpose than remind northerners that they are an occupied people who must submit to oppression and extortion.
The meeting also resolved to mobilize its northern leaders to engage leaders from other parts and sections of the country in discussions and activities aimed at finding solutions to our common problems and long term strategies for improving our nation’s security, unity and prosperity.
However, a rival group, Northern Elders Council, NEC, which is sympathetic to Mr. Jonathan, swiftly condemned the northern groups for criticising the president.
At a press conference in Abuja on Monday, the leader of the NEC, Tanko Yakassai, condemned the ACF for what it described as developing a knack for criticising the president and his administration. NEC said the ACF has taken over from members of the opposition parties.
“We wish to observe that since the emergence of the current leadership of the ACF, there has been a derailment and non-compliance with the mission of the founding fathers of the forum,” he said.
“A motley crowd of opposition politicians have hijacked its machinery. It is becoming more and more isolationist even within the region. This has greatly degraded the ACF.”
NEC’s leader lamented the “way and manner the ACF chairman addressed the President in his rodent press conference. To say that ‘President Jonathan doesn’t like the north’ is outrageous and uncharitable. And to say that he has failed, is untrue.”
Mr. Yakassai said the style of the leadership had shown that the Forum had derailed from its original objective and that it also confirmed that Mr. Coomasie was associating with the opposition.