Worried by the increasing destruction of lives and properties in northern Nigeria, a group known as Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF) emerged yesterday with the objective of helping the north and its people regain their lost glory.
The event tagged "United North for One Nigeria" drew together major stakeholders in the region, with former minister of defence and secretary to government of the federation (SGF) during the late President Umaru Yar'Adua's administration, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, calling for a central, responsible and committed leadership to salvage the north from its very precarious situation.
Referring to the mandate of the group, Ahmed said: "It is an attempt to acknowledge that the north is on fire, and that the north must redeem itself. One must not go outside the northern region to look for the reasons why we are in this problem. We must admit that there is a failure in the north and it is the responsibility of the northerners to redeem themselves and do the right thing with a view to making sure that they remain relevant in the nation Nigeria."
He further blamed the insecurity problem in the north on a "breakdown at local governance" and the fact that few northerners cared to learn about the region's past. "What has gone wrong has gone wrong, but it is not a hopeless case. Northerners should be strongly united," the former SGF urged.
Prominent Nigerians who spoke at the event include a member of the House of Representatives, Hon Mohammed Kumaila, an activist Dr Enyantu Ifenne, former Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Gali Umar Na'Abba, Chairman LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Chief Audu Ogbeh and the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, His Lordship Matthew Hassan Kukah.
North must heal itself of wounds inflicted by ethno-religious conflicts - Hon Kumaila
In his keynote address, Chairman of NRF Hon. Mohammed Kumaila blamed the security crisis in the north on disunity, poverty, unemployment and increasing illiteracy in the region, and regretted a situation where "nearly every facet of our socio-economic life points to a failing northern society".
He expressed the hope that the northerners would rise up to the challenge to heal the north of "the wounds caused by the many years of ethnic and religious disagreements and conflicts and emerge as a robust, reliable and equal partner within the Nigerian state".
Kumaila stated further that "the need to arrest and reverse this unfortunate situation informed the convening of this group of concerned and progressive-minded citizens from the region".
Our governors are emperors - Dr. Enyantu Ifenne
One woman stirred the crowd and, in the end, received a standing ovation for her insightful speech. Enyantu Ifenne, a medical doctor and a women's right activist, expressed worry that the northern governors have constituted themselves into emperors. Not touched by the plight of the poor northerners, the governors have continued to demand more funds from the federal government from which they feed fat, she said.
"Stop playing politics with our predicament," Ifenne warned, explaining there was need for a paradigm shift from the long-held view that peace must come before development.
The present generation is not willing to give peace a chance if there is no development, Ifenne said.
Northern violence is being orchestrated - Ghali Na'Abba
Former speaker of the House of Representatives, Gali Umar Na'Abba said the present violence in the north is being orchestrated to make the region what some elements want it to be.
He said the challenges facing the north call for resolute and sincere contributions both personally and materially from all concerned in solving it.
"Some personalities handling high positions have disappointed us as far as the north is concerned, although I am not pointing an accusing finger, but the problem in the north has deepened since my speakership time. Some of us did the best we could, but, unfortunately, nothing came out of our best," he said.
I predicted violence In the North - Ogbeh
Chief Audu Ogbeh said he had predicted that violence would erupt in the north after the Niger Delta crisis, which was raging in the country then, would have been put to an end, but no one took his warning seriously.
Ogbeh, who said he wasn't proud that his prediction came true, said he gave the warning during his days as the national chairman of the PDP, lamented that, today, about 400 industries have closed down in Kano with all the textile industries gone. "How did we get here?" Ogbeh asked.
"There were great days in this region when the Sardauna of Sokoto had an Igbo Christian as his cook for 29 years and his personal doctor was also a Christian and he saw nothing wrong in it. Some of what we do today in the name of religion is not pleasing God," Ogbeh said.
"Please let's find peace. Take on this assignment. This may be the biggest assignment you are taking on in your lifetime, but please do and pray hard. If you need any help you can reach out to some elders; if not worse things will happen than are happening now," Ogbe said. "For a country that imports N1 billion worth of rice, N1.5 billion worth of wheat and N2.2 billion worth of fruit juice daily, don't be surprised if the naira slides to N180 before the end of the year, because no leader has thought it wise to plant rice or plant orange trees to reverse this trend."
Government is clueless - Nda-Isaiah
Also, the chairman/CEO of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, decried the spate of killings in the northern part of the country. "The north is in turmoil; innocent people are killed and the government is clueless.
The government, which is supposed to provide security, has done little or nothing to save the situation. There are things only the government can do, but we should continue to encourage ourselves. Many people have said that poverty is the main cause of the problem but I say: countries like India and Chad have worse cases but they are not on fire."
Nda-Isaiah called on the conveners to actualise the common good of the north which, he said, is the right thing to do in times like these.
"We must all wake up to our responsibility and fight this cause together," he said.
We should be brutally sincere - Kukah
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, His Lordship Matthew Hassan Kukah, said the situation in the north is pathetic and everyone should work towards bringing a lasting solution to it. "I am ashamed about what happened in Zaria and Kaduna recently. We need to be brutally sincere to ourselves; running and looking for water is not the solution. Without finding the cause of the problem, we cannot quench the fire. We have to ask ourselves: how did we get here? What is happening now does not reflect who we are, whether as Christians or Moslems," he said. "If we have a country where Christians are talking to themselves while Moslems are talking to themselves, it won't work. I look forward to a time when Christians will talk on behalf of Moslems and Moslems will talk on behalf of Christians. I make bold to say, about 90 per cent of Nigerians are not happy because members the political class have not been able to deliver on the promises they made."
Other dignitaries on the occasion included Hon Ahmed Aliyu Wadada, Hon Emmanuel Bako, Alhaji Tajudeen Dantatta and Hajiya Amina Saleh Jambo.
Sambo holds crucial meeting with NSA, security chiefs
Meanwhile, .iIn a frantic move to quell the reprisal attacks that trailed the multiple bomb explosions in Kaduna and Zaria churches that killed over 70 people and leaving about 100 injured on Sunday, Vice President Namadi Sambo yesterday held a closed-door meeting with security chiefs in the country.
The security chiefs present at the meeting that lasted over 90 minutes in the vice president's office at the presidential villa, Abuja, are national security adviser General Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd); chief of defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin; chief of army staff, General Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika; chief of air staff, Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Umar; and inspector general of police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar. Chief of staff to the president, Mr. Mike Ogiadhome, was also present at the meeting.
The meeting, LEADERSHIP gathered, was quickly convened by Sambo to seek ways of ending the violence in Kaduna which has also spread to Yobe State.
A presidency source told our correspondent that, before leaving the country yesterday for Brazil where he is billed to attend the United Nations Earth Summit, RIO+20, Jonathan had asked Sambo to ensure that he took total control of the security situation in the country and Kaduna in particular where he (Sambo) is very familiar with the terrain.
The president had also held separate meetings with the Senate president David Mark and the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Musdapher Dahiru, on Monday.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting of security chiefs with the vice president, Azazi ruled out the possibility of declaration of a state of emergency in Kaduna State and some other northern states.
When told about the speculation, Azazi said, "Who is supposed to declare? I don't know about that."
Azazi further stated: "When the president is not in town, the vice-president is in charge and when there is situation, the VP calls the security chiefs to have a meeting. So, we just had a meeting to assess the security situation in the country."