Northern Elders Forum, NEF, have said they were aware of alleged attempts by some politicians interested in contesting the 2023 presidential election to weaken the North on many fronts in the aftermath of #EndSARS protest.
The Forum also said it had credible information about an alleged plan to force restructuring on the North under the guise of ending the agitation against bad governance in the country.
NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement on Wednesday night, said that the North was capable of identifying and protecting its own interests, and would neither be blackmailed nor intimidated into accepting restructuring as a means to higher standards of justice, better security, and progress for all Nigerians.
He said, “The Forum is aware of attempts to weaken the North by interests that believe that this is their only path to success in the 2023 elections.
“These interests should know that the North will neither be blackmailed nor intimidated, and we are quite capable of identifying and protecting our own interests.
“Some of these interests seek to exploit our plural nature and deepen what they see as divisions. They will fail, because northerners know that what unites us is a lot stronger than what divides us.
“Others create the impression that the North is opposed to the country being restructured along lines that will improve the quality of our union, ensure higher standards of justice, better security and progress for all Nigerians. These too will fail.
“The North is ready to discuss all elements of our co-existence, but will not be stampeded into submitting to other interests who feel uncomfortable with a strong and united North, or blackmailing us to adopt their versions of our future.”
NEF also said it was disappointed that last week’s meeting in Kaduna by Northern Governors, high-level federal government officials and traditional rulers barely made mention of the insecurity of communities within the region
The elders said the focus of the meeting on the potential for abuse of social media platforms and the possibility of hoodlums hijacking the #EndSARS protest in many cities of the south was uncalled for.
Baba-Ahmed said, “That meeting missed a historic opportunity to acknowledge that northern communities are in dire need of improved security, and to give firm and specific assurances that our leaders care about northern lives and will take steps to protect us.
“We took particular note of the pivotal roles of governors and traditional rulers at that meeting, leaders who are thoroughly familiar with daily assaults by insurgents, bandits and kidnappers on northerners.
“These are leaders who should have understood the high hopes which northerners attached to a meeting of that nature in Kaduna, and they should understand that the impression left by that meeting and the frenzy of activities in parts of the south involving some northern leaders to show sympathy for damage from hoodlums leaves only one conclusion in the mind of northerners: northern lives do not matter.”
The Forum noted the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to improve engagements with northern leaders, and hoped that these will not be public relations stunts in place of real efforts aimed at improving the security of the region.
“The Forum advises the President and Governors to engage a broad spectrum of leaders, elders and the young in the North to contribute to an appreciation of the dangers which our communities live with on a daily basis, and enlist them as partners in the search for solutions,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Northern elders paid tribute to its Director-General, Dr Yima Sen, who died recently, describing his services to the Forum as invaluable.