One time minister of education under the military regime of General Sani Abacha, Alhaji Dauda Birmah, has been disowned by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) over a statement credited to him to the effect that northern elders have decided to support President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015.
Spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, who spoke at a press conference in Bauchi, acknowledged Birmah’s constitutional rights to freedom of association and speech but insisted at no time did northern elders give such support.
Prof. Abdullahi maintained that the statement which was said to have been made by Dauda Birmah during a thank you visit to the national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Bamanga Tukur on the recent release of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, was not the position of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) or the Elders Forum.
He said, “I understand quote and unquote that he made the statement in the name or on behalf of northern elders. I did not attend any meeting with Malam Dauda, and I don’t remember him attending any of our meetings or our activities. So I want to make it absolutely clear that Malam Dauda Birmah was speaking on behalf of some northern elders outside the ACF and outside the Northern Elders Forum and I believe outside many other groups that I know working with us. So he is entirely on his own and we respect his rights as a Nigerian citizen to associate and to give support where he feels support is needed or is deserved.”
He said, “Nobody is saying that 99.9 per cent or 100 per cent of northerners of various shades of opinion are going to belong to the same opinion but we concede his right to speak for himself and for people with whom he associates but certainly he cannot be speaking for the ACF or the NEF.”
Prof. Abdullahi, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, maintained that just as the South-South geopolitical zone has been agitating for the retention of power in their region, the North also has reasons for clamouring for the return of the presidency in 2015 to the region.