President Goodluck Jonathan has been given marching orders by the North to either bring back the abducted Chibok girls and put a stop to Boko Haram and other violent killings or forget about 2015.
To underscore their seriousness, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) issued a deadline – October – for the conditions to be met.
For over three months, more than 200 girls abducted by the Boko Haram sect have been in captivity with reports that 11 parents of some of the girls have died from trauma.
While the military authorities claim to know the location where these girls are being held hostage, it has ruled out swooping in on them to avoid collateral damage. So, every day as the clock ticks and the government applies ‘caution’ in dealing with the situation, the Chibok girls are been exposed to radical indoctrination and extreme circumstances.
However, NEF believes most of the crisis plaguing the North is a deliberate ploy to weaken the region economically and politically.
“We are convinced that most of these conflicts are being engineered to weaken the North politically and economically by interests which intend to exploit such weaknesses for electoral benefits”, the NEF said yesterday.
The forum made its position known in Kaduna through two of the members, Solomon Dalung, a lawyer and a former Federal Permanent Secretary, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed.
The NEF said it had just concluded a major review of the state of the nation. It resolved to speak to help resolve current political, economic and security challenges facing the nation, and facilitate the emergence of a more united, secure and prosperous nation out of its present limitations.
Said the elders: “The security situation in our nation today represents the most serious threat to our individual and collective lives in our entire history. The reality is that the threats posed by what appears to be an insurgency that has many manifestations and defies a clear and consistent identity is growing due to the absence of a clear national consensus over its nature, and it solutions.
“The lack of a strong will at the level of the Presidency to fight it, as well as deep-seated corruption and incompetence in governments and in the management of our security challenges, has allowed a band of terrorists to take and hold vast parts of our land and populations hostage while every citizen lives in fear that they will be its next victim.
“We also reject the notion that multiple internal security challenges such as attacks on villages, ethno-religions conflicts and banditry springing up by the day in many parts of the North are all a coincidence. Indeed, we are convinced that most of these conflicts are being engineered to weaken the North politically and economically by interests which intend to exploit such weaknesses for electoral benefits.
“In the light of our firm conviction that the insurgency and related security challenges pose threats to the 2015 elections and the survival of our nation, we strongly advise President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to bring an end to the insurgency in all its manifestations and produce the Chibok girls before the end of October, 2014.
“The circumstances under which our fellow citizens in and around Gwoza in Borno State in particular live and die will not be tolerated by any people who have a government and a leader sworn to defend them, and they must be reversed immediately.
“If President Jonathan fails to end the insurgency, Nigerians will be left with the only conclusion that he has forfeited his right to ask for their mandate beyond 2015”.
Continuing, the NEF lamented that in spite of its wealth of leaders and elders, the North has continued to experience a steady decline in its fortunes and called on them to either step up now and reverse the trend or be deemed to have abandoned their people.
Said the NEF: “The Forum notes that the state of security and economic challenges of the North are deteriorating, in spite of its wealth of leaders and elders who should use their God-given privileges, power and influence to affect a reversal of these dangerous trends. It is no secret that the vast majority of Northerners lament their marginalisation, insecurity and poverty, and blame it in large part on the inability or unwillingness of its past and present leaders to utilise all access to power which they enjoy, to bring us redress and relief. General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, General Abdussalami Abubakar, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Architect Namadi Sambo, General T.Y Danjuma and all retired Chief Justices of Nigeria from the North represent grossly under-utilised assets of the North.
“The NEF joins millions of Northerners in appealing to these leaders to raise their levels of involvement in the fortunes of our region in every endeavour or fora they are involved. In these difficult days when every hand must be on deck, if these leaders cannot visibly help to transform the fortunes of the North in the next few months, they will leave northerners with the damaging impression that they have abandoned the region and the people to its seemingly irreversible decline and ultimate destruction”.
The forum also called on all leaders and political parties to demonstrate highest levels of commitment to the rule of law and the demands of the electoral process. “At all cost, the 2015 elections must be free and fair. This means that any threat which may provide a cover for militarising the electoral process must be eliminated before the elections. Every part of Nigeria must participate in these elections, and no citizen should be deprived of his right to vote under any excuse”, the forum stressed.
On the alleged clash between soldiers and Shiite members in Zaria, Kaduna State, the NEF called on President Jonathan to set up a Judicial Panel to investigate the incident where over 30 members of the group, including three sons of its leader, were allegedly killed.
The forum said: “The internal investigations by the military in an event in which soldiers are involved will not meet the minimum standards of fairness and acceptability. The Forum reminds the nation that it was the murder of Muhammad Yusuf by the Nigeria Police in 2009 that formed the major point of escalation in the activities of the group(s) known today under the generic term of Boko Haram.
“We also call for a thorough investigation into the attempted assassination of General Muhammadu Buhari and Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, and the publication of the outcome of these investigations”.