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North-East and veiled plan of secession

| October 26, 2012 More

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Written by Saliu Gbadamosi, Bauchi


Friday, 26 October 2012

Saliu Gbadamosi writes on the recent botched meeting of some leaders from the North-East zone in Bauchi and the veiled plan of secession inherent in the meeting.

FACED with challenges of insecurity, economic backwardness and what they described as political marginalisation of the zone, concerned elders from the North-East geo-political recently converged on Bauchi, the Bauchi State capital, to discuss the challenges with a view to proffering solutions to them. The meeting, conveyed by a one-time Minister of Establishment, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Kirfi, resolved to transform the old North-East Forum of Concerned Leaders to the North-East Forum for Unity and Development (NEFUD).

 The new forum, according to its propagators, is set out to promote peace, unity and the development of the six states of the zone, namely Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe. Various organs and committees meant to achieve the set objective was slated for inauguration at that meeting, including the Central Working Committee (CWC) and those on security, contact and finance, economy, education, political committee, constitution review and publicity.

 Given the prevailing situation in the zone, tight security arrangement were made ahead for the expected personalities at the event such as the six governors of the zone-Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) (Adamawa); Mallam Isa Yuguda (Bauchi); Mallam Kashim Shetima (Borno); Mallam Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe); Danbaba Suntai (Taraba) and Mallam Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe), General Theophilus Danjuma, who was the Guest of Honour; Mallam Adamu Ciroma, the chairman on the occasion, Professor Jubril Aminu, the Guest Speaker and past and present members of the National Assembly from the zone, among others.

 Signs that all might not really be well began to manifest as guests trickled in one after the other, but there was no sign that any of the expected governors would be attending the meeting. Even the host governor, Yuguda, was represented by his deputy, Alhaji Sagir Saleh. 

 After all formalities, Ciroma, a Minister of Finance during the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, acknowledged the fact that the North-East zone is faced with a lot of problems, adding that the zone is seriously lagging behind in the scheme of things in the country today. Ciroma, who is the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of NEFUD, said that the zone had once occupied a pride of place, producing many people in top positions of authority in the country, including the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, but things were no longer the same. 

 Noting that the event was to herald in a new dawn for the zone, he said, “Today brings about committees that will solve the problems of not only the North-East zone but also Nigeria’s problems” and called on members of the committees set for inauguration to take the assignment serious with a view to coming up with tangible and practical solutions. The former Finance Minister said the elders gathered that day to assist younger generation in solving tomorrow’s problems, submitting that, “no problem requires a solution unless it becomes in-depth.” He admonished the governors in the zone to devote more time and attention to agriculture, education and health, while they must also give priority to the provision of employment to the teeming graduates.

 When it was the turn of the convener of the forum, Alhaji Kirfi, he spoke on how the members intended to address what he described as “our lingering issues of status of the North-East as the most ravaged region–ravaged by poverty, disease, unemployment and unacceptable low level of development.” He then rhetorically asked what was responsible for the deplorable state of affairs in the zone and said, “The problem borders on a leadership that has failed to deliver on its historic mission to advance the sub-region and its people from what we inherited from our forefathers, in terms of political structures, statecraft, economic independence, cultural and religious tolerance, to a higher level of political and socio-economic pedestal. It is regrettable that a region that was a pacesetter in all aspects of human endeavour in our pre-colonial and post-colonial existence has now degenerated to the bottom of the ladder, becoming a laughing stock among the various people of the country.” 

 Kirfi stated that the unity of the country had to be built on the foundation of justice, equity and fairness, adding that, “our abundant human and material resources will continue to be a nightmare to us unless we evolve an equitable and just framework on collective national interest to manage them. For example, it is therefore sad to state that the present revenue sharing formula is not structured in such a manner to guarantee equity, fairness and justice and the present situation, in which substantial revenue of this country goes to one particular section of the country, is detrimental to the peace and unity of the country.”

 He said the North-East has the capacity and potential to lead Nigeria to greatness and declared, “with our historical pedigree, we have no excuse to make and no reason whatsoever not to continue to carry the touch from our forefathers by rising to the occasion to provide the right leadership for the zone and the country as a whole, particularly at this period of our national predicament.”

 Then dropping the bombshell, he said; “In this regard, we shall consider all options necessary to preserve the unity of the sub-region, including asserting our independence as a last resort. Our challenge now, as we stated then, therefore, is to collectively as leaders, not only resolve but act decisively to rescue the region from the precipice or to allow it to fall into the valley of ruination to our peril. This, we cannot afford as history shall not forgive us, nor shall we be worthy children of our forefathers in allowing their labours to go down the drain. This responsibility we cannot afford to shirk. In fact, we must, as a matter of obligation, carry it out to its logical conclusion by, I dare say that, if need be, pulling out of Nigeria. We must take our destiny into our hands.” 

 Kirfi’s concluding remark would have gone unnoticed but General Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and one-time Minister of Defence, changed the momentum and brought the meeting to an abrupt end. He acknowledged the fact that the zone was facing challenges, including poverty, unemployment and economic collapse, but above all, insecurity was its most serious problem. According to the General, considering the seriousness of the security challenge and the absence of the six governors of the zones, there was no need to inaugurate the committees, except that of security, “until such a time that the governors would be convinced to identify with the forum.”

 Saying that he advised the governors to stay away from the inauguration, he said the state helmsmen believed that the forum had a hidden agenda. “Initially, I was told that all the six governors of the region will attend the inauguration but three days ago, one of them called me and told me that all of them have resolved not to come and even advised me to stay away, based on the fact that there is a hidden agenda”, he said.

 He stated that this development forced him to go back and read the minutes of the meetings of the forum and the draft speech he was to deliver, saying, “I am not in a position to pass judgment but this development has created doubt in my mind regarding the motive of the forum. I, therefore, suggest that this meeting should be adjourned immediately and be reconvened later at a date when we would have been able to persuade the governors to join us in this noble undertaken.” 

 General Danjuma, however, used the occasion to disassociate himself from the concluding part of Kirfi’s remark which called for the secession of the North-East from the country, as he declared; “I would like to dissociate myself from the concluding part of Bello Kirfi’s speech, particularly the sentence in which he said, ‘In fact, we must as a matter of obligation carry it out to its logical conclusion by, I dare say that if need be, pulling out of Nigeria. We must take our destiny into our hand’. This is a serious and weighty statement to make. As someone who went to the war front and survived it, I must warn that this statement be withdrawn immediately.”

 Having realised the implication of Kirfi’s statement, Mallam Ciroma announce the withdrawal of the contentious sentence, a move that elicited applause from the gathering, while Kirfi himself swiftly announced the withdrawal of the statement, adding however that it was only “for the meantime”. Thus, the meeting was brought to an abrupt end.

 Observers are of the view that such statement ought not to have come from someone of Kirfi’s status. This is in view of what a member of the local organising committee of the botched inauguration, who pleaded anonymity, told the Nigerian Tribune namely, “the forum is about unity and development. In that regard, all our efforts must be geared towards the unity and development of the North-East zone in particular and the whole of Nigeria in general.”

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Category: Bauchi State News

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