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Puzzle over Nigeria’s unity as North Central rediscovers identity

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Puzzle over Nigeria’s unity as North Central rediscovers identity

***ACF says it is not quarrelling over NCPF


By John Akubo


That Nigeria is more divided today than ever before is no longer news. It is already manifesting with the North Central geopolitical zone that appear set to break away and seeking self-actualization from the core north. The North Central had been lackadaisical about its own identity while it tagged along the north as an appendage, as though there was an agreement to continue playing second fiddle.

The zone has always been useful in giving the north needed numerical, bargaining strength when it comes to dividing the spoils of national resource. Now, it seems the north is unraveling, with things falling apart for Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), as prominent leaders from Nigeria’s North Central zone recently decided to take their destiny in their own hands to opt out of the northern grouping.


They cited worsening insecurity in northern Nigeria as major reason. The leaders said the forum would also be deployed to tackle socio-economic marginalization the region suffers. The announcement of the birth of North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF) means that the zone is finally breaking away from the stranglehold of the core north

In recent times, there have been unspoken feelings of disenchantment by the majority in the zone. Unlike the other five geopolitical zones in the country that enjoy consanguinity, the North Central has been tied to the apron strings of the north to the detriment of its development. While other zones have in place their common socio-political and economic platforms, where they meet to discuss their strength and weaknesses with a view to promoting development, the North Central, on the other hand, has been at the mercy of larger north.

Thus, with a feeling of being taken for a ride for too long, the leaders have finally realised the ACF cannot champion the region’s cause. Forming a platform for such purposes became a necessity for the six states that make up the North Central geopolitical zone.

For the new leaders of NCPF, the zone is like the weeping child of the north and the federation. It has faced the worst security challenges occasioned by unprovoked aggression from herdsmen within and outside the larger north. The devastating result has been the destruction of their farmlands, killings and maiming of their citizens, kidnappings and all forms of criminality. Also, there’s the sudden realisation that the zone is the most under-developed despite its contributions to the development of the country.

Weighed down by these challenges, the North Central would seem to have woken up from its long slumber. It is now searching for its soul and identity and the right leadership to champion its embattled people. Remaining with the core north, in their reckoning, would mean a gradual extermination before they realised it.

However, there seems to be some mix up between the new NCPF and another splinter group in the region, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) that has been in existence for decades. While the NCPF is made up of Kogi, Nassarawa, Niger, Kwara, Plateau, and Benue States, membership of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) seems geographically indeterminate. One of the questions agitating many is, which states qualify to be Middle Belt Forum?

From tabulated and web sources, locations and regions which have been categorised as constituting the Middle Belt include the conventional North Central states – Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This is in addition to a number of Christian-dominated sub-regions in some North Eastern and North Western states such as Southern parts of Kaduna Taraba, Kebbi (Zuru), Adamawa (Numan), Gombe, Bauchi, Yobe, and Bornu States.

Thus, contrary to popularly held notion and flowing from the above knowledge, the ‘middle-belt’ appears to lack designated physical ‘borders’, being more of a category that is characterised by heterogeneity and diversity of its ‘peoples’ in terms of ethnicity, religion and culture.

What the Middle Belt, however, has in common is the ‘minority’ factor of tribes and religion. And this is unaltered regardless of the significant presence of other majority tribes and religions within these regions such as the Kanuri or Hausa/Fulani and Islam.

However, this would seem a strange way of identifying a people. While the term ‘Middle Belt’ has been in existence and in use since the 1950s pre-independence Nigeria (the defunct United Middle Belt Congress – UMBC, led by Joseph Tarka), the term ‘North Central’ (states) as a region, however, came into existence in the 1990s under the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime.
The question then is: why wasn’t the region accurately named ‘Middle Belt’ region when the six geopolitical zones were delineated? Was it omitted to actualise a ‘one big north’ agenda?

While addressing journalists in Abuja on the matter, the group said in spite of the abundant mineral and human resources in the zone, the North Central was bedevilled by vices like herdsmen’s aggression, kidnapping, banditry and other forms of criminality.

The new North Central group is being led by a former Minister of State for Health, Gabriel Aduku as its interim chairman. A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Jerry Useni, former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, former Military Administrator of Kwara State, Col. David Bamigboye (rtd), and former Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Olusola Akanmode, are also listed as members.

Others are the Publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah, former Nigeria Ambassador to South Africa, Ahmed Ibeto, media consultant, Alhaji Tajudeen Kareem, former Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Stephen Lawani, and Alhaji Alfa Mohammed.

Useni told journalists that the existence of similar groups in other parts of the country had given rise to group affinity and solidarity among the states in a particular geopolitical zone to canvass things of common interest.
He expressed confidence that the forum would unite the people of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, and the Federal Capital Territory in their quest to ensure that peace and stability was established and sustained within the zone.
He added that the forum would pursue rapid industrialisation across all nooks and crannies of the zone.

He also said the group would pursue policies and processes that would ensure that the zone’s massive solid mineral and agricultural endowments were adequately harnessed.

He said, “The forum is also aimed at ensuring cooperation and support for the good policies and administration of the six governors of the zone, irrespective of our political, religious and ethnic differences.

“We will support and cooperate fully with the Federal Government for full and complete implementation of infrastructure and development projects situated in the zone and the involvement of the people of the zone in the national affairs of the country.

“We will promote, defend and strengthen North Central unity and the interest of its people in the context of one indivisible Nigeria and to contribute to the safeguarding of her territorial integrity. Consequently, every zone now has a common socio-political platform where they meet to discuss their strength and weakness with the view to propounding and promoting progress and development of the zone.”
FOR the newly formed NCPF, however, many contradictions abound. The current ACF chairman and former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, hails from North Central zone.

When contacted on the new body, Ogbeh said his being the leader of ACF was not something he bargained for, stating, “When I was made chairman, I wasn’t even there. They met in Kaduna and decided it; I didn’t even know. On the other hand, there were people within ACF, who wanted to be chairman, but they were not picked. It took me about one month to even accept.

“After leaving office, I have been concentrating on my farm. I said, ‘fine, I accepted.’ Having said that, I had no issues with the emergence of the North Central Peoples Forum. It is not an issue with us in ACF. I mean, this is a democracy and people should be free to associate as convenient and expedient to their needs in a particular area.”

He said the idea of ACF, which is 20 years old, came when they saw decline happening in the North. Ogbeh said ACF came to bring the North together to speak with one voice, to pressurise government and get things done. According to him, the other reason was to keep the North unified so as to minimise the conflict of religion and ethnicity and manage the diversity, saying there are close 300 ethnic groups in the north.

According to him: “In the First Republic, the Sardauna was here; he was not a biased man in the line of religion or politics. I can tell you a story about Cardinal John Onayekan. We were schoolmates at St. Michael Aliade. When school certificate results came out in 1962, we were in form one, he was in form five. He had the best result in West Africa, with nine distinctions.
“Guess who wanted to see him quickly? The Sardauna sent for him and asked him whether he wanted to go to Oxford or Cambridge. John said he wanted to be a priest. The Sardauna said, ‘that was okay but if you change your mind you have the scholarship.’

“John said, ‘no he wanted to be a priest.’ Then Ahmadu Bello visited my school in 1963 on his way to the Sardauna’s province. He gave us a gift of two cows and praised our school for having put Northern Nigeria on the educational map of Nigeria.

Ogbeh said when those good men died and the region was split into states and military rule came in, religious sensitivity began to rise and the economy, particularly agriculture, began to decline. He indicated that the native authorities, which played a major role then in developing the region, started declining and dying when civilian rule came.

“The native authorities became totally irrelevant,” Ogbeh said. “As at today, hardship has set in. We were not growing, but we are not paying taxes anymore.

“In those days, once you are of a voting age you have to pay tax. If you don’t pay, they would make you miserable in front of your wife and children. Suddenly, the economy started dying, religious and ethnic sensitivity started growing and you kept hearing of marginalisation.”

He admitted that there were instances where a government comes into power and the major appointments come from one ethnic area, which irritates people, especially sensitive positions. He said if the Northeast elites gather tomorrow and say their region has been bastardised by Boko Haram, that they like as a group to do something about it, “how can we quarrel about that? That is our position; we are not quarrelling.”

He said the North is a very large area that is hopelessly under-developed and facing severe crises, which he had warned about in 2005 at a lecture he gave in Kaduna to the same ACF, when late Chief Awoniyi, Abubakar Rimi, Adamu Ciroma invited him to give a talk.

According to him, “The topic was ‘The North and the future of Nigeria.’ I warned that there was going to be violence and chaos on a scale that had never been seen from looking at the economic and social development of the North. There were those who did not agree with me and there were others who said, ‘well, the North is not like that, we don’t behave that way.’ “But I saw it, because my worry was that for a very long time now since the end of the 1970s, the only industry in the North is either politics, the arms services or the civil service. Gone are the days when we had the industries in Kano and even in places like Benue; the Tilly Gyados of this world; in Jos the Danboyi Zangiel; Bakko Kantagora in Niger State, to mention but a few.”

SENATOR Alex Kadiri, who represented Kogi East Senatorial District under the banner of the All Peoples Party (APP) between 1999 and 2003, expressed caution regarding the formation of any new socio-political grouping in the zone.
According to him, “All the agitators used to be part of ACF. At a point, somebody like Jeremiah Useni became chairman of ACF. What drove them from ACF? They haven’t told us yet. Secondly, at my age if I am joining a group, I look through them. Whether we like it or not, there are people who have current mandates, whether legitimate or illegitimate acquisition of power, but they have mandate. Those of them like that from the Middle Belt, have they taken them into consideration in what they are doing?

“Or would they just exclude them because they are in government? Is Paullen Tallen part of what they are doing? She is a minister from Plateau. Is George Akume part of what they are doing? He is from Benue. Is Lai Mohammed part of what they are doing? Lai Muhammed is from Kwara. Gbemisola Saraki, is she part of what they are doing? Ramatu Tijani, is she part of what they are doing?

“They are not carrying people along and I want them to expand and carry Middle Belters along.

“Thirdly, where is the boundary of Middle Belt, because I know somebody from Borno State, who is very active in this Middle Belt Forum and he is somebody I respect very well and he knows. Dr. Bitrus Pogu is from Borno State and he is an active member of Middle Belt Forum. So, where is the boundary of Middle Belt?

“Finally, the promoters of this enterprise currently seem to be all Christians. Are Middle Belt people all Christians? Or is it another branch of CAN? These are my misgivings about this outfit.”
Another commentator, Mr. Isaac Adaji, said, “Even though we are not political, I want to say that it has come at the right time. We have agitated for this type of self-actualisation as North Central. The formation of this does not mean that we are not relating with other groups.

“It is for us to actually bring ourselves together, have a common voice and because we have a common history, common interest, we have many things we share at the North Central level.

“Not just the resources, our cultural heritage is so much in common that we can flow together. Additionally, we have seen that the development of the North Central has been too slow. It has been at snail’s speed compared to other regions that came together the time North Central came together. Even though we have contributed immensely to the development of Nigeria, development has not really come to us.

“It is always promises upon promises. If North Central is fully developed and all the resources are fully tapped, the country would not go borrowing. There are so many things in North Central, and if Nigeria has harnessed them properly, we won’t go borrowing.  Apart from Ajaokuta, there are other things.”

Culled from th Guardian

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APC caucus tackles opposition for tagging Buhari an absentee President

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The All Progressive Congress (APC) caucus of the National Assembly (Senate) yesterday berated its counterparts in the opposition for describing President Muhammadu Buhari as an absentee president.
The Opposition Minority Caucus had converged from both chambers to register their grievances against the ruling party over the derailing ship of State.
The caucus said it had also taken note of the fact that the president has been absent from duty.
They said, “We have not seen our president. We have not heard from our president despite the daily killings that have turned Nigeria into a killing field of unimaginable proportions.”

Addressing the Senate press Corps after their own meeting the Senate leader who is also Chairman Senate APC Caucus, Senator Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi said they in the APC Caucus totally reject the many incorrect statement  contained in the said press release.
“Furthermore, we take exception to the unfortunate charge that our President has not been seen. This is false and cheap politics.
“The President and service – chiefs are meticulously busy every day and every night in deliberations with a view to addressing the security challenges across the entire country.
“Similarly, Mr. President had always made statement to Nigerians on all major security incidences and assuring Nigerians and indeed the international community that he would continue to do his best in making sure that the security challenges are tackled head-on.”
He assured Nigerians that the President is in charge of government and is discharging his duties conscientiously and patriotically.
“It is a well-known fact that the Federal Government under the PDP refused to invest in the security infrastructure of the country while President under the APC led Government had massively invested in this regard more than any past governments and we are confident that the nation will surmount its current security challenges.
The APC Caucus expressed strong and unreserved supports the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as he continues to work in addressing the economic, health, social, security and other challenges that beset the nation.
“Indeed, we are quite aware of the role of the opposition in any democracy. However, the statement by the PDP Caucus has gone too far given the good working relationship in the 9th Assembly and especially with the Minority Caucus. “
He said, in any democracy, the rights to present criticisms and concerns on the state of the nation’s affairs are unassailable.
However, he said while they respect such rights that come with obligation and responsibility, they are concerned that the statement issued by the Minority Cuscus is capable of over- heating an already charged polity in which men of good conscience and patriotism are expected to act as leaders and Statesmen.
“While we acknowledge the natural disposition of playing politics, we are worried and disturbed that our colleagues are playing with lives.
“The unfortunate state of insecurity; for which the Senate has continuously debated and issued resolutions to support the actions of the executive under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari in the overriding interest of the public, is too delicate to play with.

Unlike the minority Caucus meeting which carried along the House of Representatives members in their fold, only majority caucus of the Senate attended the meeting
Like their Minority Caucus the majority also refused to field questions from the media after their press briefing.

The Minority Caucus had indicated that it was taking note and will continue to take note of the constitutional breaches that are happening at this time by President Muhammadu Buhari.

   

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We are keeping records of constitutional breaches by absentee Buhari-NASS Minority caucus

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We keeping records of constitutional breaches by absentee BuhariNASS Minority Caucus

The Minority Caucus of the National Assembly has indicated that it is taking note and will continue to take note of the constitutional breaches that is happening at this time by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The caucus, after a closed-door emergency meeting on Tuesday, declared President Muhammadu Buhari absent from duty despite the killings and kidnappings across the country.
It said at the appropriate time, it utilize all constitutional methods and measures available after consultations with other colleagues to do the needful to safe the country from collapse.
“The caucus has also taken note of the fact that the president is absent from duty. We have not seen our president. We have not heard from our president despite the daily killings that have turned Nigeria into a killing field of unimaginable proportions.”
It condemned what it called the “ineptitude and inability” of the APC-led federal government to prevent the country from drifting apart.

It said rather than solving the security problems he met on ground as promised, the situation has grown worse under the APC to the extent that every section of the country is now beset with one security challenge or the other.
The caucus leader and Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who briefed newsmen after the meeting said,
“We, therefore as a caucus, suggest that immediate steps should be taken by governments at all levels to set up proper security infrastructure whether in the mode of state police and other constitutional reforms to arrest the drift of the nation,” he said.
He urged President Buhari to take charge of his government and take the country out of the current security situation.
Abaribe also urged Nigerians not lose hope in the country, but do everything possible to get rid of APC in 2023.
He said: “The caucus also expresses strong reservations about the economic strategy of the government which has culminated into what is called quantitative easing, which the ordinary man knows as printing money.
“We feel that this strategy has led us to the very high inflation that we have today, devaluation of our Naira to the height that we never expected and has also concomitantly brought out unemployment and has led the government to contemplate, as we see today, to raise the price of fuel, electricity tariff and all manners of charges on the helpless Nigerians.
“We think that the government should reverse itself and should not continue in its mindless borrowing without seeing any benefits that are coming from it.
“We also, as a caucus, want to put on notice to all Nigerians and the international community about the threats to the lives of our members, to those who come out to say things that are true about the state of Nigeria today, and this threats have come in various forms, including threat to life.
“So, we condemn this attempt at holding everybody down and trying to shut us up and make sure that nobody says because they think by doing so, problems of the country will disappear. We say that problems of the country will not disappear.
“This is a time that needs the president to come out and take charge of his government and take us all away from problems we are seeing today.”

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Insecurity; There will be no election In 2023- Niger APC Chieftain

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Insecurity; There will be no election In 2023- Niger APC Chieftain

*** Says The Country Is Under siege

Former Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, in Niger state, Jonathan Vatsa has said that unless the current security situation in the country is addressed, Nigerians should not expected any election in 2023
He however pointed out that if the government decides to go ahead with elections despite the worsening security challenges across the country, such elections can never be credible.
Vatsa in a statement in Minna on Sunday titled “As the nation bleeds, can Nigerians have a credible elections in 2023” expressed worries that the entire country is overwhelmed by one form of insecurity or the other with the attendant lose of lives and the government seems to be without idea.
“No part of this country today is safe, people are being killed like flies. They have abandoned their ancestral home for fear and have no hope of returning soon”.
Vatsa, a former publicity secretary of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in Niger state believed that until the security problem is addressed and peace returned to towns and villages, any attempt to conduct election in 2023 under the present situation will amount to deceit.
According to him, “Nigerians will know that such elections will never be credible. It will amount to sitting in one place and writing results and the people will definitely resist such manipulations.
“But the truth is that this government can not afford not to conduct credible elections in 2023 because without free, fair and credible elections APC wouldn’t have been in power today. If for nothing, we must give Nigerians credible election devoid of any deceit and foul play”.
Vatsa who is the Coordinator public affairs to governor Sani Bello, maintained that Niger state is one state that no credible election can be conducted without addressing the issue of Banditry which has brought the state to its kneel, stressing that “right now six or seven out of the 25 local government areas of the state are under siege from bandits.
“So which credible election will you conduct in such local government areas without addressing the security challenges there, it is not possible. Today there are over 20,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP) across these local government areas.
“The state is overwhelmed with this situation and nobody is listening to the governor. So if you want to conduct election in these affected communities where are the voters”, he queried.
He therefore urged President Buhari to act fast “because the masses who voted for him in 2015 and 2019 can no longer sleep in their houses, they can no longer go to their farms. The country is bleeding and the poor people are most affected”, he submitted

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