Professor Ango Abdullahi
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Ahead of the 2015 general elections, the Northern Elders Forum Friday rose from a meeting in Abuja saying they would not be part of any form of zoning arrangement to produce the next president of the country.
The forum also insisted that nobody was going to decree their rights away from talking about the onshore-offshore dichotomy in as much as it has anything to do with covering the interest of the north and berated the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke for saying debates on the issue was foreclosed.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the Forum inaugurated two special committees on security and human rights and the review of the country's constitution in Abuja, former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi said the position of the north on 2015 presidency is that the process should be made open to all who are interested to participate.
"The issue of zoning should be thrown away and the contest be open to all whether an Itsekiri man, Urhobo man or a Tiv man. Whoever wins so be it. The issue of allocating positions based on certain regions should be thrown away and let the people contest among themselves," he said.
The meeting which held under the Chairmanship of Alhaji Maitama Sule said the north believes that when it comes the issue of politics there should be rules and regulations and that elections should be contested based on these rules, "So let it be and that is what it will be in 2015".
Explaining the role of the committees set up by the Forum, he said the political committee is going to look into the politics of Nigeria at present to see how the north can fit into it.
Other elders in attendance were Paul Unongo, Senator John Wash Pam, Usman M. Abashiya and many others eminent northern leaders.
Abdullahi said the north has decided to take serious look at the issue of revenue allocation formula, derivation policy and the onshore-offshore dichotomy with a view to ensure that the interest of the north is not undermined. As a way of steaming another heated debate across the country over the onshore- offshore dichotomy issue, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice urged Nigerians to stop dissipating energy on the matter having been decided at the Supreme Court.
But, Abdullahi, an ex-Minister of Education said it would amount to gagging the people to try to shut down the debate over the veracity or otherwise of the policy.
"I think it sounds like a stupid remark what the Attorney General was quoted as saying concerning the call for a revisiting of the matter.
Who is he to say that the debate on onshore and offshore dichotomy is closed. Is he saying that Nigerians have no right to speak on an issue which onshore, offshore dichotomy is and on what ground? ," he queried.
Abdullahi said as far as the north is concerned the issue is a matter for continuous debate and nobody can stop it.
On the review of the constitution, Abdullahi said the process is an open-ended thing which every part of the country is free to take a position but stated however that the committee set up by the forum would look at the constitution and see what changes are helpful to Nigerians and which ones are injurious to the people.
He said there is a widely held view that the present constitution does not serve the needs of Nigerians and that it was a mere imposition by the military, adding, "In this regard what the committee intends to do is to take these views being expressed and canvassed by people from other parts of the country and prepare a position for the north to pursue".
On the system of governance in the country, he said, "The adoption of the Presidential system of government is a major disaster to Nigeria. I have never seen government as expensive as what we have on ground today. If we say we are copying the system from the United States, then it means we are bad copiers of the system that is being practiced by the US".
He cited an instance where he said a Senator in Nigeria earns $1.5m annually while the American President's take home pay is just about $400,000.
He lamented that analysis has shown that the cost of government under the present Presidential system is three to four times more than the Parliamentary system which the country dumped in 1966 to embrace the Presidential system.
Also speaking on the agenda placed before the committee on security and human rights, a member of the forum from Plateau state, Mr. Solomon Dalong said the issue of lingering security threats in the north as well as the arbitrary manner in which security forces have been handling the matter is a matter of concern to the leaders.
According to Dalong, the aim of setting up the committee is to try to see how the leaders could intervene to stop the growing insecurity and likelihood of the military being used to antagonized innocent people.