Chairman of the forum and governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu
By John Shiklam and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The statement credited to General Muhammadu Buhari that there would be bloodshed if the 2015 elections are rigged is drawing condemnation from key Northern voices.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the pan-Northern group, has asked the former presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to stop making “inflammatory statements”.
Although it did not mention Buhari by name, the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) also Thursday warned “prominent Nigerians” against statements that are capable of inflicting injury on the nation.
The NSGF, which rose from its one-day meeting in Kaduna, said it took exception to what it called inciting statements “capable of destroying the nation’s fragile unity and peace”.
The governors asked leaders to be concerned about the unity and development of the country rather than making statements that could further divide it.
In a communiqué at the end of the meeting, the governors restated their commitment to intensify efforts at finding lasting solutions to the security challenges facing the region.
The communiqué, which was read by the chairman of the forum and governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, said efforts were also being made to revive the agricultural sector as well as address the lingering problems of the New Nigeria Newspaper.
The meeting, which lasted for about five hours, was attended by governors of Kaduna, Sokoto, Benue, Katsina, Adamawa, Kebbi, Plateau and Borno States.
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Mr. Anthony Sanni, who spoke to journalists in Abuja after a meeting with the Nigeria Summit Group (NSG), said leaders like Buhari should not make comments that may be inflammatory.
Sanni said why Buhari’s statement has generated wide concern is because of his personality.
“Buhari has a lot of mass appeal and because his followers are many, people are saying that he is not supposed to say certain things the way he said them. But the fact still remains that Buhari has not said anything new. The only thing is the impression his comments has created amongst the people which might be wrongly interpreted,” he said.
Regarding complaints of advocates of true federalism about the inadequacies of the present federal structure, the ACF spokesman said as far as ACF was concerned, there is nothing wrong with the current system.
Sanni said the group would support and participate in any national dialogue aimed at strengthening the unity and peaceful existence of Nigerians, but not for the balkanisation of the country.
“We are very happy about the initiative of the NSG because their mission is not about the balkanisation of the country. The aim is to strengthen the unity of the country through dialogue.
But the challenge is how to organise the national dialogue since there is a government in place,” he said.
He said there is no doubt that every Nigerian is concerned at the moment about the worrisome state of affairs and is eager to make sacrifices to ensure that normalcy returns.
According to Sanni, ACF believes that time has come for all interest groups in the country to meet and agree on modalities for a peaceful dialogue that will not only strengthen the unity of the country, but will bring about a new order of equity, justice , good governance and transparency in the affairs of the country.
“ACF shares in the concern about the situation in the country and will support any genuine effort that would restore the country to the glorious past of peace, justice, good governance, human rights and development,” he said.
Sanni said the Forum is of the view that one of the ways most of the issues being raised by those in favour of a national conference can be sorted out is through the instrumentality of the National Assembly.
He said another way of handling the issue will be to hold a separate conference after which recommendations can be presented to the National Assembly for deliberation and ratification.
While explaining the purpose of the meeting, NSG’s leader, Tony Uranta, said the group has decided to consult with the leadership of the ACF on how to organise a national dialogue.
He said NSG, along with other groups in Nigeria, hopes to organise a conference that will bring about a new Nigeria, where unity, equity, justice, accountability and transparency will reign.
“We have held consultations with various groups in the country, including the Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo, Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum and the South-South groups. Why we are making the meeting with ACF open to the media is because of the perception that the ACF is not on the same page with the NSG over the convocation of a national dialogue,” he said.
Uranta said the reason why there was a misconception over its last national dialogue session was the fear of it being turned into a sovereign national conference.
He said already, a strategy committee had been constituted and that they are engaged in consultations at the zonal levels with a view to arriving at unified conclusions on how to organise the national conference proper
“What we want is a people’s national conference and our intention is to be able to produce resolutions and documents that would be presented to the National Assembly or be subjected to people’s approval through a referendum,” he added.
He said so far the deliberations between the two parties have been very fruitful based on shared vision and understanding of what needed to be done to rescue the country from further decay.