Alhaji Muhammed Aliyu Shinkafi
By Chuks Okocha in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
An enlarged gathering of Northern elders and leaders of thought has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to resume talks with the Boko Haram and prosecute the issue to a logical conclusion if their activities must be brought to a halt.
But the Federal Government last night said contrary to widely held view, the group has continued to shun its invitation for dialogue.
They also expressed great concern on the deteriorating security situation in the country and the Northern part in particular, even as they noted that the current spate of violence being witnessed has several facets and dimensions which has links and were interwoven with ethnicity, religion, politics, crime and economy.
This was the outcome of their meeting in Abuja yesterday at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre. The leaders comprising elder statesmen - former ministers, former University administrators, ex-ambassadors and business men - also reiterated their stand for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference for a united Nigeria, just as they insisted that the North would ensure that the unity will be based on equity, respect, justice and fair play, in its relation with other parts of the country.
Reading a communiqué at the end of the meeting, Second Republic Power and Steel Minister, Paul Unongo, said the elders expressed concern and worry over the activities of Boko Haram, stressing that with emerging scenario and circumstantial evidences, there may be more than just the original Boko Haram operating at present.
“The Northern elders noted that Boko Haram insurgency which started as a minor skirmish in Maiduguru, has today escalated into a major civil disturbance posing a high threat not only to peace in the affected areas but to the corporate existence of Nigeria, if not properly and expeditiously resolved.”
On poverty, the elders said, ‘’It is common knowledge that poverty anywhere in the world is a pre-cursor to social discontent and anger. Credible local and international reports placed Nigeria among the 15 poorest countries of the world at present. It is estimated that up to 100 of the 160 million Nigerians live below the acknowledged poverty line of $1 USD per day. The youths are the most vulnerable and the most affected by this debilitating poverty. Large unemployment compounds this problem.
Speaking on failure of democratic institutions, the Northern elders said, ‘’the development of modern nations is largely determined by the institutions which guide its affairs. Having opted for western style democracies, it is imperative that our institutions which guide norms, culture and behaviours must be set up and operated to ensure full compliance with the tenet and principles of democratic societies.
Yesterday’s meeting, which was chaired by Justice Mamman Nasir, had in attendance, former Nigeria Permanent representative in the United Nations, Alhaji Maitama Sule, former Vice Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, former Minister of Finance, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, ex-Deputy Senate President, Senator John Wash Pam, who made the welcome remarks, ex-deputy governor of Plateau State, Mrs. Pauline Tallen; Rev. Emmanuel Dgiggan; former Speaker, House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’abba, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu; former National Security Adviser, Lt-General Aliyu Gusau (rtd); Maj-General Paul Tarfa (rtd); Air Marshal Al-Amin Daggash; Ambassador Babagana Kingibe; Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau; Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Mr. Buba Galadima; A.H Yadudu; Aminu Bello Masari; Sale Hassan and Ambassador Bagudu Hirse.
Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Col. Aminu Isah Kotangora (rtd), Mr.Solomon Dalung, Maj-Gen Idris Garba (rtd), Dr. Shettima Mustafa, Musa Gwadabe, Dr. Hassan Mohammed Lawal, Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd.), Gen. IBM Haruna (rtd), Justice Tijani Abubakar, Uba Ringim, Alhaji Mohammed Goni, Lt-Gen I. Bamaiyi (rtd), Alhaji Muhammed Aliyu Shinkafi, Dr. Umar Ardo, Bashir Mohammed Dalhatu, Dr. Ibrahim Lame, and Mohammed Bello Kirfi, were in attendance.
But speaking on the Hausa service of the Voice of America (VOA) monitored in Kaduna, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, maintained that in spite of pleas by President Jonathan to the group to come out for negotiation with the government or name those that will represent them, the group was yet to do so.
Sambo urged leaders of the group to emulate the leaders of the militant groups in the Niger Delta by availing themselves for negotiation with government noting that up till now, the sect has refused to come out to talk with the government so that an agreement could be reached.