•Governors stay away, as Danjuma rejects secession threat
Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
The political class in the North-east geopolitical zone failed to break the deadlock in their search for unity after a meeting saturday, convened by one-time Minister of Establishment, Alhaji Bello Kirfi, to try to get them to forge a common front ended without agreement.
Planned for the meeting, held at the Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports Hall, Bauchi, was the inauguration of the action committees of the North East Forum for Unity and Development (NEFUD). Though, the meeting attracted prominent elders and politicians of diverse political persuasions from the zone, it was boycotted by the six North-east governors, namely, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Kashim Shettima of Borno State, Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State, Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, and even the governor of the host state of Bauchi, Isa Yuguda.
The North-east zone has of late been disarrayed by a combination of political, economic, and security factors. The disorganisation tended to be heightened by events within the Peoples Democratic Party, the ruling party at the federal level, especially since after the party’s last national convention.
The major point of disagreement before the convention was the position of PDP National Chairman, which had been zoned to the North-east. The governors were not favourably disposed to the candidature of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, even though he enjoyed the support of President Goodluck Jonathan.
On March 21, four days to the PDP convention held in Abuja on March 25, governors from the zone had at the party’s zonal congress in Bauchi, at the same venue where Saturday’s stalemated meeting took place, influenced the adoption of then acting National Secretary Musa Babayo as the consensus candidate for the zone. The four PDP governors from the zone – Nyako, Suntai, Yuguda, and Dankwambo – were physically present to supervise the events.
Since then, there has been bad blood between the governors and their supporters, on the one hand, and other key stakeholders in the zone, on the other.
This was the background to yesterday’s NEFUD meeting, which was attended by prominent elders and politicians from the North-east, including General Theophilus Danjuma, Adamu Ciroma, Yayale Ahmed, Professor Jibril Aminu, Nuhu Ribadu, Professor Ango Abdullahi, Adamu Maina Waiziri, General Timothy Shelpidi, and Bunu Sheriff.
Others included General Yakubu Usman, Deputy Senate Leader Abdul Ningi, Senator Aisha Alhassan, former Minister of Women Affairs Inna Ciroma, Emir of Fika, and former education minister Dauda Brima.
The purpose of the meeting was to inaugurate seven action committees to proffer solution to the problems bedevilling the North-east with the aim of returning peace and development to the region that has been worst hit by the terrorist activities of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram. The committees were those on security, contact and finance, economy, education, politics, constitution review, and publicity.
Chairman of the central working committee of NEFUD, Kirfi, the Wazirin Bauchi, CON, said, “Our challenge now, as leaders, is not only to resolve, but act decisively to rescue the region from the precipice or to allow it fall down to the valley of ruination, to our peril…
“In fact, we must, as a matter of obligation, carry it out to its logical conclusion by, I dare say, if need be, pulling out of Nigeria.”
Danjuma, who was the special guest of honour at the meeting, attributed the absence of the North-east governors to their suspicion that the meeting had political undertone, rather than being genuinely committed to addressing the problems bedevilling the zone.
According to the former Minister of Defence, “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, that there’s a hidden agenda.”
Based on this advice, Danjuma said he went back to read the minutes of the meetings held by the forum, including the draft speech.
“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 undertaking,” Danjuma added.
Danjuma, who was to supervise the inauguration, proposed that the inauguration of the action committees should not be carried out, except that of security, stressing, “I suggest that the security committee when inaugurated should approach and persuade the governors, in fact, before the convening of the meeting.”
He said he was prepared to accompany the security committee members “to plead with the governors to convene this meeting.”
Danjuma also disassociated himself from the statement by the chairman of the central working committee that the North-east might disintegrate from the country.
“Kirfi’s statement has serious ambiguity 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,” Danjuma said.
Apparently realising the implication of Kirfi’s statement , the chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, came to the podium and announced that the statement had been withdrawn, a move that elicited applause. Kirfi swiftly followed with an announcement of the withdrawal of his statement, saying, however, “for the meantime.”
Ciroma had earlier said that the purpose of the proposed committees was to address the problems associated with insecurity, unemployment, and poverty in the North-east.
It would be recalled that the North-east peace meeting was first held on June 13, under the name, North East Forum of Concerned Leaders, which was later changed to North East Forum for Unity and Development. The members are worried by the current insecurity and economic underdevelopment of the region, which they blame on marginalisation and corruption.