•Sues for peace as Southern, Middle Belt leaders boycott security summit
Laleye Dipo in Minna
Former Head of State and Chairman of Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), yesterday warned of dire consequences for Nigeria if the federal government failed to quell what he described as “anger in the land.”
Speaking against the backdrop of the worsening insecurity in the country occasioned by the spike in killings, kidnappings and banditry, Abdulsalami, at a security summit in Minna, called for dialogue and peaceful co-existence in addressing the country’s security challenges.
Stakeholders from across the country attended the summit, which the former military leader convoked to search for solutions to Nigeria’s security problems.
But true to their words, the leadership of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, boycotted the roundtable organised by the Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution.
The Southern and Middle Belt leaders had in a letter to the former military leader on Sunday, notified him of their decision to boycott the security summit because of the invitation extended to Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), saying it is an insult to lump the apex socio-political groups with the cattle herders’ association.
Abdulsalami, while inaugurating the two-day roundtable, stated that it was the centre’s contribution to the search for solutions to some of the problems facing the country, particularly issues and matters around co-existence and security.
“As indicated in my invitation letter, Nigeria is going through a period of trial amidst growing tension and resentment all over the country. There is anger in the land and the voices of reason are drowning very rapidly.
“It is clear that the situation requires that we all live up to the expectations of a nation that puts so much value in elders and leaders,” Abdulsalami said.
He added that the participants were at the meeting “as Nigerians who share responsibility for the state of our nation,” adding that “if any forum can help in the accurate identification of the problems and solutions for a united and peaceful Nigeria, let us be counted as one of such fora.”
In an apparent reference to the absence of Southern and Middle Belt leaders, he said: “Unfortunately, some of the invitees are unable to attend while some others have sent in contributions,” adding that “since peace-building is a continuous process, other fora will provide opportunities for continuous dialogue.”
According to him, the outcome of the meeting will be made available to the federal and state governments as well as other institutions for consideration and action.
However, the former military leader said the roundtable was not a mini national conference or a forum to review the country’s constitution.
Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, said the country’s disintegration would not solve its problems, adding that they would only be resolved through dialogue.
“There can be no genuine military solution to conflicts except dialogue. We have to realise the vision of our founding fathers which is a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria,” he added.
Gambari warned those beating the drums of war in the country that “military is not solution to any conflict” as dialogue should always remain the top option.
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, who was the special guest, said the challenges confronting the nation were surmountable but requires sincerity of stakeholders.
Bello, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Matane, lauded the institute for initiating the roundtable to seek solutions to the nation’s security crisis.
Dignitaries at the occasion included: Chairman Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, Alfred Diete Spiff; Emir of Minna, Alhaji Umar Bahago; Emir of Kazaure, Alhaji Najib Adamu; Gen. Alani Akirinnade (rtd), Gen. I.B.M. Haruna (rtd), former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi; former Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Prof. Ango Abdullahi; former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu; former Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Josephine Anenih and a ministerial nominee, Ambassador Zubairu Dada.