By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and John Shiklam
The presidency and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) yesterday engaged in a war of words over the worsening insecurity in the north.
Earlier, NEF had fired the first salvo when it accused President Muhammadu Buhari of failure to tackle the deplorable security situation in the north.
It said both the president and governors of the affected states have lost control.
But the presidency dismissed the allegations, describing NEF and its Chairman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, as an irritant without credible membership.
The president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said Abdullahi is only synonymous with NEF and vice-versa, describing the former vice-chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, as a General without troops.
He recalled that Abdullahi had supported another candidate against his principal at the 2019 presidential election, saying his action is antipathy.
The statement read: “The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) in a statement Sunday signed by its so-called Convener, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, alleged that the insecurity in some northern states of the country was an indication that President Muhammadu Buhari and the governors of those states have lost control over the protection of the people which is a constitutional duty.
“We are not surprised by this latest statement by Prof. Abdullahi, and our past position on what his group represents remains unchanged: a mere irritant and featherweight.
“The former vice chancellor signed the statement under the banner of Northern Elders Forum (NEF). Hearing that title, you would think the body was a conglomeration of true elders. But the truth is that NEF is just Ango Abdullahi, and Ango Abdullahi is NEF.
“It is a quasi-organisation that boasts of no credible membership, and its leader is akin to a General without troops.
“Before the 2019 presidential election, the one-man army called NEF had shown its antipathy against President Buhari, and its preference for another candidate. They all got beaten together.
“NEF is merely waving a flag that is at half-mast.
“President Buhari steadily and steadfastly focuses on the task of retooling Nigeria, and discerning Nigerians know the true state of the nation. They don’t need a paper tiger to tell them anything.”
Earlier yesterday, NEF, in a statement issued in Kaduna, by Abdullahi, said the security situation was getting worst by the day as people were being maimed and killed by bandits.
He said the current situation in the north had demonstrated that the Buhari administration “has woefully failed in provision of security and welfare of citizens.”
According to Abdullahi, the group is worried by the rising insecurity in communities and resulting in deaths and loss of property in the North.
“Recent escalation of attacks by bandits, rustlers and insurgents leave the only conclusion that the people of the North are now completely at the mercy of armed gangs who roam towns and villages at will, wreaking havoc.
“It would appear that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and governors have lost control over the imperatives of protecting people of the North, a constitutional duty that they swore to uphold,” the statement said.
He said going by the worsening security situation in the North, it would not be out of place to say the people “have never experienced this level of exposure to criminals who attack, kill, maim, rape, kidnap, burning of villages and rustling cattle, while President Buhari issues threats and promises that have no effect.”
While calling for an urgent action to redress the situation, NEF said: “It is now time to say, enough is enough. Our people are known for their patience and respect for constituted authorities, but all governments must be aware by now that all northerners have been pushed to the wall.
“The forum is aware that some citizens are contemplating peaceful protests, which are their constitutional rights, to draw attention of President Buhari and all levels of authority to the plight of people of the North.
“The forum urges all citizens to conduct themselves in peaceful and responsible manner, and it urges governments to respect the rights of citizens to express their opinions peacefully.”
Abdullahi added that NEF is consulting other groups and organisations to join it in demanding action and relief from the orgy of violence unleashed on the North.