By Uche Nnaike
The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) has restated its support for restructuring of the country, saying that it represents the fact that the federal system is not working optimally.
The forum’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, stated this yesterday when he featured on the Morning Show of ARISE NEWS Channel, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.
He said, “Nigeria has always been restructured from the day the British took over the territory and named it Nigeria, this territory has gone through restructuring almost on a routine basis.
“So, there is nothing new about restructuring and it shouldn’t scare anybody. But the Northern Elders’ Forum is in favour of restructuring and we believe there is a national consensus as we speak in support of restructuring and we believe that it serves northern interest to support restructuring.”
According to him, the forum has collaborated with other groups, many of them from the southern part of the country to see if they can create a national consensus around what the concept of restructuring is.
“A few months ago, we sat with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja with groups from the south, where we began to discuss the outlines of creating some kind of elite consensus around restructuring. We released copious statements, saying we support restructuring,” Baba-Ahmed said.
On a statement credited to him alleged that there was a plot to weaken the north ahead of 2023, he said: “We did made a case that there is an attempt to weaken the north, but we released that statement in the context of the post SARS protest, it has nothing to do with restructuring.
“We said that we detected a political motive in some of the events that happened during and after the EndSARS protest and also statements that have been made subsequently and we suspected that there was an attempt to weaken the north with a view to 2023, it had nothing to do with restructuring.”
He however said he has no position as to whether the EndSARS protest was an attempt at regime change, saying, “we welcome the investigation over what happened, what motivated it and what happened at Lekki; the fundamental questions that need to be addressed; was the Nigerian state accountable, was the Nigerian state properly responsive to the protest?
We welcome that and we believe that the Nigerian state needs to be more accountable to the citizens, we also believe that citizens need to be accountable to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We didn’t see any evidence of regime change.”
On zoning, he said those clamoring for Igbo presidency should learn from the President Buhari situation, whose presidency has brought more hardship and insecurity to the north where he got more votes in 2015.
“The north has never been poorer, has never been more insecure, has never been in the state where we are, we have never seen the kind of insecurity that we have. This is a northerner who was voted by northern votes substantially and the region where he comes from is the worst for it.”
He added: “If a competent Igbo person emerges through the political process, and is better than all the other candidates that come, people who know about the economy, people who know how to fix security, people who know how to get young people jobs, the northerners will vote for them.”
“What we will not accept is a situation where people will say to the north, you have done your eight years, you’ve suffered for it, your so-called man has dropped the ball on you, and you are poorer, you are more insecure so the presidency should go somewhere now as if the presidency belongs to a particular ethnic group.
“So it’s the ethnicisation and this tendency to say unless you give us the presidency there’s no justice in this country, that is what we find difficult to accept.”