The major concern before delegates at the ongoing national conference should be to focus attention on massacre of innocent civilians almost on a daily basis and to seek support of their colleagues to end it immediately, prominent northern elders told Daily Trust yesterday.
Dr. Paul Unongo, Malam Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, Prof Ango Abdullahi, Barrister Solomon Dalong and Alhaji Abubakar Tsav expressed these views and many others when speaking in separate interviews with our reporters.
Unongo, a former minister in Shehu Shagari’s government said his heart bleeds that northern delegates will continue to sit on a conference while much of the region they are representing is gripped by a daily slaughter of innocent people, including women and children.
“It worried me that the delegates from the North do not even have the capacity to know that the area they are representing at the conference of handpicked persons, is deeply troubled, and has continually suffered from a daily massacre and slaughter of innocent people in large numbers.
“Is it that they are not capable of being bothered that we will wake up tomorrow to find out that there is no north because the flames of politically motivated violence unknown to the region will burn on continually when those who know continually remain passive,” Unongo, asked.
He told Daily Trust on phone that, acting in good conscience, Northern delegates have no business at the conference. “Who are they still sitting there for, when the region they are representing is at the risk of being wiped out through carefully sponsored massacres of their constituents.
“By the time they are done with the sitting, if it is for the sake of the sitting and not the interests of their region; the political calculation would have been a done deal. Somebody is not thinking, lest we would have understood that something sinister and strange has come to the North; overnight, we have realised we do not need each other, and do not understand each other in this region. And it serves a purpose; which is that the people in this area do not love themselves, they love wars and are ungovernable; that we have religious problems and are backward.
“We have never had these kind of crises in the North; why now? Somebody is not asking questions. We are only interested in sitting on a conference because we were handpicked and given the privilege which millions of our people do not have,” Dr. Unongo, who is also the leader of the Northern Elders’ Forum, said.
Former governor of old Kaduna State Malam Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa on his part said northern delegates should intimate their southern counterparts on the true situation of the insecurity challenges facing them.
In a telephone interview, the elder statesman said Northern delegates should use the opportunity to narrate their predicament to their Southern counterparts.
“If they boycott it, the conference would go on because the president wants it. And in Nigeria, this is how politics of incumbency goes. This insecurity challenge facing us is a national matter and we are expecting responsible northern delegates to use this opportunity to enlighten responsible southerners on this problem facing the North so that a national solution can be given to it.
“When the Niger Delta crisis started, the people of the area took the rest of the people in confidence and that was why the level of degradation in the area was made to be national problem and they were able to get national sympathy. We too should use this to get the sympathy of the people of other region. Our delegates should take their southern counterpart in confidence on our plights,” he said.
The former governor said the people of the other parts of the country are not familiar with the true picture of the insecurity challenges facing the North and that as such they should be enlightened by the delegates at the conference.
“In spite of the loss of lives involved, in spite of the possibility of it becoming even more, there is now another worse thing, the cattle rustling. It has gone to the feature of terrorism as they are sacking a whole village and abducting women, this cattle rustling is also as murderous as Boko Haram if not more. Who is responsible for this Boko Haram and cattle rustling and for what purpose? People are beginning to ask whether there is political objective to it,” he said.
Also, Barrister Solomon Dalong, a member of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), said the Northern Elders Summit had advised the delegates from the North to focus on issues that will help bring an end to the killings in the region.
However, he described the unabated killings in the north as a calculated attempt to destabilise the region ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Dalong who spoke to Daily Trust on phone said the federal government had shown little interest and concern with the killings adding that “The President has not visited any of these areas where you here that over 140 people have been killed. Look at the manner of the attacks, they are usually well organised and the attackers are well armed. Then we have to look at the helicopter theory which has been mentioned in Katsina and Benue states. You will also look at the way the Fulani are being killed by soldiers. So ever since, I have mentioned the position that all these killings are calculated attempt to destabilize the north.”
Former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Professor Ango Abdullahi advised leaders of the region to rise up to their responsibilities and bring the menace to an end.
“Those who care for the North should talk about these ongoing killings in the region. A responsible leadership from the North should have risen to confront this impunity. The killings that are going on are very suspicious. Some of the governors have started saying so.
“Questions are being raised as regards to source of armoury, about the people moving around in soldiers’ uniform killing Fulani and other Northerners in their towns and in large numbers. I think northerners must do something,” Professor Ango said.
On his part, Abubakar Tsav, former Lagos State police commissioner, said it is possible that Northern delegates on the conference will continue to sit there, unbothered about the massacres of their constituents because they are not ordinary northerners being killed on a daily bases.
“Are they bothered? Are they common Northern villagers suffering the massacres? They know they live in certain places where they cannot be touched because of their class. Even if trouble comes to their doorsteps, they have a way to escape it. They are men and women of many alternatives: alternative power supply, alternative water supply through individual generator; alternative healthcare system, foreign schools for their children; and now, alternative security. They can leave their places at anytime and fly into Abuja and stay. They can run abroad,” Tsav said.
“All Northern leaders have ran away from the trouble-hit areas because they are men and women of many alternatives, unlike their people. Now, at the National Conference, they cannot sit there with good conscience worrying about the same people they have abandoned to die.”
Tsav also slammed President Goodluck Jonathan for his trips across the country to receive defectors into the PDP, when in same states, the people do not sleep because of constant fear for their lives.
“I am not surprised at all that the president is preoccupied with hosting a conference that does not address the real problems of the Nigerian people. Nigerians are hungry and die from curable diseases; education has collapsed; electricity generation has fizzled out. Corruption and greed are now the only workable issues. These are our problems, not his conference,” Tsav added.