Prominent leaders in northern Nigeria have said the region would not succumb to any blackmail or threat of restructuring or breakup of the country.
They made this known to Daily Trust while reacting to agitations for breakup and the #EndSARS protest, seen as a plot to bring down the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
At the end of a high-powered emergency meeting of northern governors in Kaduna last Monday, they described the #EndSARS protest as a plot to effect a regime change in the country.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Deputy Speaker Idris Maje; Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari, ministers, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu and traditional rulers also attended the meeting.
Some of the leaders told Daily Trust exclusively that the clamour for restructuring and breakup by some southerners was part of the plot to box the North into a corner, adding that “enough is enough.’’
“North being taken for granted”
In an interview with our correspondents, a former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said the North was being taken for granted in the Nigerian project.
“This is our government and we see some machinations against northern interest in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We must stand up and call this bluff off, for heaven’s sake. Whatever you hear me say, I say so because I do not want the solidarity, loyalty and state of patriotism that drive us northerners to be lost. This is because once we lose it, Nigeria goes. I believe that very strongly.
“We are a necessary principal holder and partner of the Nigerian federation and we must not be ashamed of saying it
“One of us is the president today. And you will never see this kind of nonsense when a non-northerner is there. I am sorry and regret to say this, but that is the reality and the truth.
“We are very liberal, once a person gets to the office, we show our respect irrespective of where the person comes from. But this seems not to be the case with them. They think they are smarter, more educated and radical than we are, so they throw any garbage at us and we take it because we want the stability of Nigeria more than they do, for whatever reason,’’ he said.
“Endsars, plot to disband Nigeria”
An elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai, also said the #EndSARS protest was conceived with the aim of ensuring the disbandment of Nigeria as a country.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust in Kano, Yakasai said that after their Monday meeting in Kaduna, the northern leaders were being diplomatic with their words by positing that the EndSARS protest was hijacked by separatists.
“They did not hijack the protest; they initiated it, but to their disappointment, even the boys were not talking about restructuring. They knew that palliatives were kept in some places and directed their attention there. They forgot about the political foundation of the protest and directed themselves to where they would get something to eat,’’ he said.
He said that even if they did not discuss much about insecurity in the North during the meeting, “it was a good thing that they could bring themselves together to advise the Federal Government on what to do to deal with that situation (the EndSARS protest).
On Afenifere’s allegation that the North is fixated on ruling the country; hence their insistence that Nigeria is indivisible, Yakasai said, “I know Afenifere and I have never heard anything good from them for the country.
“Their concern is that they want to rule Nigeria. But we are in a democracy where you need votes, and the majority of votes in Nigeria are concentrated in the North.”
“Right from the beginning, their leaders tried to get votes from the North, but unfortunately, they adopted wrong approaches, and as a result of that, they could not get the support of the majority of the people. So I know what Afenifere means. They took advantage of the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha to agitate, not only against the regime but engaged in anti-North propaganda, which is what is still playing out.
“At the age of 95, I am experienced enough to know that forever, this piece of land will be here; it will not be taken to London or Saudi Arabia. The sooner the people of Nigeria, particularly the Afenifere, agree to live in peace with all Nigerians so that they can work together and create a synergy for the development of the country, the better. But if they think that brewing trouble is the solution, one day they will find out the result.”
He said the 2023 elections, like others conducted in Nigeria, had nothing to do with restructuring as being posited by some groups. He said those groups calling for Nigeria to be restructured before the next elections should “say how they want it. But according to him, every Nigerian has the same right, so nobody will dictate to others. Let them articulate their position and present it to Nigerians, but they must know that they cannot compel anybody to go with their position.’’
‘Regime change only possible through the ballot box’
Also, Anthony Sani, a former secretary-general of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), faulted the claim of the Afenifere that the North is fixated on ruling the country.
He said he did not understand the basis of such allegation, considering that Nigeria practices a multiparty democracy, which thrives on majority rule and the president of Nigeria is elected only when he garners both majority votes and 25 per cent of votes in each of the two thirds of the 36 states.
“That means the North cannot produce a president without the support of the South, considering that they have only 19 states, which do not constitute two thirds of 36 states. It is the same with the South with only 17 states.
“The reason for such provisions is to prevent a situation where sectional leaders would emerge as national leaders. More so, in the current democratic dispensation, the South has ruled more than the North. That is to say President Obasanjo ruled for 8 years and attempted a third term bid and President Jonathan ruled for five years. President Yar’adua ruled for less than three years and President Buhari has ruled for less than six years,’’ he explained.
Asked if he believed that separatists hijacked the #EndSARS protest to effect regime change as claimed by northern leaders after the meeting, Sani said, “It may be true that some vested interests hijacked the EndSARS for their own agenda, which may include making the current regime unpopular.
“I am not sure the separatists thought they could effect a regime change through protests and looting. This is because they know Nigeria practises democracy and regime change is possible only through the ballot box.”
According to him, Nigerians must also exercise patience and count the blessings of the country.
Presidency must return to South – Afenifere chieftain
A former deputy governor of Lagos State and chieftain of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Chief (Mrs) Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, has expressed disappointment over the recent meeting of northern governors and emirs, saying the #EndSARS protest, contrary to the thinking in the North, was not aimed at hijacking power from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking with Daily Trust, Bucknor-Akerele also said the South was more concerned about restructuring the country than the 2023 presidential election.
“As you saw from the statement by the southern and Middle Belt leaders, the South is now uniting. What we are more concerned with is how to restructure so that we would have a more equitable country.
“We are not interested in 2023 at the moment. If some people are interested, the vast majority of southerners want the country to be restructured,” she said.
She said the #EndSARS protest was not an attempt to effect regime change.
“The #EndSARS protesters were against injustice, arbitrary arrest and killings. It was a protest against a government that doesn’t see that its agents are not adhering to the rule of law.
“The protesters made their aims clear. They didn’t say they wanted regime change. They wanted a change in the way we are being policed,” she added.
Bucknor-Akerele reiterated that power must return to the South to respect the rotational arrangement between the South and North, adding that to retain power in the North beyond 2023 would be tantamount to breaking up the country.
“The presidency of this country has always been rotated between the North and South. If one group thinks they can dominate the rest of us forever, they are only asking for this country to break up because people are going to resist it,” she added.