*Embattled President Buhari (left) and NFF Convener, Prof. Ango Abdullahi
After many years of hiding from the truth, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) yesterday came down heavy on President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressive Congress (APC) ruling party. The NEF was blunt with its accusation that Buhari has failed Nigerians in securing them from attacks by insurgents, bandits and other criminal elements. This is noteworthy because the body is a representation of elders from northern Nigeria where Buhari comes from.
The NEF convener, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who led other notable northern elders to address a press conference in Zaria on the state of the nation, vehemently accused Buhari of failing the country in the areas of good governance, security and poverty alleviation. It would be recalled that Buhari and the APC ganged up against the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan whom they also accused of not securing Nigeria and promised that if voted into power, the story of insurgents in the country would be a thing of the past.
But After his first term of four years and having won a reelection for another for years, Nigerians have realized that insecurity of lives and property have gone to the dogs. Nigerians are murdered everyday in their hundreds with the government doing little or nothing to save the situation. Violent armed robbery, kidnapping, Fulani herdsmen killings, vandalism, religious violence among other vices have risen to uncontrollable levels with every ethnic group setting up its security outfit to protect its people.
Travelling by road in Nigeria has become a suicide mission as hardly any day passes without bandits slaughtering road users while the Nigerian military watch helplessly. Aside these, poverty in the country is on the increase just as the United States of America has slammed a visa ban on Nigeria which are all signs of a failing state. With all these scaring statistics, the NEF maintained that the current security challenges bedeviling, and poverty had shown that President Buhari had failed to meet the expectations and yearnings of the citizens of the country.
While addressing newsmen after its meeting, which lasted for several hours in Zaria, yesterday, the NEF in the statement read by its spokesman and director advocacy and engagement, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, said that the forum would have “refrained from comments on major developments relating to the management of national security and governance because it is convinced that these are times, which require the highest levels of responsibility and circumspection in the manner elders and leaders in the nation contribute to the search for solutions to the multiple problems, which face the nation.“
The northern elders said however that, “it has become necessary and appropriate, to make public, the position of the NEF on important matters that affect the manner Nigerians live, and the future we must address. The forum regrets that by any standard of judgement, the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed the nation in the vital area of improving its security,” Baba-Ahmed said.
Lamenting the poor condition of living in the country, the elders pointed out that “poverty, particularly in the North, and massive social security have worsened under this administration. The relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, but the administration does not appear to have any idea on what will provide relief or solution. It gives the forum no pleasure to say that it had warned Nigerians that President Buhari lacked the will, the competence and commitment to lead it into a secure and prosperous future before the 2019 elections.
“It is shocking that in spite of unprecedented consensus among Nigerians that the administration requires a new resolve, approach and leadership in the fight against the nation’s multiple security challenges, President Buhari appears either totally isolated or in deep denial over the result of his failures to secure Nigerians. With this type of mind set, it is difficult to see how President Buhari can accept the challenge to radically improve his handling of our security situation. Nonetheless, we believe that Nigerians must continue to raise our voices and organise through all legitimate means to demand that the administration addresses major failings in his perception of our situation and his response to our demands for our rights to security.
“The forum demands a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies, and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity and accountability in the manner our troops and the police and security agencies deal with security challenges. We appeal to our religious leaders and fellow citizens not to fall into the trap of insurgents to set us up against each other. We condemn the tactic of targeting Christians and publicising their executions by an insurgency seeking to exploit our different faiths. We also condemn the murder of thousands of Muslims and Christians in communities, which the insurgency has made permanent targets in the last decade. These are times when we must unite and resist a common enemy as well as demand that our leaders protect us all as Nigerians,“ the NEF said.
But, in a swift reaction, the president’s media aide, Mr Femi Adesina, said that Prof. Abdullahi signed a long-winding statement on many issues relating to the North, and purportedly to the country. Adesina, in a counter statement, said that hearing the title of Abdullahi’s statement, “you would think the body was a conglomeration of true elders. But the truth is that the 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,” he said