The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has dismissed the National Conference, which is planned to commence next week, saying it lacks a constitutional basis or any form of legitimacy or authority to speak for the people of the North or other Nigerians.
In a declaration adopted at the end of its meeting in Kano on Tuesday, the group said the proceedings, conclusions and recommendations of the National Conference are therefore of no consequence and will not be accepted by the people of the North.
It further added that the critical issues of national development are fairly well known and can be incorporated in amendments of the
constitution, and that the North must work with other Nigerians to seek more legitimate avenues for discussing the nature and future of the Nigerian nation, including all options which may be negotiated with other Nigerians.
NEF noted that while the people of the North understand that the on-going challenges to security of life and property in the area represent acts of hostility against the people by leaders who have responsibility to protect them, the intolerable assaults must be stopped by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, or by another responsible and committed leadership that should emerge in its place.
“The rather diabolical, purposive and systematic underdevelopment of Northern economic and its social structures by the national leadership and some leaders in the North must be resisted; and policies which deepen inequity, underdevelopment injustice against the North must be reversed,” the declaration said.
NEF also called for the 2015 elections to be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere throughout the North and the nation, stressing that the armed forces and the police must not be abused in the process and that the will of the people must prevail.
It urged Northerners to resist attempts to intensify insecurity or cause further divisions and violence around faith and ethnic groups in the North.
Full text of the declaration:
THE KANO DECLARATION BY NORTHERN ELDERS FORUM
We are Nigerians from the North, who convened the KANO ASSEMBLY on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th of March, 2014 to discuss the state of the Nigerian nation, particularly the place and future of Northerners in its current disposition and in its future. We adopt this DECLARATION in the firm belief that it represents the essentials of Northern interests.
2. The ASSEMBLY was convened in pursuit of time-tested and honoured values and principles that have guided the perceptions of Northerners in Nigeria since the Amalgamation of 1914, and have determined the manner Northerners contributed to the building of our nation in the last 100 years.
The ASSEMBLY was particularly:
i. SENSITIVE to the fact that Nigeria has just achieved 100 years of creation as one nation;
ii. AWARE that Nigeria today faces quite possibly the biggest, cumulative threats to its corporate survival, peace and security since its creation 100 years ago;
iii. CONCERNED that Nigeria’s current leadership appears incapable or unwilling to lead it out of its multiple challenges;
iv. CONVINCED that our current circumstances as Nigerians and Northerners demand the highest levels of responsibility and commitment to our national survival, unity and progress from all sections and generations of Nigerians;
v. ENCOURAGED by overwhelming evidence that Nigerians and Northerners need courageous and committed Elders and Leaders to discuss and find solutions to our national problems.
vi. ASSURED that Northerners have no negative issues with any ethnic group in Nigeria, and have, in fact, enjoyed the full support and understanding of all groups and regions on issues the North raised in the interest of the peace and unity of Nigeria; same manner that the North stood by all ethnic groups when they had issues at historic turning points in our national history;
vii. CERTAIN that the problems of the North today are traceable only to inept and insensitive leadership at National and State levels, as well as the failures of other leaders who lack the courage to stand up to them in the interest of the people of the region and Nigeria.
3. Having taken stock of the totality of our circumstances, this
i.APPRECIATED the proud and unparalled role which the people and leaders of the North played in the growth and development of Nigeria;
ii. NOTED that the current status of the North in the context of the economy and politics of Nigeria is undeserved and unacceptable;
iii. OBSERVED that the combined effects of widespread threats to its security, deliberate efforts to deepen its economic problems and concerted efforts to weaken it further politically pose a grave danger to the North the rest of Nigeria, west Africa and the entire continent of Africa;
iv. Understands that people of the North have to rediscover the intrinsic value in our cultural and religious pluralism, and discourage the manner they are exploited to weaken the region, while harnessing our diversity to create communities in which every citizen enjoys equal access to opportunities and justice, and lives in a secure environment.
v. RECOGNIZED the fact that the people of the North need to assess all options available to them and adopt strategies and plans that will mitigate their most serious problems themselves.
4. Consequently, this ASSEMBLY resolves to:
i. MOBILIZE the entire people of the North to resist further assaults on our security and political and economic fortunes;
ii. SENSITIZE all levels of leadership on their duty to support the legitimate aspirations of Northerners to reverse the trends towards their further marginalization and irrelevance in the context of contemporary Nigeria;
iii. ENCOURAGE all Northerners to intensity the search for peaceful co-existence and sustained security in the region and Nigeria;
iv. PREPARE Northerners to deal with all their challenges, including those which seek to divide them deepen their insecurity and political impotence;
v.MARSHALL all resources towards improving the capacity of the North to reverse the current trend towards its destruction or permanent incapacitation;
vi. RALLY all Northerners to unite, rediscover and pursue our common goals that include our historic unity, our political and economic development, the strength of our religious, social and moral values and respect for our diversity;
vii. RESTORE hope and faith of Northerners in their capacity and ability to negotiate a better deal in the context of contemporary Nigeria; or in any circumstances which best suit their interests.
5. Now, therefore, this ASSEMBLY DECLARES as follows:
i. The people of the North understand that the on-going challenges to security of life and property in the North represent acts of hostility against the people by leaders who have responsibility to protect them. These intolerable assaults must be stopped by this administration, or another responsible and committed leadership that should emerge in its place.
ii. The rather diabolical, purposive and systematic underdevelopment of Northern economic and its social structures by the national leadership and some leaders in the North must be resisted; and policies which deepen inequity, underdevelopment injustice against the North must be reversed.
iii. Political activities, including elections must respect the will of the people; and further attempts to deprive the North of its rights to benefit fully in the democratic process will be lawfully and firmly resisted;
iv. Unfair and unjust allocation of resources of the nation which deprive the North of its legitimate rights must cease; and the North must intensify efforts to improve the exploitation and management of its own human and other resources;
v. The planned National Conference has no constitutional basis, or any form of legitimacy or authority to speak for the people of the North or other Nigerians. Its proceedings, conclusions and recommendations are therefore of no consequence and will not be accepted by the people of the North. The critical issues of national development are fairly well known and can be incorporated in amendments of the constitution.
vi.The North must work with other Nigerians to seek more legitimate avenues for discussing the nature and future of the Nigerian nation, including all options which may be negotiated with other Nigerians.
vii.The 2015 elections must be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere throughout the North and the nation; the armed force and the police must not be abused in the process and the will of the people must prevail. Attempts to intensify insecurity or cause further divisions and violence around faith and ethnic groups in the North should be resisted by Northerners;
viii. The emerging culture of assault on Northerners behind the cover of fears of insecurity as well as the exploitation of their vulnerability in many parts of the South must stop. Northerners must work harder to protect the rights and privileges of all Nigerians from all communities who choose to live and work in the North.
ix. The North must work towards creating unifying political symbols and structures to ensure that the elections of 2015 produce leaders that will do justice to its interests.
Northern Elders Forum
Kano, March 2014.