Friday, 14 December 2012

ACF, Yoruba leaders meet in ikenne •Decry insecurity, corruption, bad leadership, advocate national dialogue

LEADERS from Yorubaland and the North, on Thursday, rose from a crucial meeting in Ikenne-Remo, Ogun State pushing for the convening of an urgent national dialogue to tackle the current frightening challenges facing the nation.
In a six-point communiqué, the leaders, who met for about four hours at the residence of the Awolowos, noted that such dialogue was a matter of utmost priority in order to address some fundamental issues that were impeding national unity and progress.

In the communiqué signed by the Deputy Leader of the Youruba Unity Forum [YUF], Bishop Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi and the national Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, the leaders identified corruption, bad governance and insecurity as a few of the core challenges.
Members of the ACF  delegation included the Chairman, Alhaji Aliko Mohammed, who is the former chairman of Bank of the North, Daily Times, NICON Insurance and the Nigerian Stock Exchange  (NSE); Senator J.K.L Waku; Ambassador Ladan Shuni; a former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji (Dr) Ahmadu Ibrahim Coomasie; former military administrator of Plateau and Katsina States as well as one=time Principal Officer in the Presidential Villa, Major General Lawrence Onoja.
Others include Ambassdor Ibrahim Sule, who was once Nigeria’s ambassador to Indonesia; Major General M.A Umar ; Senator Abubakar Direi, who is the current Secretary General of Senators’ Forum; Bitrus Edward Gwadah (ACF national legal adviser and former lecturer  at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria); Mallam Bukar Zarma (former editor of New Nigerian); Mr Anthony N.Z Sani (ACF Publicity Secretary and former permanent secretary in Plateau State).
The list also comprised Honourable Musa Tanko Abari (former House of Representatives member); Alhaji Abubakar Husaini Moriki (former Secretary to the Zamfara State Government); Enginner Abubakar Umar (ACF Assistant Secretary General); Colonel M.A Abdu (retd) from Yobe State); Fatima E.Ibrahim (ACF deputy publicity secretary); and Colonel Musa Sheu (retd) (ACF Secretary-General and former military governor of Rivers and Plateau States).
While attributing bad leadership to these challenges, they underscored the need for Nigerians to de-emphasise issues such as ethnicity and religion “that tend to divide us but to always emphasise those ones that bind us together as a nation.”
The leaders, who affirmed their commitment to the unity, progress and stability of the country, governed with a sense of justice, equity and fairness, declared that free, fair and credible elections were germane for selfless and committed leadership to emerge in the country.
To underscore the gains of the meeting, they sated that such interactions among the various groups and interests within the country should be encouraged and sustained with a view to boosting mutual trust and confidence.
At the opening session of the meeting hosted by the matriarch of the Awolowo family, Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo, the leaders used the occasion to set an agenda on the planned constitution review capable of restoring the nation’s past glory.
The ACF chairman led a powerful 18-man delegation to the meeting, which was chaired by Mama Awolowo in her capacity as the Chairman of YUF.
In her opening remark, she set the tone of the discussion by emphasising the imperative of North-South-West interactions as a way of stabilising the polity and indeed the nation.
Lauding the initiative, she said it was in a similar spirit that the YUF had been holding  meetings with leaders from the South-South and the South-East towards building a bridge of understanding and cooperation.
Her message was corroborated by her deputy, Bishop Gbonigi, who described the Ikenne meeting as historic, timely and auspicious, giving the current state of the nation, recalling that such interaction between leaders from the two geographical divide was only held during the bitter struggle that culminated in civil rule in 1999.
The cleric hoped that the latest effort would not only be sustained but would also herald the beginning of mutual cooperation and understanding among the various units of the federation.
Gbonigi said the meeting was propitious since experience had shown that when the “West and the North are able to forge a consensus on national problems and or a corrective agenda, a broader national consensus is often much more readily achieved.”
The cleric expressed the optimism that the meeting of the two regions would usher in a new era in the history of inter-ethnic cooperation and harmony that would strengthen national unity, premised on equal access to political and economic opportunities.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, who was represented by one of his wives, Olori Morisola Sijuwade, also drummed support for the fortification of the country against divisive tendencies, praying God to direct the political leaders aright.
…ACF slams political parties, says they are clones of one another
Break up not solution to Nigeria’s problem
The leader of the ACF delegation, Alhaji Mohammed, in a position paper on North’s stand on some of the topical issues confronting the country, said it was erroneous to think Nigeria’s problems were as a result of its size and the diversity of its population.
He said countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, Germany and Tanzania which are as ethnically diverse as Nigeria, had managed their diversity by entrenching true democracy that had brought development to their countries.
The ACF stressed the need to tackle the problems of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and reduce the number of Nigerians living below “humanity’s minimum material standard of existence.”
“Of deeper concern to every patriot, however, is the fact that rather than inspire greater positive effort and bring about more purposeful leadership and the best in every Nigerian, these dire hardships have tended to boost recrimination, animosity and division along ethnic, religious and regional lines.

Role of the South West in national rebirth
“The South West politicians pride themselves as progressives with strong belief in social justice. Consequently, they are regarded as the jaunty face of democratic values. Yorubas will therefore be the first to admit that democracy premised on the triple foundations of liberty, justice and common decency, is yet to take root in the polity and others things will follow.
“That is to say, once democracy as a contest of ideas and reasons are in place, the people’s votes will count; and when the people’s votes count, they would elect leaders of their choice who will account to the people; the people will exercise their judgment during elections. That way, such judgments will determine conduct of government.
“But currently, Nigerians are not very enthusiastic about elections for the simple reason that the political parties do not offer viable alternative platforms, since they are mere clones of one another.
On constitution amendment
“As a zone that flaunts the best lawyers, the South-West knows that no matter how good laws may be, their usefulness too in any society has a lot more to do with judgment of the practitioners. A situation where people who have been indicted for corrupt practices still walk free in the street, and some of them win elections to make laws for the country speaks volumes about the quality of our criminal justice system and its capacity to deliver a great nation.
Cautions on clamour for federal restructuring
ACF said the call for rethinking of the country’s federal structure should be predicated on building a “republic of ideals and ideas driven by national solidarity” considering the multi-ethnic diversity of the country rather than the clamour for a “republic of separate communities with undue ties to tribe, religion of other primordial entities.”
Condemns state police
It opined that the call for state police should be discountenanced because the country’s democracy was not mature for it, asking exponents of the proposal to look critically into what state governors do with state independent electoral commissions (SIECs).
Opposes single tenure for president, others
While describing the proposal as inappropriate because it will not provide incentive for good performance, ACF said public office holders would seize the opportunity of a single tenure to milk the commonwealth.
The northern body proposed that an incumbent president should not be allowed to contest an election in which he is a candidate to give room for a credible election.
“Indeed, if the reason for single tenure is to reduce abuse of incumbency, we will do well to study how other countries that faced similar problem tackled theirs without throwing away the baby with the bath water.
“Chile, for example, allows multiple tenure on the condition that they are not consecutive. That is to say, no candidate organises an election in which he is a candidate. That explains why the last President of Chile, Madam Michelle, despite her overwhelming popularity, could not contest in the last elections.
“In Bangladesh, a caretaker government conducts elections. So Nigeria should devise its own way of dealing with abuse of incumbency and not kill motivation that is an important instrument for management of human affairs,” ACF said.
The socio-cultural organisation stressed that the challenges confronting the nation were not insurmountable, noting that progress and solution would come through “robust discourse” and the upholding of the sacrosanct goal of a united country.
There was an exchange of gifts between the two bodies with the country’s former Ambassador to the Netherlands, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu presenting some of the books authored by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo to the northern delegation on behalf of YUF leader, Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo.
ACF leader to the meeting, Alhaji Mohammed, presented a big framed memorable quote of the late northern leader, Sir Ahmadu Bello to their hosts.
The delegation was also received by the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, at his Oke Mosan office.
Amosun, who called for peaceful co-existence among all ethnic nationalities in the country, identified poverty as the cause of agitation and violence among Nigerians.

Credit: Tribune

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