Sunday, March 25, 2018

Communique of the Summit of Northern Groups, held at Arewa House, on Saturday, 24th March, 2018

Leading Northern Groups and Associations held a Summit of their leaders at Arewa House, Kaduna on Saturday 24th March, 2018. The Summit was convened to assess the security, economic and political circumstances of the North and Northern communities in other parts of Nigeria. Specifically, the Summit reviewed the worrying state of insecurity under which virtually all Northerners live; the worsening economic fortunes of the vast majority of Northerners and the options that are available to the North as it prepares to engage the political process towards the elections of 2019.

The Summit noted that in spite of notable successes by the Buhari administration against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, many Northern communities still live under its threat. In many other parts of the North, communities are routinely exposed to attacks from shadowy killers, and suspicion and anger at known and suspected killers are pitching Northerners against each other. Armed bandits    terrorize rural communities almost at will, while kidnappings and abductions have assumed alarming notoriety as crimes. The nation's security and law and order assets are stretched beyond points where they can’t provide even the most elementary confidence and protection of citizens. The North has rarely been so exposed to multiple and varied threats.

The economy of the North continues to deteriorate in spite of the evident willingness of Northerners to work hard and earn legitimate incomes. Its basic infrastructure suffers massive deficits in funding while its growing population starves from lack of critical investment in human capital development. Federal government spending is severely tilted against the North, while most State governments only pay lip service to real development in their states. Agriculture shows limited glimpses of recovery, but almost entirely through efforts of peasants and antiquated processes. The North is completely de-industrialized, while the rest of the nation moves towards sustainable growth and development. There is no evidence of bold thinking, strong political will and/or serious concern by any leadership at any level to reverse the alarming decline of the Northern economy.

Since 2015, Northerners have occupied positions with the potential to make decisive differences in the economy, security or political fortunes of the region. The hopes that leaders who have exercised power since 2015 will reverse the abuse and neglect of the region in the previous decade have been betrayed. Weak governance, gross insensitivity and unacceptable levels of incompetence have been compounded by battles of attrition in which northerners have sapped each others' strength. Weak and incoherent responses to provocations from other parts of the country around the imperatives of re-visiting the foundations and structures of the Nigerian state have created the false image of a North without its own positions beyond survival as the parasite of Nigeria. The historic gains in Northern political unity secured by Northern votes in the 2015 elections have been wasted by the poor management of conflicts between and among Northern communities. Today Northern communities are erecting barricades against members of other communities, as well as and politicians who have failed to lead and make impacts in lives of the poor and the vulnerable are daily feeding the people with hate and resentment instead of searching for genuine and lasting solutions. In a region with enough resources for every community or trade, our people are now fighting for morsels, while leaders think of new ways to turn our misery into electoral capital.

The Summit, having undertaken a thorough analysis of the state of the North and our communities, therefore:

1. URGES all leaders, elders and communities to seek peaceful resolutions of conflicts between and among communities. Lives lost, injuries suffered and losses incurred in any community must be redressed firmly and fairly. The roots of co-existence and inter-dependence in all Northern communities are much deeper than the barricades being erected around communities. All persons who are involved in killings and crimes against communities must be brought to book.

2. DEMANDS immediate and decisive steps to improve the security of lives and economic assets in the North by the federal and state governments. Too many communities are at the mercy of attacks from sundry groups of criminals who appear to have unchallenged access to space and weapons.

3. APPEALS to Northern Governors and President Muhammadu Buhari to set in motion serious initiatives towards achieving higher levels of trust among Northern communities which is vital for the imperatives of peace and justice.

4. INSISTS that the routine denial of the rights of the North to its fair share of budgetary allocations by the federal government must cease from the 2018 budget. Northern representatives in the National Assembly must live up to their oaths to protect the rights of their constituencies to equity in the allocation of national resources.

5. WARNS that no Northern politician should expect to be voted for in the next general election unless they demonstrate a willingness to champion a massive assault on poverty and underdevelopment in the North. In this regard, most political office holders from the North are hereby served notice that they have failed the test to lead the region towards economic recovery and growth.

6. ASSERTS the rights of all Northerners to examine all options in political choices they will make in 2019. The leadership selection process must be critically interrogated to present the best leader to Nigeria as a whole. No one should take the North for granted, and it is not for sale. It will resist shedding its blood for any candidate, and will critically scrutinize all politicians who will seek our mandate. At this stage, all options are on the table, and politicians who have betrayed the hopes and mandates of our people should be prepared to suffer rejection, in the same manner the votes of the North rejected the attempt to continue with impunity, corruption and indifference of the previous regime.

 7. ADVISES all Northerners to be alert to plans to weaken the region through the manipulation of our fears and vulnerability and our ethno-religious differences. There must be vigilant scrutiny of opportunities for manipulation by outsiders of our present challenges. We must stand up and unite against those who kill villagers in Kogi, in Zamfara, in Benue, in Adamawa, in Borno, in Kaduna, in Taraba and in every village or town. No Northern blood is more precious than others, and we can only heal if we adopt common positions to finding solutions to our problems.

8. INVITES attention of the rest of Nigeria that the North knows its interests and place and will defend them in the context of Nigeria. Our people are willing and eager to put our union as a nation on the table and discuss with other Nigerians the relative values of ALL options and negotiate them with responsibility and respect.

9. CAUTIONS the Presidency and members of the National Assembly and Governors to resist the temptation to abuse the political process in pursuit of their personal ambitions.

10. COMMITS to sustaining the strong interests behind this Summit through other activities and actions which will strengthen Northern unity and prepare it to extract the maximum benefits from the 2019 elections.

The Summit welcomes the release of the Dapchi girls, and urges the government to intensify efforts to secure the release of all other abducted Nigerians. It calls on the government to ensure that no abductions occur again, and all communities are sufficiently protected and young Nigerians are free to acquire education without fear.

    24th March, 2018
 1.    Professor Ango Abdullahi , CON
        Chairman ACF Political Committee
        Convener, Northern Elders Forum

 2.    Dr. Yima Sen
       Northern Elders Forum (NEF)

 3.    Amb. Ibrahim Mai Sule
       Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF)

 4.    Engr. Bello Suleiman
       CODE Group   

 5.    Mataimaki Tom Maiyashi
        Arewa Research Development Project (ARDP)

 6.    Zannah Hassan Boguma
       Borno Elders Forum

7.    Nafiu Baba-Ahmed
      Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria

8.    Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame
       Northern Union

 9.    Yerima Shettima
        Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF)

10.    Alh. Mohammed Bello Kirfi, CON
         North East Forum for Unity and Development

 11.    Pastor Aminchi Habu
          United Christian Leaders Eagle Eye Forum (UCLEEF)

 12.    Balarabe Rufai
          Coalition of Northern Groups

 13.    Isa Tijjani
          Labour Veterans Association
 14.    Rev. Bitrus Dangiwa
          CAN Northern Chapter

 15.    Umar Ahmed Zaria
          Jama’atu Nasiril Islam (JNI)

 16.    Alh. Buba Adamah
          Arewa People Unity Association

 17.    Bilkisu Oniyang
          Arewa Initiative For Good Governance

 18.      Abdul-Azeez Suleiman
            Northern Emancipation Network

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Alhaji Gidado Idris, GCON: A personal tribute

Even in death, he got what he wished: to be buried where he died. In getting his way, he breached a strong tradition, one that preferred particularly outstanding citizens to be buried at ancestral origins where forebears laid. This departure from tradition capped a life that was a fascinating study in tensions between undiluted commitment to the establishment, and an unrepentant pursuit of the personal. His grave in Abuja will be listed  among the few graves of people from Zaria, in a city whose name was snatched by the military from the former Abuja (now Suleja), a town founded by Alhaji Gidado's forebears from Zaria more than 200 years ago.

For a man with intimate links with Zazzau royalty and privilege, Alhaji Gidado was buried without the almost mandatory traditional title worn by  Nigerians who lived with distinction. He had won many battles to stay without a title, deflecting unceasing pressure to wear the turban towards uncles, cousings and offspring. It was neither arrogance nor conceit: he had deep respect for traditional institutions, and the uncle that brought him up, Turaki Ali had moulded his attitude to a  system that had provided the foundations for controlled change in the context of preserving the status-quo, which was the substance of northern Nigerian political framework from early colonial times to the late 1960s.

Alhaji Gidado died without a single trace of the temptation to harvest the political terrain, another of the many traditional channels into which people of his privilege, status and experience veered, with mixed results. He was organically linked by history, shared values and experiences with members of the northern elite who provided the myth of the Kaduna Mafia, and the half dozen clusters of influence such as Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Northern Union, Jamaatu Nasril Islam etc, but the only membership register you found him on was the IBB Golf Club, Abuja, that exclusive  resort it took a lot of effort to get him to join, but once he joined, it became his second skin. He kept his children and relations  on a short, disciplined leash, insisting that everyone earned his stripes the hard and proper way. He was a one-wife Hausa man through his life, leaving behind a record of devotion to a woman he married from the distant community of Samaru Kataf, a pillar whose commitment to him was only surpassed by her devotion to the Islamic faith she embraced on marrying him. He was fiercely loyal to friendships and relationships, and he was possibly the only person of substance I knew who did not tolerate or encourage the unending retinue of seekers and courtiers that followed power and wealth everywhere. His incredible generousity with his personal time and resources was defined strictly by his personal perceptions over what was important: a major standard-setting gesture at his old school, Alhudahuda College, Zaria, or a hefty push in a marriage of a relation who had not expected it.

Alhaji Gidado Idris himself would not contest being described as different. He would treat that characterization as neither a slight nor a compliment. Over four decades of public service may have reinforced a character trait to resist unwarranted visibility, but it was a trait he cultivated and jealously guarded. It allowed him the luxury to choose his manner of engagement, and at his most comfortable moments, you saw a man endowed with a towering intellect and a gifted sense of humour. He had strong opinions about politics and society. His life had spanned a huge chunk of the nation's history, and bits of it combined to make him a walking history. His incredible recollection of events was helped by his being either a small, yet intimate part, or a major player in them. In fact he was never entirely outside public service, which explained why he would insist on joining dotted lines between events and phenomena that occurred forty years apart. He was not a witness to history. He was every inch a part of the history of a nation that saw the brightest glimpses of greatness, even when it plunges  into the deepest valleys of despair and infamy on occasions.

His rise from a humble clerk to the pinnacle of Secretary to Government of the Federation(SGF) was fueled by a combination of hardwork, an uncanny ability to learn quickly and adapt, and some luck at working under superiors who tolerated competence from officers that defied conventions. Early in his career,he learnt the imperatives of meeting meet challenges and difficulties when he and a handful of clerical and admin officers had to retrieve files from outside the bedroom doors of the Sardauna in the very early hours of the morning, or pay the price with the telling displeasure of the Premier if he finds them there at 5.30 am. The Sardauna was a hardworking task-master,yet tolerant and compassionate towards youth and impetousness.The young Gidado's awe at the massive powers of political leaders was tampered by privileged proximity to their weaknesses, humanness and the frailty of their hold on power. He had tremendous respect for leadership, but had many scars to show for his insistence that rules are capable of being enforced even at the highest levels. He would remove shoes and kneel while engaging Presidents and Heads of State, but in the same position he would successfully argue for an option different from that of the leader. He earned respect by being humble, and at trying moments, his ability to remain calm, his experience at managing acute challenges and his disciplined practice of letting the leadership claim the credit for his contributions made him a lot less of  a threat, and a lot more as an asset.

      Alhaji Gidado was no superman. His life was a series of skirmishes around propriety and rules. He won some and lost many. He offended superior powers when he proved stubborn in defence of what was right, and he paid the price with unpopular or punishment postings. Sometimes his seeming effrontery offended powers, such as when he provoked the anger of the late Abacha two days to  the latter's death by asking him to clarify if the decree on his self-succession should state whether he will continue as a civilian or military head of state. Such was the anger of Abacha at the question,that the late SGF left in such a hurry without his shoes, and on getting home, instructed his wife to pack up as he was sure he had lost his job.His pivotal role in the transition from Abacha to Abdulsalami will be registered as the triumph of maturity and experience, but the day it all happened could very well have had a tragic end. His legendary reticence at being public with his views and experiences meant that he died without the record of his life in a book that we all pressed hard to get. He had mellowed down somehow, or the Daily Trust had succeeded in a coup of sorts when they got him to speak on some aspects of his life a few years ago. This was a fair compensation for his refusal to grant an interview as SGF on key policy issues under the Abacha administration, in spite of the best efforts of his loyal and competent Director of Press, Eric Teniola, Special Assistant, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu and I. He agreed to an internal compromise: we would draw up our own questions and provide answers to them and convince crack Daily Trust interviewers to accept and publish them as conducted interview. Naturally, the journalists balked at the idea, and although we gave them decent distance to decide their response, we knew there were some tough arguments over appropriate response. So, 20 years after that incident, here is an apology to Mahmud Jega and his colleagues over our assault on their professional integrity. We genuinely thought we were providing a bridge between an SGF who needed to speak on important issues but will not, and a media organization that had knocked on the door loudly enough for some response.

       When he left public service as SGF, Alhaji Gidado insisted on retaining his National Honour of GCON which was awarded to him by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar, but revoked by the President Obasanjo who took over from General Abubakar. His insistence that one leader had no right to take away what another leader had properly and legally given was typical of the thread that held together his most basic values about public service and politics. There was always a right way and a wrong way of doing things, and while he would make allowances for mediocrity, he was passionate against tolerating impunity and high-handedness. Needless to say, he had been pained by the spectacular collapse of the foundational role of the public service in governance, and the quality of political leadership that has been responsible for it. He held strong views about the intimate linkages between corruption and the near-total collapse of security of citizens and the Nigerian state. Sadly he would not live to see if the nation he served for his entire life will recreate itself and emerge stronger from many of its current challenges. He ran his race well, and it will be fitting to hope that there are Nigerians who will live like he did, with total conviction that this is a nation deserving of respect and service.
    May Allah grant him Aljanna.

Friday, May 26, 2017

I am Biafran

Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center, Abuja
Conference on Biafra: 50 Years After
25 May, 2017

Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, OON
Chief of Staff to President of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I am Biafran

With ten minutes to discuss the vital element of reconciliation following the defeat of Biafra and the end of the Nigerian Civil war, I have taken the liberty to tap into the broad context of this important conference to discuss reconciliation as a strategic process and goal in post-war Nigeria, and a major issue in nation-building.
The key elements of the post-war reconciliation programme derived from an enlightened leadership perspective which acknowledged the value of re-integration of former territories and populations under Biafra into a nation that had fought a reluctant civil war. They included a specific renunciation of victory in the “no –victor-no-vanquished” policy, the deliberate promotion of policies that discouraged punitive action against active rebels and populations; absorption of public servants from former rebel territories into Nigerian institutions, and the aggressive campaigns to encourage communities to re-absorb people from former rebel territories. The most effective reconciliation instrument, however, required neither legislation nor clout of the Nigerian state. It was the spontaneous and genuine responses of millions of Nigerians to move beyond a 3-year disaster by opening doors and hearts to people trapped behind hostility, as well as the courage and faith to venture into territories and locations where thousands had been murdered only for their ethnic origins.
In the disastrous collapse of a vital national asset which is our capacity to adopt versions of our history that will survive massive and sustained onslaught by ignorance, mischief and the surrender of strategic grounds by political leaders and academics, it has become difficult to remember that Nigerians achieved the unique record of reconciling with each other within the shortest period, quite possibly in recent human history.
What happened to that nation that made it possible for Easterners to return to reclaim properties in most parts of Nigeria; to resume jobs and interrupted education; to establish social relations and live secure and productive lives within a year after the war? What happened to the nation that made room for Igbo traders and businessmen to resume places of pride in Lagos, Kano and Maiduguri; the Hausa communities to re-locate back to Onitsha and Aba; and for young people to learn of the history of a potentially great nation that had derailed but found its feet in the early 1970s?
My answers to the these questions are likely to feed the dispute over every element of our history, but they are no worse than strands that feed the lower rungs of the muck that is our history by social media and miniature champions with pretensions for fighting great causes. First, the coup of January 15 1966 was never planned with secession of the East in mind. By all accounts, it was intended to address serious national challenges, not to pull parts out of the nation. It was a misadventure motivated by flawed idealism, almost juvenile approach and fatal miscalculations. It was an event that created other events and developments which compounded its disastrous consequences. Second, the Biafra option had no strong organic roots. It was the product and reaction to tragic events, and was by no means the only option available to the Igbo and other communities in the Eastern States. It is difficult to read those parts of our history which record the plans by young Northern officers to pull the North out of the federation after the successful July 1967 counter coup. Biafra represented a knee-jerk reaction from Igbo elite as it competed with other elements of the Nigerian elite following the disasters triggered by the January 1966 coup. The pace of reconciliation and reintegration was evidence of the limitations of these elite competitions, and the end of the war was treated by all Nigerians largely as an end to a tragic chapter.
The Nigerian civil war was, in many senses, also a referendum on the continued existence of the Nigerian state. The outcome was not a win or loss: it was the manner Nigerians reconciled with each other, licked wounds and moved on. But the idea of Biafra was a cause for redress and resistance and it neither began with events between 1966 and 1970, nor has it ended with them. The military that triggered the collapse of the democratic process, fought a war against itself, and led the nation through a remarkable recovery then embarked on major political re-engineering, managing an emerging rentier economy and  a developing middle class.
Plunder and patronage of huge resources that were not related to direct productive activities created massive instability at elite levels. Managing the Nigerian state became fraught with crises and instability, and widening gaps between wealth and poverty began to create pockets of discontent as the leadership grappled with large urban populations living off the state and small, powerful and wealthy elite.
The Nigerian state failed to develop institutions and values that will mitigate the type of circumstances which produced Biafra and the civil war. During its long tenures in power, the military fought against itself, and discouraged the emergence of a political system which could have mediated conflicts around power and resources by the elite. At every turn, the state was challenged by problems it created. Between 1966 and 1999,the  military was unable to stay outside power for longer than 4 years, a brief period which significantly highlighted the total re-integration of Igbo elite into the Nigerian political process.
The military factor in Nigerian political history has been prominent and damaging, and hopefully, will come to an end with the expiration of President Buhari’s presidency. Every major political development since January 1966 has had a major military imprint, and no leadership has emerged at the national and largely sub-national levels without the direct or discreet influence of military actors. This legacy has stunted the growth and development of democratic values and institutions, and has created multiple sources of grievances and conflicts that give the impression of Nigeria as a nation of multiple causes and few solutions.
The emergence of a political leadership without roots or linkages with a military tradition will signify a major reconciliation in the rapture which begun on January 15, 1966. The nation has survived many Biafras in the past, and it needs to come to terms with these challenges in their proper contexts. The resistance against the abortion of the elections that may have produced an Abiola presidency; the resistance of the communities in many parts of the South South against abuse and neglect; the resistance of many communities across the entire nation against neglect, attacks, abuse and marginalization; the unacceptable levels of collapse of basic infrastructure in the East; the scandalous de-industrialization and pauperization of the entire north; the disaster arising from incompetence and official collusion in the growth and development of Boko Haram insurgency; the unfolding, global-scale humanitarian disaster in the North East are all Biafran causes. In a real sense, every Nigerian is a Biafran.
There is enough depth and breadth in the Nigerian nation to survive these challenges, but it will be dangerous to be complacent. We will never live entire periods without a major cause demanding to be addressed, but we can improve our capacities to live with, and resolve them. We need to confront challenges with understanding and sensitivity, from positions that are strengthened by cohesion, concensus and willingness to compromise. The new Biafran phenomenon, for instance, needs to be looked in the eye to understand what it means or needs. Neither running away from it,locking it up or shooting at it will resolve the dispute over whether those who wish to pull all Igbo out of Nigeria have the support and mandate of all Igbo. Nor should the nation lower its voice over its stand that no group or section can muscle or shoot its way out of the nation, or re-structure Nigeria after its own image alone. Recent successes over the Boko Haram insurgency point to the value of national concensus and political will in dealing with internal challenges. The democratic process needs to be strengthened as the foundation of national unity and cohesion, and the guarantee that only a leadership which enjoys a legitimate and popular support can take difficult decisions to deal with challenges. There is not a single sensible reason why Nigerians should not discuss every element of our existence, the structures and institutions which affect us in profound ways, and even the utility of our union. It is, however important to acknowledge that every community has a right to be respected, and its participation in the search for solutions around the fundamentals of our co-existence cannot be forced or hijacked. 
There are many lessons to draw from the half century after Biafra. One is that the Nigerian nation is a lot more resilient than it gets credit for in many circles, and this resilience lies in the millions of linkages in livelihoods, economy and relationships which Nigerians have built with their feet, resources, trust and lives in every inch of our nation. The second is that Nigeria will always be tested and tried by challenges arising from the manner groups feel their rights and privileges are handled either by the state itself, or by other groups. It is important therefore to strive towards creating a nation founded on democratic principles and practice, and in particular, on the rule of law. Thirdly we need to re-integrate younger Nigerians into a vision of a nation whose history has been both inspiring and challenging, but a nation which can be made to work for all. We need to liberate our history from petty hate mongers; not to put a false gloss on it, but to challenge this generation to improve where older generations have failed, and take pride in their legacies. Without this history, there is little hope of  securing the firm foundations that will survive contemporary and  future challenges in Nigeria.