From: Ammeh Ebute, Former Senate President
To: Prof. Ango Abdullahi, Convener, Northern Elders Forum
I am extremely pained to publicly address Professor Ango Abdullahi on a matter I consider very important for regional cohesion and the stability of Nigeria.
However, in the prevailing circumstances, I have no choice than to do the needful in view of his recent vitriolic comments against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and his 2019 reelection bid.
No doubt, Prof. Ango Abdullahi is a respected academic, elder and son of the North. He is a brilliant man and the fourth indigenous Vice Chancellor of the premier and prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria. I deem him a reference point anytime, Northern history comes into focus.
Ango’s convening of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) was a laudable initiative embraced by all of us. We sensed reason in his explanations of why elders of Northern extraction should have a common platform where they could congregate, brainstorm on issues affecting the North, lobby the central government to solve them and play advisory roles to the younger generation and the government when necessary.
We perceived these issues as very important and germane, hence the respected Alhaji Maitama Sule, (may his soul rest in peace) a former Ambassador to the United Nations, an Danmasanin Kano, agreed to serve as NEF’s pioneer chairman. That was the veneration NEF attracted.
With other prominent Northerners such as Wantaregh Paul Unongo a former minister of Power and Steel in the Second Republic, serving as NEF’s Vice Chairman, alongside an array of other officials, NEF was run purposefully and meaningfully in consonance with its original idea to which we were all signatories.
We have never had issues within NEF because we adhered strictly to its core mandate, doctrine and operational principles of neutrality and non-partisanship.
But it appears we are reversing ourselves now, after the demise of Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule. NEF’s leadership has fallen on Prof. Ango Abdullahi. I regret to say, he is not dispensing this leadership in consonance with the core operational principles of NEF to which we all subscribed and have observed religiously over time.
I wish to remind Prof. Ango Abdullahi that NEF was conceived as an apolitical organization. Therefore, the recent widespread public statement, published in various media, which claimed members of NEF have dumped the 2019 reelection bid of President Buhari, credited to Prof. Ango Abdullahi is extremely in bad faith. It abuses the sacred guiding principles upon which NEF was founded; derived its strength and endorsed by the rest of us.
For clarity sake, I wish to remind this NEF convener that NEF has not met in recent times and adopted a common position on the rejection or acceptance of the reelection bid of President Buhari or any other candidate vying for the office of the President of Nigeria in 2019.
The public statement credited to Ango in all ramifications came to me as a rude shock. And I dare say, it is an abuse of his right to freedom of speech by aligning his personal thoughts with a group, which is not part of his thinking on the matter canvassed.
Already, there are dissenting voices against this apparent insensitivity and absurdity as propagated by Prof. Ango Abdullahi. We cannot accept anybody’s personal desire to drag NEF into public ridicule or partisanship, except Ango wishes to be its sole owner, as convener, chairman, secretary, publicist and the rest.
Thus far, I completely and faithfully align myself with the position of objection to Prof. Ango Abdullahi’s posture by my other Northern elders, majority in silence, but others vocal like the trio of Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura.
I find it pertinent to state that even the issues raised by Prof. Ango Abdullahi’s abhorrent statement such as insecurity, underdevelopment and poverty in the North under the Buhari Presidency are interrogated from a porous, biased and self-serving perspective.
We all acknowledge that the North and indeed, Nigeria deserves to be freed from the tethers of these nagging problems. What has baffled me is the deliberate refusal of Prof. Ango Abdullahi to critical and holistically assess the situation with an open and uninfluenced mind.
I cannot accept, much like many other Northern elders that insecurity in the country is worse under President Buhari. It was worse when our President mounted the saddle of leadership in Nigeria in 2015. President Buhari started from ground zero, but has made commendable progress over these problems.
The failure of the likes of Ango to see and appreciate the efforts and energies channeled into decimating and defeating Boko Haram insurgency in the North only conveys a personal hatred against the Buhari Presidency.
I expect Ango and those in his camp to speak to leaders of thought in the North. They should be concerned with engaging and dissuading their youths who are excitedly serving as hirelings to exacerbate the insecurity situation in the country in order to reverse the gains already recorded by the Buhari Presidency. Ango and co-travellers should not find this as a platform to castigate and vilify President Buhari.
President Buhari has taken steps to address the massive youth unemployment across Nigeria, including the North, with the N-Power jobs, even if we pretend not to see his laudable agricultural policies which have created millions of jobs with three years of his administration.
Prof. Ango Abdullahi cannot be preaching to us underdevelopment of the North at this material time because it is a culture sustained for decades. In spite of it, President Buhari is prudently and fairly distributing meagre national resources in solving underdevelopment issues across Nigeria. The North has gotten its fair share, just like other regions in the country.
President Buhari is the political leader of Nigeria and not that of the North alone as Prof. Ango insinuates. It is senseless for Ango and cohorts to expect that Buhari superintends over skewed sharing or distribution of Nigeria’s commonwealth in favour of the North. As elders, I believe this disposition and thinking is faulty.
I am highly uncomfortable with Prof. Ango Abdullahi’s excessive mouthing in public domain in the guise of speaking for NEF. Our duty as elders is to encourage leaders to sit-up where we perceive lapses, as against outright partisan campaigns against leaders as Ango delights in doing.
Prof. Ango Abdullahi should retrace his steps. If President Buhari fails to grant NEF audience to discuss these issues, why is the public platform he has used in vilifying the President, not used as channel of advice to Mr. President? It speaks of a personal agenda, which I am encouraged to say, has missed the target.
Other Northern elders like me, at both personal and collective level, will keep supporting President Buhari on his redemption mission of Nigeria. We have seen and felt the positive impact of his administration. Where he is lacking, we would rather advise him privately. So, the attempt by Ango to bifurcate NEF with his personal political agenda is reprehensible and unacceptable to the rest of us.
Like others, I stand, with President Buhari and the excitement of Prof. Ango Abdullahi to mask under NEF will not change it.
I advise him to retract this shameful public statement credited to him and retrace his steps, or risk running NEF as a one-man show.