Critical stakeholders of the north led by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) that met under “Northern Leaders of Thought” in Kaduna have strongly advised the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to postpone the planned 2022 National Census considering a large number of displaced Nigerians and the proximity of the census to the 2023 elections.
The meeting urged the national and state assemblies to prioritize constitutional amendments currently being processed and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act as it would improve the quality of elections, starting from 2023.
A communique issued by the Chairman, Communiqué Drafting Committee, Prof. D. D. D. Sheni, after a one-day meeting, with a theme “Rebuilding the North”, urged key northern groups to engage others from the south to improve understanding, lower tensions and contribute to the creation of an atmosphere that allows all Nigerians to live in peace with each other.
The meeting, which discussed issues affecting the northern region and the country at large noted, “The meeting recognizes our ethnoreligious diversity in the north which is a source of strength that should be celebrated. The meeting further observed that all faiths teach us to imbibe the spirit of tolerance and not hate or attack those who w orship in a different way. Our religious differences should be an invaluable asset, not a liability or a potent weapon in the hands of our desperate and failed leaders.”
The meeting observed that the current state of insecurity in the north is unprecedented and unacceptable while commending the efforts of the nation’s defence and security forces in rolling back sundry threats that have weakened the Nigerian state and made life almost valueless.
It advised the Buhari administration, governors and legislators to revisit and re-prioritize spending on security and address the scourge of poverty, recommending the increase in recruitment of security personnel.
The participants stated that the fundamental rights of all political parties to field candidates of their choices, and the right of voters to freely exercise choices over who leads them cannot be compromised, stressing that northerners have equal rights to aspire to all offices but they must raise competence, evidence of personal integrity and commitments to the rule of law above all other considerations.
The meeting appealed to northerners to ignore provocative statements from groups in the south that appears to believe that Command Democracy in which threats and hate campaigns are their hallmarks or defining elements will work in Nigeria.
According to the communique, “The meeting notes the desperate condition of the economic existence of most Northerners, poses additional threats to security and the democratic process. It recommends that leaders should avoid pushing the population into deeper poverty and desperation with challenging economic policies and a lack of empathy. Government at all levels should consider a form of the structured welfare system to alleviate poverty in the populace.”
The meeting recognized the ethnoreligious diversity in the north that is a source of strength should be celebrated, while the meeting further observed that all faiths teach people to imbibe the spirit of tolerance and not hate or attack those who worship in a different way.
“Our religious differences should be an invaluable asset, not a liability or a potent weapon in the hands of our desperate and failed leaders,” the meeting advised.
It advised northern groups to visit and engage President Buhari to discuss with him ways in which the security and economic condition of northerners can be improved.
The meeting recognized that education in the region has never been more imperilled than now, as insecurity has exponentially increased the number of out of school children, saying that school abductions closures and excruciating poverty have set back education in the region for many generations.
The meeting called on the states and the Federal Government to protect all the schools and rescue all children in the hand of bandits, and insurgents.
The communique noted the disconnect between citizens Vs Leaders, observing the widening gap and disconnect between the citizens and their elected representatives as an existential threat to the security of this nation and called on all strata of the leadership to reconnect with the citizens.
It lamented the widespread insecurity, poverty and discontent with the leadership that has resulted in serious voter apathy that is unhelpful to the fragile democracy and called on all Nigerians particularly the youth not to despair but to register to vote for a leadership that can change the fortunes of Nigeria.
The meeting recommended the need to have a working partnership with government agencies and other non-government organs to restore and re-instate the traumatized and displaced communities (IDP) to their villages as they initiate trauma healing sessions for them as well as de-radicalization programmes targeting the youths in the affected areas.