By Stephen Ubanna
Ahead of the 2019 general elections , the northern and southern Elders Forum appear to have found the need to forge a united front to form a formidable group to be able to influence the government on issues of national importance.
They may have realised that past and present governments were not taking their views serious because of the divergent Elders Forums with divergent views across the country pushing for their interest to be represented in government.
Some of the extant groups which the Elders from the three major-geo-political regions in the country belong to are the ACF, Afenifere, and Ohaneze Ndigbo . The south-south Elders Forum were said to have fused into the Ohaneze Ndigbo Forum to represent the larger interest of the old Eastern region interest.
The Source learnt that the decision to forge a united front by elders from the north, south west and the south east geo-political regions became pronounced with the submission of the CONFAB report to former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 which favoured the restructuring of Nigeria. Jonathan, who handed over the CONFAB report to his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari, had pleaded with him to implement it because it represent the larger views of the society. Buhari had accepted the report but gathering dust in the Presidency.
Three years into his Aministration, Buhari has not given any inclination of going to implement the report , fueling speculations in both official and unofficial circles that the report may not see the light of the day. The inability of the Buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC, government to implement the report which had gulped billions of naira to produce by the members may have exposed the disunity of the country going by comments originating from both northern and southern elders in different parts of the country.
Many believe that the refusal of the Buhari led APC government to implement the report which favoured the restructuring of Nigeria may have exposed the selfish interest of the ACF, Afenifere and Ohane Ndigbo on the vexed issue about the restructuring of Nigeria as contained in the report.
While the northern Elders Forum are opposed to the implementation of the report in its totality on the ground that it does not represent the views of all segment of the society, their counterparts in the southern part of the country are calling for the implementation of the CONFAB report and the restructuring of Nigeria to save the unity of the country.
Worried that the country is sitting on a keg of gun powder waiting to explode, the northerrn Elders Forum were said to have initiated the moves to work together with their southern counterpart Elders Forum. The group was said to have set up a technical Committee which met with their southern counterpart a forthnight ago at Abuja, to work out modalities for the coming together .of Prominent elders from the north, south west, south east and south- south geo-political regions that were said to have attended the histroic meeting include Banji Akintoye , a Professor, Drs. Yime, Chike Dike Alfred Mulade, Senators Yinka Odumakin, Chris Anyawu Kofo Bukunor Akerele and Ibrahim .Y. Lame, Francis Doukpola, Bello Suleiman, an Engineer and Ambassador Bala Sani among others.
It was gathered that the northern elders technical Committee agreed in principle on the formation of a Nigerian Elders Forum, NEF . The Committee believes that that the establishment of the larger elders forum that would caught across all ethnic groups in the country, will facilitate regular meetings of the elders to study situations, provide solutions and ensure that decisions taken make the necessary appreciable impact on the polity.
Given an inside information on the need for the formation of the Nigeria Elders Forum, Banji Akintoye, said they were disturbed by that” things are not well with the country”.
An elated Akintoye declared, ” What we have decide d is to set up – and this is the height of our decisions to set up NEF. He dissociated the group from having affiliation with any political party. ”We are not active politicians. We have come together because we are worried about the state of things in the country.
The Professor lamented that a lot of things are happening in the country that ordinarily should not happen such as the hate speeches which have ethnic coloration, stressing that Nigeria is a land of promise , land endowed by by nature with a lot of wealth to enrich the people but the country is going down and down in terms of prosperity and progress ” on a daily basis. He cited the problem of ecology as a one of the major problems facing the country which past and present Administration had paid lip service to because there is no much pressure on the government to make adequate yearly budgetary provision to tackle the problem.. But the major problem which the many believe that is confronting the country headlong is leadership. From 1960, till date, the country appears to have been saddled with poor leadership that had dragged the country down. The problem of leadership is so pronounced that Jemibiwon, a retired Army Major General had declared President Buhari, as ”not performing”. Even former President Shehu Shagari in his assessment of past leadership in the country confirmed that Jonathan has something to show as a former President by building several Almhajeries school in the north, built 12 Universities in the country and started Agricultural revolution in the country but Buhari cannot point of one concrete thing he has done in the country as a former military Head of state and now a Democratically elected President.
But Buhari would not agree that he is a failure in government reeling out his achievement in the last threeyears in government which include the security of the nation and improvement in the country foreign exchange, forex, reserves.
The fears, however, being expressed in several quarters is that the formation of NEF, would whittle down the influence ofACF, Afenifere, and the Ohaneze Ndigbo, for the . This is because the various Elders Forum which hold divergent views in the polity would have fizzled out or exist only in name but could not bite.