The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has alleged moves by ‘certain elements’ to weaken the north ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Besides, the forum said though the region was not opposed to the country being restructured, it would not be blackmailed into submitting to other interests who feel uncomfortable with a strong and united North.
The forum through its Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed in a statement, said it was aware of attempts to weaken the North by “interests that believe that this is their only path to success in the 2023 elections.”
According to him, these interests should know that the North would neither be blackmailed nor intimidated because it was capable of identifying and protecting its interests.
“Some of these interests seek to exploit our plural nature and deepen what they see as divisions,” NEF said.
“They will fail because northerners know that what unites us is a lot stronger than what divides us.
“Others create the impression that the North is opposed to the country being restructured along lines that will improve the quality of our union, ensure higher standards of justice, better security and progress for all Nigerians. These too will fail.
“The North is ready to discuss all elements of our co-existence, but will not be stampeded into submitting to other interests who feel uncomfortable with a strong and united North, or blackmailing us to adopt their versions of our future.”
The elders further condemned the alleged attacks on northerners in the south, warning that deliberate targeting of people from a section of the country could have very serious repercussions for all communities in the nation.
It also berated the northern governors, federal government officials and traditional rulers for not focusing on the issues affecting the region during a meeting held in Kaduna recently.
According to the forum, the meeting missed a historic opportunity to acknowledge that northern communities are in dire need of improved security.
“We noted the concerns of the meeting with the possibility of subversives and criminal elements hijacking the protests in many cities of the south, as well as the potential for abuse of social media platforms, which appeared to be the major focus of the meeting.
“We took particular note of the pivotal roles of governors and traditional rulers at that meeting, leaders who are thoroughly familiar with daily assaults by insurgents, bandits and kidnappers on northerners.
“These are leaders who should have understood the high hopes which northerners attached to a meeting of that nature in Kaduna, and they should understand that the impression left by that meeting and the frenzy of activities in parts of the south involving some northern leaders to show sympathy for damage from hoodlums leaves only one conclusion in the mind of northerners: northern lives do not matter,” NEF said.
The group advised President Muhammadu Buhari and northern state governors to engage a broad spectrum of leaders, elders and young people as partners in the search for solutions to problems of the region.