From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has called for an end to attacks on Fulani herders living in local communities outside the North, saying no region has the power to eject any ethnic group from their areas.
The NEF called on elected officials to rise to their responsibilities of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians to foster peace and unity.
NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement on Monday, stressed that the North would not cave to threats and intimidation by some groups to weaken the region ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The Forum said in the statement:
‘Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has followed recent developments, events and utterances from many quarters, all of which suggest that our country is at a defining moment that will determine its fate and the security of all Nigerians for a long time to come.
‘It is no exaggeration to say that our country has never been so threatened by a combination of weak and ineffective governance and a determined effort from many quarters to capitalize on this weakness to attack the foundations which give all citizens and communities some comfort that we are not headed for almost certain, irretrievable disaster.
‘It appears that many groups and persons who have public standing, political adventurers and upstarts believe that it is open season to intensify attacks on the foundations of our co-existence through acts that provoke, frighten or otherwise cast doubts over the capacities of those who have sworn to protect the nation and citizens.
‘These groups’ activities suggest that they perceive a vacuum which provides a perfect setting for questioning the legitimacy of the Nigerian State, its ability to fight against subversion and other acts of hostility and its commitment to uphold the rule of law.
‘The only voices being heard are those which demand the balkanization of the country, or encourage dangerous politics and other acts that pitch some communities against others.
‘The disturbing silence from responsible Nigerians and the capitulation of hitherto influential groups to politics of the gutter is creating a dangerous space which further erodes the chances that a rational approach to the triggers to these provocations can be found.
‘The Forum recognizes the historic opportunity for leaders, elders and other Nigerians who believe in acting responsibly to step up now and retrieve the country from imminent disaster.
‘The Forum restates its commitment to sit and discuss all the challenges facing the country with responsible groups and leaders.
‘It understands that many of the provocations and threats are directly related to maneuvers for 2023, as well as attempts to hurt and weaken the North by making it the culprit behind all manner of grievances, real or contrived.
‘People who believe they can intimidate or threaten the North into submitting to their demands are grossly mistaken.
‘The North also wants a Nigeria which addresses at least a minimum of its requirements, and these are many.
‘Like all other Nigerians, it believes this country must meet particular and general interests, and no group’s interest is superior to the other’s.
‘There is a long way to go before 2023.Our democratic process must not be made the hostage to dangerous and shortsighted politics.
‘There are politicians who think weakening the country is their best guarantee for achieving their goals.
‘Groups which are floating irredentist agendas to blackmail others do not impress the North. It is vital that elected leaders find the will to reduce the damage of opportunistic politicians.
‘If, as it clearly appears to be the case, they cannot do this, citizens with the capacity to influence opinion and chart a course towards a safer country for all citizens should get involved.
‘At the most minimal level, attacks on Fulani communities who live peacefully with communities in the South must stop.
‘No Nigerian should be threatened or ordered to leave any part of the country because it pleases other Nigerians that he does so.
‘Elected leaders must rise to their responsibilities of protecting citizens and their properties,’ he said.