Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has advanced reasons why the group wants President Muhammadu Buhari to step aside like former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida.
The obviously disappointed Northern elders are citing worsening insecurity and looming famine in the country.
The lingering June 12, 1993 election crisis led to the resignation of Babangida in August 1993. Babangida signed a decree establishing an Interim National Government led by Ernest Shonekan.
The former military strongman announced on August 17, 1993, that he was willing to relinquish power as ‘’my own personal sacrifice’’, but stopped short of saying he will do so.
‘’I wish to state emphatically that there is no military dictator here in Nigeria’’, Babangida said in a 45-minute speech to a joint session of the National Assembly that was expected to detail the military’s plans to end Nigeria’s political crisis, but left his audience confused about his own future.
He received a roar of applause halfway into the speech when he announced his willingness to step down, but the ovation at the end was lukewarm, reflecting the legislators’ confusion.
Information Secretary then, Uche Chukwumerije, said before the speech, that Babangida ‘’wants to personally retire’’, but that ‘’arguments are still raging on both sides’’.
But, the speech was part of Babangida’s campaign to win favour for his plan to instal an unelected interim government to rule until late- 1994, following the cancellation of the June presidential elections won by Moshood Abiola.
While calling on the National Assembly to play a greater role, saying it ‘’should be the basis of the democratic legitimacy of the new interim national government’’, Babangida lashed out at his critics, describing allegations that he wanted to retain power as ‘’uncharitable and unwanted speculation’’.
He referred to pro-democracy activists as ‘’a small group, but they make noise like the proverbial empty barrel’’.
However, the Forum is seriously warning of imminent famine in the face of limited production of food in the bleeding North-East region of Nigeria.
Northern Elders’ Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, says under the Buhari administration, ‘’life has lost its value, and more and more citizens are coming under the influence of criminals.
‘’We do not see any evidence of willingness on the part of President Buhari to honour his oath to provide security over Nigerians. In civilised nations, leaders who fail so spectacularly to provide security will do the honourable thing and resign.”
Justifying their call on Buhari to resign, Buba-Ahmed claimed that the Nigerian leader lacks the political will to fight the Boko Haram insurgency and other threats of banditry, rustling and kidnapping.
Referring to the latest massacre of farmers in Zabarmari, the Forum regrets that Buhari has failed to listen to concerns from many Nigerians about the level of insecurity in the nation. That killing has been greeted by “most insensitive response” by spokespersons of the President and described as a lame excuse that murdered farmers did not seek permission from the military to harvest produce.
“These killings and the reality they expose will make relocation of citizens and resumption of economic activities a lot more difficult to achieve even for leadership that attaches priority to them, and this administration does not. Elsewhere in many parts of the North, many farming communities have not been allowed by bandits and kidnappers to plant crops”, the Northern elders say.
Their clamour for Buhari to quit came as the Senate rose from a debate on the Saturday massacre of over 67 farmers in Borno State, declaring that the Buhari administration has breached Section 14 (1), which made security and welfare the sole purpose of its existence.
The angst in the Red Chamber of the bicameral Legislature reverberated in the House of Representatives, where members, irked by worsening insecurity in the polity, moved to summon the President to appear in the Green Chamber over the killing at Zabarmari village, in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno.
Senators condemned President Buhari for failing to fire the country’s service chiefs as demanded in the past, arguing that the continued retention of the military top brass by Buhari implied the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the country had failed in his most primary assignment of securing the nation.
They made the declaration while adopting a motion sponsored by a former Borno State Governor, Senator Kashim Shettima, and equally equally adopted the position that any government that could not discharge the basic obligation of securing citizens was not worthy of legitimacy.
Rejecting the figure of 43 earlier released as the number of slain farmers, the upper chamber said it got a more authentic figure of 67 from residents of Kwashabe village in Zabarmari, where the killing took place.
It urged the President to probe allegations of corruption and leakages within the security structure and put mechanisms in place to foster transparency and ensure all resources meant and deployed for security were used for the purpose
It also urged Buhari “to take immediate steps to restructure, remodel and revamp the security architecture and provide modern weapons and equipment to combat the insurgents.
The Federal Government, it stated, should “aggressively explore multilateral and bilateral options of partnership with neighbouring nations of Chad, Niger and Cameroons towards reviving and strengthening the multi-national Joint Task Force and finding a lasting solution to the scourge of insurgency in the Lake Chad region.”
It also asked the Federal Government to recruit, urgently, no fewer than 10,000 civilian JTF, versatile with the local terrain in the state, to complement the military.