2023: Why north is against Igbo president — Abdulaziz Suleiman, spokesman of Northern Coalition

Posted by News Express | 27 November 2021 | 1,590 times

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•Northern Coalition spokesman, Abdulaziz Suleiman


Abdulaziz Suleiman is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Northern Coalition Groups. He is also their spokesman. He has been unapologetic in his defence of the North and its interests. He and his group were responsible for the quit notice issued to Igbo people resident in the North. In this interview with DESMOND MGBOH, he gave reasons why they are opposed to any political solution to the trial of Nnamdi Kanu. He was also of the view that Igbo should forget the  Presidency of Nigeria , saying that recent activities of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB has stripped the region of the confidence of the rest of Nigerians that they would not divide Nigeria if and when they come to power.

Why are you guys protesting the visit of some Igbo elders to President Buhari over the Nnamdi Kalu issue and why equally, are you opposed to the President’s response that he would consider their request?

We are not really protesting. We are trying to put things in their proper perspective. If you look at Nigeria, the problems we are having today is that we read ethnicity and religious differences into everything, which is why we have failed to see our problems as national problems up till this moment.

For example, when Boko – Haram started, even the people of Yobe State were under the impression that it was just a Borno problem. That was how it escalated.

Even the people of Yobe State did not consider it a regional problem, or its neighbour’s problem, not to talk of the people from the South. So they thought it was a northern problem. The North was looking at it as a problem brought about by the South , that was how Boko Haram came about and gained ground because we did not approach it as a national issue.

Now, national issues such as people committing crimes against the state are things that should be approached with a sense of nationality- not regionalism, not religion.

If you look at the way we see it, a lot of people in the North, a lot of heavy weights from the North have been detained and arrested and arraigned and nobody asked for their release. We waited for the court to do its work. I can cite an example of Al -Mustapha. He was clamped down in jail for several years and nobody protested his being in custody apart from some small, small boys .Maybe they were sponsored by his wife- until the court discharged him.

You can see the case of Dazuki, nobody protested and he is a son of the Sultan, no single emir went to plead for his release until the court released him. Look at El – Zazzaky, when he was arrested, even his neighbours were jubilating in Zaria. You can now see the difference. Nobody in the North will be angry if the Shekau is arrested and paraded on the street.

Nobody will say he is angry. Today, these bandits were being fought and killed and we are happy. Now, if you contrast that with the way people in the South-East are behaving over the Kanu issue, you ll find discrepancies.

This is a man, whether it is a lie or whatever it is, the state has arrested him and is prosecuting him already.

Now for a high calibre deliberation like that to go and plead with the President for him to be released unconditionally is suspicious. That is why we have been trying to put it in the public domain that they shouldn’t have done that. The least they could have done is to ask the government to accelerate his trial. That is just the least.  If we continue along this line, then it means that Nigeria would be drawn apart. If we can regionalize crimes, then it is unfortunate.

We have been having the herdsmen issue for a long time and we said that we have no quarrel with states, wherever they are, punishing criminals. But they don’t have the right to give that crime a religious or regional coloration and identity. For instance, if we catch an armed robber here, must we say Igbo armed robber? Must we say Yoruba armed robber? An armed robber whether he is Igbo, whether he is Hausa or Yoruba, he is armed robber. They have their own class. If that man who is rearing cattle in Oyo becomes a criminal, he is a criminal. You don’t have to say Fulani criminal. By the time you give it or you dress crime in the grab of religion or region, you are protecting the criminal. Because if you say Fulani, we’ll say no.

The Federal Government has granted amnesty to some Boko -haram terrorists. We have also seen Niger Delta militants granted amnesty, and political solution was employed in solving the problem in the region. So why is it particularly difficult for a political solution for Kanu and IPOB?

First and foremost, let me look at this question from two different perspectives. And this would justify what I have told you about the North. We heard that some Boko Haram militants were being pardoned and given amnesty.

I think it was government decision, but I can tell you that a large population of Northerners is against that decision.We have made several statements rejecting that policy. It is not in our interest. You can see that we challenged it so that people would not just say that we are only challenging things from the South.

Now secondly, the issue of Niger Delta militant and even that of Boko haram, the ones that have been given amnesty, they surrendered!

They laid down their arms and gave in.  Even the amnesty given to the Niger Delta militants, I think the directive was “if you surrender and give in your arms…” But in this case, these elders should have spoken to the IPOB first, let them agree to lay down their arms first. I think what happened in the Niger was not that they arrested Tompolo. Tompolo was right in the creeks fighting and they said okay “Come out of that creek, lets talk.”

In this case, up till this moment, IPOB is in the middle of the battle, battling the state. Sheik Gumi only recently suggested reconciliation with these bandits. The same people now asking for Kanu’s release said that he should be arrested as a bandit, be arrested as a sponsor of the bandits.

I have listened to a number of your utterances and speeches. The truth is that you create reality using language. You speak in general terms. “The same people” meaning the whole of the South?

Okay, let me say the South East
The whole of the South East can never have the same view on a subject matter
Okay not the same people, some people from the South East kicked against it. So naturally we are not expected also to support some other people from that place talking about that same issue. Like I said if we had been looking at things from a national perspective, these things wouldn’t have been.

What would have expected President Buhari, as a statesman, to say to such a delegation?
He made two statesman-like statements. In the first instance, he told them that he had not been known to interfere in judicial processes, that they had done their part by taking him to court. Simple.

No need bringing about that ambiguous clause that he is going to consider it. This is what the law permits him to do: Don’t Interfere with judicial processes. Take this guy to court. But to say that he is going to interfere, that is where the controversy is. If you look at it, people are talking about the interference.

Have you been fair to President Buhari? You were very, very hard on him as a father of all in that your press statement?

It is not about fairness, it is about the collective well being of the people. It has become an everyday affair – and they are also human- for people to be killed in Northern Nigeria, for people to be abducted, a lot of people are in the bushes and in captivity. Even yesterday, in Katsina, there was an attack and people were killed. For anybody to say that we have been unfair to the President is not being fair to us. You see, this is a government that came on the back of a number of promises, chiefly to bring back security to the land. We campaigned for this administration.

Now, if Buhari should come and things get worse than they were, I don’t think that by saying Buhari, you are not being sensitive to the families of those whose relations were killed, we are being unfair.

Just a few days ago, Professor Attahiru Jega in Katsina lamented that insecurity, poverty and quite a number of bad indexes are mostly found in the North. How do you see his remarks?

What he said was quite true. These are things and challenges that we have been pointing out for a long time: That it is unfortunate that we have allowed ourselves to believe that having a President from your region is a yardstick for development.

We have argued that out. We have argued that  look, why can’t we have a Nigerian President 60 years after independence? Why can’t we have somebody we can accurately call a Nigerian President? What we have been having is a Southern President, a Northern President or now, we are looking for an Igbo President. This is why we have all these problems.

Because if you look at it, the North happens to be the major casualty of the Buhari administration, yet the ordinary Northerner is happy because he sees his man at the helm of affairs. And the Southerner is looking at us Northerners as if we had enjoyed eight years of rulership. That is why we have this analysis, that if the leadership of the country is a yardstick for analysis, why is it that the South East, which for all practical purposes, has not had any national leader or President since independence- apart from the ceremonial presidency of Zik- why is South East the most developed technologically, industrially and otherwise. Why is the North that has had all these years of power the most backward? So that is not a criterion.

So the North certainly happens to be the most backward in terms of education, in terms of economy and now security.

And unfortunately the North has its own son as the President. That is what is making the matter worse. If it were a Southerner that is the President, the entire North would have risen to challenge the government to protect the people. As a group, that is the problem we are facing. If we say no, Buhari must go , some people would fight us. He is our son.

That is another handicap, having that belief that he is our man. If you remember before the 2015 general elections, the entire Ulamas in the North was preaching against Jonathan, every Friday in the mosque because of insecurity. But today, none of the Ulamas – only one cleric from Sokoto has the courage to say that Buhari has failed because of insecurity. They won’t! That is a setback, which is why some people look at it as odd for us to attack Buhari.

That is why the situation is worsening because there is nobody to push him, the people that would have helped with the pressure are also fighting us.

What in your view is the solution?

Because part of the reasons for the inter- ethnic and regional tension is because of these lacks- Somebody feeling that his condition is because of the success of the other person.

In 2017 when we gave that Kaduna declaration, what we did was that we reached out immediately. We talked to IPOB , Ohaneze and OPC and we said this is our opportunity. IPOB you have huge crowd in the South-East, OPC you have huge crowd in the West and we have huge followership, why don’t we meet at a point and take over power through democratic means from these old people that have been manipulating us since independence! A new crop of people would have formed a united force to take over the party structures— I think Kanu thought he could go it alone, Kanu kept fighting and that was how the understanding …… now what we are still trying to do is that unless the North is able to cut away from the past…… by cutting away from the past, I mean that when will we stop thinking of our leaders as elderly people only?

I don’t think the South East is still making reference to Zik. They have moved beyond the era. Is it not Kanu that is in vogue now? If Kanu has the political finishing, he would be the one controlling the South-East. Go to the South West, they hardly refer to Awolowo. Nobody mentions him. It is now Tinubu. In the next five years, you will no longer be hearing of Tinubu  again. He would have been gone and they would have brought up another person.

But if you look at us in the North, we have people who have been there since Independence.  And if you asked the ordinary Northerner who do you think should be President, he would tell you that it should be these same people. That is how Buhari came.

We have Buhari, we have the IBB. For heaven’s sake!  That was what brought about the lecture where Jega made this statement. That you as students of higher learning, you have to break away, that you as students of higher institution, you are the natural claimant to the task of shaping the destiny of Northern Nigeria and Nigeria because you think differently. Because these old people- whoever comes to power have some grudges with his peers and he would not work.

One other challenge in the North is huge open borders. Anybody and everybody, they just keep coming  from Niger, from Chad and other countries unchecked, they come in with different ideologies, different belief.

Your take?

It is a serious problem. If you look at the topic in Katsina, it was the problem of border porosity. That was why Jega made that statement. It is all part of government failure and I also made a remark that unfortunately, as of today,  our government has lost control of its forest, it has lost control of its highways, it has lost control of its sea.

And any country that has lost control of these three critical assets is a failed state. We must agree that whoever is there and these things are happening has failed. No excuse!

What is the place of our political parties in all of these? Do you still have confidence that the political parties in Nigeria have the ability to recruit for us the kind of leadership you are envisaging?

They cannot, as they are composed today, and this is why I am telling you that we are trying to grow a new thinking among the youths of the North. That is why we are asking them that even if you are a graduate, go to your ward and become an APC chairman. Otherwise, they would put a thug there and they would select a leader for you. If you as a graduate is controlling the ward and another man like you is controlling the local government, that means you will be able to come up with a leader who shares in your vision of leadership. Unless that is done, we are not likely to see any change with these two parties.  

Before I go, I must ask you about the most trending debate: The Igbo Presidency. Do you see them with any chance? Is the quest justified?

You see, there might have been some justifications in the past. But even at that time, what stood on their way was that some sections of the country had lost trust that an Igbo president would maintain the unity of Nigeria. That was even in a mild form. Now with the activities of IPOB, some people believe that they have stripped themselves of the confidence that they would keep Nigeria united.

People honestly don’t trust that a South East President would keep Nigeria united. People have that fear and that is what is the political class is exploiting.

That fear that is sinking that if this people come to power, they would divide Nigeria. It may not be true, but the political class is exploiting that. And the leaders of the South-East are not helping matters. Like I had said in this interview, these elders shouldn’t have gone openly to seek for the release of Kanu. You see you have to get the confidence of other regions – You see the North will be comfortable with a South Western President or a Niger Delta president, but even the South West will not be comfortable with an Igbo President.

Is this not because the South West has always taken every good thing belonging to the entire South?

That could also be true. I still think that whatever justification the Igbo might have had for the post of the Presidency, they are not pursuing the quest in the right way! (Saturday Sun)

Source: News Express

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