The Two major personalities that were invited to speak at a rally organised on Saturday for Hamza Al-Mustapha were conspicuously absent at the event.
A former Niger Delta armed activist, Asari Dokubo, and influential Catholic cleric, Matthew Kukah, were absent at the Arewa Youth Unity Rally convened for Mr. Al-Mustapha in Kaduna. Mr. Kukah, according to the programme of event, was to deliver a keynote address at the gathering of youth from 19 northern states and Abuja.
Mr. Al-Mustapha was recently released from prison after the Court of Appeal ruled that he was innocent of charges of murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election, Moshood Abiola. The Lagos State Government has appealed the ruling.
Saturday’s much publicized rally has undergone criticism from many northern politicians who view the alliance of Messrs Dokubo and Al-Mustapha as a hidden ploy to drum up support for President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of 2015 elections. Mr. Dokubo has publicly stated his view that Mr. Jonathan must be re-elected as president in 2015 for there to be peace in the Niger Delta and Nigeria.
While addressing the several hundred youth gathered at the Murtala Square, Mr. Al-Mustapha said the purpose of the rally has been misunderstood.
“I have been misunderstood. But I want people to know that money and power is not my concern. It is God that gives power to whoever and whenever he desires,” the former soldier said in Hausa.
“Today we have over 22.5 million illiterates and unemployed youth of Northern extraction. Therefore, the teaming masses of Nigeria must be served and must be heard today. It’s God that took me to prison and not an individual. My prayer is that northern youths should know that I am a military man and I will soon retire.”
On his relationship with Mr. Dokubo, Mr. Al-Mustapha said, “When I came out of prison, the people of the South-South spoke to me on peace. Asari Dokubo’s first wife is a Fulani woman, his second wife is a Shuwa-Arab from Maiduguri, his children are from the north.
“I later understood that some few elements from the north are those planting the seed of discord against the north. Dokubo has regretted his deeds; he has apologized and has also declared his readiness to expose these elements that are bent on causing problem in the country.”
Mr. Al-Mustapha also said he was worried about the state of education in Yobe and other northern states.
“Only 30 per cent attend school in my home state, Yobe; because of poor leadership and insecurity and nobody is doing anything about it,” he said.
Steve Orji, a representative of South-East traditional rulers, described Mr. Al-Mustapha as a blessing to Nigeria including himself.
“Most of those who said you should not be here are politicians who want to continue to use you as political thugs while most of their children are schooling abroad.
“The youth should be part of bridging the unity of the nation,” Mr. Orji said.
In his speech, the founder of the Odua Peoples Congress, Frederick Fasehun, described Saturday as the happiest day of his life.
“Today is the happiest day of my life because the youth of this nation have come together to speak with one voice.
“No youth is going to remain unemployed. Those that are not employed will get money from their Local Government Areas. Nobody will remain with hunger anymore,” he said, while addressing the youth some of whom asked Mr. Al-Mustapha to vie for elective office in 2015.